I think there is a thing called Persistence of the Past.
One such instance of it is the old Diocletian Line which divided the Roman Empire into 2 parts; the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire (a.k.a. Byzantium) in the 4-th century.
The modern world was created by 3 states west of that line – UK, France, Italy and Western parts of what became Germany (and their off-shoot in US centuries later).
No other state or area of the world has ever reached the levels of the civic virtues, political organization, productivity and innovation and inventiveness of those historical and ancient areas – Italia, Gaul, Britannia, and Germania.
One major reason was that the Platonic Academy and its offshoots and incarnation continued on in the areas West of Diocletian Line. The Platonic Academy has been the embodiment of the Rational Approach to the world which the Ancient Greek Thinker like Plato & Aristotle initiated. It has stood for Reason (as opposed to Religious Faith).
In the Eastern Roman Empire, in the 4 century, the Life and Light of Reason was extinguished in Alexandria by the viscous attacks of the Christian mobs against non-religious Greeks there. 200 years later, the Roman Emperor Justinian banned the Academy. There were many academicians who fled to the areas controlled by the Persian Empire and that tradition there supplied the initial impetus to the Muslim Civilization to try to reconcile Faith and Reason.
4 hundred years later, Muslim Thinkers were largely killed, crucified, burnt etc. and thus, excepting among the Shia Muslims, the Light of Reason was extinguished in the World of Islam. At the same time, in Western Europe, the so-called Medieval Flowering was in full swing – the Christian Thinkers from the 9-th century onward were in the process of reconciling Reason and Faith – to varying degrees of success.
The monks and priests on Britannia (UK), Gaul (France), Italia (Italy), and Germania were vigorously developing new theories of the Universe based on the old Greek Rationalist Tradition. In Muslim lands, especially among the Arabs, Reason died and Faith predominated. It was for this reason that Spain, which was occupied by Muslim Arabs, never caught up with the rest of Western Europe even though she was another inheritor, like Italy, of the Legacy of Rome and the Classical Civilization.
That is, Arabs left no legacy of intellectual development in Spain after the early centuries of Islamic conquest there. Spain lagged and even when she was restored to the bosom of Christianity and re-joined Western Europe, she could not catch up. She had never participated in the Life of the Mind between 9-th and 14-th centuries which were formative in the creation of what later became the Western Civilization. And when she discovered and conquered America, her colonies, and former colonies to this day, suffer from that comparative backwardness!
Russia – under successive waves of Revolution-from-Above starting from Ivan the Terrible to Boris Yelstin – is the only state East of the Diocletian Line to have become a pale reflection of what France is – for example.
Why is not a “Left Bank Intellectual Set” in Bucharest – just like what existed for several decades in Paris; after all there is a river running through both cities?
[The distance between France – the central state of the Western Civilization and Romania enormous.]
[Do not tell me about Communism in Romania – it was not a cause, it was a symptom.]
I think there is also an analogue that Diocletian Line in the lands of Islam – the old boundary of Seljuk Empire. Please see: http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~fisher/hst373/Maps/Seljuk.html
This is what I call the “Makkinejd Thesis” – after the Pirenne Thesis of yore – please see ttp://faculty.webster.edu/corbetre/personal/reading/pirenne-mohammed.html .
[I am trying to become famous…]
Seljuk where barbaric Turkic people who invaded the lands of Islam. And just like the barbaric Germans who invaded the lands of the Roman Empire and set up their own barbaric kingdoms and thus created a new civilization, the Seljuk’s also caused a new civilization to be created. Iran – the one and only central state of Muslim civilization – Turkey, parts of Afghanistan and Central Asia, Eastern Iraq and parts of Western Syria as well as the Azerbaijan Republic are all within the former Seljuk lands and share the same basic elements of Culture and Civilization. It is my theses that the Seljuk period witnessed the creation of a new culture and civilization distinct from traditional Islamic civilization – Arabs, Pakistanis, and Indonesians etc.
Why is it important?
For one thing, I think a revival of a rational approach to Islam – an effort to reconcile Faith & Reason – is only possible within the lands of former Seljuk Empire. Largely because these lands encompassed Shia Muslims among a tiny minority of which Life of the Mind (Philosophy for example) have survived over the course of the centuries. There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and the only place that Philosophy of Empirical Sciences is taught is at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran - the alma mater of Professor Dr. Mirzakhani of Stanford University who is the only female Fields Prize medalist.
The other reason is that it seems that almost all the jihadists and terrorists come from outside of the Seljuk Lands! That is why – just as Bucharest will never become another Paris – Lahore and Cairo would never become another Istanbul or Tehran.
In my view, the entire economic & cultural development theory and practice has been snake oil.
Regardless of what the recipe for development has been, no country in the world has been able to replicate the experience of Italia, Gaul, Britannia, and Germania.
Not even Japan.
It is time we accept the empirical evidence and conclude that the best that most states could ever hope to be is some middle-income country which is dependent on new ideas, techniques, etc. on Italia, Gaul, Britannia, and Germania and now America.
The best of the best would be analogues of Korea and Japan – high-income but never with the intellectual, political, technological vitality of Italia, Gaul, Britannia, and Germania and US.
Africa in this manner will be condemned to live for centuries in a lower-income status.
Arabs and Muslims outside of the old Seljuk Lands will meander hither and thither and their societies always being what they are today; their only hope being that the two Muslim states of Turkey and Iran can assimilate and native-ize enough of the Western Civilization to give provide these non-Seljuk areas of the World of Islam a shot-in-the-arm, as it where, so that they can cope with the world as they find it today.
This is how I see the world and why Muslims states (or African states etc.) are the way they are – that they remain weak, divided etc. For most of the world, life in something approaching US or EU or Canada in unachievable in less than a few centuries of concerted effort.
Depressing, I suppose.
In Iraq, in fact, you can see what I meant about the Persistence of the Past.
France and UK created new states from old Ottoman Provinces; Turks had given up trying to pacify the Arabs and had to deal with Allied Invasion etc.
They gave up their claims and UK and France moved in to establish new states.
Which they did and they operated the new states sometimes overtly sometimes covertly and kept the social peace.
[Did you know that in 1950s the only neighbor of Iran more backward than Iran was Afghanistan?
Iraq was in pretty decent shape.]
In Iraq, the backbone of the state was the old Ottoman Army that the English incorporated into the new state.
And when the English left, Iraqis revolted, murdered the King and his family, the Prime Minister, and showed their bodies on the Iraqi TV – dragging the body of Nuri al Saeed in the streets of Baghdad.
And all of that with massive support from the people who welcomed this supposed revolution – in reality another military coup.
And analogously with Syria – coup after coup, murder after murder – until Assad le Pere brought stability to that country.
Likewise for Pakistan, for Indonesia, for Bangladesh, for Algeria, for Egypt.
Muslims did not want or could not understand or did not know how to build upon the governing structures that Europeans bequeathed to them.
And they were not alone – Africa was another example.
[Look at us in Iran; 110 years of constitutionalism, search for Rule of Law, Freedom and Democracy and we have this restricted representative system.
Because we did not know, collectively, how to develop a national consensus, to maintain it, to build institutions of representative government and to support and run them.
But at least in Iran and in Turkey we tried on our won to develop more Western European-like governing structures – no one else was there telling us how to do it.]
I expect the Central Asian states, in time, to decay and follow the same fate like Arabs as the Soviet-built structures decay.
All of this was a flash of insight - induced by the slow accumulation of tidbits of historical and contemporary facts over time.
One such tidbit was this:
A European friend of mine who had travelled overland from Istanbul to New Delhi mentioned to me that during that Journey he really liked only Esfahan in Iran and Amritsar in India. It was only recently that I came to see his observation not as an accident of history but rather as another manifestation of Seljuk Transcendence - the Makkinejad Thesis.
For Amritsar is a city built by Sikhs, whose scriptures is written in the form of mystical Persian poetry that embody many of the understandings of the Seljuk culture. For example, this idea of transmigration of souls in Sikh religion - now considered un-Islamic - was an accepted doctrine among post Seljuk thinkers - like Rumi:
I died as mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was man. Why should I fear?
When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as man,
To soar with angels blest;
But even from angelhood I must pass on ...
A Chinese friend wrote this to me on my ideas:
"I definitely agree no nation in East Asia has come close to the enlightened state achieved in the western European history. The reason however is too complicated. A few days ago I was musing about the same point, that it will be a long way before any country in Asia could catch up with the West, when I thought about what I was seeing in the news: Someone in Italy developed a technique to hypnotize sharks in the water, and another one in the US succeeded in walking tight rope strung between 3 sky scrapers.
In the meantime every one in China is studying to become a doctor or a lawyer. There is NO WAY China can catch up with the West by doing this! Stupid of them! I don't know if China has always been like this. Maybe it has. No one will ever know.
The most enlightened time of China happened during the Sung Dynasty, a period of great interest to Sinologists all over the world these days. No one knows where it would have gone because of course it was crushed by the Mongols just like everybody else. Still I don't think it was on a trajectory of the kind taken by Western enlightenment anyway. Maybe something interesting, but different."