Is A ‘Great Social/Civilizational Reset’ Upon Us?

The simmering tensions between France’s extreme secularist system and Islamic society’s vehement condemnation of that Western government’s support for what they regard as blasphemous depictions of the Prophet Muhammad increase the likelihood that a “Great Social/Civliizational Reset” — which shouldn’t be wrongly equated with the so-called “Clash of Civilizations” scenario — is in the process of playing out across the world over the coming years.

Background Briefing

Muslims across the world are furious at the French state’s support of extreme secularist practices such as the publication of what they regard as blasphemous depictions of the Prophet Muhammad while Paris proudly stands by its people’s right to express themselves in however offensive of a manner as they’d like. These simmering tensions were brought about by President Macron’s reaction to last week’s terrorist attack against a French schoolteacher who shared satirical cartoons of Islam’s most important prophet with his students as part of a free speech class. The French leader subsequently described Islam as being in a state of “crisis”, decried what he described as “Islamic separatism” in his country’s society, honored the victim as a national hero, and vowed that France will never stop publishing such cartoons. Muslims regarded this provocative response as a direct attack against their religion, hence the growing movement to boycott French products in majority-Muslim countries. It’s unclear how this ideological clash will end, but it’s increasingly evident that it increases the likelihood that a “Great Social/Civilizational Reset” will play out across the world over the coming years.

From An Economic “Reset” To A Social/Civilizational One

What’s meant by this is that a social/civilizational “reset” might very well accompany the ongoing economic one that was catalyzed in response what the author regard as World War C. Unlike the latter “reset”, the first-mentioned might not be coordinated but could convincingly appear so because of different actors undertaking similar courses of action around the same time. In this case, there’s a sudden reassertion of secular and Islamic identity in the West and non-West respectively among the societies where such sentiments are represented by the majority of their populations. There are secularists in Muslim-majority societies and Islamists (referring to those who support a more visible role for their religion in public life) in secular ones but they’re the minority except in rare instances such as Azerbaijan and Syria for example which are constitutionally secular Muslim-majority countries. In most cases, however, these minority views are relatively new to the social mix and the result of globalization processes, specifically those related to migration and information-communications trends (the proliferation of internet-connected cell phones and social media platforms).

The Fallacy Of A “Global Society” With “Shared Values And Norms”

Many in those countries who support their society’s prevailing views regard those minority ones as a threat to their identity. It’s not the purpose of this analysis to argue over who should believe what and whether it’s justified, let alone the morality of certain legislation allowing people to grossly offend others’ religious beliefs without it legally being considered hate speech and thus subject to censorship or prosecution (as well as the opposite approach where such expressions are strictly suppressed), but simply to acknowledge the existence of different social/civilizational systems that organically developed in certain places with time and in accordance with the majority’s views. There had hitherto been the false notion of a so-called “global society” of “shared norms and values”, which in reality was just a liberal illusion serving as a cover for imposing largely Western-centric ones onto the rest of the world, but that was shattered with Trump’s election in 2016 and the final nail in the coffin was hammered in the aftermath of the French schoolteacher terrorist attack. Nowadays it’s obvious to all that different social/civilizational systems exist which embody some contradictory views on hot topics.

Dismissing The “Clash Of Civilizations” Speculation

Accepting this reality regardless of whether one supports it or not shouldn’t be wrongly equated with the so-called “Clash of Civilizations” scenario implying a seemingly inevitable clash between Christianity and Islam which in reality isn’t inevitable at all. Rather, it’s simply the most objective assessment of contemporary social/civilizational trends across the world. It’s entirely possible for representatives of societies/civilizations espousing contradictory views towards hot topics to pragmatically cooperate with one another in pursuit of shared interests such as trade and to even peacefully coexist so long as those with minority sentiments abide by the laws of the land in which they live (no matter how much it may frustrate them to do so or how unfair it may be). The trend, though, is that these differences are increasingly widening, becoming more visible, and each society/civilization is more passionately expressing themselves in ways unique to their systems which might deeply offend others. How much the last-mentioned trend is proactive or reactive is a subject of intense debate, but these dynamics nevertheless exist and are powerfully shaping global perceptions at the moment.Macron liberte

The “Social/Civilizational Dilemma”

Both sides argue that the other is aggressively pushing their contradictory worldview onto the rest of the world and infringing on the rights of minorities within their social/civilizational sphere while also arguing that their own actions only amount to a defensive reassertion of their identity in reaction to their counterpart’s alleged aggression. No middle ground will ever be found between the two since their worldviews are inherently contradictory towards hot topics such as the one which provoked these latest tensions. For that reason, it can be said that they’re caught in a “social/civilizational dilemma” akin to the “security dilemma” of International Relations scholarship whereby actions by one side are interpreted as aggressive by the other which in turn reciprocates with its own defensively intended moves that are then seen as aggressive by their counterpart, and so on and so forth as the self-sustaining cycle of distrust and destabilization intensifies indefinitely. Unlike in the security domain where objective assessments can be made (however difficult it may be), the social/civilizational one is entirely subjective since these actions are part of each side’s identity.

The Global Reconsideration Of Liberal Dogma

There is no solution to this dilemma since the only realistic one would amount to a zero-sum outcome where one of the sides concedes on their assertion of social/civilizational identity, which doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon. Muslims’ very strong views on this topic are due to their faith prohibiting blasphemy while the French state’s are the result of its secular system which their representatives regard as embodying the essence of modern-day European civilization. It’s almost impossible for most Muslims to backtrack on this otherwise they’d dangerously risk accusations of selling out their faith whereas the military-intelligence members of the French “deep state” that are presumably advising President Macron on this issue fear (whether justifiably or not) that any concession on their side could lead to an uncontrollable explosion of further social unrest in their country. Both sides, however, seem to tacitly agree that the liberal dogma of pretending that there’s such a thing as a “global society” with “shared values and norms” is outdated and has been debunked by recent events. Neither nowadays ignores the fact that the other has contradictory views that are deeply rooted in their identities.

The Polish Precedent Of Intra-Civilizational Discord

It’s this reassertion of social/civilizational identity in constitutionally secular (though historically Christian) European countries and majority Muslim ones which could catalyze a worldwide shift in perception away from liberal illusions and towards a new realism which acknowledges the existence of different social/civilizational systems. Interestingly enough, this anti-liberal trend is already present within the EU itself as evidenced by recent developments in Central European leader Poland, which is actively resisting Brussels’ efforts to impose its hyper-liberal values onto its traditionally very Catholic society. It also also only just last week that its narrowly re-elected conservative government practically banned abortion, which triggered an ongoing Color Revolution attempt by its growing and increasingly vocal liberal minority. The Polish case proves that the “Great Social/Civilizational Reset” shouldn’t be misportrayed as a dispute between Christian and Muslim societies which advances the “Clash of Civilizations” scenario but is instead actually the global reconsideration of liberal dogma between and within different societies, including those from the same civilizational sphere like in Europe.

Concluding Thoughts

All things considered, it certainly seems like a “Great Social/Civilizational Reset” is upon us. There’s no putting the genie back into the bottle following the aftermath of the French schoolteacher terrorist attack. Both France’s extreme secular state and pious Muslims across the world are digging in their heels for an extended struggle over the norms and values and that they hold dear. Each of them are seriously concerned about the other infringing on their rights, but since their stances on hot topics such as this one are so contradictory, no mutually beneficial resolution to this dispute is expected. There can only be a zero-sum outcome, but even that might not transpire if neither side cedes ground. For that reason, the world should expect that the global reconsideration of liberal dogma between and within societies, including those from the same civilizational sphere as the Polish case proves, will become one of the defining trends of this decade. That, however, doesn’t mean that they’re destined to “clash” since pragmatic cooperation on issues of shared interest such as trade is still possible so long as everyone’s physical (though not necessarily spiritual/ideological) rights are respected.

Source: OneWorld

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