Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Go global

This plea for moderation is well-meaning, but misses the key point. If simply pounding one's six-point fist of values on the table were enough to produce a modern society, today's Middle East would be a very different place.

The underlying problem is that the region has been addicted to a drug -- oil money -- and has to break its habit. Its economy has to make the difficult shift to a multi-industry, global base. Both the Isamists and the legacy dictators are seeking to own the oil money -- this is a boardroom struggle for control of OPEC. Neither is a friend of a more diverse economy, because that requires skills and legitimacy neither possesses or is capable of acquiring. The deeper irony, of course, is that they're fighting to have the best deck chairs on the Titanic -- but that only increases the desperation of their struggle.

The only hope here is for the new generations of the Arab countries to embrace globalization, like their age cohort in Asia and Latin America (and now like those to their south in Africa). This struggle cannot be resolved by one abstraction ("modernism") defeating another abstraction ("traditionalism" or "fundamentalism" or "extremism"). That way "Wars on Terror" lie. Such struggles are inherently irresolvable -- they are struggles between Good and Evil, God and Satan. They are, in fact, built not to be resolved; their subtext is the impossibility of resolution or progress, period. (Adam Curtis shows this kind of meeting of the fundamentalist minds nicely in his famous documentary, The Power of Nightmares.)

Of course, there are problems inherent in globalization. Its critics on the Left believe it to be nothing more than the propaganda of corporatism, and they think that embracing it is just another form of slavery. I disagree. The unreconstructed Marxist Left is as much of a religion, with as cardboard a Satan, as any of these other traditional cults. To become one planet is not inherently corporatist, any more than it is inherently religious or proletarian. If it has an unquestioned belief, it is the belief in the science of complexity, emergence and networks. I'm sure we'll eventually figure out what's wrong with that paradigm -- as we have with those of Ptolemy and Newton. But for now, I'll stick with it, and I'll maintain that the politics and economics it implies are inherently global and inherently liberal and progressive. I'll therefore further maintain that putting chips down on that square -- e.g., embracing free trade... taking a whole-earth view of production, as well as of the natural environment... focusing attention of the emerging global cities of the urbanizing planet... and more -- holds out the best hope for actually building and sustaining modern, tolerant, innovative, equitable societies.

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