The Irrational Fear of Globalization

Aug 13 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

What’s with the fear of globalization? Globalization, the integration of the world’s economy, people, and governments, though many people might not be aware of it, is an ancient process and one that has yet to bring ruination to the world. There has always been globalization, even when civilization could not encompass the globe, even when only small portions of the whole were known to the peoples concerned.

The Bronze Age Near East provides a fine example of globalization. Here was a truly international community composed of states large and small, guided then as now by the age’s super powers, in those days the Hatti (the Hittites), Babylonians and to a greater or lesser extent, the Assyrian and Mycenaeans.  The Great Kings addressed each other as “Brother”, as equals – a brotherhood of kings. Even the pharaoh of inward-looking, semi-isolationalist Egypt.

This global community, even though it comprised little more than today’s Middle East and southern Balkans, had shared religion, customs, and a tightly intertwined economy. These nations were bound together by mutual self-interest, and as often as not, they were able to resolve their differences through negotiation, rather than war.[1]

There is a very good reason that the United Nations in New York proudly displays in the Security Council Chamber the Treat of Kadesh signed between the Hittites and Egyptians is the earliest example of an international peace treaty (ca. 1258 B.C.E.) in history – a treaty, significantly, between superpowers. The signatories were concluding a period of warfare that had culminated in the Battle of Kadesh (ca. 1275 B.C.E.).  As scholar Amanda Podany says of the strife between Hatti and Egypt (and of other struggles as well), “In the end, the real victor was not any one of the great powers, it was the idea of brotherhood.”[2]

If the UN celebrates this idea of a brotherhood of nations, what is it that those opposed to the UN celebrate?

As UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in an address of 13 November 2006,

Let us take our inspiration from an inscription that can be seen not far from here, in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum -– and which, thanks to the generosity of the Turkish people, can also be seen in replica at UN Headquarters in New York, outside the Security Council chamber.  It records the peace treaty concluded between the Hittite and Egyptian empires, after the bloody battle of Kadesh in 1279 B.C.

Ending decades of mistrust and warfare, this treaty was a milestone of its era.  It reached far beyond mere cessation of hostilities, committing both sides to mutual assistance and cooperation.  It was, in fact, the literal embodiment of an alliance between two great civilizations.

Today, as we meet to make our own commitments, and to share our vision of a peaceful future, I hope we can all be inspired by this ancient pact to build our own alliance between civilizations, cultures, faiths and communities.

In that spirit, and with great gratitude for your efforts, I accept your report.  In the short time that is left to me as Secretary-General I shall seek, in consultation with my successor, to establish a suitable mechanism for following up and implementing its recommendations.

None of these Bronze Age states show any fear of globalization; they well understood they were part of an interconnected whole and that the actions of one affected all. Sure there were rogue states, like Assyria, which because of a high level of aggression never really fit comfortably with the rest, but on the whole, the system worked, as the palace archives of Hattusas (the Hittite capital) and the Amarna letters found at the old Egyptian capital of Amarna, demonstrate. As Podany says, these men “shared an understanding of acceptable behavior which, though not written out as international law, were agreed upon by all. They, too, were stronger together than apart.”[3]

That ancient kings could appeal to diplomacy before war ought to be an example for those of us today when we are surrounded by those who prefer war to diplomacy. Of course, the “primitives” of the Bronze Age did not let religion separate them – in fact, the opposite was true. Religion united these Bronze Age kingdoms, with no ideas of false religions or “True” religion to put them at odds.[4]

Think about the example of Tushratta of Mittani, who in 1350 B.C.E. wrote to Pharaoh Amenhotep III of Egypt[5]:

Nimmureya, the king of Egypt, my brother, my son-in-law, whom I love and who loves me: Thus Tushratta, the king of Mittani, who loves you, your father-in-law. For me all goes well. For you may all go well. For your household, for Tadu-Heba, my daughter, your wife, whom you love, may all go well. For your wives, for your sons, for your magnates, for your chariots, for your horses, for your troops, for your country and for whatever else belongs to you, may all go very, very well.

With the Mittanian envoys comes the goddess Shaushka:

Thus Shaushka of Nineveh, mistress of all lands: “I wish to go to Egypt, a country that I love, and then return.” Now I herewith send her, and she is on her way.

The goddess has taken the form of a statue to travel and now she is before Pharaoh.

Now, in the time, too, of my father…[the goddess] went to this country, and just as earlier she dwelt there and they honored her, may my brother now honor her 10 times more than before. May my brother honor her, [then] at [his] pleasure let her go so that she may come back. May Shaushka, the mistress of heaven, protect us, my brother and me, 100,000 years, and may our mistress grant both of us great joy. And let us act as friends.

How easily the goddess of the Mittani traveled to Egypt! We can only envy this “ecumene of interconnected nations” as scholar Jan Assmann calls it[6]. Jesus and Allah, supposedly all-powerful, cannot do this!

Compare this peaceful entreaty to the words of the Bush administration, or the Republican candidates for president, or the members of the U.S. House. Why could kings in this supposedly barbarous time behave more admirably than our would-be leaders today? What is there to fear in a community of nations that acknowledge one another as equals and work for the common good?

We should remember that, as Podany tells us,

The Near East is often described as the birthplace of law, home to the earliest cities, and the ‘cradle of civilization.’ It was also home to the first diplomatist and the first kings to discover the benefits of peaceful coexistence.[7]

It would be a pity if the United States more than 30 centuries later, were to be its graveyard because the Republican Party wants to be more like Assyria and less like Hatti and Egypt.


[1] See Amanda H. Podany, Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East (Oxford University Press, 2010).

[2] Podany (2010), 304.

[3] Podany (2010), 11.

[4] Jan Assmann, Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism (Harvard, 1997).

[5] Podany (2010), 4-7.

[6] Assmann (1997), 2-3.

[7] Podany (2010), 309.




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