Meshing and gnashing – The Clash of civilizations
Samuel P . Huntington’s 1993 book, Clash of Civilizations, has a historical ring to it – a hint of something grand. An influential book, it ostensibly examined ‘conflicts between Western and non-Western cultures’ – and brought the phrase, Clash of Civilizations into limelight.
In the post-Soviet World, the book marked the launch of a new Western campaign – Islamic demonization. This book, released some four years after Rushdie-fatwa, provided pseudo-intellectual justification for West’s anti-Islamic campaign.
The America+NATO sponsored ‘ethnic cleansing’ campaign in Bosnia was underway, since 1992. Saturation media coverage of Monica Lewinsky and cigars effectively drowned President Clinton’s role in the initiation of the anti-Islamic campaign – and the news coming out of the Balkans. Deliberate diversionary tactics?
India’s co-option too, into this campaign was planned in significant detail – and successfully executed. 9/11 (September 11, 2001) was still 8 years in the future. The verbal trickery behind Huntington’s Clash of civilizations ‘package-deal’ has gone by without challenge or de-construction in India. This post will cover some Trojan concepts Huntington smuggled into the mainstream.
A Basic Stance
For one, the definition of civilizations has to be beyond race, ruins and region. Instead, a definition around differentiated structures – political, social, economic and ethical structures makes comparative analysis possible.
Civilizations tend to repeat political, social, economic and ethical structures. In the last five thousand years, only three civilizational models can be identified and substantially differentiated.
The world’s dominant model today, it has been able to nearly erase competing systems from the collective minds of the ruling elites in the world.
Signs of the Desert Bloc’s birth were first evidenced in the Assyrian Empire – its first laws codified by Hammurabi. Dating is contested, and best estimates are that the Assyrian Empire collapsed around c.600 BC. Seven of history’s largest empires used the Assyrian Empire, as a springboard.
The Desert Bloc extends from west of India, across Middle East, West Asia, extending to Central Asia and Eastern Europe – with its core in a region of 1000 miles radius of Palestine. Inventors of religion, world’s three important religions, (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) were born within 1000 miles radius of Palestine, in the deserts of Middle East. Each of these religions were, so to say, ‘backward compatible’. Islam recognizes Christianity, which uses Judeo-Mosaic texts for its foundations.
Anti-feminist, none of the three religions have female goddesses – unlike the two other civilizations specified below. Western Christian world gave women the right to vote, mostly between 1920-1950. Low levels of marital success are institutionalized – and instead prostitution levels are high.
The Desert Bloc depends on extreme competitiveness between its own factions to gain leadership – extending the analogy of survival of the fittest. Some of its defining struggles in the last 1000 years were Islam vs Christianity; Spain vs Portugal; England vs France; USA vs USSR.
Such factions spring up around deified leaders based on a sharp identity – race, tribe, language, region, religion. Significant leadership struggles have broken out between even intra-religious sects – like Catholics and Protestants, Shias vs Sunnis.
A significant marker of the Desert Bloc is concentration of wealth, power and land in the hands of these deified leaders and their inner circle. Unlike the two other civilizational groups, as we will see. This allows Desert Bloc factions to indulge in extremism. Over 90% of the world’s bloodiest wars, genocides, massacres, annihilations, are to the Desert Bloc account.
Driven by ‘at-any-cost’ approach, in the Desert Bloc, everything and everyone is expendable to attain leadership position. Driven more by accelerated creation and destruction, Desert Bloc sub-groups have short life spans (Achaemenid Iran, Greece, Rome, Mongol Empire). Greece, Rome, the Ummayyads, Abbasids, Mongolian Empire, Colonial Spain and Britain best represent the Desert Bloc.
Can different factions of the Desert Bloc, like the Christian West and Islam collaborate? The Islāmic Ottoman Empire and the Christian European powers could not get around to colluding with each other. Even the collusion between the Christian European colonizers was difficult. Unless it was over carving the spoils, dividing areas for exploitation – like Papal Bulls (between Spain and Portugal) or the Berlin Conference which triggered the ‘scramble for Africa.’
The Afro Group
Apart from the Indic System, the only other civilization, the Afro Group could resist the Desert Bloc onslaught in the last 1000 years. The Afro Group successfully kept its identity, at a great cost, unlike Native Americans or Australian aborigines.
Monica Schulyer, an assistant professor of history at Wanye State University, (thinks) the name Mau Mau was itself a British invention and means nothing in Kenyan. Members of the independence movement called them selves the Land and Freedom Army.
In modern South Africa, on July 16, 1976, the ‘day began with a march by 10,000 students carrying banners and slogans, saying “Down with Afrikaans” and “Viva Azania” (the name given to South Africa by black nationalists)’. Soon the number swelled to ‘fifteen thousand school children involved in the protests (Tuttle 1)’, rose against imposition of Afrikaans language by White Apartheid rule. Known to the world as Soweto Uprisings, it is without parallel in the annals of history. In the very heart of the modern Desert Bloc – the USA, after centuries of slavery and discrimination, the Afro Group was able to roll back excesses.
Their robust ‘native’ intelligence best describes how Desert Bloc works. In Jomo Kenyatta words,
“When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the Land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”
Another unit from the Afro Group, Cuba, far from its base in Africa, after breaking from slavery, successfully resisted coming under political bondage of the Desert Bloc, for the last 100 years. In the ancient world, Carthage checked the spread of Desert Bloc, represented by Greece. Carthage allied with Rome to destroy Greece.
Before that, Nubians brought the Egyptian Empire to heel. The 25th dynasty from Nubia or Kush, south of Egypt (modern Sudan), ruled over Egypt for at least 75 years. Piye, earlier”Piankhy”the Nubian king invaded Egypt (ca. 746 BC) – and started the 25th Dynasty, that probably continued till 650 BC. He was succeeded by Shabaqo (ca. 716-702 BC) and his successors Shebitqo (ca. 702-690 BC) and Taharqa (690-664 BC).
Traditional African structures had diffused land and wealth ownership – unlike the Desert Bloc. There is little proof of concentration of wealth in African structures.
Both, the Afro Group and the Indic System have a much superior record of minimal environmental degradation. The Big 5 in animals – elephant, tiger /leopard, lion, wild bull, rhino exist only in the these two core geographies. Big Game hunters in Africa (from the Desert Bloc, where else) described 5 animals as the Big 5 – elephants, lion, buffalo, leopard and the rhino as the Big Five. These were animals that were difficult to hunt and kill (for pleasure, if you thought otherwise).
This ‘pleasure’ was the operating principle. As a result of this ‘pleasure’, there are only two parts of the world where such Big Five exist. India and Africa. China, the Middle East and of course Europe and America, have wiped entire continents of all these animals.
Modern history, under a Hegelian spell has ignored Afro Group history. Bereft of spectacular structures, visible ‘leaders’ or the recent decline in fortunes, the study of African history has been decided as unimportant.
Based on भारत-तंत्र Bharattantra platform. Indic systems focus on four freedoms – काम kaam (desire, including sexual) अर्थ arth (wealth), मोक्ष moksh(liberty)and धर्मं dharma (justice), and stipulates unrestricted access to ज़र zar (gold), जन jan (people) and ज़मीन jameen (land).
Originating in India, based on platform of anti-slavery, distribution of power and diversity, this was the dominant ideology in the world till about 8th century. In Tibet, Songtsen Gampa, the 33rd king, became the first dharma-raja in 7th century – a follower of भारत-तंत्र Bharattantra . The Indic system has been in sharp retreat for the last 500 years – especially after Mughal rule in India. Inspite of sharp reversals in the last 500 years, half the world is still significantly influenced by Indic systems.
Militarily impregnable till about 17th century, Mughal rule established the first beachhead for the Desert Bloc in India.
Strong population growth based on widespread marital occurrence, strong and extensive family structures, are features that have sustained Indic systems in the society, even though some rulers defected to the Desert Bloc.
With diverse liturgical, beatification, sacramental practices, graded pantheism (local deities, semi-divine gods and goddesses with a top layer of the Holy Trinity), faith and belief do not occupy the space or importance that religion has in the Desert Bloc. These are within the realm of individual choice with scattered efforts at proselytization
The Indic system still has significant following in China and most of ASEAN region – notably Indonesia, Tibet, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka. The modern proof of this was the India Independence League (IIL) headed by Subhash Chandra Bose.
In recent times
Each of these megaliths have traditional spheres of influence.
Post-WWII world has been been seriously influenced by the Desert Bloc. The Desert Bloc split into two factions. The liberal-progressive, democratic, Judeo-Christian faction led by America. Significant parts of the world has moved to the Desert Bloc orbit, and adopted the religion of Westernization.
An interesting study is the post-WWII behaviour of the Euro-American faction. After WWII, as British, French and Dutch colonialists were being thrown out of Asia, in country after country, the West was in real danger of losing markets and raw material sources.
A new power, fueled by a growing migrant population, USA, took the place of tired, old powers – Britain, France and the Dutch. Instead of the openly-exploitative system of European powers directly running colonial governments in these Asian countries, the US installed an opaque system – which is equally exploitative. To impose its writ on the newly independent Asian countries, the US simply destroyed their economies by war. The USA, then instituted the innovative USCAP Program and ‘helped’ these countries. These countries (Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, et al) were now ruled by overtly independent regimes – but covertly, client states of the USA.
US multinationals and home-grown oligarchs (keiretsus, chaebols, etc.) took over the economy – and sidelined British, French and Dutch companies. To impose this economic model, US armies, using nearly 1 million troops, killed 50 lakh Asians. The takeover of European colonial possessions by the USA was handled over 3 regimes of Eisenhower-Kennedy-Johnson seamlessly.
The second faction is the Islamic faction. After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, by the West, after WWI, new renegade groups supported by the West, sprang up. These renegade groups are using extremist Islam to meld the Islamic faction into a more powerful factor in the global power equation.
Some of these Islamic regimes installed and supported by Western powers have been slowly drifting away from the West – like Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iran, etc. Some other regimes are longer able to call the shots – like the Saud family, or the Iraqi regime.
The other aspect of the Islamic faction is the geographical spread. The primary Islamic region is the Arab region, centred around Middle East /West Asia region. The secondary Islamic region is the Central Asia – earlier a part of the Mongol Empire. Walled in by China and Japan on the East, by Russia on the West and diverse countries in the South, it is a shadow of its former self.
The region with the largest Islamic population is South and South East Asia – concentrated across India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia. The South and South East Asia Islamic region has a moderate and non-imperial history.
Hence these three regions (Middle-East region, Central Asian region and South /SE Asian) have evolved differently and have little in common. Hence, the image of the Islamic ‘world’ as a monolithic unit is misleading.
Big trouble in Little China
The other puzzle is classifying China. China under Confucian State model was solidly in the Desert Bloc. After the advent of Buddhism, as the Chinese people became landholders, as they obtained rights to own silver and gold, they moved to Indic system. Marriage and family systems became the norm – instead of exception.
After and under Mongols, for instance the Kublai Khan restricted silver and gold rights – and issued fiat currency. The Chinese State has mostly been Desert Bloc in its tendency. But the Chinese people have great faith in their Buddhist teachers. Will China become a staunch Desert Bloc member like Iran in the past, is still possibly an open question.
The Assyrian thread
With Niniveh, (also called Asshur) as its capital, the Assyrian Empire, ended in 600 BC. The Assyrian Empire passed through many hands – recreating and renewing itself in the same mould. The name, Assyrian Empire was a Roman modification of Asuristan - the area of current Iraq.
The Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BC) were the first successor power to preside over the Assyrian Empire, from their capital in Perspolis. Many wealthy Jews were envied for their vast slave holdings. Alexander ousted the Achaemenids to rule over the Assyrian Empire – effectively after the Battle at Gaugemela (331 BC). Daidochi Wars after Alexander’s death and attacks by Rome-Carthage alliance led to the disintegration of Macedonian rule. Romans, added Western Europe, and ruled over the Assyrian Empire for the next 350 years (60 BC-285 AD), with its capital in Rome.
Rome formally lost the Assyrian Empire when Diocletian was forced to split Roman Empire in 285 AD. Eastern Roman Empire, well-known for its premier city, Byzantium (a cognate of Indian Vyjayanti) mostly had its capital in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) continued to gain power and wealth over the next 400 years.
Various Islamic dynasties (c.700-1300) ruled over large parts of the Assyrian Empire, with capitals mostly in Damascus, Baghdad, till they were deposed by Genghis Khan’s Mongols. After adding China, Mongol factions ruled over the Assyrian Empire for varying periods, between 1300-1600 AD over different parts of the Assyrian Empire.
It was the Mongols who helped in the rise of the West. First, was the trade in millions of slaves from Eastern Europe (the Slavs, hence slaves) by Venetian and Florentine traders, which funelled vast monies into European economies from Egyptian and Byzantine slave-buyers. This wealth from slave trade was the stuff of which tales are told. Shakespeare wrote of Merchant of Venice, Comedy of Errors, Gentlemen of Verona. Leonardo da Vinci, architect Bramante, sculptor Donatello, Michelangelo, Titian and other famous artists found patrons with the earlier Visconti, powerful Medicis, notorious Borgias, lesser known Sforza (Milan), Pazzi and the Albizzi families. It was this slave-trade that fuelled Renaissance art and culture. Florence, Venice, Milan became major banking centres. Double-entry book keeping became standard, under which any kind of financial picture can be created. Quite unlike the Indian single-entry system.
Mongols brought to the West two major technologies. One, was the Indian decimal system and Indian saltpetre for gunpowder, was the other. Indian mathematics (initially outlawed by European rulers) is the foundation of Western science and technology. Indian gunpowder was their ticket to military power. Wealth from trade in African slaves, conquest, loot, annihilation of Native Americans, using gunpowder, fuelled a 500 year technology boom in the West.
The last significant dynasties that ruled over the ancient Assyrian Empire were Islamic Ottomans and the Christian Austro-Hungarian Empire. These two empires were dismantled after WW1 (1920) by Western allies.
Slavery rarely finds mention in Indian media. Much less is any discussion or understanding about the role of slavery in the rise of the West. A rare Indian columnist with awareness of the slavery factor. Even this discussion about clash of civilizations does not work.
- The Assyrians and Jews: 3,000 years of common history | Gene Expression (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- The Clash of Civilizations (adweek.com)
- Arab Voices, Heard at Last (nytimes.com)
- Fighting Words (nytimes.com)