The Dying Spasms of the Idea of Cultural or Religious Domination

While we observe the trend towards mutuality, a widening of perspective that overpasses the narrow sectarian or cultural sense of superiority, to achieve a larger harmony of all humanity, we still may observe the forces that try to maintain the ideas of the past and prevent these changes from occurring.  There are still those who want to see their religion, their economic system, their value system prevail against all others and who are willing to undertake the use of force, manipulation, economic and political control or subversion in order to achieve their aims.  After any strong forward movement there seems to be a retrogressive movement that allows the dying power to try one last time to maintain its status and not give up its habitual control.  At such moments we see the rise of authoritarian tendencies, a strong upsurging of nationalism, religious fundamentalism and a tendency to try to belittle, demean or scapegoat those who follow a different path in their lives and in their society.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The old idea is not entirely dead and will not die without a last struggle.  There are still those who dream of a Christianised India, the English tongue permanently dominating if not replacing the indigenous languages, or the acceptance of European social forms and manners as the necessary precondition for an equal status between a European and Asiatic.  But they are those who belong in spirit to a past generation and cannot value the signs of the hour which point to a new era.”

“The social forms of the past are changing where they are unsuited to the new political and economic conditions and ideals or incompatible with the increasing urge towards freedom and equality; but there is no sign that anything but a new Asiatic society broadened and liberalised will emerge from this travail.  The signs everywhere are the same; the forces everywhere work in the same sense.  Neither France nor England has the power — and they are fast or slowly losing the desire — to destroy and replace the Islamic culture in Africa or the Indian in India.  All they can do is to give what they have of value to be assimilated according to the needs and the inner spirit of the older nations.”

This process is not a smooth or instantaneous one, but the trend of history can be seen with the rising self-awareness of the Chinese, Indian, and Islamic cultures in the modern world, embracing the industry, the technology and the aspirations of modern humanity, while ensuring that the European–American model cannot permanently dominate and control the future development of their societies or the world at large.  We speak of the 20th century as the “American century” witnessing the rise of a sole “superpower” after the defeat of Germany and Japan in the 2nd World War, but we see in the 21st century, the economic resurgence throughout the world, and with that a new assertiveness to defend against American or European hegemony.  New powers, new alliances, along with the proliferation of independent nations and the role of the United Nations all ensure that every society will have its say in the future evolution of human civilisation on the planet.

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 6, Ancient and Modern Methods of Empire, pp. 51-52