Only vegetables have roots
is needed now is a Declaration of Human Unity
March 15, 2004
As a student in Beirut, Lebanon, in the 1930s, like my non-European
school mates, I leaned toward the left. Living under French rule
since the collapse of
the Ottoman Empire (1919), Lebanese Muslims and Christians, liberals and
conservatives, religious and secularists, struggled gung ho for their independence.
European leftists supported their goals and often encouraged and helped them.
In those days, Liberals developed rational, secular ideas.
They supported science and technology. They believed in progress
and called for the "unity"
of all people as members of one species. They considered as
their duty to bring
the Third World into the 20th century and fight the Western ruling
classes who wanted to keep the "colonies" into backwardness in order
to exploit them.
In short "internationalization" constituted the
Left's order of the day. Socialists created the so-called "Second
International"; the Communists the "Third International";
all Liberals dreamt of "cultural" revolutions that would unify
all people. "Du passé faisons table rase" proclaimed
In those days, modernization was a cherished liberal value. Whatever
our particular personal beliefs, whatever doctrine we adhered to, one goal
us: develop our countries and catch up with the European "colonialists".
With the collapse of fascism and nazism, in the mid-fourties
our hopes rode high. We thought that our ideals were about to
But alas, in a short period, the reverse happened. France, for
instance, did not want to loosen its grip on Indochina and Algeria.
Britain dragged its feets
and Iraq. The Soviets tightened their hold on their own peoples as
well as foreign communist parties and started a campaign against
to be a reliable communist one should possess solid "roots" in a
America supported the most backward Middle Eastern
regimes and third world tyrants in order to contain communist expansion
access to oil fields. In terms of Realpolitik all this could
seem normal as the former
"great powers" and the new super-powers tended to ensure their so-called
But at the same time a startling phenomenon surged among the
former "liberal" intellectuals . In less than a generation they
what came to be known as "multiculturalism". On face of it, they
were promoting egalitarianism: all cultures are valid and should
In fact, under the academic banner of "post-modernism",
many liberal thinkers intersected with their rightist colleagues.
Indeed they militate in favor of keeping alive and even encouraging
differences. In the United States, this new leftist trend promoted
ethnic communalism among immigrants. In the world at large
notions of national identity and the search for roots.
Those of the right promoted and pursued similar ideas in
their policies of segregation and apartheid (concerning principally
Blacks). Today, at least in the United States, only tiny groups
known as White
try to implement such ideas. The goal of racists was (and still
is) to keep the "inferior" races into subjection, if not to totally
them as as Hitler dreamt.
The new "liberals" end up restraining underdeveloped nations
from catching up with the most advanced world. Their motives are
different from those of the so-called "ultra-right"; indeed they
speak of saving the "diversity" of the human species; they want
the positive contributions of all nations and groups, and so on.
Some ten years ago, the late cosmopolitan multi-billionaire
James Goldsmith, who had bought the French weekly L'Express and
many other journals, launched the idea that the Western model
of scientific, technological and economic development should not
other nations. He affirmed that the latter, large or small,
had the right to preserve their spiritual legacy, their moral
He cited the example of the kingdom of Bhoutan, where
more than 90% of the people live on income from small pieces
less rich than the American or European farmers, but
they enjoyed living
in a stable society and a "beautiful" environment. Why should
they earn more and bring in all the ills of advanced industrial
societies? It is true that sometimes curious political and social
ideas creep in the minds of billionaires who steep in luxury and
in America, Soros seems to continue in the footsteps of the late
In any case, rich or less rich multiculturalists reaffirm their
commitment to the necessity for the advanced West to increase
its technical and financial assistance to the developing countries.
But all the same they contribute to the perpetuation of backwardness
third world . I think that today's liberal intellectuals are
from those whom
I admired in my student's days. They should beware not to
end up as the White supremacists of the 21st century.
to a question concerning the preservation of cultural heritage,
Nehru the Prime Minister of India after independence
once said: "We do nothing to preserve our
traditions. We just try to find out which of them constitute
an obstacle to our development and progress."
in the Third World
(and indeed of the first one , too) should ponder the
following slogan I have coined in response to that new kind of
Only vegetables have roots and only the police are interested
in people's identity.
I think that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights constitutes
the greatest achievement of
the so-called international community in the 20th century. What
is needed now is a Declaration of Human Unity. All
earthlings should equally benefit from advances in knowledge, science
and technology. There are about 200 countries living
on the same planet. But they are far from being contemporary;
they should all reach the same time zone: the 21st century.
goodbye to spam!
Fereydoun Hoveyda was Iran's ambassador to the United Nations
from 1971 to 1978. He is the author of The
Broken Crescent: The Threat of Militant Islamic Fundamentalism (2002), The
Ayatollah, Iranian Mythology
and Islamic Revolution (2003). He is a Senior Fellow
at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and
at Benador Associates.
more about the Hoveydas, visit their web site >>> Features