As Julian Assange stood Friday in front of the Ecuadoran Embassy where he has been living for the last four years in order to avoid deportation to the US via Sweden for launching the era of international whistle-blowing that started the Empire's descent, he talked about his children being deprived of their father, but this day also signals a watershed in the life of the United Nations.
Watch What will happen if Assange leaves Ecuador's Embassy... It's been two years since Julian Assange's gained asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. During the time of his refuge there he's grown a beard, given a ...
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Neither the United Kingdom nor Sweden availed themselves of the opportunity to appeal the decision of the UN's Commission on Human Rights' that Julian Assange was being detained illegally because, as Assange noted, "they knew they would lose". Yet Britain's Foreign Secretary declared that "the decision changes nothing", in a perfect illustration of the way the US and its allies have come to view the UN.
Who would have thought, in 1944, as the US, Great Britain and Stalin's Soviet Union finalized plans for the international institution that was to do better than Wilson's League of Nations at making the world a peaceful place, that the UN would so quickly lose the backing of Washington, while the successor to Khruschev's shoe-tapping Soviet Union would campaign to return it to its founding principles? (Principles that would, among others, require heads of state and foreign affairs to respect UN decisions.)
When the US realized it could no longer control either the Security Council or the General Assembly, whose members have gone from a founding 51 to almost 200, it turned to disparage-ment, while keeping a firm hand on the choice of the Secretary General. This year promises to be different. Nobody is talking about it yet, the year is newborn and the presidential caucuses are what matter, but we're due to get a new UN Secretary General before it's over and President Putin has several times alluded to the need for the UN to be able to can carry out its peace-preserving mission.
We can be pretty certain that the next Secretary General will come from the ranks of the 140-some Non-Aligned countries, perhaps even from one of the BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa. Brazil's President Dilma Roussef is among the declared candidates. European candidates include German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the much younger Federica Mogherini, the EU's Italian Foreign Affairs representative, either of which would probably win President Putin's backing.
Several Eastern European candidates might be acceptable to Moscow, including Vuk Jeremić, former Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and former President of the United Nations General Assembly, or Ja'nos Áder, President of Hungary, whose Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, has loudly sided with Putin.
The unexpected convergence of social views between the European far-right, represented most vociferously by Orban and France's Marine Le Pen, and Russian President Vladimir Putin points to the civilizational divide that overlays the left/right divide, and is likely to play a prominent role in the selection of the next UN Secretary General.
The twentieth century was consumed in a knock-down drag -out battle between fascism and one form or another of socialism. But in the seventies, a prominent American political scientist, Samuel Huntington penned an essay that became a meme. "A Clash of Civilizations? is suggestive of what we're seeing today. At the time, I was among its detractors, but now I must admit that Huntington mainly got his time-frame wrong. Also, he viewed the world from a 'colonial' point of view, making the coming clash all about the difference between whites and non-whites, which he referred to as the Confucian/Muslim civilizations. Actually, the Islamic world took the stage even before the fall of Communism (for example, against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan), to oppose the societal model that has grown out of capitalism, in which 1) 'anything goes' and 2) everything can be monetized.
People do not only aspire to greater equity, they believe it should be accompanied by a lesser emphasis on 'things' and stronger families. The Western press has made occasional snide references to Vladimir Putin's derogatory assessment of Western culture and his call for Russia to protect its Christian identity and traditional values. Yet when a thousand men believed to be of North African origin sexually molested dozens of women on New Year's Eve in Cologne, Germany, it began to pay attention. One witness heard that the men had entered the EU as part of the summer's migrant wave with the deliberate plan to challenge Western culture. This is even more troubling than reports of arson against refugee accommodations, for although Huntington alludes to it only indirectly, his focus being almost exclusively on the danger of nuclear war and economic issues, gender is largely what the clash of civilizations is about. Most recently, the mayor of a small German town advised local women to dress less provocatively, raising indignation. This was inevitable: religious fervor ensures that as their numbers rise, immigrants are unlikely to conform to local mores, and history shows that 'intruders' invariably transform their hosts instead of conforming to their culture.
Since the publication of Huntington's essay twenty years ago, declining traditional values in the West have led, as Vladimir Putin declared in 2015 "to the degradation and primitivization of culture." And while mindful of sweeping generalizations, I am con-vinced that the current standoff between neo-liberal 'freedom' and 'tradition' is as fundamental and meaningful as the economic antagonism between the many and the few.
In ninety-four episodes over six years, the television series Sex and the City took its revenge on the Puritan dogma that held sway over American culture for over three hundred years, giving rise to Prohibition and Freud: sex is now 'good for you' and the more the better. As with most cultural memes, this one impacts even distant populations, recently spawning a version in Ghana, even though genital mutilation is still practiced in many parts of Africa the Middle East. While women worldwide are demanding sexual equality, Muslim men in particular resent not only having to submit to the Prophet's injunctions, but to those of the women in their lives.
While at its best the West's definition of sexual equality implies that respect and complicity are inseparable from pleasure, the culture of more, which led to the notion that everything in life can be denominated in coin, which in turn led to the no holds barred commercialization and trivialization of sex - is a far cry from that.
The same people who defend the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists' right to mock Muhammad defend the Russian group that performed 'sacrilegiously' in a church. The real problem is that the West's primacy of external freedom (freedom to act) culminated in the denigration of internal freedom, which includes moral certainties and religion. And that is where, on a world level, the rubber hits the road.
If First Amendment defenders of 'free speech' think back to the Founders, they will realize that the universe those (men) inhabited, far from being similar to ours, would be more easily recognized in Vladimir Putin's Russia and most of the rest of the world.
And for those who may wonder about traditional morality's incompatibility with the socialist ethos, the Russian President recently pointed out that the Bible anticipated socialism - as does Islam.