Dr. Farhat-Holzman’s blog post “ ‘Clash of Traditions’ offer glimmers of hope” [Note for the web site editor: The title should read ‘Clash of Traditions offers glimmers of hope’.] arouses a couple of comments. First, more than forty years before Huntington, Dr. Arnold J. Toynbee in Volume VIII of his “A Study of History” treated the issue of clashes between civilizations. Such clashes have existed almost since the beginnings of civilization. They have traditionally featured warfare and conquest and the eventual assimilation of the conquered by the culture of the conquerors. There have been, however, exceptions to this general rule. The most prominent, to my less-than-complete knowledge, being the Islamic Arabs out of the Saudi Arabian desert assimilating the civilization of the more ancient Syriac Civilization and then transforming it into a unique Islamic Civilization. Unless one wishes to argue that the Arabian Islamic conquerors were already a part of the Syriac Civilization. But that’s a different blog post.
Huntington’s prediction “that we were headed for stormy times when the largest civilizations would not meet peacefully” (the words are from Dr Farhat-Holzman’s blog post) is fairly meaningless. No civilizations, large or small, have ever met peacefully since the first civilizations. Almost 20 years after Huntington’s book, what is the situation?
When the Second World War ended there were only five civilizations in existence: Western, Orthodox-Russian, Islamic, Far Eastern, and Hindu (I use Toynbee’s terminology.). All these except the Western had suffered in the preceding centuries for two reasons: Colonialism and Westernization. Starting in the fifteenth century the national states of Western Europe began to colonize the world. By the end of the First World War North and South America, Australia, and New Zealand were a part of Western Civilization. All of the Islamic world, except Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan, all of Africa, except Liberia and Ethiopia, and most of Asia, except for Japan and China, were either colonies of Western nation states or dominated by them. Western Civilization was easily recognizable as the most dynamic of the existing civilizations. So, it can be said that the other globalizing force, i.e., westernization, began at the same time as colonization. However, in most of the colonized countries the colonizers had little interest in westernizing the colonized populations. It is certainly true, nevertheless, that some aspects of Western culture were passed on and adopted, but essentially the civilizations retained their particularities and personalities.
Today, colonialism is dead. The major force acting on the relations between civilizations is now westernization. Everywhere in the world one can see the various aspects of Western civilization penetrating the other civilizations. One could argue that the Orthodox-Russian Civilization has become almost totally westernized. On the other hand, the Islamic Civilization is fighting hard to resist westernization. The United States government’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, its failure to achieve a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and its continuing military intervention in Islamic internal struggles have been major impediments to the adoption of Western culture in Islamic countries. The Far Eastern and Hindu Civilizations are demonstrating a much more receptive attitude to their eventual westernization.
There will be eventually a global civilization, probably based on Western culture. I agree with Dr. Targowski on this point. However, neither he nor I nor Dr, Farhat-Holzman will live to see it. And it will certainly not be achieved by the end of this century, as Dr. Targowski believes. The signs of this westernization are everywhere: in the Arab Spring, in Saudi women driving cars, in South Koreans having plastic surgery to westernize their faces, in the Chinese government’s permitting capitalistic enterprises, in the expansion of English as the world’s second language, etc. The list is long. I am willing to give further examples if a reader requests, but I imagine that any reader can come up with his/her own. But one must remember that complete acceptance of a foreign culture takes a very long time, centuries.
Dr. Farhat-Holzman writes that “…most scholars … upon the end of the Cold War, were convinced that the world had globalized; that the United States and its values had dominated all others, and that there was nothing really left to fight about. War was no longer really conceivable. We had every institution needed to regulate a peaceful, rational world order.” I would like to know what scholars Dr. Farhat-Holzman is citing here. They must have been living high in an aerie or deep in a cave. I can’t cite any scholar who believed that. The world had not then been globalized; it is not globalized today. What does globalization mean? Is the world globalized because I can fly from my home in the United States to Tokyo in less than a day? Is the world globalized because I can have a telephone conversation with someone in Beijing? Is the world globalized because most of the clothes I wear are made in China? I side with Dr. Targowski in his article in the 2014 Winter edition of the ISCSC Newsletter “The State of Civilization—Where are we heading?”. Globalization is more than commerce; it is deeply cultural.
Furthermore, the United Nations had already demonstrated by its performance prior to the end of the Cold War that it was not capable of regulating “a peaceful, rational world order.” What other organization or organizations is Dr. Farhat-Holzman thinking of?
I would appreciate any comments, pro or con or amplificatory, any reader would like to make on the points I make above.