Published On: Mon, Mar 16th, 2015

What next?

Jacob Gelt DekkerThe big question on everyone’s mind is, what will fill the void that was left behind after the collapse of socialism? Will the world witness a new central theme of religion or politics that will ruthlessly marginalize all others to the fringes?

After the revolutions of 1989, the communist imperium of the USSR officially collapsed in 1991. The People’s Republic of China changed course to unbridled capitalism with “money making is beautiful.” The hard fought bloody battlefields of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have now become the sweatshops for unabated Chinese capitalism. A few communist pockets remain in the world, like Cuba and North Korea and they became amongst the poorest countries in the world. Hugo Chavez’s switch to socialism/communism in 2000 after the global collapse was a bizarre anachronistic turn of events. It took his junta only 20 years to bankrupt the once wealthiest country of South America.

In many ways, socialism was a secular execution of Pauline Christianity under the banner of “I am my brother’s keeper.” Surprisingly, socialism also appealed to agrarian Asians through reformist Chinese student guest-workers (Mao, Deng etc.) visiting French automobile factories. Even more surprising was the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party development in the leftovers of the Ottoman Empire, as off 1920. Arabs embraced socialism with local leaders like Egypt’s Nassar, Libya’s Gadhafi, Iraq’s Hussein, Syria’s Assad, Iran’s Khomeini etc. Turkey’s Ataturk stood out as the great leader of pan-Arabian secularism, general education and anti-religious development.

A swing back to religious Islamic reactionism seems one way to fill the void after socialism in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, though it led to widespread bitter and bloody feuds and civil wars. Symbol politics by ISIS with loud trumpeting of unfathomable cruelties and atrocities against humanity seem to make dramatic in routes in the global media and the otherwise closed, traditional Islamic communities.

In a very similar, but much more quiet way, a new Christian Protestant reformation took place in the world after aggressive proselytization by Evangelicals around the world. Mormon, LDS, and Seventh-Day Adventists etc. pop up everywhere. Not all these groups are peaceful though. Atrocities by the LRA, Lords Resistance Army of Joseph Kony are extremely well documented and may add up to as many as two million casualties. Note: The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), also known as the Lord's Resistance Movement, is a Christian extremist religious movement, which operates, in northern Uganda and South Sudan. Originally known as the United Holy Salvation Army and Uganda Christian Army/Movement, its stated goals include ruling Uganda and South Sudan according to the Ten Commandments. Supposedly, today there are more than 300 million of these new Protestants in the world (see Pew Forum), a group to be reckoned with.

Islamic fundamentalism and Evangelicals defy reason and logic and many seem to despise the fruits of Western European Enlightenment. Their emotional simplification of reality, ethics and divinity may look from enlightened perspective delusional, but still it does appeal to the gullible millions of seekers. If these new faithful will be able to manage a sophisticated and complex western economy, is to be seen, but appears very unlikely. Many of these groups seem even anti-intellectual, although they still manage to maintain some levels of industrial sophistication in warfare and industry. In history, reactionary movements, with strong romanticized longings for idealist golden ages of the past, never lasted very long.

What may come out of the percolating brew of upset in today’s world could be a remarkable and totally new side product. Being able to communicate without borders and have access to mass migration, short and long term, could make the need for one central philosophy totally redundant. A bit of mutual respect and acceptance could fill the void more than anything else.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker, opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle.

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