THEY say one should read the commentary and not the text of these three books: Das Kapital, Mein Kampf and Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West. I have read the German leader’s book from page to page, and confined myself to the commentaries on the other two. It is Spengler who is relevant to what follows:
Among the signs of a civilisation’s decline Spengler mentions is a devastating civil war, followed by a geographical shift in the focus of power. Spengler’s book was published in 1918. He died before World War II broke out, but what he predicted turned out to be true. Western civilisation’s great civil war began in Europe in 1914 and ended after a 20-year truce in 1945. This was followed by an astonishingly rapid shift in geopolitical power from Europe to the North American continent. This shift across ‘the ditch’ means Western civilisation has many more centuries to flourish.
We can see this pattern elsewhere. The Mongol holocaust and the sack of Baghdad in 1258 cannot be called a civil war. Nevertheless, it led to the destruction of the Arab — not Islamic — civilisation, because geopolitical power found new bastions for the Islamic culture to bloom in the Ottoman Empire and in Safavid and Mughal sultanates, all three Turkic. In the Ottoman case, the empire lasted six centuries, two (15th and 16th) in glory and the rest in steady, unlike the Mughals’ sudden, decline until its collapse in 1918. This was the nadir of Arab-Islamic civilisation. Is America in decline? No, there are no major signs of it. Minor signs, yes, but America’s positive indicators are far stronger than those of a negative nature.
In spite of the ‘gates’ that rocked the US, democracy stood firm.
It is true the quality of American presidents has been slowly falling. FDR was the last great president. Richard Nixon was potentially a statesman. He proved this by his path-breaking visit to China (courtesy Pakistan), but Watergate got him. Jimmy Carter achieved something spectacular at Camp David because of the Sinai-recognition swap between Egypt and Israel, but the disastrous commando raid on Iran cost him a second term. Bill Clinton had all the assets to go down in history as a great president, but Monicagate perjury and the failure at the second Camp David conference pulverised him. Barack Obama will be remembered as the first black American to occupy the White House, and no more. Others don’t deserve a mention. Yet, in spite of the ‘gates’ that rocked the US, America’s democracy stood firm. Reason: its robust democratic institutions.
A live civilisation also puts extraordinary emphasis on knowledge and is keen to spread it, because it can’t stand illiterate societies. No wonder, even after the shock that was 9/11, America has continued to give scholarships to students from Muslim countries, including Pakistan. The benefits of knowledge export are mutual, since hundreds of thousands of foreign students have settled in the US and contribute to research and scholarship, besides providing skilled manpower at all levels. Last year alone, seven Americans, including three women, won the Nobel Prize.
Finally, notwithstanding scamsters who are there among all peoples, America is an honest society, which trusts itself. Ever heard of an interim government in the US to hold presidential elections? Or of an American election commission? There is indeed a federal election commission, but it doesn’t ‘conduct’ elections. Its duties concern campaign finances. Contrast this with Pakistan where a constitutional amendment had to be crafted for all political parties to agree on the choice of a chief election commissioner because Pakistanis do not trust each other to a level that is abominable. Yet, in spite of the consensus on an election chief, challenging the results has now become de rigueur. In the US, it is the county councils which count votes, and it is rare that doubts are cast on the results. In the latest case Donald Trump made a fool of himself, with even some Republicans distancing themselves from him. Yet, if there was chaos on the Capitol Hill, let’s also note course correction by American society.
This article doesn’t deal with America’s foreign policy, its crimes in many developing countries, and the carte blanche given by AIPAC puppets to Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people. These foreign policy depredations do not represent the essence of a civilisation that now rules the world and has no equipotent. The positive points mentioned about the US also hold good for Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most Western European countries.
The world of Islam and Europe have acted more in peace than in war. The Islamic world salvaged the best of Hellenic and Judeo-Christian values, contributed to them and exported this intellectual asset back to Europe to be a factor in the Renaissance. Islamic heritage is an intrinsic part of Western civilisation. Hostility to the very word ‘West’ is bigotry.
The writer is Dawn’s external ombudsman and an author.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2021