• The following article was published on August 10, 2019.
Civilization as we know it, may have been started some 4,000 years ago with the call by God to Abraham to leave his homeland, the Mesopotamia (Iraq, already the most enlightened nation in the universe then, with the practice of the Code of Hammurabi strangely resembling the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses later), and establish himself and his clan in Palestine where the son of God, Jesus the Christ, would come 2,000 years later to reinforce the concept of mastering nature with wisdom and of fraternity and brotherhood amongst man on earth.
The Christian faith, persecuted at first, was well-established around 311 AD with Emperor Constantine imposing the Catholic practice on the Roman Empire that covered then the known universe. This imposition came with exaction and intolerance to the point where one had to be a Catholic or face death. It was in that context that the Treaty of Westphalia came about on October 24, 1654, after a protracted war of religion that lasted 80 years pitting the southern European nations – the Catholic league – against the northern Europe principalities converted into Protestantism.
The rulers, the Austrian Hapsburg and Philip II of Spain, had imposed the Catholic faith upon their citizens who had converted to Protestantism, pitting Catholics against Protestants. The doctrine under the Holy Roman Empire was formulated with such rigor that it was blasphemy not to be a Catholic. The war led by France and Sweden against the Holy Roman Empire caused some eight million deaths as well as famine and desolation to the point where cannibalism was customary.
It was in that context that some 194 principalities assembled in Westphalia with 179 ambassadors including the Papal envoy, Nuncio Fabio Chigi who will become later Pope Alexander VII presiding the sessions arrived at a formula of international relations that is still in practice today.
• Freedom of religion would become the norm with the right to emigrate if one felt stress by religious fervor.
• Each state would have the right to rule upon its subjects with supreme authority in collecting tax and building institutions and raise an army without interference by other states. Rex est imperator in regno suo. The king is the emperor in his domain.
• The concert of nations would come to the rescue of each state that has been attacked by another state.
• Land that has been occupied before the war or since 1618 by a nation has been confirmed in their secure borders.
While this treaty has benefited the European nations and later the United States, the periphery that includes Asia, Africa, Russia, Latin America and the Caribbean was considered land to be conquered and imposed upon to rule their subjects and extract their wealth and resources. In that context, the triangular slave trade, a vast complex of international crime, took place, displacing some 15 million men, women and children from Africa to the new world for bondage in perpetual slavery in conditions so odious that some 9 million have died during the voyage.
As said earlier, this treaty negotiated for the interests of Western Europe and later those of the United States considered the peripheries such as Asia Latin America and Africa as territories to be conquered, and upon which to exercise their dominion and subjugating their fantasy and ambition upon their populations. Indeed, Europe in peace contributed to the colonization by Netherland in the 17th century, England in the 18th century and the United States in the 19th century of Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and the Middle East.
The Treaty of Westphalia may have been one of the most determining points in the history of humanity after the birth of Christ. It facilitates the recognition of the territoriality of each state, the power of that state to make peace and enter into contracts and last but not least to engage a collective force of security to protect each other.
The treaty of Westphalia is the precursor for the foundation and for the construction of the European Union, the United Nations and even CARICOM and the Organisation of American States (OAS) cementing those conquests.
We are witnessing today several disrupters in chief who are trying to shape the world differently for their cause. Amongst the great disrupters, we must list in the first place Xi Jinping, the president of the People’s Republic of China; Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia; Donald Trump, the president of the United States; and Boris Johnson, the newly minted prime minister of Great Britain.
Collectively and individually they are shaping a brave new world away from the one constructed by the Treaty of Westphalia. If President Donald Trump and Boris Johnson of astute mind are trying to keep or gain what they can from the rubbles of the moribund Westphalia order, Xi Jinping in concert with Vladimir Putin are shaping a New World Order where they claim equilibrium amongst nations would be from now on the moving force, not the primacy or the domination, of one bloc over another group of nations in matter of international relations.
President Trump, while being battered and bruised not only by the opposing Democratic Party and by the American press, is correct in demanding a revision of the negotiations entered upon under former Presidents Barrack Obama and Bill Clinton with China. The People’s Republic of China has been smart enough to prepare its infrastructure and its people to gobble all the inventions and patents of the western world and churn them into gadgets at an excellent price and rather good quality. As such its balance of payments with most nations in the world, in particular with the United States, is advantageous for China, to the detriment of America.
President Trump wants some of that money back. He will get some because China preferred to negotiate on a one-to-one basis, not en bloc with nations. Johnson understands also this principle; that is the reason why he is pushing for Brexit, leaving Great Britain free from the European Union not only to deal with China but to deal with the rest of the world, the western one as well as the one in the periphery.
I have been frequenting the Flushing Public Library in New York regularly; I have observed Chinese people invested in the library from its opening time at 8:30 in the morning until its closing time at 9:00 p.m. Young and old make the library their home away from home, doing serious research or dozing in one of the plush seating areas of the institution.
Outside of the library, the Flushing section of Queens is bursting and hustling like Hong Kong or Shanghai with supermarkets filled with all type of produce from all over the world, in particular from China; the neighborhood Macy’s superstore is filled with workers and buyers from the Chinese community.
Visit any Chinese community, whether in Philadelphia or Washington, DC, or anywhere else in the world where the Chinese diaspora has installed itself, and you will observe the same phenomenon, the vivacity of the Chinese experience in contributing to the overall economy leading one to conclude the Chinese are certainly making headways!
On a very global scale, President Xi Jinping is shaping the world with its diplomatic venture, the “Silk Road” that seeks to dismantle the old world order, which is based on the Treaty of Westphalia, dating back to October 24, 1648, or 371 years ago.
What do Jinping and Vladimir Putin want?
This is the fundamental question that must be treated by concerned international analysts and guide the brand-new new world order for the benefit of the entire humanity. We have been living in a world where hypocrisy and make-believe were the modus vivendi of actions and discourse.
The horde of Latin American and Caribbean refugees knocking the doors of Tijuana towards the United States or those from Africa and the Middle East left stranded on the beaches of Italy or Greece demanding entry into Germany, England or France bring back home the roosters forcing action or more hypocrisy.
The disruption in the atmosphere causing flooding and extreme cold in winter or extreme temperature in summer demands a revaluation in the way nations and people have been treating mother nature.
It is in this context that a new treaty is in order. I would call it the “Treaty of Philadelphia” (in the city of the brotherhood of man) for the major disrupters to assemble: Xi of China, Boris of Great Britain, Vladimir of Russia, Donald of the United States, Francis of the Vatican and all the other leaders of nations of the world to sit down and agree on a new world order where equilibrium, not dominion, would be the moving force.
Man would treat nature as its friend as St. Francis has called upon us to do. Nations would be complementary in the division of labor, leaving a proper share of the revenue for each. Despotic rulers would be forced to resign. Nationalism would be the reverse face of internationalism. Sane institutions and adequate infrastructure would be the norm everywhere to root the citizens in their habitats. The sentiment of appurtenance will be the blood flowing in the vein of each citizen.
May the year 2020 see this call for a new world order become a reality.
The billionaires in the likes of Mike Bloomberg, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Carlos Sim, Mark Zuckerberg, Colin Huang, David Steward (who is black) or the youngest one, Kyle Jenner (21 years old), have enough dough on their plates to beat the drums and play the trumpets for actualizing the concept of Philadelphia/2020. It will be a major event in that venue, consolidating a new world order that would bring peace, prosperity, brotherhood and caring for nature amongst all God’s children.
• Jean H. Charles LLB, MSW, JD, is a regular contributor to the opinion section of Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at email@example.com.