the possible clash of civilizations?

the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principle conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. the clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. the fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.
- samuel p. huntington, the clash of civilizations? foreign affairs 1993.

years ago, in the early nineties, a political scientist named samuel p. huntington wrote an article that outlined what he believed to be, the next great conflict. the cold war, while ended, was still a bit luke warm and while most politial theorists were struggling to name the next great conflict, samuel huntington came out with the article,
the clash of civilizations, which hypothetized that it would be the difference of cultures that would drive conflict in the near future. well, he was pretty much laughed off. every first year political science student has read this article, and yeah, in the 1990's, it seemed silly, but then 9/11 happened. all of a sudden, there was talk about islamic revolutions all over again. this, after we all thought any sort of major islamic revolution died in the late 1980s along with the failed pan-arabism. suddenly you had every right-winged nut with a camera crew in the united states starting to call for some sort of holy war. as if they had forgotten the lessons from the much hyped and failed crusades of centuries past. even the bush administration named their initial fight against terror "operation infinite justice" until criticisms that only god can dole out infinite justice forced them to change it to the less religious but much more american, "operation enduring freedom." would you like some freedom fries with your holy war?

samuel p. huntington's hypothesis suddenly made him look like he was nostradamus. some of his more major points in the article suggest that the difference between cultures is not only real, but basic, and that it is easy to solve socio-economic problems like going from poor to rich and vice versa, than to go from being russian to to estonian or azeris to armenian. he said that the world was getting smaller, and these differences were becoming more apparent; such as the different ways civilizations view man's relation to man or man's relation to god. he also tends that nation states, while still viable, are being swept up in the grander notion of civilizations and likeness - e.g.: the western countries banding together. and he's right about a lot of this; yes the world is getting smaller, yes cultural differences are real (e.g.: canadians band easily with americans who in turn can band easily with the british, etc.) and yes, getting rid of poverty is probably easier than getting israelis and palestinians to just share the land and live together. he's also right about how civilizations view the relationships amongst men and men with god. for example, the individuality that is so worshipped in western civilization, and the freedoms that come with it (freedom of the press, freedom of religion, etc) don't necessarily exist in many arab nations, or if they do, they have a different meaning or different limits. for example, take the whole cartoon row that occured weeks ago with all the rioting after a danish newspaper published cartoons of the prophet mohammed, which is strictly forbidden in the islamic faith; in the west, you can lampoon such figures, but in the arab world, that's grounds for rioting and death. you have crossed the line. some might say that in the west, when it comes to free speach, there is no line.

samuel huntington also isolates the age old battle between islam and christianity that has been going back for centuries, and has now resurfaced with the figureheads of bush and binladen at the forefront. (although binladen seems to have dropped off the radar as of late. whatever happened to "dead or alive"?) even 9/11 fits into huntington's hypothesis. people said that 9/11 was the day the world changed. well, the world had changed long ago; it's just that the west was just waking up to it. but i think if you examine closer, you'll find that these are really small groups of people pushing an agenda. one side lives in caves and wants nothing but the destruction of western civilization and the dominance of islam. the other while encrouched in christianity, really is all about money and power and the desperate need to cling to it by clinging to out-date, pre 1990 political thoughts. but then, one can never underestimate the power that a small group can have over the masses; whether it's instilling fear or stoking the fires of mistrust, which is sort of huntington's point; that there is an underlying difference between civilizations that can and probably will be exploited to bring about conflict.

to his credit, huntington doesn't completely call for the demise of nation states, and this is clearly evident today. just look at the european union for example. for decades there has been a push for a unified europe, a superpower europe, with its own currency, own constitution, own army, own flag... well, two out of four ain't bad. with the french voting against the eu constitution, it showed that people still do believe in nation states. even the british, champions of the eu cause, don't want to take up the euro. britain's relationship in the eu, i have long said, is much like king arthur and the knights of the round table. everyone is equal at the table, there is no head, but there is only one king arthur. in europe, as in many places, there is the fear that everything will become one: fear of races blending too much, fear of borders crumbling to allow the free movement of criminals, fear of pretty much anything even amongst their own countrymen (re: recent race riots in france). never underestimate the power of a flag, or an anthem, or even a soccer - er, i mean, football team. in my case, it's a hockey team. (how the fuck did canada lose to switzerland in the olympics anyway?)

while i see where huntington is correct in many ways, i believe that when you get down to it, when you sift through all the bullshit, what every conflict is really about, is property. one way or another, it has always been about property - the direct or indirect control and influence over it. everything else is a smokescreen. that's not to say people don't believe and that there aren't differences between civilizations that can be explosive, because people will die for beliefs. i'm just saying, while everyone is throwing around words like "culture" or "race" or "language" or "religion," just try to keep your eye on the real issues that give politicians and generals and fundamentalists ideas to start wars: these are of course property and power. it's like homer simpson said: first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women! in the end, it's all about the chicks, right?