Friday, June 24, 2016

Step by step

England and Wales have voted to leave the EU. This is just one more sign of the decline of the old world order. It is one event in a chain of previous and future signs of a continuing chain of such events. That Mr. Trump has managed to come as far as he is now is another. At the same time such events are contributing to an acceleration of this decline. Trump as candidate for the "GOP" and the Brexit are two of the hitherto perhaps most important events of this kind. Two big steps among many smaller and bigger.

We may have reached a point of no return in the development of our modernity and our civilization. This Western modernity has seen the most cruel mass scale violence in world history, only approached by the first Chinese modernity in the Warring States period ca. 500 - 221 BC. But it has in its mature stage in the second half of the last century - at least in the northern hemisphere - also seen perhaps the most intelligent and balanced intra- and interstate policies in history, only paralleled by the second Chinese modernity in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

Our case could have been the first and only possibility in the chain of big civilizations to break the pattern of modernities turning more and more chaotic and thereby necessitating a caesarian dictatorship. Through an immense historical knowledge and intelligence among historians, men of culture and science and politicians there was a theoretical chance of avoiding this destiny in our case, the Western Civilization.

The last century of modernities has in most predecessors been one of increasing chaos dominating more and more. That we have entered this phase has become threateningly clear in the 4 years gone by since I started this blog. Now it looks enevitable. We and the politicians should be prepared for a new world with new rules.

Of course different countries will follow the decline with different speeds. Small countries like in Scandinavia and the Benelux could quickly become banana republics. Southern Europe is also far on the way. The UK is the first major north  European country to go this far. Not only in the form of the result of the vote, but also in the low level of the political process and the role of UKIP. Other major players are clearly infected both in the form of new populists and in the form of populist policies from grand old parties. It looks as if the development is unstopable. At best it can be postponed. As said earlier Germany and China could be the most resilient bigger countries.

 That the  old world order was stable and rule-governed is not the same as to say that every power felt it to be just. For such countries any change may seem favorable. But the present change is not primarily one affecting the balance of power. It is one of changed or rather disappearing rules for behavior.

And the cause? Spengler would call the decline of modernities an intrinsic and inevitable element in the development of civilizations. Toynbee would admit that the development has characterized all previous civilization, but nevertheless has a cause. Which? Put in a very generalized form it may be:

The return of the margins or the marginalized.

Two versions:
1) Semi-barbarians from the border zones (Qin, Seldjuks, Aztecs etc.).
2) Internally marginalized people resenting an old "establissement". In Rome proletarians entering the legions, veterans etc. In the Song Dynasty we saw protests against the globalization reaching from Kaifeng to Bagdad.

Today millions of people feel threatened seeing their old industrial centers dying in competition from new technologies and global trade. Feeling humiliated by mega-cities and their condescending elites and politicians. Often threatened by social decline or badly educated, on low wages or social wellfare. Some living in depopulated areas loosing their young to the cities. Giving foreigners the blame, Moslems East Europeans, Hispanics, the EU, whoever.

These people feeling stigmatized as losers now take revenge by supporting populists who use them and their anger. This is the other way anti-civilized marginal forces return. Of course the establishments are not innocent. The marginalization of large segments of society is a major cause.