History Repeats Itself In A Flat World Where Currency Value Is The Holy Grail: Understanding The World Here And Now
4. Again, History Repeats Itself
It is now an acceptable fact that human being, the homo sapiens, first came to existence somewhere in the African deserts. However, it is in the Middle East, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, that human civilization took shape, and thousands of years later, the same site remains the centre of the world crisis. This is the region from where the so called Aryans came to India, and later, the Mughals, and the Parsis. This is the place where the written language was invented, where algebra was invented. This is the place where Abraham came to settle down, where Zarathustra gave the world the first religion with a single God, Ahura Mazda, where Christ was born, where Mohammed untied the warring Arab tribes under the tenants of Islam, where the Holy War of Crusade was fought for centuries. This is where the world’s largest reserve of petroleum was unearthed. This is where Islamic fundamentalism came to flower. This is where Osama bin Laden hatched his plan to change the world.
This is the story of the struggle between the East and the West. Following Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the new world, merchants and mercenaries traversed the world looking for the precious merchandise, spice from India, gold from South America, diamond from the mines of African. The East provided the raw material for the comforts of the Western world. The slaves served the master. As time passed, this transaction of commodities changed, but the structure remained the same. Following industrial revolution in England, the textile mills in Liverpool thrived on the cotton exported from India, and Indigo exported from India, French cooks discovered the art of making chocolates from the cocoa exported from Brazil.
As the World War II changed the political equation of the world, the United States of America came to the limelight and in the next 50 years or so it established itself as the new superpower, a status that once belonged to the British Empire, before that Constantinople, before the Roma, before that Athens, before that Babylon… What worked in favour of America?
The war that they never fought. It’s is ironic that a devastating war catapulted the nation into the great height and now, 50 years, perhaps, it would be a series of war that will herald its end. America entered the world in the last few months, much after it had paralysed that glory that once was Europe, and it effectively ended the war, using two atom bombs, destroying two historical cities no less, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Following the war, someone who could pose a threat to American’s growing power was the former USSR; so ensued the years of cold war, which ended with the disintegration of the former Soviet Union. 1991. It was an important year, not just for world history, but for India especially. This was the year, USSR collapsed. It was the final nail on the coffin of the future of communism as we knew it. And, this was the year, when Manmohan Singh, the current Prime Minister of India, acting as finance minister, opened the door for consumerism in India. Remo Fernandez sung, ‘Yehi hai right choice, baby’ in an ad for Pepsi, and America had won the war.
Following the cold war, in USSR, greater political and social freedoms, instituted by the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, created an atmosphere of open criticism of the communist regime. The dramatic drop of the price of oil in 1985 and 1986, and consequent lack of foreign exchange reserves in following years to purchase grain profoundly influenced actions of the Soviet leadership. Several Soviet Socialist Republics began resisting central control, and increasing democratization led to a weakening of the central government. The USSR’s trade gap progressively emptied the coffers of the union, leading to eventual bankruptcy. The Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1991 when Boris Yeltsin seized power in the aftermath of a failed coup that had attempted to topple reform-minded Gorbachev.
The same year was the year of the economic liberalisation in India. After Independence in 1947, India adhered to socialist policies. In the 1980s, Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao initiated some reforms. In 1991, after India faced a balance of payments crisis, it had to pledge 67 tons of gold to Union Bank of Switzerland and Bank of England as part of a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In addition, IMF required India to undertake a series of structural economic reforms. As a result of this requirement, the government of Narasimha Rao and his finance minister Manmohan Singh started breakthrough reforms, although they did not implement many of the reforms IMF wanted. The new neo-liberal policies included opening for international trade and investment, deregulation, initiation of privatization, tax reforms, and inflation-controlling measures. The overall direction of liberalisation has since remained the same, irrespective of the ruling party, although no party has yet tried to take on powerful lobbies such as the trade unions and farmers, or contentious issues such as reforming labour laws and reducing agricultural subsidies. The main objective of the government was to transform the economic system from socialism to capitalism so as to achieve high economic growth and industrialize the nation for the well-being of Indian citizens. Today, India is mainly characterized as a market economy.
It’s the same old history, wearing a different garb. It always been the fight for resources, from the time of hunting gathering, till today, the powerful ones will have more than the powerless ones. Darwin was right: Survival of the fittest. The hyena will get its share only after the lion has finished eating. Like the people from a community or a nation divided into categories for various reasons (… for look, the ‘chinkis’ from the north east; for skin colour, brown Indians, black Africans; for birth, Brahmins, sudras, for wealth, the zamindars, the landless farmers), the countries are categorised: first world (United States), second world (Europe), third world (the rest of the world). Though, as economists would make us believe that these divisions are arrived at to monitor the economy of the world, the implication is widespread. It is understood that the first world has the first right to resources, and only the leftover will be given to the remaining worlds. So, no matter what, petrol is still cheaper in the United States than anywhere else in the world. A few years ago, the then US President George W Bush said that the world is going to impending food crisis because people from countries like India and China have started to eat more. French Queen Marie Antoinette, who, after learning that the protesting peasants were so poor that they have no bread to eat, said, let them eat cake, was not alone. It’s the story of the civilization. Karl Marx was right. In the perfect capitalist model, the rich will grow richer, the poor poorer.
It’s the same old story. In the Middle Ages, Christian fanatics fought the Holy War against the Islamic warlords for the land. The main motivation of the Crusade, to take back the birth place of Christ, was just a ruse. The main motive was to occupy the land. That’s where the wealth was. The war raged on. When Hitler came to power following Germany’s debacle in World War I, what he needed most was money. Germany did not have the money. Money was with the wealthy Jews, and the Jews did not have any allegiance with the German nation; they were the nomads since the time of the Old Testament, the Promised Land never delivered. So, we come to anti-Semitic war.
The commodity changes, the war remain the same. Now, we are back in the Middle East, and now, it’s the war for the oil. In the recent history, two American presidents waged war in the middle east, the Gulf War during the time of the father and the war against Terror, more specifically, war against Saddam Husain during the time of the son. Why? Because the Bush family owns oil fields in the state of Texas. Because Middle East had threatened to take over the business of oil in its own hands. A few years ago, there were reports that scientists have discovered a huge oil reserve under the snows of Alaska. But, the US won’t extract the oil till the current oil reserve in Middle East is exhausted. You know why.
Then there is the issue of the Gods. Starting from the war of Kurukshetra and the war in Illiam to the fall of the Mayan civilization, to the fall of the Roman Empire to the Crusade, to the World War II to the current battle against terror, all have been fought in the name of the Gods. The Gods instigated the war (Krishna asked Arjuna to fight, the Olympian Gods were actively involved in the fight between Achilles and Hector), inspired the war (between the Spartan and the Persian empire; the rising Christian sect against the Pagan nature worshippers, the stronger Christian communities against the Moslems), and finally, became the very reason for war (Jihad, in today’s current and complicated form).
But, we know the gods are just an excuse. The real motive is something else. The real motive is power, resources, wealth, domination, whatever you may call it, whatever way you may explain it, it comes down to those crisp papers, currency notes, money. As Liza Minnelli sung in ‘Cabaret’, “Money makes the world go round, world go round.”
(The author of this piece has copied liberally from Wikipedia.org entries to make himself clear)