‘Roads carry the knowledge’ is an old adage. The encounter of east and west had been through books and persons, missionaries and companies. Now post-colonial studies do tell us that the objectified knowledge in a curriculum package with given references was an instrumentality for caging the minds and fixing the referent. The quest of colonial mind do not go beyond these boundaries, material or non-material. The referent remains the distant source. The process of globalization has made it unstrapped, through multiple channels of exposure and modes of communication. Questions about the source of knowledge and intent with implication, howsoever packaged through media or social media come to the scrutiny. It is happening everywhere, from international dealings to the village –urban continuum as well. In the past, the illiteracy and ignorance of villagers were source for the consolidating power structure of urban elite. The journey of humankind from lived history has been the account of power discourse. The illusions were built on mystified versions of past glories with hyperbole accounts. History has its strides in power discourse, from civilization to monarchies and from empires to systems, there has been supremacy circulation, right from ancient Indus to Greeks, Arabs, Romans, Ottoman and in new systems from Europe to US in the previous century. The account is hegemony and domination is carefully decorated by the tale of discourse, either selling the dreams about the life after death or vending the civilizing mission of humankind. In a sense, modernity and religion were competing, colliding and complimenting mix that made western world and Muslim countries to be under one umbrella against communist bloc.
The last century was a wounded century, drenched in blood, as a result of scientism and yawning nationalism. Its advent was marked with the rise of ideologies. The Soviet Union expansion was a triumph of communism and an onslaught on confessional religion. US emerged counter response to become a dream country for liberal democracy and career people to flourish in market management and development. It protected countries against communist ideology and weaned religion to its side. The world after Second World War saw the emergence of the Cold War that marked the process of antagonistic bipolar world. The Muslim world was well employed in the name of religion to defend God against non-God Soviet Union. The divided world was polarized between two blocks and treaties, plans, espionages intelligence agencies were established to use direct and indirect methodologies to undone each block. UNO had become the playground of the Communist Soviet-union versus US and its allies to safeguard its territorial and strategic interests. Arab and Iran would be rivals but master key would be with the US. Similarly Israel and Muslim world would make foes but threads would be with the US Establishment. India and Pakistan would fight but veto would be with Soviet Union. The process of modernization got saturated to demean religion and decry that world is rationalized by nationalist ideologies. The close of century witnessed that US with the help of Muslim world was instrumental in dismantling of Soviet Union. It beamed a short celebration for the end of the cold war and bankruptcy of ideologies. Once the non-God defeated, the fractured modernity in the company of empowered religion lost the common challenge. Instead of overcoming the deficiencies at ground level, modernity and confessional religion refused reformation, it mistook market mechanism and death of old social movements, as the arrival of civility, freedom and collective welfare. The process of globalization unfolded the paucities to the extent that it brought spilt between the moral code of religion and rationality of science. The confessional religions claim that God is back; in fact, it prompted its identity crisis in the absence of modernity, which had empowered it. While, modernity was insufficient to fulfil its promise to overcome the pathology of market rationale and scientism, the events of September 11, of this century announced the break of boundary between public sphere and private realm. The social existence became multiple existences in a multipolar world marked by manufactured and fluidity of boundaries. It gave rise to the cult politics mixing traditions and playing on the victimized past through divisive politics, and out worldly reach through economic partnerships. It produced charismatic individuals, who are more visible, articulated in creating rhetoric of a nationalist discourse. China’s rise for the last three decades in transforming its economy and wielding enhanced military might ceased a moment of its arrival in Xi Jinping, who took office in March 2013 and was re-elected in March 2018, supposed to most powerful presidents of China who abolished two terms limit for a president. President Xi has tightened control over almost every aspect of society. Post Covid 19 era, China has become aggressive declaring American system as evil empire expressing unlike its past, more through the media landscape. It has changed its discourse from collective economics to geo-economics, which in fact is geo politics and political economics through roads. Its slogan is this worldly material gains through efficiency and governance as against secularism of representative democracy and religious monarchies; no longer is this hidden. It has to an extent been successful in roping the Muslim world to its side against western imperialism and insecure vulnerabilities. God has become personal hidden for policymakers.
The dragon China has opened the knot of its bag. Its Red Head Centipede is out on its zigzag move, bending its spine into serpentine coils and leading edges to push off objects in the form of OROB to weave the world, promising infrastructure and development with heavy indebtedness on those countries that fall in line with this serpentine road. The message apparent is win–win position, as claimed by it, China, unlike sea supremacy of the previous century, it has worked out road diplomacy with powerful cybernetics and digital superhuman connecting power to guard it. Its expensive connectivity map with a lure to build a port in Pakistan, bridges in Bangladesh, Railways in Russia and massive infrastructure in Iran and then moving to Iraq, Turkey encircle the western world. The Critics say that it is ‘debt-trap diplomacy’: luring poor, developing countries into agreeing unsustainable loans to pursue infrastructure projects so that, when they experience financial difficulty, Beijing can seize the asset, thereby extending its strategic or military’. The OROB is a zigzag cataleptic to take away the identity pride and historical sense of those countries that fall in line with its project. The world is different now in offing. Twenty years henceforth, the new generation would be able to narrate the discourse of power may be in civilizational terms, devoid of modernity and religion.
Ashok Kaul IS Emeritus Professor in Sociology, Banaras Hindu University