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Fri. February 03, 2023
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Europe- Una Hysteria Importante - Part II (Reversibility of Anthropogeographic Inversion)

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Economic downturn; recession of plans and initiatives; systematically ignored calls for a fiscal and monetary justice for all; €-crisis; Brexit and irredentism in the UK, Spain, Belgium, France, Denmark and Italy; lasting instability in the Euro-Med theatre (debt crisis of the Europe’s south – countries scrutinized and ridiculed under the nickname PIGS, coupled with the failed states all over the MENA); terrorism; historic low with Moscow culminating in the unprecedented opened armed conflict of West with Russia on the territory of yet another Slavic useful idiot, ill-fated Ukraine, all this combined with a confrontational but in fact frightened and disoriented Washington administration; influx of predominantly Muslim refugees from Levant in numbers and configurations unprecedented since the WWII exoduses (with an institutionalized racism in the Western migration policy while giving to fleeing Ukrainians diametrically different treatment); consequential growth of far-right parties who – by peddling reductive messages and comparisons – are exploiting fears of otherness, that are now amplified with already urging health labor and social justice concerns; generational unemployment and socio-cultural anxieties, in ricochet of sanctions; long-ago ‘prophesised’ than doctored health, post-C-19, energy ‘crises’, oil anti-diplomacy; painful de-dollarization as well as the Sino-US trade wars, while rifting in dilemma to either letting Bolivarism or supporting Monroeism…

And, just when we thought – it can’t get worse, just when we thought that the history judgment can be escaped and that Europe can avoid the inevitable – acceptance that there is no more moral triumph of the West (ever since dizzy 2020), the devastating earthquake reduced foundations of the western civilizational superiority to rubble: arrests of the top officials of the most democ-ratic EU institution of all – the Euro Parliament, and extensive raids that are still ongoing.[1]    

The very fundaments of Europe are shaking.

Strikingly, there is very little public debate enhanced in Europe about it. What is even more worrying is the fact that any self-assessing questioning of Europe’s involvement and past policies in the Middle East and Europe’s East is simply off-agenda. Immaculacy of Brussels and infallibility of Atlantic-Central Europe-led EU is unquestionable. Corresponding with realities or complying with a dogma?

Triangular economy of othering

Why does our West so vigilantly promote the so-called international trade all over the place? The answer is at hand; US President George H.W. Bush clarifies: “No nation on Earth has discovered a way to import the world’s goods and services while stopping foreign ideas at the border.”[2]   

There is a consensus within the academic community that was the critical factor in redefining the world’s periphery – from a sub-permafrost – Europe into the advanced West. Undeniably, it was the extension of its strategic depth westward, to the Americas beginning in 1492 – a huge continent unreported in the Bible and unknown to Europeans. There is also a consensus over the two factors facilitating the initiation of the age of Grand discoveries. The push effect was the fall of Constantinople, the relative decline of the Maghrebian Arabs, and the Ottoman techno-military and demographic threat onto Europe from south and southeast. And, the pull effect was the Ming Dynasty inward retreat and to it related dismembering of the superior transoceanic Sino-fleet.[3]  

This unleashed the so-called triangular transcontinental trade that incorporated one more previously unknown continent to Europe – (sub-Saharan) Africa. Triangular trade was a brutal instrument imposed by Europeans: Enslaved Africans shipped as cattle to America to dig for gold and silver, which was destined for European colonial centers.[4]

(Needless to say that soon after American continent has been ‘discovered’, Europeans brutally derogated its indigenous civilization. Only 100 years later, the Americas have suffered loss of 90% of its total pre-colonial population – a final solution in one of its most effective workings. The same went on in sub-Saharan Africa. Far from being an undiscovered area prior to the European conquistas, Africa was for many centuries an integral part of the Afro-Asian trading and manufacturing system. All that have dramatically changed with the arrival of Europeans. Soon after, they derogated an indigenous socio-political, civilizational, and cultural and the demographic structures of Africa beyond the point of reparation.)

Once in Europe, stashes of these precious metals were used to cover massive European deficits created by extensive imports of the cutting-edge technologies, manufactured products, other goods, and spices from a that-time superior Asia and the Middle East. Only later, gold and silver would be replaced by the equally powerful but less expensive ‘trade facilitators’ – iron and opium (guns and drugs). For instance, in early 1800s, many British MPs and cabinet ministers had shares in the UK narco-companies. Hence, the Narconomics was introduced and imposed as both a powerful strategic deterrent and as a wealth accumulator. (e.g., still, by the late 19th century, some 40 million mainland Chinese were heavy drugs addicts – roughly 10% of population.)

The Afro-America yields were so colossal for Atlantic Europe that many scholars assume the so–called Industrial revolution rather as an evolutionary anomaly than a natural socio-technological process of development, which was primarily pivoting in (Sino-Indian) Asia.[5]  In order to illustrate a magnitude (or to validate the so called Schumpeterian creative destruction claim), let us note a following data: Starting from an early 16th century for consecutive 300 years, 85% of the world’s silver production and 70% of the world’s gold output came from the Americas. For the same period, 2/3 of globally manufactured goods were originating from Asia. Notably, while Europe spent unearned, Asia worked (to get gradually even pauperised through subsequent unfair trade practices, as Europe projected its military and ‘free trade’ dogma).

Further on, during the 17th, 18th and 19th century, the role of Black slavery, slave trading, American Black slave-driven production centres and Negro markets, all significantly contributed to Atlantic Europe’s agricultural and industrial ‘breakthrough’ – as we are celebrating it today. In short, it was a wealth of Americas extracted by the enslaved men-power from Africa, and shipped to Europe under the minimal costs, all that for centuries.[6]   

This colossal ‘oversea discovery’ reinforced Europe’s path on defensive modernization (usage of technology for a narrow geostrategic end) – European empires building became a scientific project and the science evolved into an imperial project. For instance, French, Dutch, and Britons (the so-called second and third round of colonizers) learned one thing from Portuguese and Spaniards (the first round of European colonizers) – nobody wishes to pay taxes but likes to invest. Therefore their colonial expansion was primarily conducted as a corporate undertaking (West India company, East India company, WIC, VOC, Mississippi company, etc.)[7]  

Hence, it was a magic vicious circle of scientifically erected empires and imperial capitalism: Credits financed overseas discoveries, discoveries led to colonies, colonies made profits (by imported slaves and rarefied locals), profits built trust in tomorrows, and the trust in this shiny colonial tomorrow was translated into ever more credits for the larger corporate undertakings. Small wonder that the exegesis of (Newtonian science and Smith’s) capitalism started blindly to believe in a never-ending and ever-expanding economic growth. The fact that such a ‘faith’ contradicts all cosmic laws bothered none in that time Europe – the continent was dizzy and triumphant in its planetary conquest. Le Capitalisme Européen meant expansion – in every possible sense.

Such a rapid shift from a peripheral status to an ‘advanced civilization’ necessitated a complete reconstruction of western identity – furthering the weaponization of religion for ideological purpose. This acrobatics –in return– caused the rift in Europe and enhanced the Continent’s continued split on two spheres: the Eastern/Russophone Europe – closer to and therefore more objective towards the Afroasian realities; and the Western (Atlantic/Scandinavian/Central) Europe, more dismissive, self-centred and ignorant sphere.

While the Atlantic flank progressively developed its commercial and naval power as to economically and demographically project itself beyond the continent, the landlocked Eastern Europe was lagging behind. It stuck in feudalism, and involuntarily constituted a cordon sanitaire – from eastern Baltic to Adriatic shores – against the Islamic Levant/south and the Russo-oriental East.

Gradually, past the 15th century, the idea of ‘Western Europe’ begun to crystallize as the Ottoman Turks and the Eastern Europeans were imagined and described as barbarians. During the 17th and 18th century as the triangular ‘trade’ progressed, Atlantic Europe firmly portrayed itself as the prosperous West that borders ‘pagan/barbarian’ neighbors to its near east, and the ‘savage subjects’ to its cross-Mediterranean south, overseas west, and the mystical Far East. Consequently, we cannot deny a huge role that the fabricated history as well as the ‘scientific’ racism and its theories played in a formation and preservation of European identity construct.[8]

The Enlightenment was a definite moment in the reinvention of European identity. The quest came along with the fundamental question who are we, and what is our place in the world? Answering that led on to the systematisation, classification of anthropogeographic inversion and – frankly – to reinvention of the world. From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, a kind of an intellectual apartheid regime was forming.

(This historical anomaly I usually describe as anthropogeographic inversion in which the periphery asserted itself into the center by periferising that core and managing to present itself as a center. Thus, our current geopolitical and ideological core resides in geographic peripheries of the planet. It is in the hands of late developmental arrivals, such as the UK, Scandinavia, Russia, Canada, the US, Japan, Australia, New Zeeland, Korea, Singapore, and South Africa. To achieve and maintain this colossal inversion was impossible without coercion over the extended space and time. Consequently, it necessitated a combination of physical and metaphysical (hard/coercion and soft/attraction) instruments: Physical military presence of the periphery in the center, combined with a tightly guarded narrative and constructed history. How does my anthropogeographic inversion theory correspond with an institutional interpretation of history? Real anthropogeographic peripheries are certainly a new civilizational arrival – Interference, intrusion, and discontinuity is suffered in a core not on edges. (e.g., it is not centrally positioned Syria, Iraq, Iran, or Afghanistan intervening in the geographic peripheries, such as the UK, US, Russia, or Canada.) Periphery faster coagulates as it is rarely intruded. Center itself melts and is melted constantly. In the world of our realities; periphery sends, center absorbs.)      

The rise of the West was portrayed as a pure virgin birth as John M. Hobson fairly concluded. Europeans delineated themselves as the, only or the most, progressive subject of the world’s history in past, presence and future. At the same time, the Eastern peoples – e.g. Asian as ‘the people without history’ – were seen as inert, passive and corrosive.[9] While the Solar system ‘became’ heliocentric, the sake and fate of our planet turned plain – Europocentric. The world is flat mantra set the stage, turning all beyond Europe into a sanitary corridor, a no-fly-zone.

Ambient, anti-Orient

“The idea of Europe found its most enduring expression in the confrontation with the Orient in the age of imperialism. It was in the encounter with other civilizations that the identity of Europe was shaped. Europe did not derive its identity from itself but from the formation of a set of global contrasts. In the discourse that sustained this dichotomy of Self and Other, Europe and the Orient became opposite poles in a system of civilizational values which were defined by Europe.” – notes Delantry.

Even the English word to determine, position, adapt, adjust, align, identify, conform, direct, steer, navigate, or command has an oriental connotation. To find and locate itself opposite to Orient, means to orient oneself.

Feudal Europe had identified itself negatory towards Levant and Islam. It reinvented a historical unity and continuity of Roman Empire (precursor of today’s Euro-MED) into an us-them binary[10] categorisation: The peripheral outcast became thus the Rome (Western Empire) and the legitimate successor – who outlived its move to Bosporus for over 1.000 years – became peripheral, ‘Byzantium’.[11] No wonder, tireless binary categorization is an essential glue and galvanizer.

Clearly, it was an identity heavily resting on insecurity. Proof? An external manifestation of inner insecurity is always aggressive assertiveness.

Is this still alive or even operative? How does it correlate today?

-----------------

Europe repeatedly missed to answer to the East and Middle East through a dialogue (instruments) and consensus (institutions) although having both (via CoE; OSCE’s MPC; EU’s ENP, Barcelona Process, etc.). For the past 31 years, it primarily responded militarily in the MENA (or/and with sanctions, which is also a warfare, a socio-economic one) – via ‘Coalitions of the Willing’ (justified by the West and the Rest, Democracy vs. Putinism mantra). However, for a rapidly economically and demographically contracting Europe, the confrontation does not pay off anymore. While practically still yesterday (by the end of WWII), four of the five largest economies were situated in Europe, today only one is not in Asia. None is in Europe.[12]

(Likewise, while the US economy contributed with 54% of the world output in 1945, today it hardly covers 1/3 of that share. Hence, Americans are not fixing the world any more. They are only (partially) managing its decline. Look at their footprint in former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Yemen, Syria, or today in Ukraine.)

The same way the Islam has started as an exclusive Arab monopoly to be soon after taken over (for good) by the Turks, Persians, and southeast Asians (who are today far more enhanced), the same way the Modern age has started with Europe. But, today it is a planetary undertaking that the least resides within its originator. Simply, the Old Continent is not a wealthy club anymore. It is a theater with a memory of its wealthy past. Presently, Asia, Africa, and Latin America are rapidly self-actualising and learning much more from each other than from the West.

And, Europe? Still to this very day, its national institutions are too quickly turning to culture and identity to explain politics, especially at election times. Of course, insisting – in the best spirit of the religious dogma – on the infallibility of its narrative. As simple and convenient as it seems, it is not as accurate as such. All across Europe, the governments repeatedly failed at distributive justice (just recall the Corona shame), not on culture or behavioral recognition. Thus, the EU has to learn how to deescalate and compromise. Certain identity cannot be put in line only with its geography. It has to respond to other realities as well. This is in the Continent’s best interest, for the sake of its only viable future. Therefore, it is a high time for the Brussels-headquartered Europe to challenge its rigid socio-political choices, and to evolve in its views and actings – for at home and for abroad. 

Due to the emergence of Asia, Europe will never be as central to the US and Russia as it used to be after the WWII, at least after Brexit. Therefore, an old Continent will have to focus on ensuring the survival of its own model of multilateralism before being again able to claim any global ambition. There is no time for re-invention of European postcolonial cartography – be it Kiev, Khartoum, or Kinshasa.

If we are any serious, let us start by answering the following: Is the so-called Russian expansionism or MENA ‘Islamofascism’ spontaneous or provoked, is that nascent or only a mirror image of something striking in front of it? And after all, why the indigenous Europe’s Muslims (those of the Balkans) and their twins, indigenous Christians of MENA (those of Levant) are now two identically slim shadows on a (bulletholes scarred) wall; while Ukrainians – whom we ‘protect’ Europeanisticly for the past several decades, are the most tragic the most dislocated the most income-gapped and the least secure national on the planet.   

Prof. Anis H Bajrektarevic is chairperson and professor in international law and global political studies, Vienna, Austria.  He has authored eight books (for American and European publishers) and numerous articles on, mainly, geopolitics energy and technology. Professor is editor of the NY-based GHIR (Geopolitics, History and Intl. Relations) journal, and editorial board member of several similar specialized magazines on three continents. Earlier this year, his 9th book was realized in New York.

 


[1] Even this unprecedented purge is not deprived from cynicism; The only corruption detected ever since 2020 is one having the Europe’s south (e.g. Greece), European Socialists, and Arabs as its protagonists. All the rest is clean.   

[2] This deep historical animosity towards the externally induced, aggressively pushed and coerced trade – so foreign to the organic tissue of the nation – is deeply rooted even with the champion of the world’s trade of today: China. Not so long ago, its Communist Party leader, Jiang Zemin in his inaugural speech of 1989, defined entrepreneurs as: “self-employed traders and peddlers who cheat, embezzle, bribe and evade taxation.”     

[3] The so called Chinese strategic dilemma remains hotly debated chapter of the world history:

During the Song dynasty (960–1279 AD), China was a world leader in essentially all relevant technological innovations. The Chinese brought up precise clocks, the compass, gunpowder, printing paper and paper money, porcelain, firework (with a rudimentary postulated rocket science to fire it with a precision), and blast furnaces to produce cast iron far before Europeans. The Spinning wheels and waterpower was also in place, if not before Europe than at least simultaneously. No wonder that, by the end of XV century, Chinese standard of leaving was ahead of the one in Europe. Highly skilled meritocracy stuffed the administrative ranks and China enjoyed the uninterrupted centuries of highly bureaucratised and centralized state.

The Administration’s centralising grip even increased during the Ming and Qing dynasties that followed the Song. For the vast Sino-civilisation, the central dilemma remained the same: How to prevent fragmentation and how to maintain the territorial integrity. When the Ming dynasty came to power in 1368, it was Emperor Hongwu – in his three decades long rule – who restricted Chinese overseas exploration, travel and trade. Hongwu was clearly concerned about the destabilising socio-political effects if Chinese overseas activates are not under the strict control of the central government. This would remain a central Sino-dilemma for centuries to come: How to effectively transpond successes of the coastal areas onto the poor hinterlands – all that to prevent divisions and ultimate partition of Sino-world into two or more confronted fractions.

When in 1402 Yongle became an Emperor, he initiated one of the most glorious periods of Chinese history. The Royal Court sponsored Admiral Zheng He to conduct six colossal missions, far beyond Asia. The first fleet comprised of 27,800 persons (not only seaman, but their concubines, wives or families) and 62 large treasure ships (up to 11 masts, several decks, 14 sails, with a crew of up to 1,500), accompanied by almost 200 smaller ships. Food and fresh water supplies were on transport ships as well as samples of animals and plants.

After the sixth mission, a ban has been introduced for almost a decade (under Yongle 1422-24; Hongxi 1424-25; Xuande 1425-33). By 1433 Admiral He was conducting his final 2-year long mission, after which he was retired while the tracery fleet dismantled, maps and charts confiscated and locked within the walls of Forbidden City. By 1436 the construction of seafaring ships was proclaimed illegal. Since then, the total ban on overseas activity was in place until 1567.  

In 1661 the Emperor Kangxi, after the decades long calamities over the territorial integrity and partition, ordered that all Chinese subjects living along the coastal line from VietNam to Chekiang – practically the entire southern coast, the most commercially active and riches portion of China – should resettle 30 km inland. The coast was policed by imperial troops to enforce the measure, and for the following three decades, there was a moratorium on shipping everywhere on the Sino-coast.

Such a ban was periodically re-imposed throughout the 18th century. Clearly, no Emperor of the Ming and Qing states was eager to trade political stability and therefore territorial integrity for a (uneven) economic prosperity. All the way to Mao of 1949, China had become inward looking and consequently one of the poorest countries of the world. However, the Sino-civilisation avoided dissolution, remaining intact. 

[4] Historian Patrick Manning estimates that at least 8 million people were exported to Americas as slaves from the West Africa alone between 1700 and 1850. To this number, it has to be added at least 30% more that died in in the enslaving related struggles all over the Atlantic coast of Africa from a present-day Mali to Angola. Early French colonial records for the western Sudan; a large swath of western Africa (from Senegal via Mali and Burkina Faso, to Niger and Chad) accounted for over 30% of population being slaves as late as in 1900. Even Liberia – founded for freed American slaves – accounted up to one quarter of its population as slaves or in a slavery-like conditions, as late as in 1960s!   

[5] This of course creates a source of everlasting debates between advocates of historical determinism and those who portray human development as a working of historical contingency. Borrowed from evolutionary biologists, the Path dependence or Contigent path of history is a theory originally developed by economists to explain technology adoption process and industrial r/evolution of the West (allegedly) triggered by an incident or anomaly (biological, genetic, cosmic, geo-morphological, climatic, and then anthropo-cultural, socio-political, etc.).  

[6] Even the US Founding Fathers were slaveholders (5 of the 7 principal ones: Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington).

[7] Eg. the British East India Company controlled Indian sub-continent with its private army of 350,000 soldiers – considerably more than the British monarchy had at its own disposal. It was only in 1858 that the UK Crown put India under its direct rule. Dutch took Indonesia from the VOC company after 200 years of its corporate rule over the largest world’s archipelago.

[8] Explaining the notion of the Bantu Education Act of 1954, one of the chief architects of Apartheid the Dutch-born prof. dr. Hendrik Verwoerd, Prime Minister of South Africa, bluntly spelled out the following in his speech of that year: “The Bantu must be guided to serve his own community in all respects (Bantustan). There is no place for him in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour … For that reason it is to no avail to him to receive a training which has as its aim absorption in the European community while he cannot and will not be absorbed there.” (The State Archives, South Africa, National Library)

[9] Undoubtedly, (western) Europe owes its prosperity to extension of its commerce and colonial expansion. But let us take a closer look: “The profitability of European colonial empires was often built on the destruction of independent polities and indigenous economies around the world, or on the creation of extractive institutions essentially from the ground up, as in the Caribbean islands, where following the almost total collapse of the native populations, Europeans imported African slaves and set up plantations systems. … We will never know the trajectories of independent city states such as those in the Banda Islands, in Aceh, or in Burma would have been without the European intervention. They may have had their own indigenous Glorious Revolution. But this possibility was removed by the expansion of the Dutch East India Company. … The British East India Company looted local wealth and took over, and perhaps intensified, the extractive taxation institutions of the Mughal rulers of India – coinciding with the massive contraction of Indian textile industry. The contraction went along with the de-urbanisation and increased poverty. It initiated a long period of reversed development in India. (Find the living parallel with a colossal de-industrialisation and de-population of Eastern Europe past its westernisation from 1989 on – op.aut.) Soon, instead of producing textiles, Indians were buying them from Britain and growing opium for the East India Company to sell in China. … The Atlantic slave trade repeated the same pattern in Africa. Many African states were turned into war machines intent on capturing and selling slaves to Europeans…” – noted Acemoglu and Robinson (Why Nations Fail, page 271-273).    

[10] For more on the topic, see my complementary writings on the so-called binarization of foreign policy conduct.

[11] All until late XVIII century, the word ‘Byzantium’ was unknown beyond the old-Illyrian name for a small ancient Greek colony of Byzantion. The emperors from Constantinople everybody referred as the Romans. Even the famous codification of Roman law under Iustinianus (Corpus Iuris Civilis) – which lawyers celebrate as the origins of modern law and planetary legal systems – physically took place in Constantinople.

[12] The moment of ‘liberal truth’ always comes from Atlantic. Thus, Ana Palacio who served both sides of Atlantic (as the former Spanish Foreign Minister and the former Senior Vice President of the Washington-based WB) – among many others – recently warned the Western Ummah: “After years of handwringing over Obama’s strategic “pivot” to Asia, even as Russia was stirring up trouble in Ukraine, Europe is once again a strategic focus for the US. But the deeper message is far less encouraging. The US is acting because its European partners have not. This divergence is troubling. American engagement is necessary to provide momentum, but it is Europe’s weight that has served as the critical mass required to move the world’s liberal order in a positive direction. From the perspective of the European Union, the latest US security bailout raises the possibility that after more than two decades of growing prominence, Europe will lose its agenda-setting power.” (part of quotation underlined by A.B.)

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