As tribes in Kenya settle old scores in what has become an ethnic cleansing that probably will tear the land apart, I think of Samuel P. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order (1996). Ethnic clashes in a McWorld gone mad.
The fault lines between civilizations will be battle lines of the future.
I’ve been working on an article presenting Huntington’s thesis for a while, but it’s not quite finished. However, now is a convenient time to draw attention to what I’m writing about, so here’s Part One of what hopefully will be some sort of series if I can put it all together.
The conflicts of the post-Cold War era will arise not from ideological or economic differences but from cultural divisions.
Huntington said that in 1993. Many look upon his thesis as if it foresaw the ongoing confrontation with radical Islam (as seen from a Westerners point of view). Others claim Huntington is very vague in his ideas and over-simplifies things. Some say there’s a clash going on within Islam, a clash for the soul of Islam, whilst there’s another clash going on in the West. What is clear though is that there’s a war between secularism and the sacred, between universal rights and traditions. And so much more, of course.
Huntington predicted that fundamental differencies between the world’s seven or eight major civilizations will pave the way for global turmoil in the years to come, and that’s where we are right now. It’s not a matter of national interests, but of divergent values, ideas, cultures, identities, religions. Civilizations.
On April 18, 1994 two thousand people rallied in Sarajevo waving the flags of Saudi Arabia and Turkey. By flying those banners, instead of U.N., NATO or American flags, these Sarajevans identified themselves with their fellow Muslims and told the world who were their real and not-so-real friends.
We know who we are only when we know who we are not and often only when we know whom we are against.
He wrote an article about this and it was published in Foreign Affairs 1993. Three years later he expanded his thoughts in a book.
Huntington clearly states that Islamic and Western civilizations are likely to clash, because Islam is the only civilization that aspires universalist values and poses a significant challenge to the West. The West cannot claim any universalist values, since The West is unique (in the mind of Huntington), not universal. He also speaks about how Islam and Confusianism will rise against the West. He means that the West should be very cautious about this development and thus control immigration and assimilate immigrants to avoid a “cleft country”. Huntington means that the West should “increase the civilizational coherence” and not “intervene in the affairs of other civilizations”. In case of a World War III, the United States should get Japan, Latin American states and Russia on their side against potential Islamic-Confucian cooperation.
That is what he said.
I say that universalism might as well equal imperialism in non-Western eyes.
After the Cold War era the world was forced to look upon global politics in a broader sense. Back then there were two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the USA. Now there’s only one, and with September 11th it was clear that the world’s only superpower was pretty far from untouchable. It was very fragile and people really seemed to wake up from their ancient slumber this time – and they stirred up a whole lot of fear.
And here’s where Part One of this series ends.