Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fall of the Berlin Wall – 20 Years After

Hailed as the iconic event of 1989 and as a supposedly history-ending one, did the fall of the Berlin Wall resulted in a better world 20 years later?

By: Ringo Bones

Imagine an American serviceman stationed close enough to witness the iconic event back in 1989, later reading Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History. Later participating in Operation Desert Storm and later returning to the sight of the former Berlin Wall around December 1991 with a copy of Fukuyama’s The End of History in hand. In this surreal setting, what would we be going through his head?

For those of us who had lived a significant portion of their lives during the Cold War, most of us had thought that the Berlin Wall would last well into the 21st Century. Who knew that it fell just a few years after when the former US President Ronald Reagan pleaded the then former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”. Not to mention the then US President George H. W. Bush castigating the Berlin Wall as the monument which stands as the failure of communism. To our generation, the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9 1989 meant the advancement of civil liberties for those people trapped behind the Iron Curtain. The "Minzhu" revolution that started in the People's Republic of China a few months before the one that fell the Berlin Wall in November 1989 resulted in a bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 4, 1989.

Sadly the euphoria behind Fukuyama’s End of History is only just that – mere euphoria. Even though thousands of former East Germans and other folks trapped on the Marxist-Leninist side of the Iron Curtain got a taste of what we in the Capitalist West had always taken for granted – i.e. a relatively high standard of civil liberties (up to a point?) and conspicuous consumption. Most of folks who used to live behind the proverbial Iron Curtain never really benefited the supposed prosperity they are supposedly entitled to 20 years later. Our “protracted” global mini recession that started in the latter half of July 2007 and supposedly ended in the summer of 2009 resulted in the reevaluation of the “theories” established by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Which caused most of us asking whether capitalism can really reform itself.

Unfortunately, Western Capitalism had managed to turn itself into the proverbial “Evil Empire” that we all had dread since the days when the Soviet Union was still a formidable superpower. Western Capitalism even resorted to using politics and Anglo-Saxon Protestantism to deny global warming. Thus denying the environmentally conscious among us our “End of History” moment when it comes to saving our environment. Even the global warming issue is now the prime mover of that Doomsday Clock in the headquarters of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists when it used to be only nukes. If the upcoming UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen fails, the clock would be permanently stuck at two minutes to midnight – assuming if luck were still on our side.

As one of the folks responsible for formulating the “Reagan Doctrine” Francis Fukuyama really forgot to advise then President Reagan about very important aspects of American foreign policy that still matters today. Maybe it didn’t fell into Fukuyama’s purview, but he should have advised Reagan the folly of thinking that Islamic Fundamentalism is the moral parallel of the Anglo-Saxon Protestant Work Ethic that made America a superpower. Now, we can all safely blame Ronald Reagan for empowering the thugs that later became the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The end of communism in Europe is a mixed blessing at most. Due to the Cold War “victors’” oversight, countless millions had died in the Balkans throughout the 1990s due to the rise of extreme nationalism / tribalism of the breakaway Yugoslavian territories. In other parts of the world, this had resulted in the rise of powers and despotic nation / states that simply can’t and won’t be reasoned with. And I often hear that our current state is “supposedly” better than the Empire of the Soviet Union lasting forever. Would this have resulted in most of us being cooped up in a 10 feet by 20 feet room150 meters underground with a 30 dollar Geiger Counter from the 1950s with only World War II era c-rations for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next 35 years?