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.