Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Clash of the Butts

So I finished reading that 'Clash of Civilizations' paper by Samuel Huntington and much of what he said was true. It's true that there are fundamental cultural differences among human beings, for example, and its true that these often prevent peaceful, productive interactions, and at worst even cause destructive conflict.

This point was well made (better made) in Benjamin Barber's 'Jihad v. McWorld'. That book also dealt with the westernization of the rest of the world and the paradoxes in the 'clash' that Huntington refers to.

The big truth that Huntington seems to deny is that if enough money is on the line, God will do business with Vishnu (no matter how big their cultural differences), so weak-kneed human beings will surely do the same, and in fact, they do. Although the trading blocks of 1993 were established largely along the lines of like-culture, China is one of the West's key trading partners in today's world economy, and both ideology and culture have taken backseats to profit.

But so what?

The only MAJOR problem I have with Huntington's paper is, well, the conclusion. As I said, much of what he said is true (and perhaps even obvious). But in the conclusion, titled 'Implications for the West', he argues that because cultures are doomed to clash, the 'West' better damn well stop dismantling its super-weapons because all the other major cultures are catching up in terms of their military power. So, that's the part where the Washington hawks' beady little eyes light up. Fuck that.

How about this for a conclusion: we have at our disposal two roads to peace: 1. coexist and happily ignore people who aren't like us (except those who immigrate to where we live) or 2. learn to get along despite our differences.

Huntington might call that neive, but it's worked before. Again, I point to China. We really don't like the way their government works and we certainly don't trust them, but now they have the Olympics. We don't have to trust their government, or anyone else's, but 1.4 billion people can't be all bad can they? We're learning to get along with them.

Stockpiling nukes has never caused us anything but trouble. These 'other cultures' of the world would be smarter to drop their weapons (programs), as would 'the west'. But since their trying to catch up, let's make it a little easier for them, by cutting back on what we have. Then maybe we can all work together, toward 0 weapons.

Crazy, I know.

This method of making essentialized comparisons of cultures was not founded by Huntington. I often see value comparisons made between nations and/or cultures. "See how Buddhist Burma is superior to America in its value of consumption as a means to labour, rather than consumption as an end." [EF Schumacher, 'Small is Beautiful' 1975] "See how Japanese pornography is more disturbing than its American counterpart; ergo, Japanese culture is fucked up." [my friend Conor in conversation at 'The Only' in East Toronto, after about 2-3 pints]

While these comparisons offer some insights into how cultural values can influence the impract of that culture on its own society and other countries, these value comparisons are ultimately futile because it is impossible to say with any accurate certainty that one culture is better off, that the people of 1970s Burma were better off than 1970s Americans, or that modern day Americans are better off than modern day Japanese.

I find a more useful comparison is that between the values common to human beings living in civilizations, and those common to humans not living in civilizations, because here I find it easier to conclude that those of us living within civilizations have it worse.

When I make such comparisons though, I am often accused of essentializing, or worse, romanticizing. Meanwhile, those making blanket judgements of "the West" or "Islam" are lauded as insightful and progressive.

There, it's 3 days to christmas 2004 and I just finished reviewing a paper written in 1993. No wonder no one reads this thing except my girlfriend! Happy Holidays.

The Bopper

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Comments:
Hi having just read some of your posts and I noticed that there haven't been that many comments on your blog. So I felt that I should say something. So here I go.

I shall start with Samuel Huntington and his 'Clash of Civilizations' paper in my opinion it doesn’t deal with the major issue in its conclusion. What I mean by this is that you look at Africa, Middle East and South East Asia and the problems that they are facing have being mainly done so due to the funding it has received from the west. In order to get their hands on the natural resources in these regions, there has always been a reason for it at first it was communism and now it is terrorism. It is some thing that the west has created and it is not sure how it should be sorted out.

As for the point about how there are fundamental differences between the cultures I don’t believe this because no matter where you go in the world people want the same thing which is for them and their entire loved one’s to be well and healthy. No one wants what we are facing at this moment in time in the world.

It’s just some thing that the media and people like Samuel Huntington would like you to think that things are very different and that the differences are so big that the only way to sort it out is to have as much weapons as possible or to teach people what westernization means by invading them.

The best thing is to let these countries to evolve in to democracy not force it upon them, the west didn’t get where it is now over night like what we are trying to do in Iraq. You look at other countries in the world like Turkey, Ukraine and to some extent Palestine and Iran, these are countries are changing because they have realized that this is the best way for them. The important thing is that these countries and their people choose when it was the right time for them to have change as with every thing in life you need the backing of the people of the country to achieve anything.

So I conclude by saying that like every thing else in the world things need to evolve it has to be some thing they want and that they feel it is right for them, but most importantly something they believed in. Change can not be forced upon people you need them to understand and get used to the idea. Other wise you run the risk of achieving the opposite of your aims instead of having a world where we can live in together but a world full of hate and mistrust.

Any way enjoy your Christmas and have a happy New Year and with the New Year comes new hope.

Peace and love,
from a new reader.
 
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