24 March 2006

Can Anyone Translate?

I found the following paragraph in this morning's WSJ. It contains sentences written in an obscure language. Can anyone translate?

The belief in the allegedly "Western" nature of democracy is often linked to the early practice of voting and elections in Greece, especially in Athens. Democracy involves more than balloting, but even in the history of voting there would be a classificatory arbitrariness in defining civilization in largely racial terms. In this way of looking at civilizational categories, no great difficulty is seen in considering the descendents of, say, Goths and Visigoths as proper inheritors of the Greek tradition ("they are all Europeans," we are told). But there is reluctance in taking note of the Greek intellectual links with other civilizations to the east or south of Greece, despite the greater interest that the Greeks themselves showed in talking to Iranians, or Indians, or Egyptians (rather than in chatting up the Ostrogoths).
I wonder if the Journal editors left that alone--when it desperately needs editing--because it was written by a Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen.

The op-ed argues, surely rightly, that we shouldn't regard democracy as being linked to racial groups; also, that nearly all peoples and cultures have, or have had, democratic traditions and practices, on which they could draw in order to develop a democratic political society.

But in the quoted paragraph, Sen seems to be claiming: Athens was not distinctive for its democracy, but only for its practices of voting; that the 'Greeks' wanted to forge reciprocal 'intellectual links' with Egyptian, Iranian, and Indian civilizations; also, that the Greeks, for their part, regarded political differences as being unrelated to 'racial' differences.

(And isn't 'chatting up', in British English, an idiom used for a man trying to charm or seduce a woman?)


Anonymous said...

You're right about the English idiom, but it isn't gendered as you suggest. Both men and women can 'chat up' either men or women.