Trump’s Warsaw Speech and the Real “Clash of Civilizations”
As everyone doubtless knows, President Trump gave the pot a hefty stirring in Warsaw, Poland prior to attending the G20 summit. His message was well-received by immediate listeners but aroused a Sturm und Drang and a half from the usual Western media suspects who couldn’t be more predictable if they tried.
First of all, the speech appealed directly to Polish national identity, and by implication, national identity generally, as well as faith as opposed to secularism:
Through four decades of communist rule, Poland and other captive nations of Europe endured a brutal campaign to demolish freedom, your faith, your laws, your history, your identity — indeed, the very essence of your culture and your humanity. Yet, through it all, you never lost that spirit. Your oppressors tried to break you, but Poland could not be broken….
A million Polish people did not ask for wealth. They did not ask for privilege. Instead, one million Poles sang three simple words: We Want God.
In those words, the Polish people recalled the promise of a better future. They found new courage to face down their oppressors, and they found the words to declare that Poland would be Poland again….
… And with that powerful declaration of who you are, you came to understand what to do and how to live. You stood in solidarity against oppression, against a lawless secret police, against a cruel and wicked system that impoverished your cities and your souls. And you won. Poland prevailed. Poland will always prevail.
When listening to those words, what we heard: what was true for Poland as the Soviet Empire collapsed holds out hope for Western peoples today. For the West is menaced by forces that would obliterate its culture and autonomy and what’s left of its faith if they could. Here were the words, near the end of Trump’s speech, that stood everyone’s hair on end, whether through inspiration or … something else.
We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will. Because as the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have. The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it? We can have the largest economies and the most lethal weapons anywhere on Earth, but if we do not have strong families and strong values, then we will be weak and we will not survive…. I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken! Our values will prevail! Our people will thrive! And our civilization will triumph!
The attacks came at once, as if on cue. Consider Eugene Robinson’s op-ed in the ever-reliably Trump-hating Washington Post. Robinson asked snarkily, “Triumph over whom?”
Let’s treat this as a fair question. Over ISIS? North Korea? Russia? Those being the villains of the moment, they are easy to single out. Trump did not name the real enemy in this speech: globalism (he did say, in his acceptance speech, “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo!”). Despite struggling with allegations (still with the flimsiest of evidential support) that Russia interfered with the 2016 election and that his campaign staff now including his son Don Jr. colluded with them, Trump is still seen as a major threat to globalist interests.
As I use the term, globalism is not the same thing as globalization. In many respects, globalization goes back millennia. It emerged with explorers of ancient times wanting to know what was over the horizon, and who lived there. In modern times it involves advances in technology, especially communications, that facilitate cross-border trade. None of these need erase national borders or a people’s cultural identity; through consciousness of differences, it might even enhance them. Globalism is a more specific ideology holding that economies should integrate, that borders should be dissolved, culture is irrelevant, and that peoples can be moved around like chess pieces “reinventing themselves,” merged into a monoculture of mass consumption and disposability. The process needs transnational regulation and so must culminate in a world state, de facto or de jure, with a single global currency — digital rather than physical, so that all transactions can be recorded and monitored (even those involving cryptos!)
The global system would be ruled by an elite superclass (in my book Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic I call this entity the superelite to distinguish it from more visible national elites) overseeing a hierarchy of administrators and technocrats. This superclass already controls most of the world’s wealth. The “developed” world is easily four fifths of the way to this kind of system, referred to as the “liberal order” or the “international order” or with some similar euphemism. The Brexiteers, Donald Trumps, Geert Wilders, and Marine Le Pens of the world are dragging their feet. The first two of these succeeded — at least for the moment. The latter lost major elections, placing their causes on hold.
Does globalism actually exist as I describe it, or is it a “conspiracy theory”? Let’s consult two architects of globalist thought. Zbigniew Brzezinski stated in his 1970 book Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era (p. 56-62 of 1970 ed.):
The nation-state as a fundamental unit of man’s organized life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state….
A global human conscience is for the first time beginning to manifest itself…. Today we are … witnessing the emergence of transnational elites … composed of international businessmen, scholars, professional men, and public officials. The ties of these new elites cut across national boundaries, their perspectives are not confined by national traditions, and their interests are more functional than national. These global communities are gaining in strength and … it is likely that before long the social elites of most of the more advanced countries will be highly internationalist or globalist in spirit and outlook…
The new global consciousness, however, is only beginning to become an influential force. It still lacks identity, cohesion, and focus. Much of humanity — indeed, the majority of humanity — still neither shares nor is prepared to support it. Science and technology are still used to buttress ideological claims, to fortify national aspirations, and to reward narrowly national interests…. The new global unity has yet to find its own structure, consensus, and harmony.
David Rockefeller Sr. read the above, contacted the author, and with Henry Kissinger they organized the Trilateral Commission to address the problem identified in the final paragraph. Rockefeller was quoted two decades later telling a Bilderberg assembly (June 1991):
“We are grateful to The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is now much more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries.”
This is probably the most famous David Rockefeller quote. There’s no hard proof he actually said it, though. He might have said it. We don’t know. What it says is not foreign to his thinking. He did assert the following, in his Memoirs (2002, pp. 404-05), in the context of a riposte against “populists,” and this time there is no doubt:
For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents … to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as “internationalists” and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure — one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.
The recently-deceased Mr. Rockefeller, whose elders turned to banking seeing in it a source of lucre far greater than what had been available in oil, who resided at the helm of Chase Bank, and chaired the Council on Foreign Relations for many years, had the wealth and contacts necessary to pursue a purposeful agenda beyond the needs of mere international trade. It is said he had a rolodex containing over 10,000 names.
We can thus rest our case that globalism is a real phenomenon. Is it a conspiracy? Conspiracies, by definition, are hidden from you. As two of the above statements indicate, its leaders have hardly been hiding. Perhaps the reading public can be faulted for preferring glitzy bestsellers to books about reality.
The question before us: what is the alternative to it? One can almost hear the chorus: There Is No Alternative. Writers such as Robinson above are very good at invoking “economic theory” against “populism.” He had previously said: “The speech Trump delivered … had nothing useful to say about today’s interconnected world in which goods, people and ideas have contempt for borders.” He elaborated: “Industrial supply chains cross borders and span oceans. Words and images flash around the globe at the speed of light. Global issues, such as nuclear proliferation and climate change, demand global solutions. Like it or not, we are all in this together.”
In this case, who laid down those supply chains, and why must they invite “contempt for borders”? Are these aspects of a natural, deterministic dynamic that a technologically advancing, creative/destruction-driven civilization is bound to follow? It is easy to argue that there is such a dynamic, in which case globalists are being carried along with the rest of us and are identifiable only because they are smarter than we mere mortals and therefore more conscious of the process than we are — not to mention better situated to profit from it.
But globalism as an ideology long predates today’s advanced technology. It has been around for close to 250 years — at least since the five scions of Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744 – 1812) were directed to found banks in four of the biggest cities in Europe (the fifth remaining in Frankfurt-am-Main), all remaining in communication with Dad and with each other. The coldly talented Nathan established himself as a dominant player in the City of London and succeeded his father as family patriarch as he built up N.M. Rothschild & Sons; his eldest son Lionel would succeed him. What ensued was not merely amassing wealth but accruing power, the power of private banking, international moneylending, and investment. “Give me control of a nation’s currency,” Mayer Amschel is alleged to have said, “and I care not who makes the laws.” Kings and other political figures who in one way or another crossed a Rothschild found themselves in one of many (fomented) regional wars of nineteenth century Europe.
There is a longstanding debate over what drives history: material forces (economic ones, blood ties, etc.) or ideas and worldviews (e.g., Christianity — or Judaism — or materialism). I hold out for the latter, because most material forces of modern times would not exist without men of power putting them in place guided by an idea or worldview (and materialism is a worldview, not a fact established by any science).
Globalism piggybacked on the relative success of the mixed economy that grew out of the New Deal, post-war Keynesianism, and the understandable desire to avoid another world war. The idea of a mixed economy (private and public, profit-driven enterprises encircled by and sometimes assisted by politically-created regulations, are what is “mixed,” after all) returns us to political economy, which is what Adam Smith and other classical writers considered their subject to be. There was no such thing, in other words, as nontrivial “economic law,” comparable to physics, abstracted from political and related considerations particular to time and place.
But the mixed economy has been a mixed blessing. It created prosperity and the largest middle class the world had ever seen, but had numerous costs. One was that individuals, including those in that middle class, became increasingly dependent on its systems. This is a separate article; for now we will just observe that these systems, which over a period lasting more than a century intertwined the political economy of the changing workplace with advancing technology, mass media culture, and family dynamics, diminished real individual freedoms as people were encircled by its effects and its products — their lives made less and less convenient if they did not cooperate and consume. Brzezinski foresaw the culmination of these changes:
Another threat … confronts liberal democracy. More directly linked to the impact of technology, it involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled and directed society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite whose claim to political power would rest on allegedly superior scientific know-how. Unhindered by the restraints of traditional liberal values, this elite would not hesitate to achieve its political ends by using the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under surveillance and control (pp. 252-53).
There can be no doubt this has happened. Globalist machinations have empowered a superelite — whose members move capital across borders and cut deals that affect the lives of millions of people as easily as we cross the room. Their nemeses include the distrustful national footdraggers who loused up the Doha Round and “populists” like Trump who roused the rabble against, e.g., NAFTA and the (now dead) TPP, and who question the wisdom of open borders policies which, arguably, have caused chaos all across Europe — outside the protected enclaves of EU banking titans and globalists such as Angela Merkel.
Globalist political economy has left people behind, because in the globalist worldview, people are as disposable as cheaply made Chinese products. Those left behind now have voices of various stripes across the ideological spectrum — people like Trump and Le Pen on the right, Bernie Sanders on the left, and writers such as Pankaj Mishra who aren’t easily classifiable but whose Age of Anger: A History of the Present is, in my humble opinion, a must read. Mishra’s key observation (my way of putting it): globalization created expectations around the world that have been thwarted by globalistreality: impoverishment of former middle classes; chronic instability; incompatible cultures thrown into involuntary contact, some of them refugees of wars of choice; and a loss of autonomy for all involved, amidst a massive and growing consolidation of wealth at the top.
The real ‘clash of civilizations’ is thus between incompatible visions of the future of civilization: between that of globalists and those I will call localists. What I have in mind here incorporates nationalists and those who want still smaller forms of governance, because for them the nation-state is too large.
Globalists want to dominate the world by dominating its financial systems and, through those, its political economy — visible politicians being vetted and controlled, and a “mainstream” media owned by their corporations. They want a mass consumption monoculture, cultural differences being cosmetic rather than substantive. Education must be tailored to this, and not toward graduating students with thinking skills apart from the mass.
Localists want autonomy: freedom from encircling forces they had no say in and no control over, whether created by “free trade” deals or open borders policies they did not sign off on. They want control over their lives, families, communities, economies, and nations.
Globalists sing the praises of “democratic capitalism,” but there is no reason to believe their vision has anything to do with either democracy, conceived as a political system answering to its people, or free markets. For under the mixed economy it became a given that markets needed regulating if only to improve the health and safety of an often-uninformed public (unless you really believe, e.g., that cigarette manufacturers would put warning labels on their products voluntarily, this being just one example). It was then just one step to global markets needing regulators with global reach, and other global problems (e.g., alleged man-made climate change) requiring coordinated global solutions. “Free trade” has evolved considerably since Ricardo schooled us about comparative advantage. It is now freedom for billionaires to do as they please, often at the expense of the livelihoods of millions!
The globalists world state would answer primarily to their corporations because the latter have the money, having profited from those global supply lines and from having moved operations to where labor is cheapest — before, that is, labor is replaced altogether by technology and thrown to the wolves.
The political economy of a world state, which I’ve elsewhere called technofeudalism, would be Hell on Earth unless you’re in the superelite, or near the top of its second tier of administrators and technocrats. It would be highly centralized, with systems of control over lives via controls over money, work, and technology. Surveillance would be total. Innovation would be possible, but within given parameters. The cooperative might experience, at best, a Brave New World, as doubtless the soma of mass entertainment (sports, celebrities, those glitzy bestsellers) would continue. For the recalcitrant, it could be more like 1984.
What, then, of localism? By its nature it is diverse, as there are many possible variants on demands for autonomy and self-determination. Its diversity is manifestly not its strength! One looks around and has to wonder whether this ‘clash of civilizations’ will be a real contest or a complete rout! For as much as mainstream writers fuss about “populism” as if that term referred to a single, isolable ideology, the plain truth is, globalism’s opponents are all over the map!
There is the alt-right, if you want ‘em. There is also the alt-left of Sanders supporters, who instinctively reject the elitism of the Clintons. Those two hate each other’s guts, despite their shared opposition to the mass consumption monoculture globalists want.
There are the various libertarianisms, anarchisms, etc. Some of these folks, perhaps realizing their ideology cannot possibly work in a population of over 320 million people, are withdrawing and trying to form ministates or autonomous colonies in countries like Chile. They are trying to develop small systems based entirely on free market thought (of Ayn Rand, the Austrian school, anarcho-capitalism, etc.). One of these flamed out spectacularly a few years ago, although another is being developed step by step as its leaders try to avoid the errors of the first. The problem is that any such effort is hampered by the laws of the nation they’ve chosen, and while Chile is much less hostile to such ventures than the U.S. would be, it is no less wired into the globalist system in a manner appropriate to a “developing” nation.
There are also groups such as Local Futures whose point of departure is realizing there are indigenous peoples in far corners of the world who were doing quite well without the “democratic capitalism” of the West, thank you very much, who found it more disrupting and disheartening than beneficial, and whose lives and communities might serve as models to emulate by those seeking to live off “the grid” in favor of a new agrarianism. This is no longer legally possible in the U.S., as a woman in Florida learned the hard way in 2014.
The problem is again, many of these groups want nothing to do with one another. Readers of this essay may be antiglobalists but want nothing to do with most of them. Some are not even aware of others. This lack of any semblance of unity does not bode well for any strategy of opposition.
Opposing globalism openly is risky in any event. An academic who defended economic nationalism would likely be forced from his job in the present environment. Independent commentators may have the Internet but can forget about being published in well-paying markets. Candidates for public office who speak openly of globalism being an enemy of freedom in America can forget about being able to raise the money and gain the visibility necessary to run credible campaigns. Funding sources tend to be wired into globalist interests. They would not be where they are otherwise. As for visible figures who don’t need the money, e.g., Trump, if his enemies should succeed in taking him down, whether via substanceless Russia allegations or by some other ploy, we might see how risky! We might see whether Trump’s election was more than a speed bump on the road towards a global state. Things are getting late, after all! Were this a baseball game, we’d be starting the ninth inning!
Trump’s campaign was self-funded, and this was one source of his appeal. His present travails are proof of how hard it is to oppose globalism even in one of the world’s most powerful offices. The “swamp” is proving deeper, wider, and more venomous than I think he imagined in his worst nightmares! And the failures of the Wilders and Le Pen campaigns in Europe suggest that “populism” may have run its course, at least in Europe — surprisingly, given what we alluded to earlier: European nations being overrun by unassimilable Muslim immigrants. If Trump finds it difficult to document any crime wave associated with Mexicans in the U.S. illegally, the situation in Europe should leave very little room for doubt. It is not hyperbole to say that in the hands of open borders politicians like Merkel, Europe is committing suicide! Trump’s asking whether the West has the will to survive is telling! Small wonder Merkel and other G20 attendees had little use for him!
Do we have the will to survive? What will we do about it?
We can survive if we can learn to have what is best in globalization without embracing globalism — if, that is, we can communicate and educate and deal with one another across borders and transcending cultures while still respecting them. This may be a tall order at this point, even though it should be self-evident that a society either unable or unwilling to recognize the difference between friends and unassimilable enemies will not survive. I hardly need note further the vast resources arrayed on the other side, or that other side’s capacity — and willingness — to invoke every weapon in its arsenal, from mere propaganda to economic warfare (investors withdrawing wherever “populism” takes root so that jobs vanish and uninformed local media blame the “populists”), to political assassinations and “regime change” when deemed necessary.
We can survive if we rediscover our roots: contact with the land that sustains us, support for extended families as a key to stable communities, and above all, loyalty to principles laid down long ago by our Creator (“We Want God”). These constants offer stability and perspective as we move into an uncertain future which will likely be a rough ride in any event, and without which we will soon be at the mercy of that tiny minority, the superelite, whose only concerns in life are money and power.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven Yates is a writer with a Ph.D. in philosophy. He is the author of the books Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (1994), Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic (2011), approximately two dozen articles and reviews in academic journals and anthologies, and over a hundred articles of online commentary, especially on NewsWithViews.com. Dr. Yates taught philosophy at several colleges and universities in the Southeast. In 2012 he moved from South Carolina to Santiago, Chile, where he has taught periodically at two universities there, as well as having involved himself in teaching English and operating a small editing business, Final Draft Editing Service. He is married to a Chilean, and at present writes almost full time.
He blogs about philosophy and the foibles of academia at Lost Generation Philosopher.
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