If, one day, it becomes possible to analyze the current period dispassionately, we’ll no doubt say that it was characterized by the juxtaposition of countless fratricidal wars: Ukrainians and Russians are, culturally, historically and ethnically, brother peoples; as are Israelis and Palestinians; as are the Pashtuns of Pakistan and Afghanistan; as are the Dinka and Nuer of South Sudan; as are the Houthis and other Yemenis; and so many other peoples across the globe, killing each other across artificial borders.
And yet, whatever the tragedies of these wars, their protagonists are only the collateral victims of much larger, hidden battles. For, while these absurd wars are going on, harming only those who wage them, three forces are fighting, behind the scenes, for domination of the planet. Three forces that mankind has always been familiar with, because they have been in power since the dawn of time: priests, generals and merchants. Sometimes, one served the other: generals served religious powers, or vice versa; and merchants served one of the other two to fight the third. It seemed established that history made sense and that the generals had first defeated the priests, and that the merchants had then defeated the generals. If this were true, there would no longer be any religious power or military empire, and capitalism would rule the world on its own. But this is not the case.
In reality, these three forces are still with us today. They are fighting each other more fiercely than ever. Each seeks to establish its imperium over the world.
To put it briefly, at the risk of being caricatural:
Religious power is expressed by those who, in Islam more than in any other faith, proclaim their determination to establish a planetary caliphate, and to eliminate all other political regimes, all other churches; by converting or killing. You can hear people saying this very explicitly right now on all the world’s media, and in the streets of Berlin or Brussels, Teheran or Doha. With, of course, deadly battles between the different currents of this radical Islam, which represents, fortunately, only a very small minority of the world’s Islam. If, by some misfortune, this religious power were to prevail, it would destroy everything humanity has built up over the millennia and, through its obscurantism, forbid all teaching, all freedoms for women, and all future human progress.
Military or imperial power, on the other hand, expresses itself more precisely today in the Chinese empire, which is also intent on establishing its control over the world, not in order to impose a faith, doctrine or ideology, but, like all military empires, to draw from its colonies the means to feed its own populations. The Russian Empire and its African metastases are another, much more brutal and summary expression of this. Similarly, to prevail, one or other of these two empires would have to vassalize almost the entire planet, and reduce human beings to unbearable misery.
The third force, that of the market, also known schematically as capitalism, still appears today in its American avatar: it too has the ambition to dominate the world; and it puts the strength of its armies, and sometimes that of faith, at the service of this ambition. It imposes its law, its worldview, its values, its cinema, its technologies. And, beyond this, it is the commercial order itself which, in attempting to dominate the world, carries within it the seeds of the destruction of nature, and of a very large part of humanity.
Each of these three forces is trying to assert itself against its internal enemies (other religions, other empires, other capitalist powers) and against the other two. The local conflicts that make today’s headlines are only by-products of these great battles, which explain them.
If we carry on as we are, these three forces will destroy each other, and humanity in the process. For, whatever they may say, they have one thing in common: their contempt for the living. Not only their contempt for humans, as we can see from the casual way in which they exploit, enslave, humiliate, dumb down, poison, rape, torture and slaughter. But also their contempt for the living, as we see how all three, each in their own way, plunder nature, destroy all the legacies of the past and ransack all the promises of the future.
Only by overcoming these three forms of power, around universal values (freedom, human rights, democracy, social justice, dignity, creativity, reason, empathy, altruism, cooperation), can humanity draw the strength to fight its worst enemy, itself.
Image: Dos de mayo, Francisco Goya, 1814.