Written by Frank Li
In a previous post, I presented a framework called “WMDs, Germs, and Economies” (WMDs, Germs, and Economies: Part I). This post will delve a little deeper in the middle layer, focusing on civilizations.
First of all, what is a civilization?
1. What is a civilization?
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
A civilization (or civilisation in British English) most broadly is any complex state society characterized by a social hierarchy, symbolic communication forms (typically, writing systems), and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment. Civilizations are intimately associated with and often further defined by other socio-politico-economic characteristics, including urbanization (or the development of cities), centralization, the domestication of both humans and other organisms, specialization of labor, culturally ingrained ideologies of progress and supremacism, monumental architecture, taxation, societal dependence upon agriculture, and expansionism. Historically, a civilization was an "advanced" culture in contrast to more supposedly barbarian, savage, or primitive cultures. More neutrally, civilization is contrasted with ancient, less stratified societal models, including the cultures of hunter-gatherers, nomadic pastoralists, tribal villagers, and band societies.
For more, read: Civilization.
2. Civilizations yesterday
It is a commonly accepted theory that six major ancient civilizations developed independently more than 5,000 years ago. They are Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Indus Valley Civilization, Ancient China, Mesoamerica, and Andean civilizations.
Ancient Egypt was the first civilization.
Since then, many other civilizations have developed, with fierce competition between them from time to time. As a result, some have thrived (e.g. the U.K. and America), while others have declined (e.g. Egypt and Iraq), and still others have vanished (e.g. the Inca Empire and the Maya civilization).
Why such huge differences? Evolution, natural and artificial!
To thrive, the ability to adapt is obviously the most important, as Charles Darwin correctly pointed out almost 200 years ago.
What about survival? To me, there are three keys:
Having a home country.
Having a written language.
Having a substantial population.
Let me elaborate on each.
2.1 Having a home country
The most obvious example is perhaps the Jews. As a people, the Jews are creative and successful. But they were homeless for more than 2,000 years, during which they suffered hugely, with the latest and the worst example being the Holocaust. I wish the Jews well, especially with their own home country in Israel. Here is a cautious note though: a two-state solution is a must, or Israel will lose to its neighbors, by attrition!
2.2 Having a written language
It ensures massive knowledge accumulation over time, which can be passed along from generation to generation. For example, the Chinese developed their written language early and well. Because of that, China has a very well documented history of the past 2,000 years, at least. The same can be said about parts of Europe.
In contrast, some African countries did not adequately develop their own written languages, while the two biggest ancient civilizations in the Americas (e.g. the Inca Empire and the Maya civilization) did not have any written language at all. As a result, both Africa and the Americas fell behind in evolution. For example, slave trading went on in Africa as late as the early 1900s, while China officially banned it more than 2,000 years ago! Worse yet, falling behind meant becoming victims to the Europeans, who successfully conquered most of the world after Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Americas in 1492, using any means, and often under the ruse of spreading “civilization” and religion.
2.3 Having a substantial population
Instead of being merely colonized, like most African and Asian countries, both the Inca Empire and the Maya civilization were wiped out by the Europeans (e.g. Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire). How was that possible? A key reason was that a substantial population had already been developed in both Africa and Asia, but not in the Americas!
3. Civilizations today
The 21st century will belong to either America or China. So allow me to highlight these two civilizations as follows:
America: It is the most advanced country in the world today!
China: Great civilizations come and go, with one, and only one, exception: China - It has been up, down, and up again, all hugely!
Let’s look at them in detail, respectively.
I have already published several articles about America. Here are three informative readings:
Bottom line: America remains the exception, not the rule! America was built on a piece of commandeered land, on which some Europeans found a second chance to start over with a clean slate. Our founding fathers built America as a republic, specifically without democracy (one person, one vote). Unfortunately, over the past 200 years, America has progressively morphed itself into a democracy, in which even work is optional for many (The Answer Is Work; The Question Is Why) and war is perpetual (America: A Culture of War). As a result, today, some 15 million Americans are unemployed and our national debt is fast approaching $18 trillion, with no real solutions in sight.
Worse yet, America has been trying to make the exception into the rule all over the world, even by force (e.g. Iraq).
Worst of all, most Americans refuse to acknowledge or even see this obvious point: democracy does not even work at home, how could we possibly attempt to export it? Trying to salvage our economy by waging war abroad? How far can human morals recede?
I have already published several articles about China. Here are three informative readings:
Here are my three recent publications about China’s development model:
Bottom line: Overall, China’s system (i.e. capitalism + autocracy), while far from being ideal, is definitely the best for China, if not for the world, especially for a global economy like ours! For more, read: Towards an Ideal Form of Government.
4. Civilizations tomorrow
Communism or democracy, there is absolutely no “End of History”! Instead, mankind will continue to evolve, with winners and losers along the way.
Like before, evolution will not always be peaceful between countries. Unlike before, in today’s world, with enough nuclear arms to blow up the earth several times over, NABCs (Nuclear-Armed Big Countries) can destroy not only each other, but also the world. So everything must be done to prevent that from happening.
These three NABCs must be most responsible: China, Russia, and America. Let’s examine each of them.
China has always been a self-contained country, having little history of waging war outside her own borders, especially over the past 200 years.
China has been working hard to expand its influence all over the world for the past two decades. But it has always been via peaceful means such as trade. Very importantly, as a victim of semi-colonization for most of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, China knows the importance of self-determination and non-interventionism in international affairs: ideology notwithstanding, just trade! Most importantly, China has a huge incentive for world peace, because it means more trade and more prosperity for China!
Russia saved the world in World War II. Without Russia, the Polish and the French would likely be speaking German today.
Unfortunately, Russia has suffered two major blows recently: communism and democracy, resulting in a bad economy. It will take Russia decades to get its own house in order before it can become a major influencer in the world again, especially in the presence of America and China.
Russia must never be underestimated! Here are two informative readings:
Oh, here is a recent news story: For the first time, Russia has more deployed nuclear warheads than U.S.
Together with Russia, America saved the world in World War II. Without America, the Chinese would likely be speaking Japanese today.
Unfortunately, things change over time. After WWII, America developed a culture of war (America: A Culture of War), despite the explicit warning by President Eisenhower (Eisenhower’s Farewell Address). Worse yet, America has actually been the major source of instability all over the world since 1991, when the Cold War ended, with the worst examples being the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan!
While China will continue to advance economically and globally, thanks to the fall of communism and the rise of capitalism there, America will continue to falter, thanks to the fall of capitalism and the rise of socialism here. As a result, the war-mongering America will likely be looking for excuses to have war with China …
Unfortunately for America, China is a NABC, which means there will be no winner if there is a war between the two (The U.S. vs. China: Wernher von Braun vs, Qian Xuesen)! Instead, the only certain outcome will be mutual destruction, leaving Russia as the only NABC left on earth!
The fact that Russia and China are closely allied now will make things even more challenging for America! For more, read: Three New Kingdoms.
In short, any war between any NABCs would mean World War III, which will surely destroy the world!
How can a WWII savior like America possibly become a WWIII villain? Something similar happened before. For example, Japan was on the allies’ side during WWI, but became a villain in WWII!
Now, let me highlight Nazi Germany in three points:
Economy: It was hit hard by the world-wide depression around 1930, even as it attempted to pay the huge mandated reparations for WWI.
Scapegoat: It blamed immigrants and minorities, especially the Jews, for the problems. Worse yet, Nazi Germany practiced extreme hatred against them.
Mad man on top: It moved from democracy to dictatorship, with a mad man named Adolf Hitler in charge.
America is no Nazi Germany, yet! But here is an analogy:
Economy: Unless America changes fundamentally as I have suggested, America’s economy will continue to decline towards bankruptcy. Our national debt is already so enormous that a complete pay-off is beyond any possibility!
Scapegoat: Racial discrimination has always been a problem in the U.S., and it gets worse in tough times (e.g. Mexican Repatriation and Internment of Japanese Americans). In searching for scapegoats for our precipitous decline in economy, will American politicians blame Chinese-Americans or global competitors like China?
Mad man on top: Bush II was already close, and President Obama has turned out to be no better (President Obama and War).
In short, America is the only NABC that has both the capability and the incentive to initiate WWIII!
In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, President Obama proudly proclaimed: “When there is trouble, they do not call Beijing or Moscow; they call us!” His statement is basically true. However, the reality is that, in many bad situations, the rest of the world has reliably counted on the U.S. to provide money and manpower to resolve their issues. By now, they should have learned that we often react first, assess the damage later, resulting in collateral damage to everyone, including ourselves!
America is undoubtedly the world's greatest meddlers! We may fire the opening salvo, intentionally or accidentally (US nuclear woes: Pentagon chief orders a shakeup), for the beginning of the end of all human civilizations, including ourselves.
Human civilization started with six ancient civilizations. How many will it end up with? Zero? Let’s all hope not!
In a global economy like ours, with enough nuclear arms to blow up the earth several times over, we all must learn to get along. NABCs must especially be responsible. Unfortunately, America is probably the most irresponsible NABC on earth today! America is too full of itself, perpetually interfering in other people's affairs, resulting in the creation of far too many enemies! Some of them continue to target us, and threaten new 9/11 style attacks.
Worse yet, America is ignoring the increasing risk, with most Americans blithely unaware or simply in denial!
I believe I have the most accurate diagnosis for America (Diagnosis II for America: Cancer!), as well as the best solution (Solution II for America: Term-Limits and More!). For more, read my book: “The GOP Bible for 2016”!