The Lamps Are Going Out All Over Europe
"The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.” This prophetic remark was made by Foreign Secretary Edward Grey in 1914 on the eve of World War One. The First World War marked the end of an era.
The question is whether now, in 2014, we are in another temporary era or whether this is a long-term shift. To answer this, we need to ask what fundamental shifts are, what are simply factual shifts, and how they lead to new eras.
- What changes occur in the material-cultural and social realm (shifts such as gay marriage, material culture, family)?
- What comes in the realm of strategic power competition (relations between states)?
- What developments occur in ideology (new attitudes toward life)?
- What takes place in the relationship between states and their citizens?
The current era is strikingly different from the three past eras, particularly because it lacks truly innovative ideological growth. We must ask why the ideological framework has grown so slowly and why it has not caught up with the fast-growing technological framework. The need to create new concepts and frameworks for how society should be organized has fallen far behind technological development. Tech “culture” exists in an ideological and strategic vacuum. What intellectual gain is there in technology that exists in a world of outdated, archaic social systems?
In other words, on the one hand, the main solution of governments, societies, and economies is to produce wealth-sharing and social justice. But wealth-sharing and social justice dictate an inefficient form of society and do not set up wealth creation. An example of this progression is that there are far more up-to-date social media applications but there is far less wealth to distribute.
There have been four fundamental shifts in the past hundred years, beginning with 1914 and WWI; then the end of WWI in 1918 and the creation of a new order; followed by 1945--the turning point that created a new world; and last, our current system.
All of these shifts dictated new ideologies, new technologies, new economies, and challenges. Following is an overview of the eras:
Era one, 1914: War breaks out as Germany attempts to conquer the world. The British and French defend their empires. America is peripheral but becomes more engaged. There is a strategic shift to inter-continental wars, air power, and the emergence of tanks.
Results: Germany is defeated and Britain and France win, though the United States is in fact the big winner.
Era two, 1918-1945: Germany again fails to conquer the world. The USSR picks up the slack and attempts to conquer Europe and Asia; this is the start of the Cold War.
The united Western powers are insufficient to control the world. America begins to dominate, while in parallel, third world powers are strengthening. This is as much a cultural battle as a political and military one. The West believes that socialism and communism have been “defeated.”
Third era, 1945 to 2014: China establishes a communist government. The popularity of communism and socialism is manifest--Cuba, China, Albania--especially in the ideological sense. Communism is vanquished in action but not in theory. The only new recipe is seemingly socialism.
Fourth era in 2014: Western intellectuals, politicians, and journalists simply cannot understand why Islamism is growing while Western democracy dwindles.
The irony is that the current era’s “Western democratic culture” is a thought system that could benefit from more of a sense of community, and even faith. It has become culturally and ideologically stagnant as our focus is pulled to distracting technologies. This leads me to believe that this is not the time to conclude that theological motives--whether Christian or Muslim--are really cynical. But many people, predominantly in the Western world, believe that we don’t need spirituality in this era; that it is outdated.
And Western cultures wonder why many Muslims could have beliefs so “extreme” or different from their own. This is a perceptual gap. How could extremists say such extreme things? Can they really believe them? Of course, they sincerely believe them, and they have never come into genuine contact with anything else--even in this globalized era.
Globalization, in application, is a wholly new and radical change that has refreshed our very idea of what communication is. This time the cold war consists of the following forces:
- The United States.
- An increasingly weakening Europe
- The Shi’a-bloc, consisting of Iran, Hizballah, and Syria
- The Sunni bloc, consisting of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar
- An anti-al-Qa’ida bloc, consisting of the United States, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia
Note that some groups are members of more than one bloc.
There is no ideological challenge to the new world order, other than Islamism, although the U.S. government does not consider Islamists--apart from al-Qa’ida--as strong adversaries. One can predict that this foreign policy will weaken the Western alliance, create other wars, and will ultimately be an utter failure. Yet this policy is a current reality. The United States and the Muslim Brotherhood have formed a seemingly sudden alliance, a seemingly quick fix and radical change from past relations. All the Obama administration has to do is find people to “moderate” among the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the result of a large ideological commitment on the part of Obamaites in the defense department, CIA, and academia; it did not just happen.