Globalization is a question of exchange — economic markets and trade, goods and services, but also many other things — ideas, projects, religion — hopes and dreams

Three great waves

Example 1:

The global exchange made possible during the Mongol empire — 13th and 14th centuries — roads connecting China with India — India with the Middle East and Europe

access to great Chinese inventions — compass, printing press, paper making, gun powder, many others — Indian mathematics

Example 2:

First contacts with the Americas, 1492 — the “Columbian exchange” — exchange of plants and animals — we got potatoes, tomatoes, chilies, chocolate, and so much more —

we gave horses, cows, goats and sheep — coffee to Brazil

Example 3:

What we have lived through during the industrial era — especially the last 30 years — vastly improved standards of living for hundreds of millions of people —

countries that used to be desperately poor are no longer poor — because of free trade

Globalization is great!

I’m a great fan of globalization.

Exchange allows you to leave your own little world — your own society — and learn from other societies — broaden your horizons — escape your prejudices, set ways of thinking …

Perhaps because I come from a very small society myself — Sweden

be more than you are — reach out to humanity — grow and develop your full potential

Problem:

Not only exchanging products and ideas — but germs and viruses as well

Mongol Empire — Black Death, Bubonic Plague — some 1/3 or 1/2 of the population of China died — widespread death in the Middle East and Europe

After Columbus — some 80% of the population of the Americas died — from smallpox and measles — the natives had no immunity

Now — we have the Corona virus — we have more knowledge today — and maybe the virus is not as lethal –but still millions and millions of people might die

Question: how to return to exchange?

Today — very partial exchange — a lot on the Internet — but no one can go anywhere — only essential trade — we are basically locked into our societies, stuck in our own worlds

We have to be much smarter about it —

too much focus on economic rationality — on what is profitable

we have no redundancy built in — we have no margins — there is no testing capacity — no extra hospital beds — we only have what we can justify in economic terms

Answer:

We must rely far more on the resources of our own societies — on our traditions

tradition is difficult to understand — often it doesn’t make sense — there seems to be no reason for it — but the tradition is much smarter than individuals — since the tradition has been around for a long time — the tradition knows much more than we do

example 1: burqa

in Denmark they banned burqa a few years ago — it’s illegal to wear a burqa in public — today this makes no sense — everyone is wearing face covering — even in Denmark —

It seems like the tradition knew something — Muslim countries have gone through a lot of pandemics — perhaps the dress code evolved as a response

you look at burqa wearing women and you wonder why they dress so strange — well, now you know, since you dress kind of the same way yourself!

example 2: individualism

Neoliberalism — reliance on economic markets for everything — everything has a price, and nothing has a value

Extreme form of individualism — people are thinking only about themselves — Thatcher: “there is no society” — there are only individuals

society has been difficult to defend — what and where is it really? — perhaps Thatcher was right …

No, our tradition was right — society is right here!

There is no individual solution to a pandemic — all solutions happen when we work together — viruses are contagious — and there is no vaccine and no medicine you can take

We have to help one another — there is no other way — we are a society

There it is — right before us — society!

Problem for the US — many are still insisting on their “individual rights” — but this is a great mistake — the pandemic shows us that society comes first — and if we don’t save each other, no one will be saved

Way forward:

We have to restart the exchange — we cannot lock ourselves into our little worlds

but we have to be smarter about it — we have to listen to our traditions — they smarter than we are —

our traditions can protect us! — from viruses, maybe, in terms of dress codes — and from terrible mistakes like neoliberalism and individualism!

It was always obvious that I was going to fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Diane, my wife, felt the same way. I am in Turkey to work, but also to learn things, and Islam is one of the things I want to learn more about. Ramadan provides a unique way to acquire this knowledge — not by reading books or by making observations, but by directly participating in a different way of life. Since you are learning with your body, you do not even have to know the language! After all, the instructions are pretty straight-forward: you eat early in the morning, refrain from food and water all day, and then totally stuff yourself after sundown. All my colleagues at work were doing it, all my students were doing it too, of course I had to join in!

I’m not a religious person and I’m certainly not a “spiritual seeker” (although both of my grandfathers were vicars in the Church of Sweden). However, I am very interested in what people do and why they do it. In particular, I’m interested in behavior that is difficult to explain in rational, means-ends, terms. In the Western tradition, rational thinking has too often been privileged at the expense of bodily practices, and as a result we have become increasingly opaque to ourselves. Moreover, once religion was defined mainly as a matter of beliefs, Christianity became vulnerable to attacks from secular society. Not surprisingly, in today’s Sweden there are very few religious believers. But Islam is different. Islam seems to me to be more about practices than about beliefs. Or rather, practices and beliefs may be the same thing — both founded in a human being not subject to Cartesian divisions between a rational mind and an irrational body.

So what happens when a quarter of the world’s population decide to synchronize their bodies and share the experience of going without food?

Sahur, for me, was right from the beginning a matter of oatmeal porridge. Oatmeal is the food that kept peasants working long hours in the fields back in agricultural Sweden. A gigantic bowl of porridge at 3.30 AM, topped off with a piece of chocolate, almost felt like cheating. No reason to feel hungry. In fact, “fasting” is surely something of a misnomer. It’s really more a matter of deferring one’s meals. I’m not sure I was eating less. I might have eaten more.

Although I never actually felt hungry, fasting gave a particular coloring to the hours after, say, 5 PM. It might best be described as a certain mellow feeling. The world suddenly slows down and you just want to sit still in one place. No reason to really do anything; not even play with your phone; yet you are pretty content. Surely GDP in the Muslim world must drop off during Ramadan. But just as surely, since people who fast are removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, they are returned to their bodies and to their selves. The result is a sense of calm — perhaps it could even be called “serenity.”

But instead of saying that people are returned to themselves, it might be better to say that they are returned to their communities. I noticed something strange during those mellow late-afternoon hours. We always used to watch Deutsche Welle before dinner. DW broadcasts in English and it is a very reasonable alternative to all those blaring Anglo-Saxon news channels. Yet once Ramadan started we stopped watching DW too. Perhaps it was only a coincidence, but it could also have been that fasting had lessened my connection to the German TV station and its non-fasting newsreaders. Their news stories suddenly seemed less relevant to me. I could feel the boundaries of my community being redrawn.

Instead we watched the iftar countdown on TRT. I love the way the fast-breaking schedule rolls by on the TV screen and one city after another suddenly lights up in red. We were counting the minutes, and people all over Turkey, and the entire Muslim world, were counting the minutes too. It was as exciting as New Year’s Eve, but during Ramadan every day is New Year’s Eve! “45 minutes to go now.” “Too long! I’m hungry!” “What are we going to do?” “Let’s talk about something.” Only 22 minutes left. Suddenly only 8. “Where are the dates? Surely we did not forget to buy dates?”

It is nice to share this experience with people you know, but it is somehow even better to share it with strangers. All religions know that eating together is a powerful way to build a sense of community. Christians have their “last supper” after all, and not even Swedish Lutherans, in their excessive rationalism, have managed to abolish “the communion.” Yet it is a special experience to eat together with strangers after a day of fasting. You look at the people seated at the other tables in the restaurant, and although you know nothing whatsoever about them, you share an intimate sensation in your stomach. That is, the sense of community does not have to be visualized or imagined; it is founded on sheer physiology. Then, after the müezzin‘s call, and for about 15 minutes, everyone falls silent and focuses on eating. And when we are done, we look at each other again, and again we know exactly what the others are feeling. We are satisfied now. Happy and content. Today too we got to eat our fill.

Rima, my daughter, put it best. “It is all about gratitude,” she said. “When you finally get to eat, you feel grateful. You are grateful to the person who cooked the food, and grateful to the world that provided you with it.” In modern society it is rare to be grateful for food. We always eat enough — in fact we often eat too much. In modern society we take everything for granted and gratefulness is an uncommon emotion. Yet during Ramadan we are taught to be grateful every evening for a whole month. And perhaps, when our stomachs finally are full, we can spare a thought for people who are less fortunate than ourselves.

Fasting also taught me much about the political divisions, and the culture wars, of today’s Turkey. A week into Ramadan, I attended a workshop organized by my department and the IR department at Bilkent University. Since Bilkent was footing much of the bill, they were in charge of the schedule. Consequently the sessions started at 9 AM, which is way too early for someone who likes to sleep after sahur, and there were “lunch-breaks” in the middle of the day. But OK, there were many international visitors invited, and the Bilkent people may have been reluctant to appear as too “ethnic” in front of the foreigners. In any case, us in the Ibn Haldun contingent were just sort of standing around in the court yard of our madrasa while the others were eating. But it felt great. Very visibly, I found myself on one of the sides — on the right side — of the political and cultural gap which divides Turkey. That in a sense was when I finally joined the faculty of Ibn Haldun University.

I was on the right side again when I was showing my sister — visiting Turkey for a few days  — the sights in the center of Istanbul. Around Taksim Square in particular there are always bouncers who come up to you with a menu and questions of “Where are you from, sir?” “What would you like to eat, sir?” But the assaults always stopped when I informed the assailants that “Ben orucum.” Instead of pestering us, many started congratulating me, shaking my hand. “Maşallah! Maşallah!

Yes, I do realize that I have a very romantic — possibly an “Orientalist” — understanding of Muslim society. I always wanted to be someone different than myself, someone different than a Swede.

And yet, the whole Ramadan project came apart both suddenly and prematurely. We made the great mistake of going on a mini-vacation to the Aegean coast. That part of Turkey is not like Başakşehir. It is not like Başakşehir at all. In fact, it might as well be a different country. Where we were staying, people were wearing swim suits not only on the beach, but in the streets, and they were not only eating lunch, but they had beers to go with it. And even more surprisingly, our hotel did not even bother with sahur. We complained at the front-desk, but when asked, we had to admit that we were not Muslim. “So why are you fasting?” Yes indeed, why were we fasting? Once again I could feel the boundaries of my community being redrawn. Being a secular European comes easily to me, but that’s not why I am in Turkey.

At the same time, I feel sorry for people in secular society. They are missing out on something.All they have are their private lives and their first obligation is always to service their individual desires. That kind of a life is not good enough for a human being. If nothing else, it is really quite boring — our individual lives are rarely as exciting as we pretend. But now of course the fasting has ended for all of us, and we have all rather brutally been returned to our private lives. I miss Ramadan already. And I’m very much looking forward to next year.

Yes, indeed. I finished the book in the end! Or rather, I stopped writing it. A book like this can easily be revised and improved for another 10 years, but I’ve been at it for 5 years already and perhaps now is a good time to stop. I’m actually pretty happy with it. All material, as you know, is available on this web page, but you can also buy it as a regular book when it appears sometime next year.

Erik Ringmar is professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Ibn Haldun University, Istanbul, Turkey. He has a PhD in political science from Yale University and taught for 12 years in the Government Department at the London School of Economics, and for seven years as a professor of international politics at Shanghai Jiaotong University, in Shanghai, China.  Erik has written five books and some 50 academic articles exploring the history of international relations both from European and non-European perspectives. His CV is here. His next book will deal with dance and international politics.

Democracy, said Joseph Schumpeter is not a way for the people to rule, but a mechanism to get rid of incompetent leaders. What is left of democracy if Schumpeter is right? A hell of a lot, it turns out. Go democracy! https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/16/us/politics/biden-administration-executive-action-legislation.html?smid=tw-share

He'll be great. Pro-EU, pro-immigrants. As long as Germany stays sane, all Europeans will be OK, and lot's of non-Europeans too. Apparently he is known as "Turkish Armin."🇹🇷🇩🇪

What an extraordinarily decent Republican. Pure sanity, humanity, self-awareness. I never thought those adjectives could be attached to a member of the GOP. He's only been a Congressman for 11 days though. Let's see where he ends up in the years ahead. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/15/podcasts/the-daily/impeachment-peter-meijer-trump.html?smid=tw-share

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Who was Muhammed?

Leader, Mecca 571 — writing — Quran — discussing Muhammed =–

tribes, isahba, hajj, Kabal

Huge traibes — sedentary peoples — trading routes — Quarash — traders in the area —  a lot of Arabs were merchants — trading through Somalia and OMan — Meccas, a lot of gods — no one could imagine that this society would be changed — system of slavery

all rejected everything — new ideas in this movement — isolated from the big families — doing this mvoement secretly for ten years —

consolidation rather thnn exclusivity — exclusiionary vs. inclusionary —  — fulfillment of a prophecy — the coming of the profet — as a promise of the religion — God sends profet — people start to forget — Abrahamic religions — in Islam they believed in the boois — the teachings are the same — they refuse to believe and accept

messangers — why are they always fighting? Bible and Jewish version as destorted versions. Many different books of the Bible —

politics and power — what power brings — the historical narrative that was told- — relioion as the opium of the soul — politics matters and not religion — they looik at the wrong thing —

if there are such a lot

all mankidn — religious project as well — every aspect of your life — Moses — trading with eah other — Christianity– political and social sactivities — plitics was there —

jihad — before Muhammed — the idea of expansion — they did not interfere in the political regime at all — we are loiving these ideas —

dhimmoi — Iran — bring this to whoever wants — come and worship — only if they reufes — ono freedom for paopel — not to let people control twhat they should believe.

look at ti from the point how strong Islam — religious established centers — sedentary centers — easy for Muslims to baese their protectino of the basis of the as well as religious —  religion established wihtin the walls — you could not go around it — Islam as outside the walls of the city — they were eventually very good at — Ibn Haldun — would Muhammed have moved —

capture many areas — Muhammed fighting 10 times — exploited by the Christians — EUrope was not CHristian at this time — they were being welcomes to be Muslims —

the quality of the message — the unity of the religion — universal community — bedoinines — how to civlize them selves —

SUnni and SHia — from religion to political — not a process of succession — somenoe should take the place and the role — individauls survival of the fittest — provided the leadership — there is a political vacuum —

rotate between different groups — Christian — Shia —

the idea of a claiphate — different asgggremment within the comunity — supplement the the leadership — Huyain — there were no procedures —

there was no way to organize — the succession — Abu Bakr —

is this an important — who are these people — the subpower — the power at the top — this more skweded toward a partricular group —

ruling party and the oppositoin in a democracy — ummah told Abu Bakr what to do —

a caliphal international systme — they were qualified — prominent leaders at the time — een at the pfopherts time — the differences appear in the Karbala — first fitna — Omar assinated for that reason — Persian influence — the bigger picture abuot this — angry at the

Karbala — failed, Sunni as important — sahabah, liek a Sunni — for people who lost faith in –Ghana appealing to the northern people — religion for the peopole — the fundamentalist —

the translation movement — created so manyn different cultures in order to get to know one another -=-

from Muhammed’s time — sturing their writings and readings — like scientists — education and the importance the — take informatoin

wilolingly convertedinto Islam — it turns out to the be best way to benefit yourslef — they convert —

translation movement — also benefits — get the kind of message that they were expecting — world of Islam — when the push

caliphate —

 

how successful it was — civlizing the people — not slowing down — sedendary life-style — the Arabs break down — use politics for religion, not the other way around — 9

johad — India, very different — under pressure all the time — salvation for te

the aninomisty of the smallest difference

not all taht provincial — benefits for Bedouine society — provide benefits for them — the position of Islam they can

Queresh tribes — much more sophisciated — sedentary vs. nomadic tribes — human sacrifices —

complete version of — Abrahamic religion —

Why did they expand?

How were the able to do it?

What is a “caliphate”?

What is “jihad”?

What is the origin of the split between Sunni and Shia?

What is the Islamic “Golden Age”

Why did power move to Cairo?

What can you tell me about Muslim Spain?

Who are the Turks?

How was the Ottoman empire established?

Algeria was invaded by France in 1830 but the country soon proved difficult to govern and the French army was harassed by Arab guerrilla fighters. In 1837 they were forced to conclude a treaty which gave Algerians control of two thirds of their territory. Yet the French ignored the agreement and the following year the war recommenced. Looking for a more effective way to fight the Arabs, general Thomas Robert Bugeaud, the Governor-General of the colony, developed a new method of warfare – known as le système Bugeaud – which he argued was more suitable for African conditions. A main feature of the système was the razzia – the destruction of all resources that supported the lives and livelihoods of the Arab community, their crops, orchards and cattle. Only by declaring war on civilians, Bugeaud argued, and by terrorizing and starving them, could the enemy be subdued. Yet, he insisted, there was nothing immoral about such methods. After all, France’s aim was to civilize the Africans. “Gentlemen,” as he explained to the parliament in Paris, “war is not made philanthropically; he who wills the end wills the means.”

Other European powers met with similar resistance. The British had to fight no fewer than five wars against the Asante, three wars in Afghanistan and Burma, and two opium wars in China. The French fought two wars in Dahomey and the Germans were fiercely resisted by the Herero of southwestern Africa. The problem in all cases was that the enemies were far away, the European forces actually quite small, and that it consequently was difficult to administer the lands to which they laid claims. Even if one expedition was successful, the natives soon reasserted themselves, and the European had to come back for a second expedition, and occasionally for several more. Colonial wars were not at all like wars in Europe, the Europeans concluded; they required tactics suitable to local conditions.

What settled these wars in the end was not military superiority as much as the ability to strike terror in the local population. Colonial warfare should have “pedagogical aims.” You should strike so hard and in such a devastating fashion that no one dared to resist. The système Bugeaud was an example of such state-sponsored terrorism, and it eventually proved effective. One by one the Algerian guerrilla fighters were killed or captured and in 1843 their independent state collapsed.

 

External links:

Democracy, said Joseph Schumpeter is not a way for the people to rule, but a mechanism to get rid of incompetent leaders. What is left of democracy if Schumpeter is right? A hell of a lot, it turns out. Go democracy! https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/16/us/politics/biden-administration-executive-action-legislation.html?smid=tw-share

He'll be great. Pro-EU, pro-immigrants. As long as Germany stays sane, all Europeans will be OK, and lot's of non-Europeans too. Apparently he is known as "Turkish Armin."🇹🇷🇩🇪

What an extraordinarily decent Republican. Pure sanity, humanity, self-awareness. I never thought those adjectives could be attached to a member of the GOP. He's only been a Congressman for 11 days though. Let's see where he ends up in the years ahead. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/15/podcasts/the-daily/impeachment-peter-meijer-trump.html?smid=tw-share

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Before it was occupied by the United States in 1893, Hawai’i was a sovereign country with it own royal house, foreign policy, bank notes and stamps. In fact, it had been recognized as independent by Europeans countries for close to one hundred years. The last ruler of independent Hawai’i was a woman, queen Liliʻuokalani, 1838-1917. She was an accomplished author and the composer of “Aloha ‘Oe,” the most famous of all Hawai’ian songs. She represented her country at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in London in 1887. Queen Liliʻuokalani is still revered by indigenous Hawaiians.

By the 1890s, the European occupation of all of North America was secure and the U.S. government continued its expansion across the Pacific. In 1893, the Americans organized an uprising among the locals in Hawaii. In 1898, they proceeded to annex the islands, the same year that they occupied the Philippines. The Hawaiian flag was lowered at the royal palace in Honolulu and the U.S. flag was raised. Hawai’i became a U.S. state in 1959, following a referendum in which 93% of voters approved of statehood. As a result, the islands were removed from the United Nations’ list of territories subject to decolonization. In 1993, the U.S. Congress issued an apology in which they admitted that “the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai’i occurred with the active participation of agents and citizens of the United States” and that “the Native Hawai’ian people never directly relinquished to the United States their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people over their national lands.”

There are today some 150,00 Hawai’ians of pure indigenous ancestry and another 400,00 people who claim partial indigenous ancestry. Together they constitute about a third of the population of the islands. Native Hawaiians are over-represented among the homeless and unemployed. Although there is an active independence movement, it has only limited support. A more poplar proposal is that the islands should be given a semi-sovereign status within the United States and that native Hawai’ians should be recognized as an indigenous American tribe. Queen Liliʻuokalani still has descendants who claim a right to the vacant throne. There are today some 42,000 U.S. soldiers stationed on the islands.

External links:

For the longest time Europeans refused to believe that the enormous mounds they had discovered in the valley of the Mississippi river were constructed by native people. The sheer size of the monuments was just too impressive. The “Indians,” the Europeans had decided, were hunters and gatherers but the people of the Mississippi valley lived in large cities and they grew crops. The construction of the mounds must have required years of dedicated labor. Only a highly organized society could have managed that task. Perhaps it was the Vikings who had built the mounds, or the Chinese, the Greeks or perhaps the ancient Egyptians?

The Europeans should have known better. There were still mound-builders in North America as late as in the eighteenth-century. In 1682 CE, French explorers visited the Natchez, a tribe living in the lower Mississippi. They were astonished to be greeted by their leader, known as the “Great Sun,” who lived in a large house on the top of a platform mound. The Great Sun was treated as a living god by his people and was carried in a litter wherever he went. His mother, known as “White Woman,” was his principal adviser and lived in a house on top of another mound. Ordinary members of Natchez society grew corn, beans, squash and tobacco. The Green Corn ceremony was the apex of their annual cycle of religious events. The Natchez were defeated in a war with French settlers in the 1730s. As a result some were sold into slavery in the Caribbean while others were forced to take refuge with other tribes. Today there is still a Natchez nation with some 6,000 members. It is led by a chief, still known as “Great Sun,” and by four “Clan Mothers.” The last fluent speaker of the Natchez language died in 1957. Today the Natchez are trying to revive their language.

 

External links:

History of the World in 100 Objects, “North American otter pipe”

The empires of the Americas are notorious for practicing human sacrifice, but what is less well known is that the rulers also practices a form of sacrifice on themselves. They cut themselves using sharp objects such obsidian, stingray spines or shark’s teeth. Any soft part of the body could be cut, but it was usually the tongue or the genitals. The scattered blood was then collected on paper made from bark and burned. The smoke conveyed the message to the gods.

Blood, to the Mayans, was the very force of life and in the beginning of time the gods had sacrificed their own blood in order for the world to come into being. Ever since humans have owed blood to the gods and the sacrifices were a way to repay this debt. Interestingly, the best blood was that of noblemen and the noblemen of the enemies were for that reason a prized catch in wars. The Maya would even maintain “farms” of noblemen who could be sacrificed on ceremonial occasions.

Anyone who claimed political authority would have to go through these ceremonies, and this included the kings and members of the royal family. A particularly gruesome scene from a Maya relief shows a queen with her tongue pierced. Through the hole a thread with thorns was then pulled. The agony must have been perfectly mind-altering. And that, indeed, seems to have been the point. The pain that the royals suffered put them in contact with transcendental realms and made clear to everyone else that they possessed unique spiritual powers. The bloodletting rituals were commonly performed when the ruler asked ordinary people to make sacrifices, such as when going to war. To make the point as effectively as possible, self-harm was performed in front of large gatherings of people – in a plaza or on the top of a pyramid. That the leaders of a country had to sacrifice themselves in these tangible ways surely meant that they were far more careful in embarking on risky ventures. If today’s political leaders were required to mutilate their genitals in public before declaring war, far fewer wars would surely be declared.

External links:

History of the World in 100 Objects, “Maya relief of royal blood-letting”