Thursday, November 10, 2011

History Repeating Part I

History Repeats Itself In A Flat World Where Currency Value Is The Holy Grail: Understanding The World Here And Now

1. History Repeats Itself

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce,” wrote Karl Marx. A decade into the twenty-first century, we are in the middle of the history repeating itself, of course, as farce, which we have sold as a grand tragedy, and it is called “Recession,” or a fancier, "Global Meltdown."

It is a philosophical idea that argues that similar historical occurrences can be observers in each era, each epoch of human history. Essentially, things remain the same, only the look changes. The structure of power may change, but power itself as the factor that decides the turn of history, remains the same. Friedrich Nietzsche talked about the doctrine of eternal recurrence. There are other who oppose the metaphysical interplay of the Nietzschean interpretation, and say that “historical recurrences” take place due to ascertainable circumstances and chains of causality.
That explains why every great civilization reaches its zenith at one point of its history and then begins to disintegrate. There’s Mayan civilization, the Egyptians, the Romans, the British Empire (at one point it was said that the sun of the empire never sets). Going by this logic, we can fairly assume that the American civilization as the centre of the world as we know today is going to disintegrate, and perhaps the process has already started. Perhaps a future historian will study the Decline and Fall of the American Empire and ascertain September 11, 2001 as the date when it all started. While the current scenario would make us believe that if the American falls, it would be the end of the world, a true believer of history would say that it is not so. There is another nation in the wings to take up the mantle (or the burden) to be the centre of the universe. But this honour would not come easily. There will be battles to be fought. There will be blood.

2. Or, History Ends

In his epoch-making book, ‘The End of History and the Last Man (1992), Francis Fukuyama, argues that the advent of Western liberal democracy may signal the end point of humanity’s socio-cultural evolution and the final form of human government.
He wrote: “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

In his theory, Fukuyama followed Alexandre Kojève, who argued that the progress of history must lead toward the establishment of a “universal and homogenous” state, most likely incorporating elements of liberal or social democracy.
When Fukuyama wrote the book, Communism had seen its final defeat after USSR disintegrated (China was a different story alltogether), and the American model of Capitalist Democracy was hailed as the future of the world. Following the fall of the twin-towers, however, things have changed considerably. The globe has become flat, and at the same time it has become more polarised, more intolerant more volatile. While socialism is given a grand burial, capitalism went through a series of facelifts. It’s not about production anymore. Money becomes a commodity in itself, and the banks become the arbitrators of power; so when a bank collapses, the world economy takes a tumble. And fossil fuel is the new gold, or diamond, or any other treasure you like.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, in which a group of terrorists, purportedly masterminded by Osama bin Laden, hijacked airplanes and flew them into various targets in the United States, The End of History was cited by some commentators as a symbol of the supposed naiveté and undue optimism of the Western world during the 1990s, in thinking that the end of the Cold War also represented the end of major global conflict. In the weeks after the attacks, Fareed Zakaria called the events "the end of the end of history," while George Will wrote that history had “returned from vacation.”

We take Fukuyama’s argument with a pinch of salt. Marx said that capitalism will lead to the rise of the proletarian and then to a classless society. It did. But it did not work. Till today, democracy is the less evil of all political systems, but there is no saying that it would last. It would not. Yet, we do not know what will replace it. And, there's is Marx. Though, there has been attempts to kill and bury Marx as an obsolete, impractical dreams, Maxism, in its pure, distilled form, continues to haunt our understanding of the world. For, one thing, we cannot understand capitalism without the help of Marx; and despite the obvious failure of translating his theories into practice, it is the only ideology that can explain what is going on in the world right now — why everyone is hankering after money and why money has become the commodity in itself.

3. And, What If The World Ends

The ‘End of History' theory reminds us of the ‘end of the world’ theories. Hindu philosophy reminds us that everything that has a beginning must have an end. The Earth came into existence at some point of time, so one day it must go back to oblivion. Scientists and environmentalist say that the Earth’s resources are not everlasting. One day, these resources will end and everything will be over. We have stored everything that we know and we need in those computer hard drives. What would happen if one day all sources of electricity dry up and we cannot log onto our computers. We’d head back to Stone Age.

American filmmaker Roland Emmerich has destroyed the world several times, once by ice ('The Day After Tomorrow'), later by water ('2012'). According to the ancient Mayan calendar, the world will come to an end on December 22, 2012. The Christian sect of The Seven Day Adventists believes that the world will come to an end soon, and Jesus Christ will appear again in his Second Coming. There are number of such cults, most of whom have their own dates when the world will end. Hindu mythology believes in the tenth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, called Kalki, who will break the cycle of the world and end the Kali Yug, soon.

It’s another matter whether the world will end or not, but one thing is certain that the systems through which the world operate continue to change, continue to reinvent itself, continue to find new avenues.

Yet, at the heart of it, it’s the same old story: A few men, a community, or a nation decide that they are superior to others, their culture is superior to others and it is their noble duty to convert the others to their belief system, and rule over them. The channels through which this power operates may have changed, but the idea of power remains the same.

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