- 'In a Nutshell' - 14: The Clash of Civilization

'In a Nutshell' - 14

[Note: Please read this extract from my Autobiographical Memoir, On the Loom of Time pp. 385-387 We must wish well of all humanity. You can weigh its relevance in the context of what we have read in the press, or on the web. The Times of India of May 12 reports: " A course for US military officers has been teaching that America's enemy is Islam in general, not just terrorists, and suggesting that the country might ultimately have to obliterate the Islamic holy cities.........".]

The Clash of Civilization

By Shiva Kant Jha

May 14, 2012

"The article on 'International Relations' in the Encyclopedia Britannica (Vo. 21 p.897: the 15th ed.) concludes with the following observations:

"that the world might soon be rent by a "clash of civilizations" pitting the democracies against militant Islam and an imperial China; by the spread of "chaos" as millions of refugees from the southern half of the world invaded the wealthy lands of the north; by ecological and demographic disasters touched off by the spread of industry and disease in the developing world; or by the spread of nuclear and missile technology into the hands of terrorists."

It is most unfortunate that a lot of foolish persons have theorized pretending to provide intellectual underpinnings to the ideas which have the inevitable effect to aggravate this "clash of civilizations" On 26 August 2005 I addressed a gathering of intellectuals, presided over by Justice D. P. Wadhwa, a former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, at the India International Centre, New Delhi on the occasion of the release of my book, The Judicial Role in Globalised Economy.I mentioned in my speech how hubris of the capitalism's think-tanks led Francis Fukuyama, in The End of History and the Last Man (1992), to consider the liberal democracy of the Globalised Economy of our day as the 'endpoint of mankind's ideological evolution'. I said:

"It is said that the civilization of India, Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia, and Indonesia is medieval and decaying. Arrogance reaches its nauseat- ing height when it is shamelessly stated that Christianity is more "evolved" than other religions and philosophies. The days have gone when Bloomfield considered Panini the greatest monument of human intelligence, when Frederich Schlege marveled at Indian philosophy and Schopenhauer (1788-1860) preferred religions of India. Gone are days when Spangler and Toynbee saw great light in the East, when Aldus Huxley and Isherwood found in the Vedant the culmination of human thought, when T.S. Eliot and Somerset Maugham got most stimulating and illuminating thought in Indian Literature. To think of the breakup of the USSR as an evidence of the global triumph of free- market economy is flawed."

The theory pertaining to the 'clash of civilizations was developed, in the early years of 1990s, with a measure of paranoia by Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996). The neoliberal thinkers were angry with those civilizations which had austere commitments to their values which made those societies the potential challengers of the present-day consum- erist society of the West. It seems that whilst they intended to use Christianity to promote their brand of capitalism (as they had done right from the heydays of the Roman Catholic Church), they feared the passionate commitment of the Hindus and the Muslims to their values, and religious thoughts capable to enable them to withstand all the strategies of the neoliberals and the global corporations. They know that the Hindus are largely introverts. The Hindus have great inner strength to remain faithful to their values, but are, when all is said, conspicuously deficient in assertive responses to challenges. The Islamic society has had enormous inner strength of deep commitments and also external assertiveness turning into combativeness.

My reflections have led me to conclude that the whole idea of the 'clash civilizations' is baseless, mischievous, and unfortunate. As a student of world's major civilizations, I am of the considered view that civilizations never clash: they co-exist enriching each other through interactions. Clashes are brought about only by those who use cultural values (of which one species is 'religion') for extraneous and unworthy purposes. The great Islam, in itself, is perfect, and is; capable of promoting peace and welfare of people under the aspects of justice. I have developed my position on this point in Chapter 20 in the Section dealing with 'Krishna and Muhammad'. The ideas of Jesus are as great as those of the Qur'an, or of the Bhagavad-Gita. The imperialists had used Islam or Christianity for their own purposes in the changing contexts of history right from the Middle Ages.

It is extremely saddening and most unfortunate that some of us exhibit idiocy which might aggravate cleavage between, or amongst, the great civilizations of modern times. I read with shock and surprise in Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival (at p. 160) that some Western powers saw "Hindus and Jews (plus Christian) as forming a 'strategic alliance' against Islam and Confucianism."37 It is unwise to think that way. The Hindus, the Islamic people, and Christians must live to co- exist and promote peace and justice. We must treat the story of crusade closed, and closed for ever, and wholly forgotten. Our tender modern world would remain disturbed, running the risk to turn into smithereens, unless we resist the emergence such ideas.

To Octavio Paz it was a surprise that Hinduism and Islam have co-existed over centuries. "Between Islam and Hinduism there is not only an opposition, but incompatibility."38 But his surprise was only on account of ignorance of facts. I have dealt with the factors in Chapter 20 to show how Hinduism and Islam are the fraternal faiths.. Paz wondered how the monotheism of Islam could co-exist with the polytheism of Hinduism. I wish someone would have told him that Hinduism's most fundamental idea is absolute monism of Brahma. Other gods are themselves the creations subject to the cyclic process in time. Shankaracharya believed in absolute monism. But such metaphysical differences easily get dissolved in harmony. Paz should have considered why Christianity and Islam, the two flowers of the same tree, have carried on conflicts which seem unresolved even to-day. I pray to God that our world leaders and the intellectual heavy- weights would have the wisdom to see the pros and cons before they brag such things. The French Emperor could have solved his people's problems, and saved his own head during the French Revolution. But he did not do that: and there was a deluge that washed him away. Nehru has insightfully commented on the Fall of Bastille in the French Revolution:

"It is curious how these people become even more foolish as the crisis deepens, and thus help in their destruction. There is a famous Latin saying which just fits them —-quem dues perdere vult, prius dementat, whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad. There is an almost exact equivalent in Sanskrit —-vinash kale viparit buddhi."39


In the Mahabharata the great Vyasa tells Arjuna: vinash kale viprit a buddhi (when bad times come, wisdom and intelligence depart).

In fact, the grammar of the Bhagavadgita is fully shared by Islam at the fundamentals. Rather, I believe that there is no religion in the world, no scientist anywhere, that does not share the vision of life and the creation that we get in the shlokas 18 and 28 of the Chapter 11of the Bhagavadgita. Their import has been thus rendered into English by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan: to quote —

"Thou art the Imperishable, the Supreme to be realized. Thou art the ultimate resting-place of the universe; Thou art the undying guardian of the eternal law. Thou art the Primal Person, I think." (Chapt. XI.18)

"As the many rushing torrents of rivers race towards the ocean, so do these heroes of the world of men rush into Thy flaming mouths." (Chapt. XI.28)

This context brings to my mind the pregnant words of Noam Chomsky:

"Mayr speculated that the human form of intellectual organization may not be favored by selection. … We are entering a period of human history that may provide us the answer of the question of whether it is better to be smart than to be stupid......" - Links on Shivakantjha - Links on Shivakantjha

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