US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — The first time I went to India – the country where my father was born – was in 1986. I was 15 years old, and I looked with admiration at her wealth, architecture and vanity. On the fourth day of my stay there, I traveled from Delhi to the Taj Mahal, a shining monument to the Mughal Empire built under Shah Jahan. “The beauty of diamonds and rubies, like a seven-colored rainbow of color, will disappear, dissipate in the universe,” wrote the poet Rabindranath Tagore. – But it will remain imperishable on the face of time, as you dreamed, your tear – a shining crystal – your Taj Mahal.
There were two things that struck me on that trip – besides the amazing architecture and amazing people. The first is the economic power that India possessed during the golden age of its empire. In 1700, that is, some time after the construction of the Taj Mahal, this country of 160 million people accounted for 24% of global GDP. The second was closely related to the first: how did a tiny British army manage to conquer such a large and prosperous country, turning it into a colony – the pearl of an empire – during the reign of George II?
As I later found out in my research, the reason was simple: India was strong economically, but politically weak. Formally a single state, it was divided into many areas, the rulers of which were ready to put their own narrow interests above the interests of the country. Robert Clive, the general later named Clive of India, observed that he could use this split to further his goals. In 1764, in one of his letters, he wrote: “I can say with some certainty that this rich and prosperous kingdom can be completely conquered with the help of an army of only 2 thousand people.”
I cannot help but draw at least a few parallels between 18th century India and the modern United States. Economically, America remains a very strong nation, accounting for 24% of global GDP. Politically, however, it possesses the weaknesses of an empire in decline. I find it a mistake to focus on the relatively small group of people who broke into the Capitol building as a result of insufficiently effective security forces. Far more significant are the results of studies conducted among Americans, which show how, in many parts of the country, adherence to narrow factional interests has supplanted allegiance to the republic as such.
A study by Yale University found that only 15% of Americans are willing to punish a politician for electoral fraud, provided that it benefits their side. Other polls showed that the number of those who advocate violent methods to combat political opponents doubled from 2017 to 2019.
A study by YouGov found that 45% of Republican voters supported the storming of the Capitol. The worst thing is that this madness has already seeped into the circles of the political elite. More than half of Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to annul the results of the presidential election, in a vote that took place after the storming of the US Congress building, in which several people were killed, including one police officer.
Meanwhile, China and Russia are showing their best game. They do not have the opportunity to converge on the battlefield with intra-American factions in order to conquer a huge country, as Clive of India did. But they act in an equally effective way: they separate people not with weapons, but with the help of bots. In the past few months alone, Russian web brigades and their Chinese equivalents have launched a slew of conspiracy theories to ignite and exacerbate divisions. According to one study, out of 200 million tweets related to the pandemic that were posted between January and May last year, 62% of retweets were made by bots.
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are cunning enough to know that empires – from Rome and the first Islamic caliphates to Chinese dynasties and Mughals – often crumble from within. They tease us, fan our divisions in the hope that the West – not just America – will weaken even more. They are helped by many helpful idiots, such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose speech on Wednesday was a shame, not to mention the army of radio hosts and Twitter users who grab on to any provocative news in hopes of increasing their followers. … Social media users are trapped in huge echo chambers – in a state of digital segregation of sorts – fueling parallel versions of reality.
And this, in my opinion, is the best way to get Americans out of their attack of self-harm. A new strength rears its head. While the politically correct left and far right argue over little things such as whether using a Jamaican recipe to prepare an American dish is an example of cultural appropriation, the true threat is driving Uyghurs into concentration camps, forcibly sterilizing women, threatening India, and pushing further into the South China Sea… imprisoning dissidents in Hong Kong and considering attacking democratic Taiwan – something that will have serious consequences for all of us.
Xi and the other autocrats are enjoying their propaganda success, eagerly posting photographs of the storming of the Capitol and suggesting that the only way to prevent society from sliding into inter-factional warfare is to strengthen centralized control. If America is weak, then we must be doing everything right! Indeed, an authoritarian regime is capable of eradicating all divisions in society through fear, censorship and control. However, this is not unity at all – it is an illusion of unity, where the real rift lies between the ruling elite and the masses that it suppresses.
The paradox of Donald Trump’s presidency is that he has loudly proclaimed the threat posed to the West by the Chinese Communist Party, while weakening the institutions we need to counter this threat. He abused his presidential powers, undermined the dictatorship of the law and split the Western alliance. He spent months convincing his constituents that the election results would be fabricated, and then when he lost, he mobilized his base against his own people. His pathetic attempts to disassociate himself from violence, which he made on Friday, January 8, were just a manifestation of a desire to avoid criminal responsibility for the insurgency he incited people to.
In the Gospel, Christ said that a house divided by enmity will not stand. Abraham Lincoln quoted these lines in his famous speech of 1858, when America, too, came close to tearing itself apart. I guess I’m not the only one who has tremendous gratitude to those judges and officials who have advocated due process over the past week, as well as to those Republicans who have resisted Trump’s threats, including Mitch McConnell, who indulged the president for too long, but then delivered an extremely persuasive speech as the republic was going through a nightmare.
The breeze fills the sails of history, and we are carried further along the sea of events. The incidents of the past few days can be taken as a wake-up call, warning us of the rocks lying directly on the course. All factions, both within and between free societies, must remember this: if we do not stick together, we will be destroyed one by one. And it’s not too late to change course.
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