September 2012/First Year of College
In the past three decades, political scholars have had varying ideas as to what state our world is in, post-Cold War. Francis Fukuyama’s End of History, suggests that history will cease to exist when political and economic freedoms are in balance. With the notion of liberalism at the forefront of the peace that Fukuyama prophesizes, Fukuyama gives a swift and unmarked view into a possible source of conflict in coming years: religion and nationalism. He poses this question: “…are there any other ideological competitors left?…Are there contradictions in liberal society beyond that of class that are not resolvable?…those of religion and nationalism.” (Fukuyama 1992, 18). This leads to the contrasting argument presented by Samuel P. Huntingdon, in response to Fukuyama’s predicted end. Huntingdon argues that because the United States actively attempts to spread its ideas and values to the rest of the world, threats to the American ideal will present itself when sub-dominant powers feel the need to defend their culture and national identities. (Huntingdon 2003, 9). This resolve can be heard echoed in a Muslim individual’s response to America’s growing influence: “the bottom line is that our societies are based on values other than those of the West; Americans come here and want us to be like them; they understand nothing of our values or our culture; we are different, we have a different background, a different history; accordingly we have the right to different futures.”(Packer 2012, 14). With the threat of Western ideologies encroaching on the foreign affairs of Western non-sympathizers, the “Jihad vs. McWorld” mentality is evident. In Benjamin R. Barber’s criticism of globalization, Barber suggests that “…[there are] two possible political futures—both bleak, neither democratic.” (Barber 1992, 14).
So what then has taken the Cold War’s place? Huntingdon (2003, 12) argues “culture and religion are indeed shaping the alignments and antagonisms of countries throughout the world.” In the years and centuries before the Cold War, it can be observed that the world was often dominated by a unilateral state. (Huntingdon 2003, 8). After WWI, a multilateral state system was in effect. Today, the world cannot so easily be categorized in such a way. The “Western Way” can be seen as a unification of sorts, all the while ironically diminishing and destroying order. Huntingdon not only argues that globalization has been cause for more resistance of Western values, but it has also led to the Islamic Resurgence. (Huntingdon 2003, 11-2). Barber mirrors this view, suggesting that “the forces of Jihad and the forces of McWorld operate with equal strength in opposite directions, the one driven by parochial hatreds, the other by universalizing markets, the one re-creating ancient subnational and ethnic borders from within, the other making national borders porous from without.” (Barber 1992, 2).
Cultural difference (mostly Western vs. Non-Western) has become the central focus of post-Cold War politics. Barber proclaims that “computer, television, cable, satellite, laser, fiber-optic, and microchip technologies [are] combining to create a vast interactive communications and information network that can potentially give every person on earth access to every other person, and make every datum, every byte, available to every set of eyes.” (Barber 1992, 4). Although Barber was 20 years ahead of our time, his observation of the globalization and interconnectedness of our world is eerily similar to modern-day Abdulaziz H. Al-Fahad’s. In 2012, exactly twenty years later, Al-Fahad wrote an article condemning globalization. Using almost the same tone and outlook, Al-Fahad writes, “but in our globalized present, with the various tools of instant communication and social networking available to large swathes of humanity, what happens in a faraway place is immediately splashed everywhere, often with deadly results as we are witnessing today. Within this diverse yet networked humanity, where marginal figures are empowered, someone invariably takes offense at perceived insults emanating from distant lands.” (Al-Fahad 2012, 1) And, just as Fukuyama quietly suggested in his End of History, religion and nationalism have proven to be the greatest sources of conflict since the West proclaimed success in political and economic affairs. In recent events, Westerners have clashed with Non-Westerners when it comes to ideals and values that Islamists especially find criminal. One of these values, known to most Westerners as the First Amendment, is the right to freedom of speech. Al-Fahad flawlessly hits on this main source of discontents. This tradition of free speech in a state where expression, criticism, and sometimes denigration are protected (and often go unnoticed) is perceived as “willful and reckless disregard of Muslim sensibilities” to those who serve as the punch line of the usually non-humorous American joke. (Al-Fahad 2012, 1). Fahad calls these misperceptions and misunderstandings “conflicting prisms,” encompassing the very core of the globalization and discontent world issue.
These arguments all lead to this final question: which trend, then, is more dominant—McWorld or Jihad? To begin, McWorld is a term coined by Barber himself, to represent an age of information and technology where “McDonald’s in Moscow and Coke in China will do more to create a global culture than military colonization ever could.” (Barber 1992, 5). He then defines Jihad as “a struggle…Strictly applied to religious war, it is used only in reference to battles where the faith is under assault.” Barber refers to these struggles between religions as “fractious and pulverizing, never integrating.” Barber argues that globalization and democracy cannot go hand-in-hand. Ironically, McWorld and Jihad have found a way to do just this. They both simultaneously succeed in fracturing, demolishing the very foundation of human inter-dependence, all the while, networking and keeping humanity in one piece. The truth is just this: conflicts between ideals (such as the conflicts we face today) complete a perfect, endless circle. Just as Al-Fahad suggested, “The mob mentality [in Muslim societies] is exploited by more odious elements within Islamic countries who are espousing clearly dangerous and unacceptable notions of permanent war with the rest of the world, which in turn provide fodder for the Islamophobes the world over.” (Al-Fahad 2012, 4). However seemingly pessimistic this resolve may seem on the surface, it provides the escape from boredom that Fukuyama feared: the end of history. (Fukuyama 1992, 25). Furthermore, the strengthening parallelism between a global “McWorld” and a passionate “Jihad” may prove optimistic for those people that encourage hope and peace. Al-Fahad pointed to the “unqualified reaction of condemnation by Libyan citizens (joined by the majority of political, social, and religious leaders throughout the Arab world) against those involved in the murder of personnel in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi is one encouraging sign that violence has become unacceptable as a mode of expression.” (Al-Fahad 2012, 3-4). With this in mind, and returning to the Fukuyama’s “end,” I leave you with this:
“The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one’s life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history. I can feel in myself, and see in others around me, a powerful nostalgia for the time when history existed. Such nostalgia, in fact, will continue to fuel competition and conflict even in the post-historical world for some time to come. Even though I recognize its inevitability, I have the most ambivalent feelings for the civilization that has been created in Europe since 1945, with its north Atlantic and Asian offshoots. Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again.” (Fukuyama 1992, 25).
For the time being, at least, the end of history is nowhere in sight. But in the same regard, the end of humanity will not soon come to light, because of those few that encourage proper use of globalization in an effort to minimize the discontents; push for sensitivity and acceptance in this Jihad McWorld; strive to make the clashes of civilization less catastrophic; and fight to prevent and impede the end of history.
- Al-Fahad, Abdulaziz H. 2012. “Globalization and its discontents.” Foreign Policy (September):1-4. http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/09/18/globalization_and_its_discontents/ (September 25, 2012)
- Barber, Benjamin R. 1992. “Jihad vs. McWorld.” The Atlantic Monthly (March). http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1992/03/jihad-vs-mcworld/303882/ (September 25, 2012)
- Fukuyama, Francis. 1992. The End of History and the Last Man. New York:Free Press
- Huntingdon, Samuel P. 2003. America In the World. The Hedgehog Review (Spring). http://www.iasc-culture.org/thr/archives/America/5.1CHuntington.pdf / (September 25, 2012)
- Packer, Robert B. 2012. “Cultural Conflict in World Politics.” Lecture Notes (September):14