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Not a pretty picture: The contours of a new world order are on your tv screen

Not a pretty picture

Television news summarizes daily what a new world order shaped by civilisationalists entails. Writer William Gibson’s assertion that “the future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed” is graphically illustrated in pictures of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of desperate Syrians fleeing indiscriminate bombing in Idlib, Syria’s last rebel stronghold, with nowhere to go. It’s also evident in video clips from the streets of Indian cities where police stand aside as Hindu nationalists target Muslims and Prime Minister Narendra Modi turns Muslims into second-class citizens; refugee camps in Bangladesh where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled ethnic cleansing in Myanmar linger with no prospect of a better life; a devastating civil war in Libya fuelled by foreign powers propagating a worldview that has much in common with civilisationalism; a take-it-or-leave it US plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that belittles and disregards Palestinian aspirations; the Trump administration’s adoption of rules that favour immigrants from Europe rather than Africa, Asia and Latin America; and China’s brutal effort to erase the identity and culture of its Turkic Muslim minority. The constant tv diet of the horrors of civilizationalist-inspired violence, war, human suffering, discrimination, and prejudice coupled with fears of existential threats posed by the other, migration and globalization, no longer spark outrage. “The horrors in Idlib are one face of the emerging ‘new world disorder,’" said Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russell Mead. Underlying civilizationalist discrimination and repression that risks dislocating ever larger minority segments of populations, political violence and mass migration on unmanageable scales is the mainstreaming of racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and the demonization of liberal values that propagate basic, human and minority rights and ideologies that seek to synthesize democratic and conservative values steeped in tradition and religion, particularly Islam. Civilisationalists and right-wing populists, including Messrs. Trump and Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jingping, feed from similar philosophical troughs. Political scientist Shawn W. Rosenberg argues that the political structures of states that are governed by populists and/or defined by a civilization rather than the Westphalian concept of a nation are built on the notion that people are characterized not by their ties to one another, but by being part of a nation. Civilisationalists and populists ignore individual differences and emphasize an individual’s relationship to the nation. In their world, individuals are at the bottom of the heap in a civilizationalist state that is anchored in concepts of loyalty to the nation and obedience to the state and its leaders who embody the will of the people. Mr. Rosenberg warns that civilisationalists see an independent judiciary, Western concepts of rule of law, and a free press as institutions that not only obstruct accomplishment of their mission but also undermine their definition of the role and place of the individual. To protect a nation’s integrity, civilisationalists and populists seek to shield ‘the people’ from foreign influences, migration and the nation’s competitors, other nations. They see their nation’s power as derived from being stronger than others and doing better than others at the other’s expense. Foreign policy is geared towards that goal rather than towards a global community that upholds principles of equality, equity and cooperation, Mr. Rosenberg asserts. Civilisationalists and populist seek economic and/or military diminution, if not domination of others, which by implication requires a rejection or hollowing out of international institutions. The civilizationalist approach is making itself felt not only in lands governed by civilisationalists. Mainstream political leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron, widely viewed as a centrist who is attempting to counter civilisationalism and populism, are not immune to aspects of civilisationalism.

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