I just read a fascinating article by Roger Cohen, in the New York Times, where he postulates that the white man's era is virtually at an end. In support of his theory, he contrasts the booming economies of Asian countries, like India and China, with the economic decline of the United States and many countries in Europe.
I would not go so far as to state that centuries of world domination by the white man has ended, but it is heading there; and at a far more rapid pace than he realizes. Those who scoff at this absurdity may not, perhaps, be aware that in the 17th century, India and China did indeed account for more than half of the world's economic output. The pendulum is now accelerating back.
Those who believe that it is the inherent destiny of the fair-skinned races to be superior to their darker counterparts would probably point to Africa as justification. I admit that there is some truth in this assertion. Until fairly recently, virtually the whole of Africa was ruled by white colonial powers; Britain, France, Holland and Portugal. After these nations were bled dry by World War II, they were forced to surrender their possessions. Rhodesia and South Africa were the last holdouts. Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, is the most glaring example of black mismanagement. A country rich in natural resources, which once had the second highest standard of living on the African continent, is now a basket case; with runaway inflation eerily reminiscent of the Weimar Republic in Germany. South Africa may have rid itself of the scourge of apartheid, but it is a country where crime is rampant.
The other side of the coin is to be found in countries like India and China; and the Asian tigers like South Korea, Singapore and Vietnam. Yes, that's right, I said Vietnam. A country, a good portion of which the United States tried obliterate with napalm bombs - and expended tens of thousands of American lives in the process - now has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Ironically, it is also a major trading partner of its former enemy. China is already the world's second biggest economy, after the United States; and with its economy rapidly accelerating to meet America's down-spiraling one, it is only a matter of time before it gains the number one spot.
Some Americans would scoff that America remains the world's sole superpower. In terms of military muscle, perhaps it is - and will probably remain so because of its huge lead. But history has shown us that, in the final analysis, money is always the trump card. Take the American Civil War, for example. It is generally acknowledged that the South had better soldiers and generals superior in strategic and tactical planning. Yet, it lost because the North had more money.
If many white men have great difficulty in acknowledging the new world order, I can understand and sympathize with their bewilderment. The white man and his tribe have been the big guns of the world for so very long, that they do not remember it being any other way. As a citizen of a country which was dominated by the British for almost three centuries, I cannot claim to have experienced their arrogance first hand (I am old, but not that old), but I have heard enough stories from my grandfather to make it seem almost real.
The Imperial British did not just rule India, they subjugated it. Even the most illiterate, ignorant white Englishman was considered superior to the most educated, erudite Indian. And it was not just an attitude, it was state policy. Except for a few privileged Maharajas, many clubs and fancy hotels were barred to even wealthy Indians; and no Indian could head a police force, say. The British cloaked their arrogance in benevolence, of course and, in truth, they did not display any overt cruelty towards their subjects. At the same time, they never let them forget who was boss. The British still regard India as a Third World country - and in some respects, it is - but the reality is that India's economy has far outstripped Britain's. As Cohen mentions in his article, by 2030, India will probably overtake Japan as the world's third biggest economy - behind the United States and China.
Asia still has a long way to go; and it is still a continent of stark contrasts. A considerable proportion of its population remains mired in poverty. However, at the other end of the scale, an increasing number of Asians are flaunting their wealth. This is borne out by the fact that almost all Western luxury brands - from Armani to Louis Vuitton to Rolls Royce - are scampering to set up shop in Asia. They are enjoying far better sales than in their home countries.
Of course, there are also booming economies in the Arab world - notably Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - but their prosperity in inextricably linked to the price of oil. Right now, they are riding a wave; principally because misguided policies by some Western leaders have raised the price of oil to stratospheric levels; but the bubble has to burst some day.
While I largely agree with the views expressed by Cohen in his NYT article, I am not holding my breath. I do not expect to see a new world order in my lifetime, at least. Asians may already be the de facto top dogs, but it is going to take them some time to grasp this new reality. They have to overcome a mindset forged by centuries of history and tradition. It won't be easy.