The World

When Communism was about to fall, Francis Fukuyama wrote of a coming “end of history,” because democracy had won and free markets would unify the world via prosperity. 
     A little later, Benjamin Barber wrote of another reality: a coming collision between two hollow ways of living: Jihad and capitalism, “one re-creating ancient sub-national and ethnic borders from within, the other making national borders porous from without.”
     Barber seems a little jaded in his view of these clashing cultures: “…tribe against tribe … a hundred narrowly conceived faiths against every kind of interdependence,” versus, “[the true goal of free markets is] not liberty and the right to vote but well-paying jobs and the right to shop.”  
     While many supposed that “globalization” (information and capitalism) would triumph over tribal backlash, I don’t see national borders or cultures eroding as many have predicted. We can’t even agree on terminology, let alone environmental accords. “Imposing a free market may even have the opposite effect,” writes Barber. “Democracy grows from the bottom up and cannot be imposed from the top down.”
     “Nationalism was once a force of integration and unification …bringing together disparate clans, tribes, and cultural fragments under new, assimilationist flags,” he continues. “The passing of communism has torn away the thin veneer of internationalism … to reveal ethnic [differences]” This clash of traditions (ongoing since the beginning of recorded history) is why mortals will never arrive at a homogeneous sameness, and why it’s not a contest between only two soul-less ways of living. Thank heaven for non-conformity and third options! Hooray for distinct cultures—insofar as they don’t promote hatred and favoritism.
     Seeing the history of tradition, I don’t think we can dismiss it as a phase or a fad to be waited out. My friend from Albania says that as soon as communism fell, her people rebuilt their cathedrals (even though Christians are a minority there).
     It makes sense that government must be local, that it require buy-in and participation, and that cultural and national borders be respected. While I have great hope in the universality of information, Jihad will conquer democratic ideals unless we dying westerners (who refuse to procreate [oops—that’s me, gulp!]) teach the principles of freedom—if not to our children, then to those of the Jihadists. This education cannot take place in an environment of fear, isolation, or bigotry. It will also not occur if all that the rising generation seeks from the worldwide well of knowledge is music, games, and videos.

Fukuyama, Francis. 1989. “The End of History?” The National Interest, Summer.
Barber, Benjamin R. 1992. “Jihad Vs. McWorld” The Atlantic, March.

Posted by Karl Beckstrand at 9/22/2011 9:14 AM

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