Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Out of Havana: The Real Clash of Civilizations

The two weeks I just spent in the Cuban capital on the occasion of the country’s Twentieth Annual International Book Fair did not constitute perfect conditions for keeping up with the rest of the world, but the Egyptian saga had started before I left, and the gist of what has followed, including Khadafi’s bid for martyrdom, makes one thing crystal clear:  Samuel Huntington’s 1993 “A clash of Civilizations”? felt wrong at the time, and is now proven wrong.

During one of the many book presentations and round tables that took place during the two week gathering that especially honored the fledgling Latin American organization known as ALBA (The Bolivarian Revolution), one participant recounted a conversation with an Iranian writer.  He said: “You know, we think we have little in common with these people, yet we find that we have the same aspirations.”  The public understood perfectly: Muslims and “Westerners” are motivated by a common desire for the voices of the people to be heard, and for everyone to have access to a fair share of the pie.

That is one of the reasons why the Cuban Revolution, at fifty-two, is the acknowledged inspiration of Latin and Central American popular leaders, and why the United States needs to stop funding and otherwise assisting military coups, such as last year’s one in Honduras.

The other reason is what’s hitting the front pages every day: the revolutionary ‘epidemic‘ that is sweeping the Middle East.  Today “l’Ernesto Online” translates Fidel Castro’s latest op-ed in which he foresees an American plan to occupy Libya. I sincerely hope President Obama will not allow himself to be dragged by our military into such an insane adventure.

Americans need to realize that even as the tiny island off the Florida coast (about which more in future blogs), faces the challenge of evolving into a social democracy, the Middle East that has been the preserve first of the British, then of the United States for over a century, will never be the same again.

Neither pious Western wishes for democracy nor efforts to establish it by force could change the dynamics of this vast, oil-rich region.  But the combination of progressive change in Latin America and American funding for corrupt regimes in the Middle East, supplemented with bombs and drones, raised the level of awareness of the population to the point of spontaneous revolt.

I hate to make sweeping statements, but I believe we are living an ‘axial’ moment in history, and we need to hold on tight to the roller-coaster cars, even as they rise to reveal new horizons, from Wisconsin to Tripoli and beyond.

1 comment:

  1. Oh so fascinating. I am behind at your blog so was not aware that you had been in Cuba for the book fair. Add that to another of the remarkable events in your life that make reading your blog not only an interesting, but an important, way to spend time.

    With the eye you have had on history in your time I would bet that you are correct that "we are living an 'axial' moment." It sure seems like it to me.

    Am anxious to read more posts about your most recent time in Cuba.