Globalisation or the spread of an idea or product throughout the world affected humans for the first time following the conquest of the world by Alexander the Great in late fourth century BCE. For several centuries, Alexander and his successors spread Hellenic culture all over the Mediterranean.
For example, Alexandria in Egypt became a major center for advanced studies, science and world history and literature, the repository of all that the Greeks and other people had written since antiquity. Alexandria made available to all a modern-like and science-based Greek civilisation. The Antikythera Mechanism, the world’s first scientific computer, came out of the technological ferment of the Alexandrian age. Greek scientists like Euclid, Aristarchos of Samos, Archimedes, Hipparchos, Apollonios and Ptolemy set the foundations of Western science.
The next time globalisation entered human affairs in a big way was under the auspices of religions, especially the monotheistic religions of Christianity and Islam. These one-god faiths became so enamoured with their “revealed” theologies that they spread their message by the sword.
Neither Christianity nor Islam ignored the polytheistic Greeks.
Christianity came to power in the fourth century when Roman Emperor Constantine made it a state religion. Greek was the language of globalisation. If Jews and Romans wanted to be read, for example, they wrote their books in Greek. So Christianity disseminated its teachings in Greek. But Christianity saw Greek polytheism as a mortal enemy. With the support of the state, Christianity ordered the Greeks to accept its dogmas on the pain of death. It also wrecked Greek temples, statues, altars, theatres, libraries, and other public buildings. However, Christianity used Greek learning selectively to legitimise itself, making philosophy a handmaiden of theology.
Islam came into being in the seventh century. It immediately clashed with the Christian empire of the Romans and Greeks, conquering Egypt and Syria. But relatively quickly Islam Hellenised itself in a massive experiment unprecedented in history. Throughout the eighth to the tenth centuries Islam borrowed ancient Greek scientific and philosophical thought in the building of its culture. That way Islam became a superpower of enlightenment where Aristotle and Greek science held sway. Indeed, Islamic scholars considered Aristotle “The Philosopher”. And in contrast to Christianity, that remained schizophrenic about Greek thought, Islam launched its career with Hellenism, becoming the centre for Greek studies for centuries. The Hellenisation of Islam even benefited Western Europe because Muslim al-Andalus (Spain) became the gateway to Greek learning for eager Christian Europeans.
However, now in the 21st century, both Christianity and Islam have shed their Greek trappings for a theology and practice befitting their Jewish origins. Once again, these one-god religions fight for territory and souls. Their global conflict is mostly proxy wars fought in places like Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Palestine, Turkey, Russia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans are heading the Christian party of this war, which former president George W. Bush dubbed “war on terror”.
In the societies of Christianity and Islam, however, this crusading war is largely ignored, the better to pursue business as usual, that is, exploit people and the earth for profits. Rich Muslims in the Middle East sell oil to the West and Western petroleum companies and other corporations sell machines and technological culture to the Muslims.
Globalisation makes good of this profitable business. Its dogma of “free markets” competes with the Bible and the Koran. It assumes perfection among thieves, ready and willing to gamble with everybody’s wealth but their own. The free market advocates come from academia, corporations, the government and Wall Street. These desperate men and women, with their minted MBAs from the country’s business schools, are ravenous for profits at any cost, including the destruction of the middle class and democracy.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, one of the few politicians who denounced President Barack Obama’s deal with the Republicans to give generous tax cuts to the country’s richest people, also criticised the greed of those rich Americans who toy with tyranny as a preferable form of political control of the world. Here you have a tiny number of super rich who are no longer patriots, taking hostage the vast majority of Americans in order to force the government to give them more money. The Republicans in Congress, who are in the same class with the super rich, ignore the revolutionary implications of the class war they foster on the country.
On December 13, 2010, Senator Sanders said the super rich are fighting with religious ferocity for more wealth, knowing fully well that such federal giveaways to them mean less food for America’s hungry children. These super rich and their Republican allies know that their policies are converting the United States into a banana republic, a Third World nation.
Americans losing their jobs to workers in China is not causing any anxiety among the boosters of globalised plutocracy. After all, replacing millions of American workers with Chinese and other workers in the tropics makes huge profits for American corporations.