Does our language reveal our fascination with the Inscrutable East? Or hidden desires for imperialistic adventures?
No. It does not. The sun rises in the east. Our language got it right. We do not want the setting sun – decline, fatigue, decadence – to determine our bearings.
From the online etymological dictionary:
Orient (v.): c. 1727, originally “to arrange facing east,” from French s’orienter “to take one’s bearings,” literally “to face the east” (also the source of German orientierung), from Old French orient “east,” from Latin orientum (see Orient (n.)). Extended meaning “determine bearings” first attested 1842; figurative sense is from 1850.
Occident (n.): late 14c., “western part” (of the heavens or earth), from Old French occident (12c.) or directly from Latin occidentem (nominative occidens) “western sky, sunset, part of the sky in which the sun sets,” noun use of adjective meaning “setting,” from present participle of occidere “fall down, go down.”