Clash of Currencies

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Post Cold War conflict--does it come down to religion or economics?

Submitted: June 27, 2014

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Submitted: June 27, 2014

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Why a Clash? And why now?

With all the conflicts raging today, from the perceived ‘Islamist terror threat to the West’ to the anticipated economic domination by China, Samuel Huntington’s theory on the ‘clash of civilizations’ was partially correct in that post-Cold War global conflict would stem from a difference in ideals. However, he attributed this phenomenon to glaring discrepancies in core religious and cultural systems. Let us consider for a moment two cavemen, one living in prehistoric France, the other in paleolithic India.  Surely, these two men have different modes of language and cultural traditions, from art to dance. In fact, throughout all of history the humans who have evolved in different areas of the world have developed different languages, spiritual beliefs and ways of life—the latter two largely dependent upon the geographical environment of each area. Now let’s ask the question of when. When did mass conflict, namely war, begin? If one looks beyond the occasional, inevitable brawl between two individuals, when did the first mass conflicts take place? It all boils down to a lack of resources. Having exhausted its own supply of natural resources and presuming it has not died out, a prehistoric community would eventually move on to a new region and usurp it from any inhabitants—for the very sake of survival. We all know from our history books that these conquests have been occurring for millennia and their cause was a necessity for resources, not cultural conflict. The most basic of economic principles has remained constant: adequate supply to meet present demand.

 

A Matter of Gods or Economics?

So what is the connection between cultural discrepancy and economic need? For generations before the first great civilizations-Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome-even initiated their legacies, hundreds of cultures lived under hundreds of different faiths and ways of life-and they lived in peace. So what changed? Mankind realized the importance of protecting their resources and so developed more advanced weaponry until, over time, these defensive weapons became offensive as well and the Industrial Revolution made possible a full-scale global conflict such as the two World Wars. By this time, man has realized that the ability to conquer a people and obtain their resources is indicative of immense power and yet, again, it comes down to resources, not a difference in culture. The conquerors may belittle the traditions of the conquered but only as a sort of mockery. Any attempt to ‘reform’ a people’s way of life is overshadowed by or indeed disguise for a means to usurp their resources. We have seen this sort of sweeping conquest during the Christian Crusades, arguably the first large misuse of power to conquer new territory and enrich the supply of the then declining Roman Empire.[1] Unlike Huntington’s proposal, this devastating era came about as a result of economic want, rather than the proclaimed clash between ‘East’ and ‘West’. Furthermore, the European conquest of the Americas for gold and an alternate trade route to India as well as Europe and America’s colonization of the Middle East for its oil both demonstrate claims of cultural reformation or ‘modernization’ as a method of justifying the taking of these people’s land and natural resources. It all goes back to the battle for wealth.

 

 

Globalization or Forced Interactions?

The World Wars and the Cold War have brought us into an era of immense globalization. With the exceptions of isolationist countries such as North Korea, the world has essentially become a playground for barter. And why not? These different corners of the Earth all have their own unique and useful natural resources to provide which may not exist just anywhere. Trade or barter is the oldest form of commerce and one which virtually every nation today recognizes and participates in. Now, culture does play a role in how several of the world’s economic systems have developed. More community-based cultures, such as Russia and China, have developed under a Communist economic system, one which represents a ‘classless’ society and equality for everyone[2]. For such communities, if no one owns anything, then they essentially own everything, for no one possesses more than anyone else. However, individualist cultures such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, practice Capitalism, an economic system based on private profit obtained through individual merit.[3] These cultures view equality as providing an opportunity for everyone to strive for his own wealth without the constraints of an all-encompassing law which keeps everyone at the same level.[4]

 

Making Differences more Apparent

Now, why is it that Communism and Capitalism are often considered ‘social structures’ rather than simply economic systems? Again, we return to the idea of the ancient communities: they got along just fine until it came time to take new land and then, over time, as man developed the barter system, to benefit from each other’s resources rather than simply suck each other’s territory dry.  If each community had enough unlimited resources within their own borders to sustain themselves, they would never have to worry about conquering or trading with a different community ever again. But alas, that necessity fell upon them and with different cultures came distinct systems of economics and trade. After all, countries such as North Korea, which are still economically isolated today from the rest of the world, are suffering an extreme lack of resources.[5]

So the globe has essentially become an international network of commerce. It is essentially the activity of trade that makes apparent and even more significant these different cultural norms. After all, America was founded upon Christian principles, but so was Russia and China eventually assimilated as a majority Christian country, as well.  In this light, the issue is clearly not one of religion. If you wish to argue culture, Shari’a economic law, which governs many Islamic countries today, claims to allow both the freedom of Capitalism and the equality of Communism[6], while these countries represent a highly community-based culture. Thus, we must not conflate culture or religion with economics, or way of life within one’s community with intercultural interactions across two or more communities. It is not all black and white and a society can certainly practice a certain culture without needing to impose it on others. The conflict between communities initially arises in situations of barter, in competition for precious natural resources. It all makes what likely would have been subtle differences in lifestyle appear as glaring question marks as to how a community functions within itself, a matter better suited for the society’s domestic affairs rather than for the prying eyes of its trade partners.

 

 

Need breeds Greed

So yes, there has indeed been a clash, but it is not a clash of fundamentally different cultures, religious beliefs, or even societal structures. It is a collision of distrusting nations all in need of resources and, despite fancy new weapons and technology, it has been raging since eons before the Cold War—since the first trade of goods between two prehistoric societies. Particularly following man's discovery of sea travel, history has been all about overtaking new land for its natural resources-be it gold in the Americas, spices and silk in India, diamonds in Africa, or oil in the Middle East. 

 

 

What to do from here?

Henry Kissinger once stated that those who control food distribution control society.[7] But how can a nation best regulate the flow of a resource such as food? Most importantly, can this resource-which everyone requires to live-be used as an incentive to set aside greed and even violence? After all, it should be common knowledge that while a lack of power and control can make men unhappy, a lack of food can bring death. In order to reach the root of this tendency toward greed, we must withhold access to something so essential to life, something that has always been within mankind’s reach.

 

 

Swapping Money for Manners

What I propose here is a completely alternative form of socioeconomic system. Boasting the elective process of Democracy, the government regulation aspect of Communism, the societal emphasis of Socialism, and the rights to individual ownership found in Capitalism, this system would place the value of civility over the value of gain itself. In this way, an Eniocracy (power of courtesy) would demand perfect decency in return for distribution of food per household and social institution. Members of an oligarchy elected by the people, government officials would house citizens, appoint citizens who wished to become teachers and physicians, and supervise schools and healthcare facilities to ensure that every customer adheres to the Code of Civility before being serviced. Thereby, each citizen has full rights to prosper, so long as he/she treats fellow citizens with respect at all times. Thusly, the Eniocracy essentially exchanges currency for civil, safe behavior.  

 

The government stocks public service locations, such as hospitals and schools. Similarly, the government takes statistics on each household’s reported of number of residents and allots food accordingly on a weekly basis, provided that no citizens report harassment or mistreatment by his neighbor. Of course, an appropriate system of checks and balances is applied to provision of goods bythe government to its people. If a household believes that an officer has skimped on what that household requires for the week, they may make an appeal to the oligarchy. In place of eateries, the market square will be set up by the government once a week and added to by any left over food within the households of citizens, should the citizens desire, as a means of community gathering. For purposes of saving energy, houses rely primarily on lanterns lit with fire for light and, should the given society use automobiles, the government will allot one car per household and heat/cool the town via a large system of wind power in place of electricity and fossil fuels. All of this, of course, helps to condition the society into associating good behavior with reward- the rewards of healthcare, education, and most importantly, food.

 

 

 Income to feed Flow

But surely a government that has such a great responsibility to supply its people requires the necessary goods from some source. Such is the most basic economic principle of supply and demand. This brings us again to the importance of international trade. After all, no type of society can survive much less thrive under an isolationist economy, particularly an Eniocracy. But it goes without saying that the Eniocracy must give in order to receive from other nations-and what to produce? Here, the Eniocracy turns to its Craftsmen. Along with educators and healthcare providers, these Craftsmen make and provide the government with goods and even crops which the latter then trades with foreign nations in return for the material goods they must provide their citizens.

 

 

Living in Peace

As discussed in previous sections, international trade is absolutely crucial to fueling global prosperity, as we all share the resources unique to our regions.[8]The problems we have so far identified which cause martial conflict among nations essentially boil down to a misunderstanding of socioeconomic structures upon necessary contact between two or more societies. Now the Eniocracy represents the unique opportunity for international trade in which the very concept of sociocultural ideals need not arise. For instance, the essence of the eniocratic currency is not a material item but a type of behavior, something which cannot be coveted and seized. Furthermore, what society would openly oppose the need to treat others with civility? Like it or not, most people out there simply wish to live their lives in peace and what better way to secure such peace than making courtesy fundamental to one’s way of life and yet avoiding any potential misconceptions of ideals brought about when most societies question each other’s social structures, following the introduction through international commerce.

 

So, although certain aspects of history may suggest that such a communal structure of government may be detrimental to society--the fact is that total equality and opportunity for everyone can only be secured by complete governmental surveillance and allocation of resources to the people. Without this equal distribution offered under the condition of mutual respect, we are left with competing entities and competition is arguably the most fundamental cause of war. Today, with the adoption of international trade, the issue of limited resources has greatly decreased and if a society receives all the resources it requires and maintains a solid degree of benevolence among its members, such a society could virtually live in a state of perpetual peace.

 

 

 

[1] Crawford, Paul. "The Crusades." CatholicEducation Resource Center. N.p., 1997. Web. 07 May 2013.

[2] Caplan, Bryan. "Communism." : The ConciseEncyclopedia of Economics. Liberty Fund, Inc., n.d. Web. 07 May 2013.

[3] Hessen, Robert. "Capitalism." : The ConciseEncyclopedia of Economics. Liberty Fund, Inc. ,N.p., n.d. Web. 07 May 2013.

[4] Alleyne, Richard. "Britain's 'me Culture' Making UsDepressed." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 06 Nov. 2009.Web. 7 May 2013.

[5] Fisher, Max. "A Photo That Makes North Korea Look a LotLess Scary." The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 25 Mar.2013. Web. 7 May 2013.

[6] Davis,Nancy, and Robert Robinson. "Islam and Economic Justice: A 'Third Way'Between Capitalism and Socialism. San Francisco: American SociologicalAssociation, 2004. Print.

[7] Lu, Ronica. "Whoever Controls the Food System ControlsDemocracy: Vandana Shiva's Take on the Profit-Driven Food System." Nourishingthe Planet. World Watch Institute, 21 June 2012. Web. 29 May 2013.

[8] Makwana, Rajesh. "STWR - Share The World'sResources." Reforming International Trade -. The World's Resources,Feb. 2006. Web. 29 May 2013.

 

 


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