Tag Archive: civilization


Territorial boundaries drawn by past empires, who have had little regard for geographic realities, often become major sources of conflict.


Throughout history, empires have chosen specific boundaries based on mainly cultural and physical geographic areas.  The British Empire, which controlled many geographic areas in various continents throughout the world, was notably known for performing choosing specific boundaries.  Frequently, in the news I see Israeland its territorial disputes with its neighbors; therefore, I have decided to focus on Israel’s sources of conflicts based on its boundaries.  I will begin with a brief geographic history of Israel for an understanding of its current events. 


The land now known as Israelwas once called Palestineis considered a holy land to the Muslims, Jews, and Christians.  Ancient Hebrews that lived in this region called the area Caanan.  After 1000 B.C., this area was split into two different kingdoms which were called Israel and Judah and were invaded by other empires constantly, some of which were the Egyptians, Macedonians, Romans, Persians, and the list continues.  Most of the original Hebrews who settled the region were then forced to emigrate elsewhere.  Afterwards, Palestinebecame a center of Christian pilgrimage after the emperor Constantine converted to that faith.  Hundreds of years later, the Arabs gained control of Palestine from the Byzantine Empire and Muslims continued to rule this region until the 20th century.  Throughout this period, Hebrews started to settle back into Palestine. During World War I, British forces defeated the Turks in Palestine and governed the area until they officially withdrew in 1948, which formed the State of Israel.  In the following days, Muslim forces from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq invaded the new formed nation.  As a result, Israel had increased its original territory by 50%, taking western Galilee, a broad corridor through central Palestineto Jerusalem, and part of modern Jerusalem.  Almost a decade later, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal and forbidden Israeli shipping to travel through the newly created canal.  This led Israel to seize the area known as the Gaza Strip located on the Sinai Peninsula.  Another decade later, Israel made simultaneous attacks against Syrian, Jordanian, and Egyptian air bases, totally defeating the neighboring Muslim nations which tripled the size of Israel’s territory.  The areas controlled by Israel were the Golan Heights, the West Bank of the Jordan River, Jerusalem’s Old Cityand the Gaza Strip.


As a result, the dispute over the territories controlled by Israel has created a sense of instability in the region.  The land that was provided to the Hebrews from Great Britainis now in constant turmoil.  The Palestinians, who are of Arab descent, are now looking to regain control of their land.  Constant upheavals in the area known as Gaza continue to rise.  The primary issue that continues to instigate this conflict is the attempt to maintain an ethnically preferred state which is inevitable considering the majority of people in Israel are now Jewish.  This region once was mainly settled by Muslims; however, they are now prohibited from returning to their homes because the state proclaims Judaism.  Furthermore, Israel’s military occupation over the aforementioned regions that were seized prior to the 1970’s is still burdensome to the Palestinians who have minimal control over their lives and live in disarray daily.  Peace efforts continue to try to resolve this conflict, but Israel refuses to give the controlled land back to its rightful owners who were forced out.  Obviously, when the original borders were implemented, no one took into consideration that people would be forced out and not have anywhere to go.  Hopefully in the future, Israel will resolve this issue by giving back the Gaza, West Bank, and the other areas they have taken control of especially because it is a constant battle to keep these lands for Israel.  


For the record, I have no bias toward either side; I am just stating my observables.

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The Sumerians are known in world history as being the first civilization dating back to around 3000 B.C.  They excelled in many areas for a civilization of that time.  Furthermore, they established the basics for socio-economics and intellect in the area known as present-day Iraq, nestled in-between the Tigris and Euphrates River.  Many breakthroughs and inventions assisted in the foundations of the Sumerian society which lasted for approximately 1000 years.
Their society was headed by a king and divided into four sets of classes: nobles, clients, commoners, and slaves, which all contributed in some way to their flourishing culture. The Sumerians were heavily involved in trade, whether it was with other nearby civilizations or in the Persian Gulf.  Within their own city-states, citizens were involved in various types of trades, such as masonry, metalworking, and pottery to contribute to the culture within, and trade with foreign entities outward.  Agriculture was a necessity and therefore led to an intensive system of irrigation being created by digging canals from the major rivers.  This lead to rich land for growing food.
Moreover, the Sumerians established a system of writing which was depicted in several forms: pictographs, ideograms, and phonetic signs.  This system of writing bridged the gap between Sumerian city-states and their following generations.  Mathematics, specifically geometry and trigonometry, played a huge role in assisting the Sumerians in erecting structures, such as palaces, temples, ziggurats, canals, et cetera.  Lastly, the Sumerians also used a system of medicine to rid citizens of sickness (or rid them of evil spirits).  Several different treatments were used to help cure the sick and these treatments consisted of magic, surgery, and prescriptions, or even a combination of all three.
All of the aforementioned reasons laid the groundwork for a flourishing civilization in Mesopotamia.  Their influence and culture followed onto other civilizations that conquered in the same geographical region such as the Semites and the Babylonians.  Ultimately, Sumerian culture helped form political and economic stability in the civilized world for the following civilizations to come.
Recently, I came across a book called the Clash of Civilizations by Samuel P. Huntington which takes a look at people’s cultural and religious identities and argues that this will be the primary source of conflict in the 21st century.
 
I believe that the clash of civilizations seems to be a very broad statement in the use of Huntington’s thesis.  Personally, I have mixed feelings towards Huntington’s theory.  On one hand, it is possible to picture the validity of the clashing of civilizations; however, on the other hand, I am in agreement with an article by Amartya Sen (2006) titled “What Clash of Civilizations? Why religious identity isn’t destiny” that states that “the increasing tendency to overlook the many identities that any human being has and to try to classify individuals according to a single allegedly pre-eminent religious identity is an intellectual confusion that can animate dangerous divisiveness.”  When comparing civilizations, a civilization can be reduced down to a small scale, it doesn’t necessarily have to be compared to historic civilizations such as Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Mesopotamia, and so on.  
 
When comparing people from different parts of the United States such as Texans, Californians, New Englanders, and Georgians, all who are classified as Americans; however, each has their own distinct cultures within the United States.  But what is an American?  An American is not only somebody from the United States, but somebody in Mexico, or Costa Rica.  Back in 2005, I had taken a trip to Costa Rica to immerse in the culture.  One thing I noticed from the people there is that they were offended when Americans were only referred to the people of the United States.  With that said, single classifications can be very misleading.  If civilizations are divided by particular cultures, then Iraq, a majority Islamic state, could be broken up into three different cultures: The Kurds, Sunni Muslims, and Shiite Muslims, but Iraq is also home to other minorities such as Christians (Chaldeans), among many other ethnic groups.  
 
For Huntington to state that the world is divided into nine different civilizations is a misnomer.  The truth is that Huntington uses only one type of classification which is based off of religion; however, the different cultures within religious groups, classes, societies, and beliefs are other classifications that can be used to distinctly separate people from one another.  In many nations or states throughout the world, conflict usually arises within their own political boundaries as a result of some sort of clash.  It can usually be defined as cultural differences, but not all conflicts are solely violent.  Some may be political or even economical.  I do not believe Huntington is wrong for his ideology, but he is only looking at conflicts within global politics as one possible perception and is not looking outside the lines of religious/cultural classifications.  This sort of realignment that Huntington predicts has occurred throughout history.  
 
More recently, globalization is now mixing the various different cultures and civilizations throughout the world together and leading these different cultures and religions to share many commonalities than ever before.  On a separate note, Huntington discusses clashes between western civilizations and Islamic civilizations.   The majority of people in western civilization are Christians; therefore, in my opinion, Huntington goes on to discuss the conflicts between these two cultures as a future problem that needs to be considered in foreign policy.  I disagree with his views on this because Christians and Muslims have been fighting for thousands of years and it should already be in our foreign policies.  This is not only a future issue, but a past and present issue as well.


I believe all factors will come into play when conflict occurs, not only cultural factors like Huntington states. Every year, the world is becoming more and more global with technology, especially the internet. Many cultures that were once isolated years ago are now sharing many traits with other cultures because it is becoming the “norm” globally. Immigrants that live in repressed or poor regions of the world are now increasingly migrating to Western countries because they believe it will lead them to more opportunities and a better life. The mixing of cultures is becoming more and more acceptable; however, tensions of cultures worldwide will always have some sort of conflict. Huntington’s thesis is inaccurate when it breaks the world into eight different civilizations. Many states and nations within these “8” civilizations have conflicts daily and even within their political boundaries. Therefore, I believe the world is becoming more economical and countries of different cultures are now uniting with other countries of the world for these reasons. The main conflicts will be more of an internal conflict than a worldwide conflict of cultures.



So let’s take a step back for a moment at all the major conflicts since the 21st century.  Afghanistan War, Iraq War, Sudanese Civil War, Russo-Georgian War, Arab Uprising revolutions, and radical Islamist jihads.  With the exception of radical Islam, none of these other conflicts were really based on religious ideology.  They were either political, economic, or over territory in my opinion.  


Islamist radicalists can blend in with any society, no matter where it is to cause harm toward others.  In Huntington’s thesis, they are mostly concentrated as one civilization, “Islamic civilization.”  Regardless, there are no boundaries to these non-state actors and they have developed cells all over the world in many other civilizations than the Islamic one. I would think this would be the closest example that would tie into the thesis.  Yet still, they also fight within their own “civilization” and against other Muslims.  Their interpretation of Islam is very different than other interpretations within the culture.  Not all Muslims believe what these radical Islamists believe in; Islam is supposedly a peaceful religion, this just comes to show that it is not possible to divide the world into civilizations.  

 
I welcome everyone’s thoughts and comments on this posting.  I would like to initiate a respectable discussion.
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