Anis H. Bajrektarevic
Economic downturn; recession of plans and initiatives; systematically ignored calls for 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 south of Europe – 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;
The influx of predominantly Muslim refugees from the Levant in numbers and configurations unprecedented since the WWII exoduses (with institutionalized racism in the Western migration policy while giving fleeing Ukrainians diametrically different treatment);
Consequential growth of far-right parties who – by peddling reductive messages and comparisons – are exploiting fears of otherness, that is now amplified with already urging health labor and social justice concerns;
Generational unemployment and socio-cultural anxieties, in a ricochet of sanctions; long-ago ‘prophesied’ than doctored health, post-C-19, and 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 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 democratic EU institution of all – the Euro Parliament, and extensive raids that are still ongoing. 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.
The Immaculacy of Brussels and the infallibility of the Atlantic-Central Europe-led EU are unquestionable. Corresponding with realities or complying with a dogma?
* * * *
One of the leading figures of the European Renaissance who grossly inspired European renewal is Dante. Alongside Petrarca and Boccaccio, he is considered one of the three fathers of European humanism.
Hence, Dante puts Prophet Muhamed in the 8th circle of his famous Inferno. “Islam was seen as the negation of Christianity, as anti-Europe…” 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 demonize 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, the absence of any self-reflection on the side of the EU towards its policy in the Middle East today, makes it worth revisiting 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 Eastern (authentic, true, or Orthodox) Christianity.
Christianity, of course, originated in the Middle East, not in Europe. It was subsequently universalized and, by spreading onto the 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 the Roman Empire including the Roman Senate – by yet another historic edict of 330 AD – became Constantin-polis (Constantinople), and it remained as such until the very end of the Empire, 11 centuries later.
Therefore, the post-Roman/Byzantine inauguration of ‘Christendom’ as a pure western culture necessitated sustained intellectual acrobatics – starching the truth away from elementary geography and historical evidence.
Such an inversion by which an ideological and geopolitical periphery presents itself as a center required considerable emasculation – both, physical coercion and imposed narrative over the extensive space and time.
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 were based on that 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, there 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 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 the Renaissance, Catholic Europe came to realize that, in order to effectively project itself – to physically and/or mentally colonize overseas territories – it needed either coercion (rarefying and assimilation), labor-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 labor detention or a final solution.
That coerce-or-exterminate dilemma of ‘soul salvationists’ even culminated within the pre-Westphalian Christian Ummah.
It was best epitomized 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 behavior 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.
Legitimizing the imperialism of the imagination
In a course of subsequent centuries, the notion of the final solution underwent a sophistication and was eventually replaced by the combination of cultural conversions/ submissions (induced submissiveness), politico-military obedience, and socio-economic apartheid.
Subtle apartheid (that is easy to deny, but hard to prove) is usually better than brute genocide (which is traceable and easily quantifiable). At the peaks of imperialism, a noble-ignoble savage dilemma was embodied in implicit and explicit racism.
The debate was focused on the question of 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.
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 romanticized 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 categorizations, 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.
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? Ideology penetrates, and religion embraces it.
Invictus Veritas: Infallibility of West (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. 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!” 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 weaponization of religion, a notorious misuse for ideological purposes.
Same as today, fanatics then and there, were identified, manipulated, and further radicalized, to say ’inspired’. In that time in Europe, they would have usually got hired as the AGITPROP – Ideological police by the predatory elites who hid behind the Feudal European states.
Naturally, the justifications were looked upon in any Biblical narrative. E.g. the re-invoking of the Genesis story of Noah’s three sons, and interpreting it as the ‘duty’ of Japheth (Europe) to absorb Shem (Asians) and enslave and colonize 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”.
(While Europe then was to face a holocaust of its 30-year 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 colonization 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 into 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 an indirect rule, with social apartheid in place).
The area occupied by the Blacks, Redbones, and Aborigines was a ‘borderless space’, terra nullius just to conquer and settle, since the indigenous have no ‘birthright’ to it (meaning: physical colonization and direct rule, displacement final solution and genocide).
Even the champion of European rationalism, Max Weber, divinized 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 civilizationally behind.
Nevertheless, the unfinished business of ‘salvation of the world’ came back home; to Europe in the 20th century. Hitler’s interpretation of it was: civilized White (Arian) – Central Europe; Yellows (fated for an indirect rule, with ‘only’ social apartheid in place) – Atlantic and Scandinavian Europe; Blacks (whose territory is predestined for physical colonization by the superior race upon a decisive final solution and genocide) – all Slavic states of Eastern and Russophone Europe.
Indeed, ever since the 18th century on, the European notion that ‘civilization’ was the monopoly of the West, clearly implied that there is no civilization – and therefore, salvation – outside the western model.
To comply fully with this new myth and infallibility of such narrative, 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 either the ongoing security, and previous economic or refugee crisis, or the sports and cultural issues, follow the above patterns.
(End of Part I)
*Prof. Anis H Bajrektarevic is chairperson and professor in international law and global political studies, in 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.
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