empires

“Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.” – Marcus Aurelius

I won’t be surprised if a new Umayyad, Sassanid or Persian empire arises from the rubbles of the Arab spring.
The Romans are gone.
The Communists remained on the dusty shelves in the disappearing libraries with their patronising about equality.
On top of that they’re now being shoved over by books on the hegemonies of Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
The Capitalism is still bloodsucking on what’s left of its victims, leaving them little energy for enlightenment.
And some of those ‘bitten ones’, I hear, do tend to turn into vampires themselves.
The US ’empire’ drags its wheezing carcass, with one foot in cast and the other – 10” shorter (whatever that means in economic terms).
To say nothing of the European Union – with poor Armin (German national hero) turning into a cripple from carrying frogs, roosters, phoenixes, and all sorts of animal on his back.
Meanwhile, the world awaits in eagerness (does it still?) to see India and China rise above like a purple flower, or an oily dumpling, but I’m a bit dubious about what’s really going on there.
The Indians hate baby girls and love rats.
According to the World Bank, in 2012, nearly 37% of its population falls under the poverty line of US $1.5 a day.
Not even in the most realistic documentary about the Romans have I ever seen (or read) about a ‘slum dog’ situation the way one can come across in India.
At least not in the Roman empire’s pinnacle.
That is, if one is to compare empires and argue that India is a qualified applicant.

The Chinese hate baby girls, too, and love to spit, although, I don’t know how that’s relevant.
They brag about Tiger mothers and the fact that it’s not good to brag.
But violin prodigies, again, how is it relevant?
They certainly have lots of construction contracts going on in Africa and are famously hardworking which has gained them so much investment and international building work on a global scale.
But again, when you read ‘made in China’, you don’t really shriek with joy to buy.
So, investments’ and outsourcing shelf-life remain ambivalent, unless my brazen speculation turns true – then global outsourcing and investments may take a radical paradigm shift away from the far east towards a closer, middle one.

It is a bold statement but I really see a new Umayyad/Persian empire rise one day.
One could look at a society’s characteristics, within the context of the current international environment, and prophet about where it’s likely to head.

1). population – the Arab population is exhausted, poor, and hungry.
And that’s absolutely fantastic!
Think of post-war European, post-depression American generations.
They were exhausted, impoverished, and hungry, too.
And reconstructing their lives was the only guiding light they had all along.

The little will satisfy Libyans, Iraqis and their impoverished neighbours.
They want to build their lives, their homes, their gardens.
They want to raise their kids and educate them.

The Western society, on the other hand, is spoiled, feels entitled, and possesses too much to care for any of it.
Our houses are built.
We don’t have time for gardening.
Our work is justified by and filled with a load of objects and toys for which we don’t have time.
At the same time, we still find someone to begrudge, something to complain about.
We’re not satisfied with little anymore, neither are our kids.
These are all signs of ailing ’empires’, not of rising ones.
There are exceptions in these generalisations, of course.
But, unless these exceptions are black, disabled, or gay, they won’t get any minority privilege, least of all – bring change on a large scale.

2). Rich land, poor land
The Arab population is bereft and exhausted.
The good thing is – their land isn’t.
Yes, there’s desert and hot climate, but see what petrol money makes out of the Emirates’ desert.
So, things are possible.
With the right laws in place and fair distribution of resources – to those who work hard, not to those who smoke shisha all day long, of course – climate, geographic or other natural disadvantages can be overcome.
Furthermore, I doubt if ‘urbanisation’ can occur in countries like Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, just yet.
People don’t mind working in the farm and living a ‘farm life’.
At this point, I think, they only want the farm land which will be a holly blessing to them, symbolically and literally.
For the land to give its best, depends on the few (those in power) to allow it to the many, in the first place.
The remaining people want safety, food, and stability.
I dare say, it’ll be no wonder to see how the Suni-Shiite difference fades away once the average person in the Arab world is granted with a home, a stable job, proper education for his kids, and food on his table.
It’s all in the gut, to put it cynically.

The West, on the same token, has lots of land.
Rich land.
Lots of it – built.
Lots of the built – abandoned.
In fact, there’s so much built already that I wonder whether the architect profession won’t become obsolete at some point. Unless, architects come up with building in the air (to get view, besides free space), or move to Mars and start building there.

4). The culture of saving
The habit of saving is non-existent in the western world.
Not anymore, anyway.
I am not sure saving is typical of Asians anymore, either.
Media is really exciting us to spend, spend, spend.
Saving was one of the success ingredients for the Asian tiger countries who grew extremely well economically back in the 70s.
I’m thinking, Arabs – with the little they’ve got (I’m referring to the average person) – are likely to save everything they earn.
No matter what commercial about skinny jeans they see.
And they’ll lead a strong culture of saving.
Until they hit the ‘channel’ we’re in now: somewhere in the fast-food, Facebook, irrelevant news, 24/7, on-demand one.

5). Education
Education isn’t priority either to people from Libya, Egypt, Syria, or Iraq, to mention but a few of the troubled areas where once the great Sassanid empire stretched.
Nevertheless, there are so many of them who are well educated.
What I mean is that, if a high-school graduate back in the 30s could earn a good living that allowed him to get wed by the time he’s 25 and have his own house, that’s highly unlikely to happen today, even in the case of a post-graduate in his late 30s.
I mean, you have jobless 30 something PhD graduates in Europe and the US. For more on the new emerging adult, read Jeffrey Jensen Arnetts’ book.
Besides, higher education is needed for fancier jobs.
In the western world higher education can’t even guarantee you a fancy job anymore.
It’s just a brilliant opportunity for growth in countries like Libya and Iraq.
They just need some good natured fellows to get the planning going.
There is so much to be done, to be built, to be grown.
So much that doesn’t require fancy job titles and ultra-modern college degrees.

6). Strength and sinew
Arab people are survivors.
I wonder if we, in Europe or in the US, can survive if we get bombed or start killing each other.
We can’t really base the outcome of such a possibility on the past so much.
I mean, our ancestors fought plagues, we’re now fighting attention-deficit disorders.
Meaning, we can’t even concentrate.
I wonder how we will survive, if someone outside our own countries came and started bombing us, during breakfast, during lunch, during tea time…while we pick up our 3-year-olds from school.
I imagine picking my son from school, “DUCK babyyyy, they’re bombing the school…Bye Miss Catherineeeee, see you tomorrowwwwww….I hope arrrrrrrrhhh” and there goes my right arm.
Or if our food and Facebook suddenly disappears, like, for a very long time.
I wonder if we will overcome starvation.
Dead bodies on the roads.
Seeing our daughters getting gang raped.
I came across a book whose author, Ian Morris, summed, what I’ve been trying to say here, quite well, namely, “human destiny is mostly shaped by geography and the efforts of ordinary people to cope with whatever is thrown at them in the form of climate change, famine, migration, disease and state failure”, what the writer calls the “five horsemen of the apocalypse”.
It’s not how that population will fight those horsemen, it’s whether it will at all.
The author also argues that “history teaches us that when the pressure is on, change takes off.”
The Arab world is, to put it mildly, under pressure.
But even if you’re bag-packing across Kabul or Baghdad, or Misrata right now, the locals won’t leave you hungry or homeless.
Their hospitality is undeservedly uncredited.
What a negative sentence for something that I wanted to sound complimentary.
They’re warm, kind and generous.
Something that is steadily being replaced by suspicion, entitlement and snobbism – in the West.

I so wish that things change for the better for those guys.
And not on anyone else’s bill.
I want world peace – not that I’m a beauty pageant contestant – but I really hope that families and their children in those countries where great empires like the Persian and the Umayyad once flourished, have a better life to live, and very soon.
Besides that they have incredible culture, history, and literature that our kids must know about and learn.

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