Europe and much of the rich world today is faced with a moral dilemma surrounding a tidal wave of desperate migrants massing at their borders fleeing war and poverty in their respective homelands. It’s a no-brainer. Migrants are seeking a “better life” in the First World and a slice of that legendary welfare state pie that keeps even the lowliest and most unproductive of the First World’s citizens living in relative comfort and security. Indeed, even Third World Philippines was subject to the same emotional blackmail when faced with a boatload of Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Burma.
Does the First World owe these migrants and refugees anything?
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That depends on the perspective you take. Europe itself was once a source of virulent undesirable immigrants and refugees. When an entire continent of warlike, often barbaric kingsmen perfected long-haul sea navigation, they spread all over the world bringing not just explorers, adventurers, and merchants but a vast rabble of fortune-seekers, criminals, and indentured labourers to colonise the world.
Contrary to what European historic literature asserts, the world at the time was not necessarily theirs to “civilise”. Indeed, rich magnificent empires and kingdoms were already flourishing in the farthest corners of the world in China, the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, central and south America, the South Pacific and the Australian continent and surrounding islands.
The downfall of all these non-European civilisations at the dawn of European imperial conquest could serve as a lesson to 21st Century Europe and North America today.
Kingdoms in East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and South America were all not lacking in military organisation and power to repel the initial wave of European invaders. Indeed, the ships that Ming Dynasty China at the time were building utterly dwarfed in size, speed, and firepower any of the ships of the most powerful European navies at the time. But it was not military power that won the world for Europe in the 16th through 17th Centuries. It was the complacency and insularity of these established kingdoms that eventually did them in.
The non-European world succumbed to European domination under the weight their own accumulated delusion that theirs was the superior world view.
Despite the Aztec and Inca armies outnumbering the small band of Spanish conquistadores tens of thousands to one, they did not see these hulking fair-skinned bearded smelly men as a significant threat on first encounter and went as far as inviting them into the inner sanctums of their palaces to meet with their emperors. By the time the hapless American natives realised what happened, it was too late.
China and India, for their part, addicted themselves to European trinkets and manufactured goods. They also got addicted to opium. Indeed, drug trafficking was one of the most profitable British trades in the Far East, and the Taipans who lorded it over the trade enjoyed powerful lobbies in the British imperial government which obliged by passing legislation to further entrench these traders in their Far Eastern markets.
Today we see the same pattern happening all over the world. Immigrants who have gained a solid footing in the societies of their affluent hosts have become gateways for virulent ideas — and products — to entrench themselves. The newly “tolerant” societies of Western Europe and North America have changed their stance on immigrants from one of enforcing assimilation to one of advocating “multi-culturalism”. Much of the drug trade in the First World are facilitated by foreign or ethnically-defined “mafias” and even locals who engage in the trade deal mainly with a supply pipeline brokered by these mafias. More disturbing are the acts of terrorism perpetrated by First World migrant “citizens” who derive moral ascendancy for their heinous acts from thought leaders pontificating about their brand of righteousness in some desert kingdom halfway around the world.
It is therefore hardly surprising that far-right politics are back in vogue. In the United States, the popular billionaire Donald Trump has defined his bid for President around a simple but resonant catchphrase:
“Taking our country back”
Back from who or what exactly? It does not take a rocket scientist to fill in the blanks.
Unfortunately for the trendy hipster “progressives” who spend their days sipping their lattes in the cafes of their expensive coastal cities, the United States’ heartland of disgruntled unemployed voters remain an electoral force to reckon with. And, as such, many political observers are now on their recliners, one arm around a popcorn bucket and fingers on their iPads, poised to “live-tweet” the looming circus that is about to engulf the planet’s mightiest nation.
Is history repeating itself on a massive scale? It looks like it. The same old familiar motivations underlie China’s current expansionist leanings — energy and raw materials. It is gearing up to secure access to both along all possible fronts — political, economic, and military. And unlike Western democracies hobbled by modern “humanist” ideologies, China is unencumbered by the naive scruples and Western-styled ethics that keep the First World and their satellite crony states tightly-leashed to “international law”.
The only way for entire societies and ways of life to prevail is to re-visit that ancient innovation that underpinned Western civilisation’s rise to world domination: smarts. Unlike the hapless sods that fell underneath European conquest in the 16th to 18th Centuries, Europe and its derivative civilisations today enjoy (and will continue to enjoy over the foreseeable future) a commanding position as the primary source of the bulk of humanity’s advancement along the fields of science and technology. It should start using this knowledge wisely — the old-fashioned way.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.