Patterns of Conflict

Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

When the dethroned Karl Marx first hypothesised the the premise for his Marxist ideology, where he postulated that individuals and societies are in a state of constant conflict, an that these conflicts result into the anti theses overpowering the thesis, but later on itself becoming the thesis, opposed by another new anti thesis; to many it seemed confusing.  But controversial as the person may be, the theory sounds plausible in the context of today’s power struggles where nations and people within a nation enter a similar mould of conflict and indeed combat.

The state at the basic individual level is no different.  An organisation receives a new employee, who because of his newness finds existing systems faulty, thereby vociferously challenging the practice, thereby becoming an anti thesis to the staff affected by his offensive.  With time, one of the two gives in, and a third person now becomes the new threat.  The balance of power, you may call it when referring to the world stage, but whatever name you may give it, from homes to neighbourhoods, companies to governments, the trend seems to be unmistakably present.  Notice that this is not about right and wrong, just about perspectives which when cloaked with the sensitivities of democracy, present an entirely new line of thought amongst peoples.

Samuel Huntington, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government, in the Olin Institute’s project on “The Changing Security Environment and American National Interests.”, places before us a new perspective under the title “The Next Pattern of Conflict” as follows: “World Politics is entering a new phase, and intellectuals have not hesitated to proliferate visions of what it will be – the end of history, the return of traditional rivalries between nation states, and the decline of the nation state from the conflicting pulls of tribalism and globalism, among others. Each of these visions catches aspects of the emerging reality. Yet they all miss a crucial, indeed a central, aspect of what global politics is likely to be in the coming years.  It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be       cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.  Conflict between civilizations will be the latest phase of the evolution of conflict in the modern world. For a century and a half after the emergence of the modern international system of the Peace of Westphalia, the conflicts of the Western world were largely among princes –  emperors, absolute monarchs and constitutional monarchs attempting to expand their bureaucracies, their armies, their mercantilist economic strength and, most important, the territory they ruled. In the process they created nation states, and beginning with the French Revolution the principal lines of conflict were between nations rather than princes. In 1793, as R. R. Palmer put it, “The wars of kings were over; the wars of peoples had begun.”

Muslim North Africans living in France, will perhaps bear testimony to this living conflict in their chosen country of residence.  Affan Seljug, in a prolific report entitled “Cultural Conflicts: North African Immigrants in France”, raises another shocking dimension that tentatively rationilises this moving trend: “The latest developments in France must be analyzed in the global historical perspective. Besides this general attitude of the West toward Islam, the swift changes in the demographic statistics of the Mediterranean region is also causing alarm in France and other countries of the northern Mediterranean, such as Italy, Greece and Spain. According to the UN Mediterranean Blue Plan, published in Athens in 1987, in 1950 two-thirds of the Mediterranean population were Europeans, belonging to the countries stretching from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Bosphorus. But it is projected that by the year 2025, the population will be exactly reversed. Ten years from now, the Mediterranean will be an Islamic, if not an Arab, sea. The swift rise in the Muslim population has raised alarm among the European countries of the region, a concern that EC members have expressed repeatedly in their meetings.”

The whole world is also witnessing the spread of Chinese men and women taking up their country piece by piece that is widely seen as the fulfillment of a long-cherished dream of expansion.  John Walsh has something to say in “Southwards Chinese Expansion: Attempted Imperial Aggrandisement in the Qing Dynasty” where he states: “The idea that the Chinese state wishes to expand its territory has received a great deal of attention over the years, especially recently as its phenomenal economic growth has raised it to the status of a potential superpower. Chinese scholars have frequently stated that there has been no expansion of Chinese territories for centuries and not since the Mongol Conquerors of the Yuan Dynasty have new lands been brought under Chinese control. Indeed, for more than one thousand years, the extent of Chinese territory has remained essentially stable in terms of extent and scope.”

We live in a world, loaded with more reasons for conflicts to brew today.  With rising populations, the area per person for peaceful living is slowly thinning.  There is less and less space today wherever you go.  And while all this is ongoing, the sketch of Muslims on the world map remains vulnerable.  One truly feels that the Muslims in themselves harbour such deep cultural differences, that that and not the belief of their respective sects, is indeed a reason for them to be at loggerheads.

 

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