Pr. Marc Lavergne, Senior Fellow Researcher (Emeritus) on MENA & Horn of Africa at the French National Center for Scientific Research (French).
A few days ago, Amin Maalouf, a celebrated novelist and thinker, member of the French Academy, who among many other works, is the author of ” The Crusades as seen by the Arabs”, was arguing an interesting point : that there is no “clash of civilisations”, contrary to the motto of Samuel Huntington, now endorsed by several first rank leaders, from the United States to China. On the contrary, civilisations have never been closer, exchanging widely within the Global Village, and even giving birth to a more and more unified civilisation, through the trend toward economic and cultural mix.
Instead, he could see clashes, rifts and feuds multiplying within the realm of each civilisation : competition, defiance and even hatred on the increase, leading to the weakening of the sense of belonging and of common interest, to the crumbling of nations, which may at the worse, end up in chaos and collapse : Brexit and Scottish or Catalogna secession threats in Europe, popular upheavals throughout the Arab and Islamic world, sabre rattles in the Far East around the rising Chinese ambitions, to name a few. . The western civilisation itself is shaken in its core values : the belief in the need to promote dialogue, openness and respect of its diversity, and even to unify, after two world wars that costed Europe mass destruction, millions of victims, and the loss of world leadership are challenged from within as from outside..
It may look as if the world has lost his sense : the COP 25 meeting in Madrid ended as announced in a failure to agree on decisions to control the climate change, while forest fires are extending from California to Amazonia and now Australia…Causes of these local disasters do not stem from their local victims, but from global behaviors. And I can’t help recalling Sheikh Zayed bin Nahyan, shutting off unnecessary light and aircon in the Palace, when I board a taxi or enter a public building here in the UAE : I feel at risk of getting frozen or catching cold instantly, even when the winter weather is so mild and enjoyable outside. Sheikh Zayed belonged to a generation of scarce resources, but also of closeness to natural conditions and respect for the balance between human needs and the gifts granted by God the Almighty. This should help us to behave not only according to economic or ecological concerns, but also to our human true collective needs.