Sunday, December 23, 2012
4 Ahau - 3 Kankin - another 13 Baktuns passed - and the vampires are marching in
Why this extreme interest in and fascination of the End of the World?
Of course the World does not end on this date, just as it did not end the last tine, 4 Ahau, 8 Cumku, 126.96.36.199.0 in the year 3113 BC, August 13.
Films and modern folk myth with more or less superstition have focused on the Baktun change in the Mayan calendar. Before that it was of course the Millennium change. And the whole 20th century has seen many expected endings of our World.
Good, bad or catastrofic films depict many scenarios of endings from floods to comets. Fortunately the Earth is often saved by American heroes!
Why this interest in the End? We saw another belief in an ending 1000 years ago in Europe and also around the birth of Christ in the Middle East. I think these anxieties are not simply caused by round dates in our or the Mayan calendar.
Rather such fears tend to occur around the birth of a new high culture or civilization. The Middle Eastern or Oriental civilization started at the time of the birth of Christ. Our civilization around 1000. Another example of such apocalyptic fears was in the beginning of the second Chinese civilization around 200 AD. See http://polybios2100.blogspot.dk/2012/10/civilizations.html?m=1
But such fears could also be a sign of the beginning stagnation and later decline of a civilization. That is what I assume is in the play now. The era of modern scientific thinking is the last stage of the peak of a civilization. The tendencies toward superstition and new religiosity are already clearly to see in the horizon. It is not so that all phases of a civilization or high culture are non-religious and non-mythic in thinking. That is only the case in the later centuries culminating in the around 3 centuries of the Modernity. Here mythos is effectively replaced by logos, the logical scientific thinking.
This phase has not in any of the older civilizations lasted forever. The extremely logical, all too clear thinking becomes insustainable. Superstition and religion or just mythical thinking begin to return. In our case this is evident in phenomena like role plays, the Gothic scene and the interest in the supernatural. Vampires fill films and song texts and are used by some as a religious substitute.
At the same time we may have a vague feeling of the approaching end of not just the era of logos, but also the 1000 year era of cultural explosive creativity.
And because of the return of mythos this vague knowledge manifests itself in the form of apocalyptic myths. The only thing that seems to prolong the era of logical thinking is the fantastic progress resulting from scientific thinking, not least in information technology.
But the myths are already creeping into the Internet....
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The Middle East, Rome and the United States
As reaction to the observer status granted to Palestine by the UN, Israel has decided to establish another settlement. This will separate the Palestinian area on the West Bank in three parts: North, South and East Jerusalem, areas without direct connection. The parallel to the Bantustans of the Apartheid Regime could not be more clear.
Today I will point to clear parallels between on the one side Rome and the Middle East 2000 years ago and on the other side the United States and the Middle East today. The Middle East then and now hosts the same civilization, the one I term the Oriental-Arab. The Jews have changed their role between the two situations. Two thousand years ago they were an integral part of the Oriental Civilization and culture. Now they are a part of the Western Civilization.
At that time this Oriental Civilization was in naissance, now it is old and fighting for survival in the light of increasing Western dominance. Today parts of the populations have been culturally assimilated like the whole of China and India today, see http://polybios2100.blogspot.dk/2012/10/civilizations.html. This is the case for the middle class and city populations in more states in the Golf and North Africa and indeed Iran. But still considerable parts of the Middle East resist the West. Not only originally nomadic and backward rural populations like Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan’s North West, Sudan and Somalia, but also the rural and poor parts of the populations in countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria and yes, Iran are still keeping up resistance. This can be seen on the support for president Morsi and the two Islamist parties in Egypt right now.
The resistance not only arises because another and different civilization is taking over militarily, politically and culturally. Also the fact that the West now is in its modernity, where the Middle East has left this phase 900 years ago. This distance in historical phase adds to the feeling on both sides of dissimilarity. In Roman times the Romans were in their modernity, while the Middle East was 700 years before its own.
Rome handled the Orientals in a very clumsy manner. Roman leaders, businessmen, publicans and sinners robbed the populations.
In 88 BC king Mithridates of Pontus in one day slaughtered 80.000 roman businessmen. This was aided by the local populations in the East. The attack on the World Trade Centre by Bin Laden is a clear symbolic equivalent. In both cases it expresses the contempt for a world power obsessed by the thirst for money.
Later the Jews stood for much of the resistance. The Macccabeans had thrown the Hellenistic "western" Seleucids out in 165 BC. But the westernization had continued in parts of the population in Jewish Palestine. Others opposed this like the Zealots. In the meanwhile the Romans entered.
Now the extreme of the Jews assumed the same role as the Islamic terrorists today. The merciless fight against the "western" Romans started. As the Jews were already widespread and became even more so, the fight engulfed large parts of the eastern Mediterranean. This continued and flared up again and again in the Jewish war in 66-70 and the Bar Kokhba revolt 132-136. And not least in the Diaspora revolt 115-117 AD. Hundreds of thousands of Romans were killed.
That the Jews were the front runners of the Middle Eastern or Oriental civilization might sound a bit odd today. But it is only because today the Jews are totally culturally assimilated in the West. Israel is with some right seen as a western occupation force in the heart of another civilization. Two thousand years ago the Jews were a part of the emerging civilization which I term the Oriental-Arab. Even though this civilization in the first 600 years in religious matters was dominated by Christianity and Parsism and then by Islam, it really is one cultural unity. The Jews has until the last couple of centuries been a part of this civilization too. Only with the dominance of our civilization have they become a part of the West.
As the Jews, so also Christianity was originally a part of the Oriental civilization and culture.
Beware America. Learn from the experience of the Romans. Too aggressive policies toward the opposition in the Middle East and especially support for the irresponsible Israeli government will just increase the opposition from the non-assimilated people in the Middle East and increase the support for these groups and thereby terrorists.
The Republicans must stop to like Netanyahu, just because he is no friend of Obama and because he is right wing just like us.
The invasion of Iraq was a fatal error. Saddam Hussein did not support Bin Laden, and he did not have weopons of mass destruction. Instead he stabilized the many different peoples in Iraq. And he was secular and thus a westerner! Now the anti-western extremists are loose. Syria will no doubt end the same place, when Assad falls. Afghanistan is not won by the west and cannot be. Rather if the USA and its allies leave, the Taliban will come back.
So to keep control over the terrorist threat, the USA will have to control Iraq and Afghanistan indefinitely.
Yemen and North-western Pakistan is on the road in the same direction. Syria will sooner or later also have to be put under American control. And what about northern Mali? And later perhaps North Sudan or Somalia?.
America is by the fight against terrorism being forced to control all these states. They will be de facto American provinces. At the same time this will increase opposition from the not assimilated like the terrorists and even bring support for these people from the more westernized populations.
This development is hard to handle. The West cannot just let areas of the size of Europe become terrorist nests. But with a more balanced policy the USA can hope to keep the extreme anti-western sentiments from spreading to population segments which were about to become westernized. Disappointment over the chaos and lack of economic development after the Arab Spring can quickly cool the interest in westernization. Unwise American policies would add considerably to this.
Already alone the cultural influence from the west is inspiring opposition. There is no need to let wrong policies aggravate things further.
Roman history shows the extent of the possible resistance from the Oriental civilization. The only hope for the Americans of avoiding the same scale violence, is that the oriental civilization was then in the beginning about to rise. Today it is old. Therefore the resistance might fall more quickly. But one-sided and narrow minded American policies backing Israeli right wing governments can prolong the resistance from parts of the Middle East. This will inevitably lead to more terrorism.
So clumsy, oppressive and pro-Israeli polices will increase the resistance toward the West in the Middle East. Resistance will lead to internal state splitting and chaos and lead to more terrorism. This again will force the Americans to intervention and invasions, More and more countries will come under direct American control. Two thousand years ago Rome also had to occupy more and more countries because of rising chaos, whivh they had themselves contributed to. There was even that times version of Somali pirates operating from Asia Minor.
The occupation and direct control of opposing countries may seem good, but it will be controlled states with unwilling populations. It may be better with less direct control over culturally assimilated populations.
You do not want to figure as the publicans and sinners in a future Bible. Unless of course like some of those in the past you repent.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Clash of civilizations or
the end fight within the west or
the fight between republicans and democrats?
Here I will look into the significance of the American presidential elections. The significance for the World as a whole. I will again draw on historical parallels. For this purpose, I will start with a few of the theories of the civilizations.
In his Clash of Civilizations Samuel P. Huntington is inspired by Spengler. He also operates with different civilizations, but in contrast to Spengler and Toynbee he sees them as still alive or as revived by the radiance and technology of our western civilization. He sees history today as a clash of the original civilizations, each having united its countries to one country or at least a cultural alliance of its nations. Of course only the surviving of the old civilizations: Besides the West it is China, India, and the Islamic world.
This theory is far better than the old still widespread view of Europe and Asia as the two units of world history. As Kipling stated: East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.
This was developed by C. Northcote Parkinson into a theory in which Europe an Asia are always in conflict and competition starting with the Trojan war. The two both rise and fall and rise again etc. One being up, while the other is down, just for shifting the roles later.
The problem with this view is that everything east of the Bosporus Strait is seen as belonging to just one culture. But Islam, India and china are very different. Bangkok is not an Ooriental city. The Middle East is oriental, India is Indian and China is Chinese.
So the multitude of clashing civilizations is a large progress. But also this picture is misleading. The problem is that yes civilizations can clash, but they only can be said to clash, as long as the civilizations are still culturally distinct. Often we see this kind of conflict when one civilization is dominant and militarily or culturally invading another. The Boxer Rebellion in China and the Sepoy Rebellion in India are an example of this. Here an old civilization in its distinct form fights to keep its identity inspite of the foreign domination. This is a real clash of civilizations. Also the fight of extreme Muslims like Al-Qaeda or Taliban today is an example of this.
But later we often see the old civilization learning from the dominant one, not only in Technology but also in culture. Now the old civilization fights back, but it is not any longer the old civilization. It has become a part of the dominant one. Examples of this are China and India today and Egypt and Cartago in the Hellenist and Roman world. Clashes with these units are NOT clashes of civilizations. They are clashes within one civilization.
If this is so, the clash we see today is not between civilizations, but between different powers within the western civilization. Fights between the nations within one civilization are typical in the modernity-phase lasting about 300 years in the later time of every civilization. The old Chinese very fittingly call the modernity the Warring States Period. In the last half of the modernity, the fights are more and more explicitly fought for power over all the other nations in the civilization. In our case this is the whole world.
If you do not believe that the theories of Spengler and Toynbee are correct, you may just see the development as an example of the rule in foreign policies and economics that small units tend to get united in bigger ones etc. This is also the real implication of the globalization.
The last half of modernity is the end fight, and we are right now in it.
The fight normally ends in a unification of all nations through the victory of one. At the same time the in fights and revolutions and party strife inside the dominating nations are ended by one man taking over. He still often has the titles of the former rulers despite his new status.
When one nation wins the world, the leader of this nation is a de facto emperor, even though his title is still the same. In Rome Augustus was not called emperor, but had more republican titles. In our case the emperor will probably called "President of the USA".
The forms of the end fight varies from civilization to civilization. In for example Mesopotamia I and Old China we saw the fighting in the modernity, the Warring States period continued to the bitter end. In Rome the last about 120 to 150 years saw comparatively limited international fighting. This was because after the last major enemy, Cartago, was defeated, there were no opponents to Rome of any strength. Therefore the fighting for world power was between roman politicians and army leaders, who competed to conquer countries and fought between each other in civil wars.
In our case the last 150 years (after WW 2) also are relatively peaceful between the major powers. In this case because weapons are too dangerous and expensive to really be used. But the third world still suffers under terrible wars, often proxy wars for the big powers.
The big powers were after WW 2 of course the USA and the USSR, now the USA and both China and Russia. But as wars between these are excluded, the battle is economic and cultural. And through the media.
Because the USA is so dominant in relation to almost everything else except China, the situation is in some ways comparable to that of Rome in the Hellenistic world. Therefore the power-holders in the USA are so important for the whole world. This is not just the leaders of the big parties. I have already mentioned the rating agencies. Also big money owners, speculators , industrials and media owners are players.
Is the unification of the World good or bad?
Depends. The victory of one nation under one emperor normally means world peace. As such peace is good. The reverse side is the loss of autonomy by the other nations. But if this autonomy entails permanent and brutal wars, it could be better without..
At the same time we often see a loss of internal freedom and democracy in the nations. But this is another development. Here what concerns us are the international relations.
In Rome Augustus ended centuries of war, starting Pax Romana. In old China the Chinese Augustus, Shi Huang ended the horrible wars, which had marked the Warring States period. This is splendidly shown in the film Hero, where peace is made his motive. This is seen only by his most prominent opponent. In Mesopotamia II the terrible wars fought from and against Assyria and Babylonia were ended by Cyrus, as told in the Bible.
The examples show some of the possible endings of the warring states. As said, if peace between (former) nations is one of the results, this is good. But the possible scenarios show that not all solutions to the wars are equally good. It depends very much on the characteristics of the victorious nation or ruler.
The example of Cyrus shows a benevolent ruler respecting the conquered peoples.
Shi Huang was the opposite of Cyrus. Brutal oppression rained down on countries, peoples and thinkers. An insurrection soon replaced this first dynasty by the more humane Han dynasty.
Shi Huangs victory would correspond a little to if Assyria had won instead of Cyrus. Or if the Nazis had won WW 2 would and would then win the end fight in the West.
So it does make a difference who wins the world! In Old China it would have been better, if a more humanistic or academic state like Chu or Qi had won than the illiterate and brutal Qin state of Shi Huang.
As Cyrus so Augustus to a certain degree let local customs prevail on the local level. In the Hellenist and Italic city states with democracy, this democracy continued. This means that, as seen in election slogans in Pompeii, even as the empire was a dictatorship, local policies were still democratic. Of course only to a certain extent and so long as it did not contravene the imperial policies. Of course the taxes to Rome had to flow! Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's...
In our case the West, if imperial world rule under one nation cannot be prevented - and maybe it should not because it can bring world peace - then this may be the best solution. At least it could preserve a degree if democracy in the former nations.
And under which nation should the world be united? Well as said more than one time, the USA is the most likely candidate.
And as America is already a democracy, it is likely that the Americans will use the Roman solution. World dictatorship combined with local democracy.
From a purely humanistic viewpoint a world united under European rule would probably be better than American rule. But Europe would most likely strangle the World with bureaucracy and institutionalized recession, as the EU now strangles itself!
And Russia? Russia is less powerful than was the USSR. But Russia has always had a messianic belief in its own mission. This might reflect that as Spengler believed, Russia was or is about to develop an entirely own culture or civilization. This being the case or not, Russia has a self confidence and a self believe, which gives it a strength against being totally swallowed culturally and politically by the West. Vladimir Putin is one example of this. Even though it is unlikely that Russia for now will win world power, if Spengler is right, the future in the longer run might really be Russian.
The other possible candidate for world rule, China, is not a democracy But I am quite convinced, that it will more and more approach democracy. Already now the public is involved in legislative discussions through the internet. This development will no doubt continue. So also if the Chinese win the battle for world power, it is not unlikely that they will use the same roman solution as the Americans might do.
Even now the status of Hong Kong might give a hint of the status of nations of the world under a possible future Chinese rule. Moderate limited democracy. In fact the Hong Kong solution is also likely to be used by the Americans. It is already used in Iraq and Afghanistan. One could even say in Europe under the present American dominance! Here too national autonomy is a bit limited by the USA.
But It is most likely that the USA will win the end fight. They have more raw energy and will to power. The Chinese are in a way too civilized and do not have the same will to power as the Americans. They seem satisfied with material wealth. As long as the USA stays more democratic and thus appealing to the World public than China, American rule of the World seems to be the most likely solution to end our present period of warring states.
The total cultural and media dominance by the USA also points to an American victory. How nanny outside China watches the Chinese competitor to for example CNN, called CCTV? Even in China ist Coca Cola Wunderbar.
There is also the very real possibility that the two countries will partition the world between them. The reality of weapons of mass destruction and the price in money and men of wars may exclude a decision between them. The rest of the world countries will be subjugated by their shear dominance. Europe is already far on the road to this point. That's why:
We're all living in America.
More than half the world is already as dominated by the Americans as the Mediterranean world after the battle at Zama (defeat of Cartago 202 BC), was dominated by Rome.
Therefore the so called Clash of Civilizations is really a fight between power holders within the Western civilization for world power. And much of this fight is going on in the USA. If one country is already dominating most of the World as Rome in The Hellenist world, much of the fighting for world power is going on inside the dominating state, which now is of course America.
American politicians already seem to feel this way. Obama and his opponents agree that the United States is the greatest nation in the world and should stay so!
The winner of the presidential elections is already a half-emperor of most of the World. He has a certain direct influence over the large parts of the world under American dominance and indeed the directly ruled American provinces like Iraq and Afghanistan.
This also means that the fate of the coming united world not only depends on which state unites it, but also on who rules the winning state. No doubt the future united world would be better under a democrat and a moderate republican that under right wing or Tea Party republicans or a president under their influence! The tolerance of local customs would be more limited under the last. I'll make sure they're Christian too.
Friday, October 26, 2012
La Condition Postmoderne or Late modernity
There seems to be an agreement that there is a change of historical era. The concept of the postmodern condition (for example Lyotard) implies that a new era has already started. The term late modernity (for example Giddens) does not say this, but the word "late" implies that modernitty is now in a late phase, which would seem to imply, that it is sooner or later to be replaced by something else.
The assumed new era, which has started according to postmodern philosophers like Lyotard says that there is now a fragmentation in time and space. Every point in time and space is seen as a point, a singularity not related to and caused by other things and not a sign of a deepper content. The division between a sign and what it signifies, sign (signifiant) and content (signifié) disappears, or rather the continuos content in a work of art and in a human utterance or indeed in a human being does not longer exist.
All this sounds very radical and new, but as I see it, when it concerns art etc is just a continuation of the modern. Postmodern architecture just looks like a continuation of the modern. In poetry it often looks like symbolism.
But on the human and the political level there really is something new.
Disinterest in the political and ideological. Collapse of the Grand narratives or explanations, like religions or political –isms, as the postmodernists correctly say. Culture has built ever more complex thought systems and rules for behaviour and thought. These are during the time “after modernity” being torn away.
But as I see it, what follows is not something abstract or really revolutionary different grom what has been seen before in world history, like the one postulated in the theory a technological singularity. This postulates that when computers exceed the human brain something radically different will happen. But human nature asserts itself again. All the cultural complexities are gradually stripped off. This is also why the technological singularity will not happen. Technology will never match human nature whatever the information handling capacity might be. The basic human Wille zur macht and other basic human instincts will continue. Now unchecked by political ideals and thoughts, about which nobody cares anymore.
Power hungry men will more and more dominate instead of political ideas.
Rome went through a similar transition between the Gracchus brothers (around 130 BC) and Marius and Sulla (around 80 BC). Today we do not know the details in this development. We do not know how postmodern this was, but it is clear, that the truly political and social conflicts and fights were dominant in the third and second century BC. and gradually ended in the first. The fights were more and more simply between dominant persons and just for money and for power per se.
Old China is another parallel. In the first Chinese modernity, The Warring States Period, we have 100 schools of thought. These are in the end narrowed down to just the two of practical use for the fighting and indeed winning statesmen: Confucianism and Legalism. Idealist schools like Moism disappear.
Today we can in detail watch and maybe counteract the same development in our own civilization.
Why is it happening?
- Fate would Spengler say.
- Causes would Toynbee say. What causes could here be in play?
1. Political and cultural fatigue. Loosening interest. All thoughts are thought. Alle Gedanken tausendmal gedacht. Spengler might agree but see this as destiny, because each civilization in his view has a limited number of possible thoughts. When all these are thought, nothing new will follow.
2. Long experience of questioning everything leaves indifference. Every new thought has for a couple of centuries been attacked from all sides. So now we don’t really trust anything. We know that everythig can be questioned, so we stop believing something old or new before we have started.
Every belief quickly becomes provincial. Left is only indifference or a return to premodern beliefs like Islam or other religions.
3. The impact of market mechanisms.
The Postmodern culture has no continuous beliefs and its members are fragmented even more by shifting messages from the commercials. The market mechanisms have invaded the soul.
Shopoholic. Shop products and attitudes and personality traits.
It is not true that all the Grand narratives or explanations have died. Economic liberalism, the belief in the holy market mechanisms not only survives, but thrives and dominate all thought and action in and between the states.
But the belief in other Grand explanations has disappeared in our parts of the world. Instead we believe in rapidly shifting fashions dictating material goods. Every half year another type of product is launched by American and Chinese and other producers, and the comercials learn us to crave for them. These needs take possession of our souls. Here the churches and Marx agree and they are right. We shop products and traits in the same way. We become changing signs witout content.
This political indifferance is one of the greatest dangers to democracy.
And pluralism? Well, as postmodernism witin culture and fashion is an extreme fragmentation, it is pluralism, but a superficial pluralism. Everything changes constantly. But it changes too often to matter. Nothing sinks into the souls. What matters pluralism, if nobody really cares about the myriad of ever-changing phenomena?