Our Normalcy Is Abnormal and the Self-Evident Is Not Obvious
Living in an advanced country brings privileges. Since we are used to them, these appear to be self-evident. Think of security and excellent health-care. Add the role of laws to protect the citizen even against the state. Add to the benefits a system that, thanks to those laws, aims to serve its people rather than the office holders.
Such a system extends to its “shareholders” further privileges. One is that they are, through a free press, enabled to “know all about it.” Informed to the extent of their interests, they are empowered to confirm or to depose public servants.
An adjunct includes access to an education that enables those able to absorb it to become contributing members of society. This leads to the ability to access a market that offers what is coveted. It is a space where customers – and not a “ministry of consumption” – can choose according to their taste and ability to pay.
Those fortunate to live in such a system are apt to suffer from a delusion. The resulting assumptions are a dogma, which promotes that illusion into a fact.
We are taught that there are “self evident” rights that we enjoy the way we get air to breathe. This claims that we have our advantages because there is an absolute right to them. The notion ignores that these benefits are the result of a man-made order. While it might be desirable, it is not “natural.”
If the advanced order and its way of life would be “natural,” then those not yet sharing it should be a global minority. Reality contradicts what our favored theory stipulates. The states with a popular rule and an advanced economy constitute a minority. Thus, the “natural” and the “self evident” are actually an unusual lot of a minority. This makes what we regard as mankind’s desirable condition into a departure from the norm and into a condition enjoyed by a minority.
Project upon your mental map the countries where the “self evident” prevails and then view the “exceptions.”
You find that both categories build clusters. Europe, North America, Australia, New Zeeland, Israel, Taiwan Japan and Korea are colored the same. Mark an in-between zone in Europe’s east and much of the rest will be colored as dictatorial, underdeveloped, poor, and limited by the weight of traditional ways.
We detect a correlation between the West’s culture, political tradition and economic order. However, non-western nations, for instance Korea and Japan have converted their culture into an asset and become leaders. Meanwhile, some European pioneers of modernization are declining. Also, some societies with Western genes, such as Russia, failed to close their developmental lag. China represents a hybrid case, which currently unites progressive economics with political dictatorship.
Several factors hold the “clusters” together. Membership correlates a market friendly state that does not use power to replace its driving forces but to protect its order. A free market, its social order, and the rise of a middle class are related. Here values – their sources can differ – are critical. What distinguishes these is the openness to innovation and a work ethic. This presupposes a system that rewards performance and that does so by ignoring the status inherited by individuals.
Significantly, this way of life is not exportable or importable because it resists copying. Successful societies have developed organically. That is true even if their system might be a product of a revolution that expressed society’s maturity. The post revolutionary record of the “Arab Spring” can be seen in this light.
Forced modernization can create resistance within the culture that is made to feel fundamentally doubted by the attempt. Endeavors to redeem those that wish not to be saved provokes resistance. Not imitation but confrontation can be the upshot. Some of the Near East’s hostility to Israel fits the picture. Coping with her presupposes that one copies her traits. In doing so, one can feel threatened by the loss of identity through adjustment to the enemy.
The result of the meeting of civilizations is not a calculated and utilitarian adjustment. When value systems that lack a common denominator meet, their clash is likely. Complications arise if an identifiable minority within a backward entity can adapt to foreign influence. Its resulting advancement will create enmity and its success will be attributed to crookedness and to the lack of national pride. This can trigger a “return to traditional values” that justifies stand-pattism. A form of this is traditional anti-Semitism and it is a component of “anti-Zionism” in “Palestine.”
A politically and economically advanced society is not the lot of mankind’s majority. The progressive order that is responsible for our achievements in the past centuries is often resisted by a nationalistic impulse of those that doubt their ability to become successful participants. Thereby advanced systems are seen by traditional societies as a destructive challenge of their way of life and values.
The upshot is that, instead of following the example of those that came to terms with progress, resistance to dreaded change unfolds. That can provoke a war on progress which is a major source of the present’s global disorder.
In the case of the emerging leadership that is taking hold of the Muslim world, the response to advancement is not to join mankind’s march, but to stop and revert it. The principle seems to be: If you cannot join it, destroy it. (Beheading recommended.) Oddly, the main resource upon which the resulting attempt to return to the 7th century can rely is our time’s interpretation of “tolerance.” Imbued by that value, the developed world finds it difficult to justify resistance to challengers that questions its moral right to exist. Reacting to this by denial and by blindness to the consequences, is a convenient PC-approved response. However, no hope for change will make the problem go away.