In 1993 Samuel Huntington published a book called The Clash of Civilizations. The premise of the book was that conflicts would no longer be between nation-states, but between the East and West. This book was sure to have a wide impact because it met the criteria for impactful ideas:
1). It benefits the ruling elite.
2). It pings the archetypes we hold deep in our subconscious.
3). It offers a “scientific” basis for tribal racism.
4). It prophesies the future. We love that.
Basically the Clash of Civilizations pits the bearded fanatic Muslim camel jockeys against the white, clean-shaven, well-fed civilized guys. And just to cover all the bases, it throws in those slant-eyed, sneaky Chinese. Who can tell what they are up to? So that is the East, those are the barbarians at the gates. They want to kill us; they do nothing else all day long but plot to harm us.
Oh my, whatever are we to do? Obviously, we must build up our military forces, we must “project power” we must “strengthen democracy” by hook or by crook. We must all unite against the beasts from the east. The Clash of Civilizations is the framework for our foreign policy and is the filter through which most news in the west reaches us. We don’t even stop to question the underlying premise:
Are four billion people out to get us? Are any four billion human beings so homogenized that they all think and act the same? Yes, of course, Huntington says-they are the east!
This us-versus-them thing goes all the way back to the stone age. Imagine your tribe, which you call “The People” spots other bipeds on the horizon. Who are THEY? Not the People! The fact that Not-the-People have, on occasion, attacked other tribes, and those raids are etched deeply in our collective unconscious, gives a big boost to Huntington’s primitive theory. It could happen!
We better attack them first. We’ll call it a pre-emptive strike; self-defense.
OR we could find out what Not-the-People want. Are they just passing through? Do they want some of our pine nuts? Could we trade our pine nuts for their pottery? Maybe we could both benefit from this encounter?
Please note the date of Huntington’s book: 1993. What was going on in 1993? Something huge, actually. After 50 years of fighting the Red Menace, the USSR had collapsed. No enemy. What excuse to keep feeding a military-industrial complex as big as half the the world’s? We need a new enemy, quick. One who won’t collapse on us and leave us high and dry and (shudder) at peace.
THE EAST! The whole freaking east. They’re weird, they’re not-the-people. We better attack them first. We’ll call it a pre-emptive strike.