Anthropo-geographic Inversion: Tireless Othering

Image for representation

(Imperialism of Imagination – I Part)

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 Russia along with a historic trans-Atlantic blow with Trump; influx of predominantly Muslim refugees from Levant in numbers and configurations unprecedented since the WWII exoduses; 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 labour and social justice concerns; generational unemployment and socio-cultural anxieties, in ricochet of the Sino-US trade wars, while rifting in dilemma to either letting Bolivarism or supporting Monroeism… The very fundaments of Europe are shaking.

Strikingly, there is a 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 the Atlantic-Central Europe-led EU is unquestionable. Corresponding with realities or complying with a dogma?

*                *                      *                      *

One of the leading figures of European Renaissance that grossly inspired European renewal is Dante. Alongside with Petrarca and Boccaccio, he is considered as one of the three fathers of European humanism. Hence, Dante puts Prophet Muhamed to the 8th circle of his famous Inferno. The only individuals bellow Muhamed were Judas, Brutus, and Satan. “Islam was seen as the negation of Christianity, as anti-Europe…and Muhammed as an Antichrist in alliance with the Devil…” as Rana Kabbani noted in her luminary piece Imperial Fictions.

However, both religions trace their origins back to Abraham. They both lived in harmony (or at least they successfully cohabitated) for centuries within the MENA proper, notably in Lebanon, Syria Egypt and Iraq. Why then there was no harmonious relationship between Christian Europe and the Middle East? Was Europe opting to demonise the Muslims in order to artificially generate a homogenous European self? No enemy at the gate, no unity at home?

This is a story of the past centuries – one may say. Still, absence of any self-reflection on the side of the EU towards its policy in the Middle East today makes it worth to revisit some of the bleak chapters of European history, and the genesis of its pre-secular and secular thoughts.

Civitas Dei Brussels: Extra Euro-Atlanticum, nulla salus

Europe came to be known as ‘Christendom’ because its identity was imagined or invented as the Catholic in contradistinction to the Islamic Middle East and to the Eastern (authentic, true or Orthodox) Christianity.[1]

The Christianity, of course, originated in the Middle East not in Europe. It was subsequently universalised and, by spreading onto peripheral world, Europeanised by the Balkan-born Roman Emperor – Constantin the Great (Edicto de Milan, 313 AD). He himself spent much of his life on Bosporus and hence, was buried in Asia Minor. Surely, it was by the legal design of this glorious Emperor (fully backed by the Empire’s political elite) that the city of Rome was (re)turned into an administrative periphery, politico-ideological outcast and geostrategic suburbia (by 324 AD). The official seat of Roman Empire including the Roman Senate – by yet another historic edict of 330 AD – became Constantin-polis (Constantinople), and it remained as such until a very end of the Empire, 11 centuries later.  

Therefore, the post Roman/Byzantine inauguration of ‘Christendom’ as a pure western culture necessitated a sustained intellectual acrobatics – starching the truth away from an elementary geography and historical evidence. Such an inversion by which an ideological and geopolitical periphery presents itself as a centre required considerably emasculation – both, physical coercion and imposed narrative over the extensive space and time.[2]

This a ’la card creation of Catholic Christendom or to say; Western Ummah, served two vital objectives: domestic and external. Both helped solidification of the feudal socio-economic and politico-military system, and based on that of a precolonial European collective identity. Domestically, it served for a coherent sense of selfhood – us vs. them paradigm: Unity, oppression and obedience. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus – no salvation outside the church, following the old Roman rational ‘no world beyond Limes line’, or the modern one: ‘no prosperity outside the EU’. Externally, here was found the ‘moral’ narrative – a justifier for the subsequent military voyages and other forms of organized plunders. Such an image build-up, of course, was coupled with a coercive societal identity – the ‘Dark ages’ for at home, crusaders for abroad.

This is how Europeans started to view the religious conflict as the identifying attribute of the system’s formation, while elsewhere on the globe the interethnic and interreligious coexistence was a traditional modus operandi within and among countries.

By the time of Renaissance, Catholic Europe came to realize that, in order to effectively project itself – to physically and/or mentally colonise overseas territories – it needed either coercion (rarefying and assimilation), labour-camp detention (slavery) or final solution (physical extermination). These strategic dilemmas over the instruments to use, influenced and dominated European debates of the time. It brought about the conception of the ‘noble savage’ – who could be assimilated, versus the ‘ignoble savage’ who was destined for either labour detention or final solution. That coerce-or-exterminate dilemma of ‘soul salvationists’ even culminated within the pre-Westphalian Christian Ummah. It was best epitomised  in the famous Valladolid controversy of 1550, by which Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda’s notion of the ignoble savage faced off against Bartolomé de Las Casa’s view of the noble savage.

In both cases – the claim was offered – the Amero/AfroAsian Natives deserve salvation as they have a ‘strong desire for it’, but the views differed on whether the Natives’ prone wishes exceeded their mental capacity to receive Christianity. Hence, the debates – which were the roots and origins of the later liberal theories as well as the early precursors to the subsequent regime change, humanitarian intervention and preemption doctrines, and to the (onesided ultimatum of) EU Accession criteria – always presupposed the inferiority (and passivity) of the Natives.

Frankly, this remains a constant behaviour in international relations: E.g. views on Libya differed, as they differ today on Syria. However, what is common to all views is; nobody consults the local population and considers what they would like for themselves.[3]

Legitimizing the imperialism of imagination

In a course of subsequent centuries, the notion of final solution underwent through a sophistication, and was eventually replaced by the combination of cultural conversions/ submissions (induced submissiveness), politico-military obedience and socio-economic apartheid. A subtle apartheid (that is easy to deny, but hard to prove) is usually better than the brute genocide (which is traceable and easily quantifiable). At the peaks of imperialism a noble-ignoble savage dilemma was embodied in an implicit and explicit racism. Debate was focused on a question whether the nations’ inferiority can be remedied through the imperial ‘civilizing’ mission, with social Darwinists and ‘scientific’ racists being rather pessimistic, but more forthcoming on possible solutions.[4]

The so-called central dilemma of liberalism – Is it liberal to impose liberal values on illiberal societies – was of course only an innocently looking tip of the large iceberg, of the tireless othering. This ‘epistemology’ was further soft-embedded in the so-called Peter Pan theory with a romanticised image of the Other as more childishly careless and helpless, than intentionally cruel and barbaric. Foreign remained Other, but ‘became’ rather alluring, promiscuous and exotic. Essentially, the East as a child enveloped in innocence, a derided inferior who would never grow up. This, of course, gave rise to various binary categorisations, the us-vs.-them/either-or listings, in order to manufacture rift and hence to facilitate a decisive and long-lasting differentiation between the constructed West and the East.[5]

The West as a constructed male vs. the East as a constructed female. A ‘mind-oriented’ west vs. a ‘body-oriented’ east. Phallusoid peninsulas and islands of (Atlantic-Scandinavian) Europe vs. womb-like continental landmass of Afro-Asia; Erective and explosive vs. reflective and implosive; an Omnipresent (ever seafaring and trading) extroverted male vs. humble, handcrafting, waiting female. Masculine, phallusoid, progressively erected temporal linearity vs. periodic menstrual leakages of femininity in regressive cycles of stagnation. Clearly, anything beyond that was deemed inconsequential.

Physical, material, ideological, active, polarizing, determined vs. metaphysical, spiritual, esoteric, atmospheric, inclusive, holistic. No wonder that all operationalized ideologies originated solely in Europe. What else, since no one ever, but Asians revealed any significant religion to the world.[6] Ideology penetrates, religion embraces.

AgitProp – Non-stop

Gradually, the imperial civilizing mission (Expansion is a path to Security) got a new form, often under the watchful care of ‘Five Eyes’. It became a moral duty – R2P (Responsibility to Protect), as much as the parental duty is to raise their infant child. The handsome, masculine and strong Western Prince Charming has one duty – to emancipate his Eastern Sleeping Beauty. Giving a ‘kiss’ meant projecting the western physical military presence, Christianity and commerce.[7] Who was/is the Eastern Sleeping Beauty?

Rudyard Kipling’s famous 1899 poem, The White’s Man Burden offers some answers while describing the Eastern peoples as ‘half-devil and half-child’. “The blame of those ye better / The hate of those ye guard” – Kipling warns and instructs, he describes and invites. In his classic novel of 1847, Tancred – The New Crusade, much celebrated British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli claims “A Saxon race, protected by an insular position, has stamped its diligent and methodic character of the century. And when a superior race, with a superior idea to Work and Order, advances, its state will be progressive…All is race!”[8] Quite an intellectual acrobatics for Disraeli himself, who was neither Saxonic nor Christian.

Over the period, western Catholic missionaries constituted one of the most powerful and influential lobbying voices for this civilizing mission. It was of course weaponisation of religion, a notorious misuse for ideological purposes. Same like today, fanatics then and there, were identified, manipulated and further radicalised, to say ’inspired’. In that time Europe, they would have usually got hired as the AGITPROP – an Ideological police by the predatory elites which hid behind the Feudal European states.

Naturally, the justifications were looked upon in any Biblical narrative. E.g. the re-invoking the Genesis story of Noah’s three sons, and interpreting it as the ‘duty’ of Japheth (Europe) to absorb Shem (Asians) and enslave and colonise Ham or Canaan (Black Africa and Indianos of America). Amazingly, according to Genesis ch.9, verse 27: “God shall enlarge Japheth and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant”.[9]

(While Europe was to face a holocaust of 30-years War among essentially Rimo-Catholic Christians, “Asians commercial and cosmopolitan cities formed a network of hubs spanning numerous multi-ethnic and multilingual empires” – says Parag Khanna.)

The later Protestant revival infused the next wave of Christian missionaries to force this narrative into the matrix of colonisation as ‘wilful’ implants onto the minds and bodies of overseas peoples. Therefore, James Lorrimer and other architects of that-time political and international legal order divided the world in three segments: civilized White, barbarous Yellow and savage Black. Yellows were ‘fallen people’, inhabiting a terra infantilis, bound to civilize (what will later evolve into indirect rule, with a social apartheid in place). The area occupied by the Blacks, Redbones and Aborigine was a ‘borderless space’, terra nullius just to conquer and settle, since the indigenous have no ‘birthright’ to it (meaning: physical colonisation and direct rule, displacement final solution and genocide).  

Even the champion of European rationalism, Max Weber, divinised Europe: “Protestant Reformation and the Protestant ethic it spurred played a key role in facilitating the rise of modern industrial society in Western Europe.” Before him, the world’s most famous egalitarian, Karl Marx – who sow nations and states not as a statistical reality but as a revolutionary cause – was not so enthusiastic in preaching the proletarian revolution beyond the narrow western world. In Marx’s writings, Revolution is reserved for the advanced peoples (that even excludes the eastern European Slavs), and is not meant for those civilisationally behind.

Nevertheless, the unfinished business of ‘salvation of the world’ came back home; to Europe of the 20th century. Hitler’s interpretation of it was: civilized White (Arian) – Central Europe; Yellows (fated for indirect rule, with ‘only’ social apartheid in place) – Atlantic and Scandinavian Europe; Blacks (whose territory is predestined for a physical colonisation by the superior race upon a decisive final solution and genocide) – all Slavic states of Eastern and Russophone Europe.[10]

Indeed, ever since the 18th century on, European notion that ‘civilization’ was the monopoly of the West, clearly implied that there is no civilization – and therefore, salvation – outside the western model.[11] To comply fully with this new myth, the civilizational latecomer from the geographic suburbia – actually a remote peninsular northerly extension of the huge Asian continental mass – started calling itself an Old Continent. Historian Toynbee calls it “a secularized version of the primitive Western Christian proposition Nemini salus …nisi in Ecclesia.” See for yourself how much current debates, sparked by the ongoing refugee crisis, follow the above patters.                                                                       


References:

  1. Kabani, R. (1994), Imperial Fictions: Europe’s Myths of Orient, Pandora Books
  2. Brading, D.A. (1991), The First America: the Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots, and the Liberal State 1492-1867, Cambridge University Press, (pages 80-88)
  3. Losada, A. (1971), The Controversy between Sepúlveda and Las Casas in the Junta of Valladolid, The Northern Illinois University Press, (pages 280-282)
  4. Toynbee, A. J. (1934-61), A Study of History, Vol VII: Universal States; Universal Churches (Oxford University Press 1954) and Vol XII: Reconsiderations (Oxford University Press 1961)
  5. McBrien, R. (2000), Lives of the Popes, Harper San Francisco
  6. Wright, L. (2006), The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, First Vintage Books
  7. Kipling, R. (1899), The White Man’s Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands, NY 2(99) McClure’s Magazine, (reprint, 1934)
  8. Disraeli, B. (1847), Tancred: Or the New Crusade (Complete), (reprint: Echo Library August 28, 2007)
  9. Khana, P. (2019), The Future is Asian, Simon & Schuster
  10. III Reich (1942), Biology for the Middle School, The 5th Grade Girls; (Chapter: The Laws of Nature and Humanity), Reichsministerium für Wissenschaft, Erziehung und Volksbildung, Die Reichsdruckerei Berlin (https://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/textbk01.htm, accessed as of 181218)
  11. Curtain, P.D. (1984), Cross-Cultural Trade in World History, Cambridge University Press
  12. Abu-Lughod, J. L. (1989), Before European Hegemony, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  13. Lorimer, J. (1880), The Institutes of Law: a Treatise of the Principles of Jurisprudence as Determined by Nature (2 ed.), Edinburgh – London: William Blackwood & Sons (retrieved via Archive.org as of 14102018) 
  14. Wolf, E. R. (1982),  Europe and the People Without History, Berkeley: University of California Press 
  15. Hobson, J.M. (2004), The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization, Cambridge University Press
  16. The State Archives, South Africa, National Library (http://libguides.wits.ac.za/LegalDeposit accessed 12122018)
  17. Manning, P. (1996), Slave Trades, 1500-1800: Globalization of Forced Labour (Variorium: Aldershot, UK). Volume 15 of An Expanding World, edited by A. J. Russell-Wood. (ed. and introduction).
  18. Acemoglu, D. and Robinson, J.A. (2012), Why Nations Fail, Crown Business (Random House) NY
  19. Harari, Y.N. (2018), 21 Lessons for the 21st century, Penguin – Random House UK
  20. Delantry, G. (1995), Inventing Europe, London, Macmillan (p.84)
  21. Bajrektarević, A. (2018), From WWI to www., Addleton Academic Publishers, New York
  22. Palacio, A. (2016), Europe on the Sidelines, Project Syndicate (13 Feb 2016, pg.27).

Citations

[1] Western animosities towards Russia that are constantly here (with some short-lived exceptions during the Metternich post-Vienna congress period, Bismarck chancellorship and Yeltsin dizzy years) are escaping any rational explanation. The only possible logics to find is if going back to the moment of split of the Christian Church, mid XI century. That is the time when the Roman curia decided to compete with Constantinople by organising the invading tribes in Europe for its ‘civilising’ mission (read: geostrategic ends), alongside the parallel process that have started with the Russophones undertaking a similar mission in the norther and north eastern portions of Eurasia. Two parallel ‘civilising’ missions, competing over concept and territories for centuries.  

[2] Transferring the official seat of the Roman Empire to Bosporus marked far more than just an event of the peripheral maturity; periphery pressing onto the centre. It meant that – at the peak times of the Milan’s Edict of Constantin the Great – the peripheral power successfully relocated itself closer to the centre; ideologically (metaphysically, religiously) but also geopolitically (physically, geographically). Not to insert itself (like during the subsequent Crusaders), but to transcend. That is a real meaning of the transfer of imperial capital from Rome to Bosporus once for good. This will be the first and the last such a successful move from Europe, in human history. With this adjustment – past its failed European experiment, Roman Empire returned to its origins; Balkans and the Middle East, which extended the Empire’s life impressively – for over 1,000 years.  

[3] For centuries, it follows the same matrix: doctrinated/induced inferiority, denouncing, attack, marginalization, passivation, plunder, indirect rule, remote control presence. Or, reduced to a binary code formula: victimisation-criminalisation. Namely: humanitarian intervention.

[4] E.g. Cecil Rhodes, the 19th century British businessman and the architect of Apartheid, used to say that to be born an Englishman was to have ‘won first prize in the lottery of life’. He is also remembered of the following: “I contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.” Large part of colonial Africa was called after his name – Rhodesia, until rather recently, 1979.  

[5] Small surprise that the 43rd US President (un)famously claimed: ‘you are either with us or against us’. His father, the 41st US President, viewed the Cold War and summarised its epilogue effectively: ‘We win, they lose’. For the Atlantist’s world all should be Kierkegaardian either-or, a binary choice.

[6] To this end: Inventive, proactive, scientific, rational, disciplined, sell-controlled/self-constraining, sane, sensible, practical, ‘mind-oriented’, independent, and most of all paternal West. The East, of course, was on the opposite side and inferior: imitative, passive, superstitious, lazy, irrational, spontaneous, insane, emotional, exotic, body-oriented, dependent, and above all, child-like. Tall, matured ‘masculinity’ vs. immature and physically underdeveloped ‘femininity’. The masculine phallus of military, industry, technology, shipping and trade that is welcomed, if not heartedly invited, to tap and drill the womb-like dwell of resources, while at the same time seeding the ideological semen of ‘civilization’.

[7] To this very day, most of the so-called Multinational/Cross-continental Trade Pacts are closer to the capitulation agreements (like those that Britain imposed on China after the Opium Wars) than to any fair, balanced and mutually beneficial commercial accords. Their stipulations are regularly kept away from public eyes. When was the last time you have seen one of them publicly available? No wonder, what a popular language of today calls barriers to trade are in fact the remaining socio-economic sovereign rights and other rarefied checks-and-balance instruments of nation’s well-being that these Trade Pacts are derogating. “By hook or by crook” – as the Dutch East India Company formulated it in its XVII century business model moto.  

[8] The novel itself is named after the Norman leader of the First European Crusades, that later became the Prince of Galilee, and regent of the satellite Europe’s state on the territory of today’s Syria and Turkey – Antioch.

[9] “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me…” /Mark 14:7-9 (NIV) New International Version/ was a Biblical verse, allegedly spelled out by Jesus from Nazareth. It was among most quoted and misused lines – as to justify Europocentrism, exceptionalism and institutionalisation of inequality which then and there have started its global conquest.

[10] To illustrate a centuries-long residual climate of jingoism, later conceptualised and postulated as the European ideology of Biologism, let us quote the III Reich’s Biology schoolbook: “The meaning of all life is struggle. Woe to him who sins against this law. Our Führer reminds us: ’He who wants to live must fight, and he who does not want to fight in this world of perpetual struggle does not deserve to live!’ (Mein Kampf, p. 317) Hence, ‘the world does not exist for cowardly nations’. (Mein Kampf, p. 105).” (For the full quote see appendix: Biology for the Middle School, The 5th Grade Girls; chapter: The Laws of Nature and Humanity, Textbook of 1942)

[11] The Spirit of Laws and other writings of Montesquieu were the most decisive influencers on the French revolutionaries, Jacobins and Napoleon himself. In the hands of French revolutionaries, Buonaparte and later his own nephew – Napoleon III, the Montesquieu’s teaching shaped the administrative and legal order of Europe up to this very day. How did Montesquieu see Europe and the world? Well, Montesquieu registered the geographic regularity in prosperity and poverty concentration. His explanation to it was the geography hypothesis: that people in tropical climates tended to be ‘lazy and to lack inquisitiveness.’ Consequently, they didn’t work hard, were not innovative, which ultimately led them to poverty. Montesquieu further speculated that lazy people tended to be ruled by despots – due to their tropical location – a political phenomenon linked with economic failure, and harsh primitive dictatorships.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarević

Prof. Anis H Bajrektarevic is chairperson and professor in international law and global political studies, Vienna, Austria. He has authored six books (for American and European publishers) and numerous articles on, mainly, geopolitics energy and technology. The professor is also an editor of the NY-based GHIR (Geopolitics, History and Intl. Relations) journal, and editorial board member of several similar specialized magazines on three continents. His 7th book is just realised in New York. He can be reached at dessa@ifimes.org

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