I don't often comment on political matters here at the 'old manse', but this is beyond politics. Amidst all the commentary about the debacle presently unfolding in Washington, few people seem to have the historical awareness to point out what it presages: not just the beginning of the end of the economic and world-political power of the US, but the end of two centuries of Anglophone dominance on the world stage. Call me biased, but I'm of the view that, despite the dark chapters in that history, that dominance has been largely benign and beneficial to the world at large.
Mark Steyn is a popular Canadian conservative commentator based in the US who has a knack of boiling down the complexities of life in the late modern West to their absurd essence and dishing up the remains with sparkling prose full of wit and irony. Here's his take on the 'big picture' behind the current political shenannigans:
'If the IMF is correct (a big if), China will be the planet's No. 1 economy by 2016. That means whoever's elected in November next year will be the last president of the United States to preside over the world's dominant economic power. As I point out in my rollicking new book, which will be hitting what's left of the post-Borders bookstore business any day now, this will mark the end of two centuries of Anglophone dominance – first by London, then its greatest if prodigal son. The world's economic superpower not only will be a communist dictatorship with a largely peasant population and legal, political and cultural traditions as alien to its predecessors as possible, but, even more civilizationally startling, it will be, unlike the U.S., Britain and the Dutch and Italians before them, a country that doesn't even use the Roman alphabet.'
Welcome to the real 'New World Order'! How's your Mandarin?
Meanwhile, in my neck of the woods, home to some very rich soils in a country where such are comparatively rare, family farms are literally being swallowed up to feed the voracious appetite of the Chinese industrial maw for raw materials, especially coal. When the 'common lands' were enclosed in late medieval England and the landowners took to grazing sheep where the common folk had once grown their food (the wool boom had started), a famine ensued and it was said that 'sheep have eaten men'. Now, because of the peculiarities of Australian land tenure and the rights of the Crown to grant leases over free-hold land for purposes of mineral exploration and mining (a situation that pertains in no other common law jurisdiction), we are finding a similar process underway; history is repeating itself, farm land is being alienated and 'coal is eating men!'.
No, a famine has not ensued, but Australia recently became a net importer of food for the first time since the early days of its founding as a colony just over two centuries ago (which history exactly parallels Anglo hegemony in the world). In an increasingly unstable world where there will likely be no mighty US or British navy to protect our trade routes that's not a good position to be in. As I said initially, this is beyond 'politics', it's about what sort of country and society we want our children and grand-children and their successors to inherit and whether we want to be in control of our own destiny as a nation (as much as that is possible for a middling-size nation anyway). That seems to be the real question our American friends are facing too.
In the meantime, may God bless the hard-working and frugal Chinese people with the fruit of their labours, and for our sakes may He make their coming hegemony, against all expectations, as benign and beneficial to humankind as the one which preceded it.
Click on the post title to read Steyn's column from whence this quote was taken. (And just because I quote him doesn't necessarily mean I endorse Steyn's every political view - life is more complex than such simple caricatures will allow. In actual fact I'm a political centrist in Australian terms, a supporter of free markets moderated by government intervention for the sake of the 'common wealth' who deplores extremism whether of the Right or the Left. In other words I'm an average Australian who supports the non-doctrinaire, pragmatic approach to politics that has made us prosperous, free and liberal, which in my book is much better than being poor, bound and subject to the sway of demagogues.)