War, in the sense of armies strutting about capturing surrounding territories, is probably pretty much obsolete - save one or two rogue nationalists. Power remains a function of territory only in such areas like urban planning, ranching and football. Otherwise, it is a function of exchange - in markets - and is, by its very nature, disperse.

The shift in economies from agriculture and cottage industry to one of global markets have blurred the boundaries of most regions of the world. In a large region, the inner core may still present more of a national or local flavor, but the periphery is a location of trade, of coming and going, and will assume a more international taste.

The greatest opportunity for violent conflict, therefore, is not along boundaries between regions, but within them - as in ethnic or separatist movements. Similarly, military regimes are not so concerned with foreign invasion, as with domestic law and order. But when the military joins the frey, as in Bosnia and Rwanda, the order is ethnic genocide.

This depiction presumes regions in the traditional sense of periphery and core, - like an area and its surface - as was the case when markets formed along coasts. With air travel, interstate highways and internet connections, these regions fracture into clusters sometimes conceived as webs and nodes. The nodes align themselves (or have been aligned) vertically in an economic process called "development." While the web - or core area - radiates horizontally - sometimes remaining nonaligned, or even maligned from this economic hegemony.

The popular notion of these nonaligned nationalists is that this hegemony extends from the United States. And there is some basis for this.

The two primary means a nation state has over its regions is control over its population - through domestic legal authority and migratory visas; and the nationalization of money. Its currency is both a nation's obligation to the market system, as well as its prerogative: "Give to Ceaser what is Ceaser's." Thus, a government taxes only that money which it alone produces. The American dollar has been the preferred medium of exchange in many international markets for quite awhile, which gives it an economic influence throughout the world. Moreover, those dollars provide a rich tax base with which the United States has established a formidable military defence.

But it is a defence not of its territory, which has not been attacked since Independence. Nor is it a defence of its people, despite a nominal democracy. Rather, the US military is an assumed function of the global market - to provide security for exchange and for property. Iraq can attack unarmed Kurds and Shiites as far as the US is concerned - no problem - but Kuwait is altogether different. It is a difference of periphery and core.

But, while the medium of exchange may be the dollar, the language spoken in international trade is usually English. It is also the customary language in the United States, which exposes that the hegemony applies to the US as well; for this hegemony is not a national one, but a rational one. The market system - the system devised by the Englishmen Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Hume, John Maynard Keynes, et al - is a hegemony of the mind, what I have called "modern conservatism" or "rational idealism." It belongs to no particular location.

Thus, in the United States, the core areas are increasingly aligned along its interstate highways. McDonald's, WalMart, Office Depot, Cracker Barrel, ABC, NBC, Microsoft, Intel, Nike, Classic Rock, and Easy Listening, dominate the landscape around every clover leaf exit. Back on the two lane roads, you'll find mostly Country on the air waves; some folk will wave back at you as you pass - Friendly Folk - as long as you're a lot like them. Otherwise, it's best to get back on the highway and drive.

Here's the rub. Vertically, we are aligned in top /down - dominace/ dependence fashion: employer/employee, banker/debtor, etc. And its really two dimensional. Periphery, like surface area, has no depth, no resonance. It's like a face you put on to meet the public. Like a dealer's fast-talk smile. And no body trusts it.

Horizontally - where the heart beats and blood runs red with life, stories and myths - we have all this ethnic conflict and violence. It is like without some parent figure with a nuclear arsenal breathing down our neck, we're a bunch of unruly kids. Much as we resent being oppressed, we hate each other even more. So you and I - as neighbors, or married couple, or Isreal and Palestine - are so filled with self-righteous hatred we have to pay some lawyers to work it out.

And yet, however much the core needs the periphery, the periphery needs the core even more. This rational hegemony - the economic wherewithals of life - is not sufficient for humanity. Life is more than occupation, or so it should be. We need our myths, our stories, our art and spiritual inspiration to give our life meaning. We need each other as family and friends, not merely salesmen and consumers. It is this longing that has revived such cultures as the Native American and Raggae. It is in everyone's interest, therefore, to resolve this bitterness and strife.

To this end we can continue to apply the tools of oppression, or to learn those of cooperation - hegemony vs community. Community development does not mean infrastructure, like drainage ditches and power lines. It doesn't require any new capital spending or increased taxes. To the contrary, it requires the removal of old stuff - barriers and boundaries we spent generations trying to defend, and at what cost? Not just lives lost in terms of killing each other, but lives lost in such pointless activity. A total waste of time. Community requires that we recognize those things we have in common, and value those that make us distinct.

 

 

Links

The Online Journal of Peaceand Conflict Resolution

Peace & Conflict Studies

Amnesty International