Connected by an umbilical cord
Kazi Anwarul Masud
Published On: 2008-03-09
IF modernity is described as freeing man from tradition that would effectively mean wrenching human beings from the tranquility of communal life and bestowing upon him or her traits of individualism, then the question can be asked whether it would not mean alienation, in Marxian term, and whether it is at all possible to acquire modernity as individuals are (barring exceptions) irretrievably connected with one another by family, social, national and international bonds.
Complete freedom from tradition, therefore, is neither possible nor desirable. But if it is defined as acquisition of rationality and reason for reaching goals for the common good of men, then modernity, instead of alienation, would result in interaction between and among human beings and co-option of groups of people having common aspirations for individual and social development.
In a historical sense, the end of the medieval age has ushered in the modern age with distinct leaps in human development through renaissance and reformation and the end of conflicts among European monarchs by agreeing to delineate national boundaries and the recognition of sovereignty of nation states.
The traditional concept of sovereignty has changed over time as the powerful nations continued to subjugate less powerful nations, and even during the Cold War, when the UN Charter had been regarded sacrosanct, the superpowers on various occasions intruded upon sovereign nations within their sphere of influence.
Today, retention of sovereignty depends upon abiding by an internationally accepted code of conduct more expansive than the one agreed to at the Montevideo Convention and more recently enunciated by the US and other western powers' insistence that the newly independent states resultant of the demise of the Soviet Empire and the dissolution of Yugoslavia must respect and abide by.
The idea behind this insistence by the western powers on such code of rules and conduct was to instill in these countries the democratic values that were essential for their subsequent incorporation into the European Union and Nato. There is, however, recognition in some quarters that some countries, albeit freed from the yoke of communism, have not yet been able to shed the cloak of authoritarianism, perhaps because the people in those countries have been used to Stalinist repressive rule, and sudden absorption by market economy took away from them, particularly the older generation the security blanket that the state had been providing for such a long time.
This was quite evident in the contrast one has seen in the recently held presidential election in the Russian Federation that was barely exiting and the continuing struggle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the primaries for the presidential nomination of the Democratic party.
The fact still remains that "social coordination" facilitating interaction among people in order to form socio-political organisations are present in almost all the countries of the world with a view to will formation and decide on an agenda that would be desirable to the majority population in the country.
Militarism that was popular during the Cold War days is no longer favoured by the global hegemon and by extension the pillars that have propped up the hegemonic stretch on the global scale. It is, however, doubtful whether "almost unipolarity" that exists in the world today would have been possible if the countries of the world, particularly the western world, had not tacitly agreed to the continuation of the present system.
It is not to be forgotten that some among the major powers-- France, Germany and China -- did try to instill a kind of multi-polarity following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reluctant surrender of then Soviet Union to the western might and values. Despite the total victory of the US in the Cold War, it is believed that in Europe (and no less in the US) that a large number of people consider President Bush's invasion of Iraq as having caused greater insecurity for them and their children.
Tony Blair's loss of popularity and final departure can be laid at the door of the British people's disenchantment with his Iraq policy, as economically Britain continued to prosper under the tutelage of then Chancellor of Exchequer Gordon Brown and the premiership of Tony Blair.
If Chamberlain lost his job because he after signing the infamous Munich agreement with Adolf Hitler (he asked the British people to go to sleep as the cloud of war was over), Tony Blair lost his job because he falsified the main premise of dragging Britain into a never ending war that should not have been started anyway.
History apart, these changes have been possible because the West has made democracy and its supportive institutions so strong that the reflection of the popular will can be seen with complete transparency and the link between the two is like an uncut umbilical cord that exists between an unborn child living in mother's womb and its mother.
The developed world's sense of insecurity is not ill-founded. The continuing struggle between the introverted so-called "purists" who want to purge the Islamic culture from the "degenerative" influences of the western world and the so-called "moderates" -- who can be described as those who believe in democracy and republics, culturally in a literate society endowed with analytical rationality, and economically in a complex money economy and market system -- is very real.
One, therefore, is not surprised over the presence Senators Biden and Kerry in Pakistan just before the February elections were to take place, presumably to prevent President Musharraf from rigging the elections. The elections that brought about the rout of PML(Q), the party supporting Musharraf and the victory of Benazir Bhutto's PPP and Nawaz Sharif's PML(N) has not brought peace to the mind of the westerners because the failure to round up the Taliban leadership embedded in Pakistan's Federally Administered Area "was a matter of state policy: the Pakistan army still regards India as a major threat and the Talibans are used to counterbalance Indian influence in Afghanistan."
The only way out of the frictions that continue to engulf the world is through democratic governance with supportive institutions firmly embedded in the society that can ensure politico-economic and social development of the people.
Kazi Anwarul Masud is a former secretary and ambassador.