Wednesday, September 29, 2004

civilisational clash

i've been thinking more and more about this civlisation clash thing, and i reckon it could be the 'next big thing to avoid'. no really. the last thing we need as a group of nation-states is to be trying to kick each other asses just because xenophobia dictates that we do and don't like each other.
i mean, it's a bit school-yard don't you think? "today we won't like mustapha because his dad wears a dress". i always thought those kids who called the asian guy 'chingee-chongee china-man' were assholes.
so what's the difference between those kids and some office-bound retard like huntingdon who considers the next big thing to be having to kick some muslim ass? probably that the kids have a social circle.
the thing about the huntingdon thesis, and the reason so many contemporary academics reacted so strongly against it were two-fold. firstly, he was getting real famous, and jealously is one of the most powerful emotions. secondly, it has a kind of 'pop-theory' feel about that made it all too simple to explain and understand. really good theory is almost impossible to get to grips with, a bit like postmodernism.
i remember reading somewhere once that at one time there were only two people in the world who understood, and i mean really understood, the theory of relativity. now just about everyone knows that if you take a clock, and shoot it off at the speed of light, when you're about a billion it'll only have advanced an hour (or something). thats what good theory should be like.
i mean, that postmodernism thing is really, really fucking hard to get to grips with. unless you're a genius like yours truly. in which case you'll never get it because you think you're too smart to be lowered to anything as intellectually gauche as po-mo theory. (and that means you damian fenton).
what the civilisation clash was all about was the need to identify some targets for the military industrial complex to get all wound up about. so, for most of the 90s "China" was the next big thing to freak out about, and the south china sea was where all the action was. but, fortunately for the taiwanese, mr bin laden came along and screwed that little wargame up.
for example, back in 97 i was volunteering my time for the new zealand asia institute, a group working in the univesity of auckland. so, while i was there they organised a little roundtable sit-down with a bunch of academic about the taiwan issue. i was amazed. here i was, a lowly photocopy/'fetch me a glass of water' bitch and was watching academics from mainland china and taiwan attempting something like dialogue. the significance certainly wasn't lost on me, even if what in the hell i was doing there was.
the reason i mention this is because there was one american guy there called douglas paal, if i remember the name right. if your name is paal and it wasn't you, apologies. to make a long story short, and because for the life of me i can't remember the name of his book, paal spent much of the roundtable trying to stir up trouble about how much of a threat china continued to be.
now, sure, china is a constant threat to taiwan. there is no disputing or denying that fact. but spending the greater part of your time looking for opportunities to point that out in a circumstance where dialogue is the theme just makes you look like an asshole.
the "civilisational clash" is just this sort of way to look at things. if we spend too much time convincing ourselves that there are threats then the paranoia takes over and threats become a reality. a very dangerous reality.
so call me a damn hippy, but i sincerely think that relationship building is more important that kicking ass. especially if you the sort of asshole who needs to learn how things like 'society' and 'community' work.
strange isn't it. the people who spend the most time identifying threats are probably the one's who need to spend more time taking their kids to a footy match.
ok, i should state for the record that this in no way means that there are no threats out there. al qaeda and any other type of fundamentalist is a dangerous thing. but there the danger isn't the civilisation, it's the way these lunatics put their ideas together. maybe the key is to try and defuse the troublemakers, and not bomb the be-jesus out of people who happen to be near them at any particular point in time,


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