‘Clash of Empires’, ‘Clash of Civilizations’…and a Comment on ‘History’ Video

For Álvaro Enrigue, a novelist fascinated with historical detail, the first meeting of the Aztecs and Spanish conquistadors is the obsession of a lifetime. He brings it to life in “You Dreamed of Empires.” Writes Benjamin P. Russell in the New York Times: The Aug. 13, 2021 edition of The New York Times failed to mention the 500th anniversary of the fall of Tenochtitlan, the erstwhile Aztec capital out of which Mexico City was born. Álvaro Enrigue noticed. Of course. The 54-year-old Enrigue, who grew up in Mexico City, believes that early meeting between Europe and the Americas changed the trajectory of global commerce, urbanism, industry and much else besides. Modernity itself, he argues, was born in the moment the Aztec emperor Moctezuma and Hernan Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, first looked each other in the eye in 1519, a clash of empires that set in motion the city’s capture two years later. “Not a single article, and it was the great city of the Americas at that time,” he said. More here.

Did 9/11 ‘clash of civilizations’ bring East and West closer?
An article published in CSMonitor back in Sep. 2021 opines that “counterintuitively it did –the “clash of civilizations” expected after 9/11 has been mediated by the rise of cross-cultural embraces between the West and the Muslim”. CS Monitor note says: “The 9/11 attacks were, fundamentally, a shocking expression of clashing values. But, a generation later, under the radar of conflict, there is evidence of greater global understanding and common values”.

Rather than a clash, whether by design, desire, or simple technological evolution, the geographic and cultural boundaries between the West and the Arab and Muslim world have blurred, as a meeting of minds has led to a recognition of common bonds and, increasingly, common values. “The idea that the values between the West and the Muslim world are not the same as and are opposed to one another is historically wrong,” says Jocelyne Cesari, a religion and politics scholar at the University of Birmingham in England and a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. “There is no clash of civilizations; it has been debunked by social science and data, which has shown that most conflicts happen within a civilization, not between them. But this thinking persists because people often use stereotypes to base their views of the other,” she says. “Individual people are breaking the stereotypes by reaching out to one another. But what is missing is the political and religious leadership” to back it up. 

After multiple global financial crises, a pandemic, democracy under threat, and United States-China competition, it may be hard to believe that at the turn of the century, before 9/11, a top concern in America was an emerging West-East cultural clash. Some politicians and pundits claimed it was a realization of what Harvard University professor and political theorist Samuel Huntington had coined in 1996 as a “clash of civilizations,” a future in which wars would not be fought between nation-states, but between warring cultures.   

President George W. Bush characterized terrorist moves this way: “They hate our freedoms.” It was mistakenly applied by some to encompass an entire region, a belief that the West and the Arab and Muslim world had opposite, conflicting values….As a response to 9/11, U.S. institutions and the government initiated exchange programs, bringing Arab and Muslim students, journalists, and academics to the U.S. – a soft-power approach to a region where the U.S. was embroiled in multiple wars. More here.