By William Markiewicz
For the industrialised, mostly Western nations, before the fall of the Soviets, the conception of the world was of limpid simplicity: Cold War between two worldpowers with their respective allies drafted from left wingers and right wingers. Jihad and some nationalistic frictions here and there had their own battles. As those minor nationalistic, ideological, religious groups had no official headquarters, their main fighting tactic was, and is, mostly terror. Ordinary folks were focused on their political beliefs and day to day life. Now we live in a non-focused universe. The nearest comparison would perhaps fit the epoch of the Roman empire. Then, there was also a single superpower with a stable economy and the masses' main requirement was: "bread and circuses." Today, the industrialized world's stable economy and superdeveloped entertainment industry provide "bread and circuses" while various doctrines provide spiritual nutrition. The people who are no longer focused on the two blocs' struggle are more involved in "planetary improvement." With all the achievements in the fields of health, economy, environment, spatial expansion, political stability, we could indeed evolve toward some Utopia; the whole industrialised world could become a megapicture of Switzerland, Canada. So, what are the impediments? The present big tensions which seem to shake the apparent stability of the Industrialized World seem self-generated, meaning we are looking for troubles more than troubles look for us. On the other hand we may have no choice.
Lets take, for example, an active underwater volcano. The water boils in its immediate vicinity, the more distant the epicentre, the calmer and cooler the water. The exchanges between the warmer and cooler currents become more and more discreet. The USA is the epicentre of boiling energy affecting the rest of the world. Among equal partners the world could function according to the MacLuhan vision of the Global Village. But the law of supply and demand. conditioned mostly by the super epicentre makes MacLuhan's conception unrealisable. The rest of the world is either client or supplier of the USA. This could seemingly have evolved toward a situation analogous to monarch and the vassals of medieval times. But the living volcano is of expansive character, power engenders more power and takes over everything that is underdefended and underexplored. It may be in a smooth shift or a dramatic scenario, according to local situations.
An example of a smooth shift: in Canada the media sometimes openly questions how long we will be willing to pay extra money to keep our independence? Economically it is a losing venture. Canada, including even Quebec, may finally be sucked into 'Greater USA,' as, in the past, some provinces have been 'sucked' into Canada's orbit. The distant Emirates, because it suits its rulers, easily accept the USA's umbrella. The poor countries wont be absorbed, even if they wished to be. But how about those who don't wish to be absorbed, who could function on their own, through less glamorously, in a Global Village framework? The 'growing volcano' may not give them too much choice either. For example pressure is focused on Iraq not because of Kuwait -- an old story, not because of its "tools of mass destruction" -- a joke compared to those who really have them, but because of its oil. Russia and China attract attention not because of "human rights violations" but because their wealth surpasses their strength. For the time being Russia and China have enough nuclear arms, not to win the war but to keep away the sabre rattlers. Iran is spared because of its fundamentalism; nobody wants to provoke the mujahadeen right now.
The difference between the rich and the poor or the powerful and the weak countries is that the poor and/or weak use terror, while the rich and powerful mostly use Mafiosi 'family' methods of political and military alliances. It's interesting to watch how the 'families' gain in power while democracy remains intact; somebody had the brilliant idea that PR agencies are cheaper and more efficient than coercion. In democracy anything can be swallowed as long as "the bread and circuses" are not missing and the 'boys' are not dying. "Humanitarian mission" is the powerful new slogan under which everything passes if well presented and painless for those who use it. Today's crusades are called defense of human rights and their operations, as if by coincidence, are situated in lands rich in resources.
Democracy still imposes certain limits; leaders cannot send the boys to death when it is not absolutely necessary but there are ranks in the family; the lesser members will be the first victims to go if bombers are not sufficient. And, if the worst comes to the worst, all the sides know that the West is indestructible, no matter how heavily damaged, while Russia and China are destructible because once their nerve centers are hit the rest of the country becomes helpless. In the USA and, to a lesser extent, in Western Europe, all the territory is practically one immense web of 'nerve centers.' The industry extends all over, everything anywhere may be replaced. But the "volcano" is not ready to erupt totally until they can create an army composed entirely of robots and janissaries.Back to the index of the Vagabond