Monday, March 21, 2016

Foreign Affairs, Clash of Civilizations

The Clash of Civilizations? | Foreign Affairs:

A little historical context, like a Montgomery martini, VERY dry -- and in this case old. The article I pulled this from in '93. Some of the points that I'm interested in:
"It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future."
Remember, this is '93 -- the USSR is just gone, the first Gulf War was 1991, and appeared very economic / Arab on Arab (Iraq invaded Kuwait). The next paragraph covers the

In 1793, as R. R. Palmer put it, "the wars of kings were over; the wars of peoples had begun." This nineteenth-century pattern lasted until the end of World War I. Then, as a result of the Russian Revolution and the reaction against it, the conflict of nations yielded to the conflict of ideologies, first among communism, fascism-Nazism and liberal democracy, and then between communism and liberal democracy.
Everyone thought that the world was going to go into a "golden age" as science replaced religion, but as the 20th century wore on with it's two world wars, Korea, Mao killing millions in China, Vietnam, Pol Pot killing millions in Cambodia,  and scores of regional bloodbaths, religion started to look better than it once id.
The "unsecularization of the world," George Weigel has remarked, "is one of the dominant social facts of life in the late twentieth century." The revival of religion, "la revanche de Dieu," as Gilles Kepel labeled it, provides a basis for identity and commitment that transcends national boundaries and unites civilizations.
I'd argue that in the West -- Europe and the US, religion has NOT recovered and along with it's continued decline, any sense of culture or "civilization" has declined with it. The cultures are less damaged in Europe, but in the US, the culture is on life support at best.

Fifth, cultural characteristics and differences are less mutable and hence less easily compromised and resolved than political and economic ones. In the former Soviet Union, communists can become democrats, the rich can become poor and the poor rich, but Russians cannot become Estonians and Azeris cannot become Armenians. In class and ideological conflicts, the key question was "Which side are you on?" and people could and did choose sides and change sides. In conflicts between civilizations, the question is "What are you?" That is a given that cannot be changed. And as we know, from Bosnia to the Caucasus to the Sudan, the wrong answer to that question can mean a bullet in the head. Even more than ethnicity, religion discriminates sharply and exclusively among people. A person can be half-French and half-Arab and simultaneously even a citizen of two countries. It is more difficult to be half-Catholic and half-Muslim.
So the US is essentially unarmed in this conflict, because there is no longer any answer to "What are you". ... "black", "Christian", "progressive", etc, but NOT "American". Other than at Trump rallies, there really aren't any people very excited about "America" -- let alone rallying around it. No, it is all about "special interests" and "voting blocks" ... women, minorities, elderly, gays, the unemployed, single mothers, etc, etc ... "Americans"? You mean the "Trumpkins"???
Civilization identity will be increasingly important in the future, and the world will be shaped in large measure by the interactions among seven or eight major civilizations. These include Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African civilization. The most important conflicts of the future will occur along the cultural fault lines separating these civilizations from one another.
So as early as '93, there wasn't enough "American civilization" to recognize -- and there is a LOT less now! I'd argue that we are already not "playing" in this clash, but rather just LOSING.

'via Blog this'

No comments:

Post a Comment