The Free State
"Man, in a word, has no nature. What he has is - history."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Letter to Newsweek: My Radical Edge

I really struggled to keep this to about 200 words. Here's a very slightly extended version of my response to Zakaria's self-publicizing cover story:

Dear Sir/Madam

You write that “the world will become enriched and ennobled” by globalization. While I do not dispute the former, is there any evidence which suggests that material progress means greater moral character?

Recall the rapid modernization of Japan and Germany in the 1800s: authoritarian nations with conservative, militaristic values acquired all the power of an industrial economy. We know the rest. Japan’s modernization was intimately related to its aggressive Empire-building in Asia. The Germans acquired the horrific distinction of being both the world's most educated nation and its greatest mass murderers.

In this light, we might find the breakneck modernizations of the Gulf and China to be alarming. It is more than just the irony of mosques beside mega-malls or a helping McDonald's and Mao. Is it any wonder that societies with almost medieval religious attitudes should use their oil-wealth to fund ultra-conservative mosques throughout the world? Is it not worrisome that China, with its insecure, angry nationalism, should experience simultaneously a vertiginous rise to power and monumental social change with all the instability that that entails?

Of course, these concerns may prove unjustified. These societies may well follow the Euro-Americo-Japanese pattern. They too may have money as their religion, epidemic obesity, thrivingly obscene porn industries and no higher ambition for the majority of their consumer-citizens than bigger cars, wider HD-TVs and snazzier gadgets… Noble indeed!


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