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Naipaul - November 5 1990 Our Universal Civilization By V S...

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November 5, 1990 Our Universal Civilization By V. S. NAIPAUL I never formulated the idea of the universal civilization until 11 years ago, when I traveled for many months in a number of non-Arab Muslim countries -- Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan -- to try to understand what had driven them to their rage. That Muslim rage was just beginning to be apparent. I thought I would be traveling among people who would be like the people of my own community, the Trinidad Indian community. A large portion of Indians were Muslims; we both had a similar 19th century imperial or colonial history. But it wasn't like that. Despite the history we had in common, I had traveled a different way. Starting with the Hindu background of the instinctive, ritualized life; growing up in the unpromising conditions of colonial Trinidad; I had gone through many stages of knowledge and self- knowledge. I had been granted the ideas of inquiry and the tools of scholarship. I could carry four or five or six different cultural ideas in my head. Now, traveling among non- Arab Muslims, I found myself among a colonized people who had been stripped by their faith of all that expanding cultural and historical knowledge of the world that I had been growing into on the other side of the world. Before I began my journey -- while the Shah still ruled -- there had appeared in the United States a small novel, "Foreigner," by Nahid Rachlin, a young Iranian woman, that in its subdued, unpolitical way foreshadowed the hysteria that was to come. The central figure is a young Iranian woman who does research work in Boston as a biologist. She is married to an American, and she might seem well adapted. But when she goes back on a holiday to Teheran, she begins to feel lost. She reflects on her time in the United States. It is not a time of clarity; she sees it now to be a time of emptiness. She has never been in control. We can see that she was not prepared for the
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