Undoutedly, events like 9/11, the London and Madrid bombings, along with the terrorist attacks in Mombai and the Philippines, to name just a few, have changed many attitudes towards other cultures and the peoples that live in some distant lands. Will conflict between civilisations be the latest phase in the evolution of conflict in the modern world? Samuel Huntingdon argues that the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict, in this century, will be cultural – not ideological or economic as in the last century.

So what does this actually mean?  Well, let’s take a step back…

For a century and a half after the emergence of the modern international system, the conflicts of the Western world were largely among princes-emperors, absolute monarchs and constitutional monarchs attempting to expand their bureaucracies, their armies, their trading/economic strength and, most importantly, the territory they ruled. In the process they created nation states and, beginning with the French Revolution, the principal lines of conflict were between nations rather than princes. The wars of kings were over; the wars of peoples had begun. This nineteenth-century trend ended with  World War I. Then, as a result of the Russian Revolution and the reaction against it, the conflict of nations yielded to the conflict of ideologies. First among communism, fascism-Nazism and liberal democracy, and then between communism and liberal democracy the war of ideologies had begun. During the Cold War, this latter conflict became embodied in the struggle between the two superpowers, neither of which was a nation state in the classical European sense and each of which defined its identity in terms of its ideology – it’s political leanings.

Where do we go from here?

Some argue that the fault lines of civilisations are the battle lines of the future. I do hope not. Civilisation is what sets us apart as human beings. Civilizations are differentiated from each other by religion, history, language and tradition. They are what give us meaning. On the positive side, they enrich us.  On the negative side, they can be said to divide us – and these divisions are deep and increasing in importance. However, others argue that ‘the steady drumbeat of modernity will force civilisations to change’. But not all forces of modernity are sources for good, betterment and well-being.

Seen through my own prism of experience, what I do know is that cultures ARE changing.  In Parkistan, 74% of the population now fully support education for girls. Less than 10% of Afghanis support the Taliban.  But, what I really see is that young Muslim people around the world want the same thing as any young person in the more affluent countries – they want a chance. A chance for a decent life. A chance to earn a living to give them a decent life. Fundamentally, they want the right to have a good education now, the chance to make a difference to their family’s circumstances and the right to have good health as they age.  Where is the culture clash – isn’t that what all young people want – a chance?

Tags: , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 1st, 2009 at 11:52 am and is filed under about cross-culture, cross-cultural differences, General, The Middle East/Arab World . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.