Japan: Regretfully the World’s Last Hope Against Eurocentrism

Eurocentrism in its extreme form.

Why does the world continue to allow for a lack of respect for diverse peoples and cultures? Comrades, these are troubling times indeed, when the masses embrace the capitalist corruption of the people’s liberation: Eurocentrism.

On a serious note, Eurocentrism is a terrible thing. It makes me mad, for one thing; so much that I wrote a blog post about it ages ago. It also, more importantly, leads to a decline in respect for diverse peoples and cultures. It leads to, for instance, Mitt Romney arguing that Israeli culture is better than Palestinian culture, and thus by extension that generally Western culture is better than Islamic culture. Or, on a rather depressing note, it leads to unnecessary violence like the recent shooting rampage at a Sikh temple. But, on a brighter note, there is hope against Eurocentrism. In fact, it is blatantly obvious hope, even if you only have some basic knowledge in international affairs and history. That hope is Japan.

Japan is the best – and perhaps (currently) the only – counterargument against Eurocentrism.

No, no, I don’t mean to imply that Japanese culture is awesome compared to Western culture. Because it’s not. Yes, I think the phonological structure of Japanese is interesting, and I think the Japanese have the best Asian confectionary; however, Samurai and ninja are overrated, and I don’t give a damn about how spiritually pure they are in their martial arts, and anime is just goddamn anime for goodness sakes.

But Japan is still, perhaps, for now, the only clear argument against Eurocentrism.

Think of it this way. When you think of the “developed world,” or of “modernized” countries, especially those with any political or economic power on the international stage, these would probably come to mind: America, Britain, Russia (sort of), Germany, Japan, France, and so on. Which one’s the odd one out? Japan. Why? Because it’s the only non-European one on the list. When you think of countries that were formerly colonial empires/imperialist douchebags, these would probably come to mind: Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Russia, and America (arguably). Who’s the odd one out again? Japan. Because, again, it’s the only non-European one on the list.

Starting to get the drift here?

Japan shows the white devils that they, too, can be imperialist douchebags by shooting those godless, heathen, pagan Chinamen. (See First Sino-Japanese War)

For the past century and a half or so, Japan has proven itself to be the only successful non-European nation – if we define success as becoming a world power rivaling that of the “Western” states. A number of recent economic powerhouses, such as China, South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, India, and so on, don’t count because they have only recently rose to power. Japan has been at it since the late 1800s, and not only that, it also has a history of being an imperialist douchebag like former Western colonial powers.

But one could argue that Japan is Westernized: they wear “Western” clothing, eat fast food, and have a democracy that supports freedom and equality. These, however, are relatively superficial. Traditional clothing is still very much commonplace in Japan, though in more limited contexts; and Japan still eats rice; and so on. Even their sort of freedom and equality is not exactly the same as in Europe or America. For instance, while there is freedom, there isn’t on the other hand much encouragement of individuality. Conformity to society is much more important; standing out, playing the unique hero – that’s discouraged. Shy from conflict, cooperate and compromise or even comply rather than “fight for what you believe in.” And so on. That’s not to mention that there’s still a clear patriarchal, even repressive, element of Japanese culture: women still have clear gender roles. Ultimately, the traditional influence on Japan is still extremely pervasive, even if guys don’t go around committing suicide to preserve their honor (as much).

Thus Japan – yes, that very Japan that gave you Pokemon and anime and sushi – proves that Western culture is not fully necessary for success. For Japan did not begin as a white folks’ nation with white folks’ culture, nor did it become one . Nay, even its modernization programme during the Meiji era relied heavily on cooperation between the government and corporate leaders of samurai stock, and it was done so in terms of a Confucian worldview (all honor to the Emperor, etc.); so so much for laissez-faire capitalism. And Japan’sefforts succeeded beyond imagination, flabbergasting the Europeans who watched in shock as Japan beat Russia and China and colonized Korea and Taiwan, proving that Westerners weren’t the only people capable of being big colonial douchebags/dicks/jerks. When Japan was defeated in World War II, they shocked the West once again as they rebuilt themselves into an economic power, without the need to adopt heavy doses of Western individualism, so much that in the 80s Americans feared that Japan would one day take over the world.

Arararararararararararagi

Anyone who can explain to me how this is related to the concept of Japanese conformity vs. individualism/playing hero will win free french fries.

My conclusion here is that perhaps culture does not determine the superiority of a nation or people; institutions (as well as historical luck) have a much bigger role. The Japanese developed institutions that kept them going for a long time, and, despite their current economic woes, still keep them going well enough to at least barely float. At the very least, something happened that caused Japan’s standard of living to rival that of America or France. I highly doubt it was because white people have better manners or philosophy. Japanese children are still taught values that adhere, directly or indirectly, to Confucian ethics and East Asian ideals. But this did not, and does not, really produce a culture inferior to that of the so-called “Judaeo-Christian” West (a concept which itself I find problematic, and, yes, you guessed it, Eurocentric).

If Japan, so steeped in its Confucian and East Asian roots, could produce a modern power without heavy doses of Western culture, who are we to day that an Islamic, Indian, or West African culture couldn’t do the same? That’s why Japan is so important. It’s the only clear evidence we have of a successful modern nation that isn’t Western in culture. Japan’s example proves that with good leaders, right timing, and luck, any culture can have the means to succeed and become the imperialist jerkass and/or economic powerhouse it always wanted to be, Western Judaeo-Christian culture or not.

Yes, Japan is overrated in some ways – no, in many ways. But in other ways, it really is the only hope against Eurocentrism, the only good evidence we have that you don’t have to be white to be an imperialist, greedy, violent, ruthless, colonizing douchebag if they try hard enough – and in some ways, that’s good for the white folks too. When every culture is a douchebag, maybe then it’d be easier to have respect for diverse peoples and cultures.

I admit I prefer Japanese rice over Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, or Indian rice. I like its texture and moistness. Also, this rice is white. Is that racist?

(Also, happy one year birthday to my blog. What an imperialist, people’s blast, a truest respect for diverse peoples and cultures:

Happy birthday to the masses, happy birthday to the masses, happy birthday to you all, may we rid the world of dirty reactionary imperialist-capitalists!)

Skyrim vs. Anime – An Objective Comparison

Pic unrelated.

Despite being products of two drastically different psychoses, Skyrim and Anime (that is, Animeland, the magical land of magical schoolgirls, explosions, and skittles) are remarkably similar. Both are extremely inhospitable lands that contain some of the most dangerous environments ever known to man. They also may qualify as drugs.

That being said, in respect for the glorious Chairman Mao’s sponsorship of the ideals of “respect for diverse cultures and peoples,” it is pertinent that we compare and contrast these two generally unusual, occasionally creepy, and even fantastically insane realms.

1. Literary Achievements
Animeland: It seems the inhabitants, in a few cases, have a reoccurring penchant to live their lives like some mind screwing, post-modernist, insane incomprehensibility akin to that of Alice in Wonderland or 20th century Russian literature.
Skyrim: Scripture made by a living god that secretly shows, using Biblical style prose and poetry, that the world of Tamriel is actually that of a video game. Oh, and the Lusty Argonian Maid.
Winner: Skyrim.

2. Progressive Roles of Women in the Military
Animeland: Military women are sex objects
Skyrim: Military women are sex objects
Winner: Skyrim. At least they (probably) are wearing their panties or the pseudo-medieval equivalent.

3. Landscape
Animeland: Varies.
Skyrim: Varies.
Winner: Draw. Just kidding, Skyrim.

4. Safety and Security
Animeland: Statistics reveal Animeland to be an extremely dangerous to traverse, physically and mentally
Skyrim: Somewhat dangerous to traverse, despite the arrival of time-eating dragons
Winner: Draw. Bureaucratic regulations mandate that there needs to be at least one draw to ensure fairness.

5. Language
Animeland: High-pitched Japanese seems to be the default dialect among women. Its linguistic relationship with more standard dialects of Japanese is otherwise hard to discern.
Skyrim: Shouting at the sky can change weather or summon dragons.
Winner: Skyrim.

That's not the Dragon Language, it's ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform.

6. Musical Traditions
Animeland: Occasionally there exist decent ballads, but otherwise it’s the same thing.
Skyrim: Songs have the power to make universes explode.
Winner: Skyrim. Is there any comparison?

7. Courtship Customs
Animeland: This is better left unmentioned.
Skyrim: Marriage simply requires an inconsequential, petty trinket.
Winner: Animeland. Skyrim, unfortunately, encourages risky choices as it provides a small timeslot between engagement and marriage, and thus prevents serious contemplation on how one will now ruin one’s life forever.

8. Infant Mortality Rate
Animeland: Monstrously Low. For unexplained reasons the infant mortality rate for females is ridiculously low, hence why there are so many schoolgirls running around.
Skyrim: Absurdly High. There’s probably about 10 kids total running around the entire region.
Winner: Animeland.

9. Military Capabilities
Animeland: Giant mecha.
Skyrim: Manly shouts that rip through the fabric of time and space.
Winner: Skyrim

10. Byzantines
Animeland: …
Skyrim: Imperials are Romans. Romans are Byzantines.
Winner: Skyrim. No explaination needed.

Winner:

Skyrim 7-2

Sorry, anime fans, as much as I like a couple things here and there… but I saw this coming.

Pic also unrelated. Did you know this vaguely resembles Indic and Southeast Asian bas reliefs?

Dear America: Great Shame Comes to the Asian Race when We and our Foods are Confused

Not two hours ago, embarrassed was I when I read this article. Great anger and shame overwhelmed me as the journalist suggests that all Asians are alike. Great rage enveloped me: could these white devils really think that glorious People’s Republic is the same as wanton Japan?

The proper and honorable reaction to reading this article, the demonstration by honorable Jackie Chan.

Dear readers, the dishonor of this article is great. Necessary is it to withhold ire when reading this article. Necessary is it to withhold ignominy when reading this article. Normal Americans were lied to, told that the progeny of the exalted Obama-san will eat Japanese food on the day of Pearl Harbor. These are deceptions of the greatest shame!

Do the white devils have no honor? Do they have no understanding? Do they have no culture? Time will be wasted if we argue with the ignorant, but we must counter their ignorance. Let us confer the facts and reveal the deceptions.

The article says that the progeny of Obama-san eat “Japanese food” on this day, the 7th of December. The article says that Obama-san’s progeny eat such Japanese food at their school cafeteria. This is deception!

Perhaps the erudite reader can inspect the menu itself and inform him or herself of the Japanese nature of this Asian menu featured in the cafeteria of Obama-san’s progeny:

Asian Mushroom Soup
Oriental Noodle Salad
Classic Spinach Salad
Teriyaki Marinated Chicken Strips
Szechuan Tofu & Veggies
Garlic Roasted Edamame
Vegetable Fried Rice
Fortune Cookies

Ground yourself in the manners of critical reasoning! Only “Teriyaki Marinated Chicken Strips” are vaguely Japanese! Placed on the menu are also many “Chinese” foods: “Szechuan Tofu & Veggies” and “Fortune Cookies”!

Perhaps Americans imagine Chinese and Japanese to be the same? Perhaps Americans forget that China fought much the cruelty of Japan in WWII? Perhaps Americans forget that the squint of the eyes of Asians differs in each of us? Should Kung Pao Chicken be Japanese? Should Pho be Japanese? Should Kimchi be Japanese? Such deceptions are most shameful.

Most shameful is it that America continues to misunderstand the Asian race. Is Japan the same as China? Is Korea the same as Vietnam? Shall Mongolia and Thailand be the same? I call to honorable and intelligent Americans: letting not your devil countrymen confuse the Asian peoples must now be your great quest.

How terrible! Upon reading this article, the questions that must grapple the mind: shall the delicacies of Asian food be considered unpatriotic on December 7th? Shall I refuse rice and soybean on this day to appear “patriotic”? Shall I refuse afternoon tea when comes the day of the War of 1812’s anniversary?

I am greatly dishonored today, but fret not. There is an even greater deception here.

How can there exist a delicious-sounding and nutritious school lunch at all?

I like Homestyle tofu, actually. Once I ate like 3 entrees of this or something when I was 8.

I wish I had that in high school.

U mad? I mad. Eurocentrists MAKE ME MAD.

Not to mention that the Dark Ages are an outdated, Eurocentric idea.

I MAD. Eurocentrists make me MAD. Irate. Enraged. Furious. Angry. They are the great scourge in the most noble and magnificent academic discipline of history. They are like the ultra-capitalists and imperialists of history, reserving its richness only for the West – and only the West! – at the expense of all other cultures. They have no respect for diverse peoples and cultures.

The idea that Westerners (i.e., Europeans, Americans, Australians, etc.) are better than others is outdated, to an extent. Only racists would claim that white people are inherently better. Righht?

Yet the idea that Western civilization was somehow inherently better than other civilizations still remains in the academic disciplines of history and the social sciences, to some degree. It also remains in pop culture as well (see 300 with the democracy and freedom loving Spartans (not)). Sad as it is, some scholars – misguidedly, in my opinion – still try to find proof that something in the West allowed it to dominate the world, something that made them inherently better. Justifications range from the more plausible geographical reasons, to the less plausible but still (somewhat) reasonable economic reasons, to the more ridiculous “cultural” and “ethical” reasons.

An opinion piece on CNN recently attempted to justify the West’s rise to power using these very methods (see the article here). In this article, historian Niall Ferguson argues that the West had several so-called “killer apps” starting around 1500 that allowed it to beat the rest and dominate the world. Some of these “killer apps”, in my opinion, are reasonable (though I don’t fully agree with them). Unfortunately, others display – in my opinion – blatant Eurocentrism and ignorance about World history in general.

This disrespect for diverse peoples and cultures cannot be ignored. His blatantly Eurocentric arguments concerning history are easily countered with historical examples.

Ferguson’s firstly listed argument states:

Competition. Europe was politically fragmented into multiple monarchies and republics, which were in turn internally divided into competing corporate entities, among them the ancestors of modern business corporations.”

He maintains that Europe was 1) politically fragmented and 2) financially fragmented. This is true. Europeans fought each other. Nothing new. But here is the problem: he implies that everywhere outside of Europe was not fragmented, and that all non-European states and societies were somehow monolithic blobs that didn’t compete with each other. And because of this, Europe obviously could more easily take over the world.

The argument that everywhere outside of Europe was not fragmented can be easily countered with numerous counterexamples, of which even schoolchildren can understand. You want to see examples of fragmentation outside of Europe around 1500? Freaking overrated-katana samurai-dwelling Japan. You want more examples? I’ll show you (I’ve highlighted sarcasm in italics, since the internet makes it so easy to detect that, right?):

(end sarcasm in italics)

That’s a lot, don’t you think? And even if you read some of the histories of these supposedly “monolithic” non-European empires such as those in China, India, and the Middle East, you’ll realize how un-monolithic they were. China, for instance, was and still is divided into numerous ethnicities which display great cultural differences with each other – even if they speak the same language. That’s not to mention that China was often in political turmoil (see Dynasty Warriors) anyways throughout its history. India, too, was always divided into numerous groups – and moreso than China, because rarely did an Indian empire actually dominate the entire subcontinent for more than a couple generations. As for the Middle East, well, there were always various groups coming in and out, into and out of power. The point? Everyone is fragmented.

Here’s another of Ferguson’s arguments:

The rule of law and representative government. An optimal system of social and political order emerged in the English-speaking world, based on private-property rights and the representation of property owners in elected legislatures.”

I find it interesting he ignores the supposed developments of freedom and democracy in other parts of Europe. Still, his argument is one that is often applied to Europe: i.e., Europeans developed political systems based on democracy, freedom, and so forth before everyone else did, because Spartans stand for democracy and freedom, right?

Sure. Yeah. Europe was so much freer. They believed in democracy. Yup. Totally true.

(Actually, I feel sorry for Marie Antoinette. I personally believe she was misguided and kind of ignorant, but not cruel per se; popular conception got the better of her. She also never said “Let them eat cake.”)

Finally, there is one Eurocentric claim of Ferguson’s that is equally troubling:

“Beginning in 1500, Europeans and European settlers in North America began to get richer than Asians (and everyone else, too).”

Basically, Ferguson argues that Europeans became awesomer economically (and, by implication, politically, culturally, socially, etc.) once Columbus discovered America. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Did Europe really become better starting in 1500?

Let’s start with statistics. Looking at these this chart from the Economist, one can see that China and India had the largest GDPs in the world up until the mid to late 1800s. Now that’s interesting, isn’t it?

In case you were too lazy to click the link.

Even though China and India were “declining” in the 1800s, their economies still dominated the world up until then. They had not only more people, but more resources as well, including many luxury goods like silk and spices, as well as better trade networks. Why do you think those Europeans wanted to explore the world and colonize the first place? Because it was fun? Did Columbus go looking for China because he wanted to eat instant noodles and try General Tso’s chicken, or because he was looking to make profit where profit was being made? (If you want to read more on a case-study of China as a counterexample to Ferguson’s claims, you can see my previous blog post).

So Ferguson is, ultimately, like a neo-imperialist – and I do not mean that in jest. After doing a bit of research on the guy, I discovered that there’s been a lot of controversy about him, especially considering his Eurocentric claims. Thankfully, there are many historians who are much more cautious, open-minded, well-informed, and, may I dare suggest, respectful of diverse peoples and cultures. Many historians are beginning to challenge the Eurocentric mindset, but it’s only a beginning. Many would scoff at what Ferguson claims in his book Civilization: The West and the Rest: “no civilisation has done a better job finding and educating the geniuses that lurk in the far right-hand tail of the distribution of talent in any human society. […]maybe the real threat is posed not by the rise of China, Islam or CO2 emissions, but by our own loss of faith in the civilisation we inherited from our ancestors.”

Right. As a non-European, I find his claims that non-Europeans are un-innovative and superior insulting. Does this all even matter? After all, he’s just a historian, right? Should you care? Yes. You should. Historians are academics and professionals. Their conclusions may very well shape public policy, the way governments think and act. The more we all can disregard Eurocentrists – and all kind of centrists, nationalists, and fanatics – the more we can respect diverse peoples and cultures.

Don’t make me MAD like these Eurocentrists. I MAD. I was so mad after reading his article, it wasn’t funny. I VERY MAD. VERY VERY MAD.

Further reading:

Art thou enraged? I AM ENRAGED.

Denounce Herman Cain: Unite Against the Imperialist, Bourgeois Thought of Herman Cain

The struggle of the masses against capitalism, imperialism, and reactionarism is an international struggle. Comrades! Such a struggle can only be forged through worldly knowledge and collective decisiveness. Therefore, unite, comrades! Unite, masses! Denounce the reactionary, Herman Cain! Denounce his speech which pollutes itself with deceptions and drowns itself in the ocean of ignorance!

Let the wisdom of Chairman Mao and the righteousness of Socialist thought reveal the transgressions of Herman Cain against our internationalist struggle. Let the masses see the falsehoods Herman Cain has proclaimed. Let all comrades understand how Herman Cain has unjustly denounced fellow world revolutionaries.

He has denounced our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters: “…based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion, you know, they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them.”

He has denounced our fellow African-American brothers and sisters: “[African-Americans] have been brainwashed into not being open-minded, not even considering a conservative point of view.”

Most arrogantly, he has denounced the great Soviet Republic, Uzbekistan: “And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I’m going to say, you know, I don’t know. Do you know? [… It is just another] small insignificant state.”

Do the capitalists know any humility? Still, comrades, I earnestly believe that Herman Cain shames even his fellow bourgeoisie imperialists with his maddening displays of ignorance. It is a clear sign of the denigration of capitalist democracy when there are fools in imperialist America who support proletariat-enslaving, knowledge-mocking, diplomacy-corrupting dunces like Herman Cain.

Comrades! Mao Zedong Thought says: “It is the duty of the revolution to respect diverse peoples and cultures. There is no revolution without this.” Therefore, we must purge Hermain Cain Thought, the Thought that breeds arrogance, fascism, ignorance, and the narrow-minded bourgeoisie-pandering of the capitalists. Is the whole world insignificant? No! Even Marx recognized the imperfection of the world, but we must not denounce the international worker’s spirit of cooperation, understanding, and basic geographical knowledge!

Do not denounce basic knowledge of geography! Denouce Herman Cain, for he denounces basic knowledge of geography, for he denounces the basic knowledge that the masses must know! But this reactionary, this paper tiger Herman Cain, he defends ignorance, he defends idiocy, for he believes that this is what will charm the American masses.

Mao Zedong says: “Let a hundred flowers bloom: let a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.” Therefore, it is the duty of the educated and rational masses to not be persuaded by the soothing, friendly words of Herman Cain, for his speech encourages only ignorance and delusion. We must counter-denounce him with the greatest of rigor and spirit before he denounces all of the masses. We must purge ourselves of the ignorance he embraces. We must support knowledge and good thoughts, cooperation and internationalism in order to preserve the security and prosperity of the world.

Denounce Herman Cain!

P.S. Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan was plagarized from Sim City 4, which is a totally awesome game. Like one of the awesomest ever.

Asian Parents Aren’t the Only People who Think Humanities and Social Sciences are Useless

Because Florida Republicans have converted to that mindset. Or at least Florida governor Rick Scott did.

The governor recently stated in an interview about how college students need to focus more on subjects dealing with science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) instead of less “practical” subjects – which pretty much by definition would include anything in the Humanities or Social Sciences. Okay, fair enough. I strongly disagree with that, but I consider it a legitimate (if misguided) idea. However, he went a bit further, with Anthropology as his choice (of all the wonderful non-STEM subjects) for lashing:

“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.”

He added in a later interview:

“It’s a great degree if people want to get it. But we don’t need them here.”

The backlash from Anthropologists, particularly those in Florida, was intense, and justifiably so. The governor, so it seems, holds an erroneous, stereotypical idea of Anthropology that most of us also hold: that Anthropology is a subject concerned with only studying isolated tribes in the middle of some jungle. Most of us who have had exposure to Anthropology know better. Anthropologists have found employment in various places – including international corporations, the government, ICT companies, the military, and so forth – where their knowledge of culture and society are needed. Surprising as it is to some, Anthropologists study people – regardless of whether they are from the Bagwere tribe of Uganda, downtown Chicago, business settings in New York, or an Iraqi village near a US army base. The field is far from useless, especially with the advent of so-called globalization. But I won’t really rant too much about that here; if you want to read more, go search google (although two articles (here and here) are good places to start). Or, heck, just talk to an actual anthropologist.

Governor Scott’s sentiments are nothing new for us Asians. Stereotypically, Asian parents have always had distaste for the Humanities and Social Sciences. However, I find it a dangerous mindset. The only degree that can guarantee you a job is either a medical or engineering degree, right? I admit it’s probably true. Statistically, apparently, those who major in STEM or economics/finance/business tend to have higher starting salaries and are blessed with better job demand. Fair enough. But here is what I think is a problem.

Not everyone can or should get STEM. Imagine the problems that would happen if 90% of graduates got STEM degrees. Or, heck, even if 50% of graduates got STEM degrees, that still poses a big problem. I simply don’t think employers are looking for that many people. Alright, I admit I don’t have the statistics for this, but I think my point still stands. It is impossible to have so many jobs available for just a select amount of sectors.

And furthermore, there is a need for people in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Because those majors teach you to analyze and study people, their behavior, and their attitudes. And that’s important, frankly, because, cliché as it sounds, humans are social animals. Some types of jobs and careers simply demand people who might not necessarily know as much about STEM subjects. As an example: who would you trust in dealing with intense international negotiations – an Engineering major or a Political Science major? Honestly I’d trust neither, but I’ll be more willing to place my bets that a PoliSci major has more knowledge about how to conduct international relations.

I love Western-style freedoms.

The Historical Importance of 9/11 (Or Lack Thereof)

Stalin once said, “One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.”

Except that quote might have been misattributed to him, but let’s ignore that.

9/11 was undoubtedly a tragedy by any means, and a sad example that even in the modern day and age, mankind is still capable of, well, terror. Now that the tenth anniversary of 9/11 is upon us, newspapers, television, and politicians will remind us of how important 9/11 is in a historical context, and how history took a turn for the better or worse – the War on Terror, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the realization that the world will never be the same…

Or is it?

As a student of history, I have to ask myself: was 9/11 actually an important event? Did it define the first decade of the new millennium? Will it have ramifications for decades and centuries to come? In truth, I feel the answer to all of these is a cautious “no.” Or at the least, “not as much as one would think.”

For the people who lost loved ones and/or who were directly affected, 9/11 is undeniably a turning point in their lives, and I won’t argue against that. But for the rest of us? For the world? I don’t feel that history is really controlled by single, prominent events like 9/11, even though we certainly like to think that way. We like to think that World War I was caused solely by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. We like to think that the Roman Empire suddenly collapsed solely because some Germans razed the city in 476 CE.

But history usually doesn’t works that way; I think history follows trends, not single events. For instance, World War I was going to happen, sooner or later (even Bismarck predicted the Balkans would cause a mess). The whole war was the culmination of decades, even centuries, of European competition for power and resources. And as for the Romans, the Empire was already on decline for two hundred years, and Rome wasn’t even the capital anymore (the capital shifted to Ravenna several decades previously). The whole Fall of Rome was the culmination of a trend of barbarian migrations and a failing Roman economy, and it didn’t happen overnight in 476 CE.

Occasionally, of course, you have some really crazy people or groups of people, like Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan, who totally upset the balance of things and define their era. But that doesn’t happen a lot. And I don’t think Osama bin Laden defined our era, nor did terrorism.

In reality, I think that history since the end of the Cold War has been defined by at least two main trends (there probably are more, but these two are the ones off the top of my head). Firstly, we have the technological boom and increasing globalization. Internet. Computers. The Eurozone (chuckle). E-Commerce. The entire world is connected so much more than it was even one year ago, than it was since 9/11. This has led to some good things – like the spread of knowledge and ideas – and also to some not-as-good things – like how the economic recession affected everybody in the world.

Secondly, we have the overall geopolitical trends. The collapse of the USSR appeared to make the US the dominant power of the world. But there are always rising powers, and even some older ones, waiting in the sidelines. China is the most prominent example, but other important ones include Russia, India, Brazil, and so forth. Furthermore, within the past two decades, it’s been clearly shown that the US doesn’t dominate the world 100%, and not just because it’s too focused on the War on Terror.

Other things have been happening in the previous decade, too – the Middle Eastern revolutions, the Israel-Palestine conflict, the establishment of the Eurozone, the economic recession …

Heck, has anyone noticed that the Republican presidential candidates don’t talk too much about the War on Terror? It’s all about the economy. 9/11? Yes, it’s sad, we say, but we’re more worried about our jobs and income right now. And that’s how Stalin’s purported quote works: when it’s one person, or something dear to us, or something immediate that we can focus on, it’s a tragedy. But when it’s something far away, or something we can’t exactly grasp, it’s just a statistic. And you can think of history like one very, very big and vague statistic.

Of course 9/11 was a terrible thing. We should remember those who died, and also remember what evils humans are capable of. But it wasn’t the only thing – good or bad – that has happened within this past decade or two. It didn’t define history so sharply. Rarely does history suddenly “change.” It usually slowly morphs from one era to the next. But that’s not all bad.

This will sound a bit corny, but it’s like growing a tree. We have to sow the seeds of prosperity and success for future generations. The seeds won’t become big trees right away – maybe not even in our lifetimes, but if we take care of them right, water them, and give them a supportive environment, they’ll be nice, big trees someday.

Of course, the problem is that everyone disagrees on how to take care of those seeds. And that’s how many conflicts start, from political deadlock to big wars.

But at least we can try. We can turn the seed of 9/11 – of all that has happened in this past decade – into something better for future generations. I’d like a nice tree, literal or symbolic. Not too many trees. A nice, solid, figurative tree in a huge figurative meadow of figurative flowers or something. I hope my grandchildren would appreciate that.


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