World on Fire – Amy Chua

‘How exporting free market democracy breeds ethnic hatred & global instability’

Amy Chua’s book puts forward a compelling case to support the statement above and cites a huge number of examples, throughout history, to demonstrate how democracy and free markets have been to blame for genocides, war and ethnic hatred all over the world.

Before picking up ‘World on Fire’, I had an opinion, which I believe is shared by most of those living in the Western world, when it comes to how a society should be run economically and politically.

Before I get into what that is exactly, I will say this, I am no scholar and I have never studied any form of political theory academically, but I share that in common with the majority, which is why it is important to demonstrate how radically my views have shifted, because if mine have, then so can everybody’s.

When it comes to less developed countries, I used to believe that holding elections, opening said nations up to international business and encouraging competitiveness, would improve the economic stability of a nation and its people, without issue.

Here, in the UK, we have one of the most developed economies, societies and political systems in the world. Yes, it has its huge problems, however, the majority of people live much richer lives than those living in 2nd and 3rd world countries.

So naturally, transplanting our system into countries like Afghanistan, Myanmar, Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela and Rwanda would have an incredibly transformative effect and alleviate such nations from the clutches of poverty.

How wrong I was….

Amy Chua highlights this problem in western attitudes and demonstrates what happens when democracy and free markets are implemented without planning and regulation.

The results of doing so have caused mass genocide, civil war and entrenched racial hatred.

The complexities of her case are argued clearly and backed up with hard evidence from across history, so you should not expect such a compelling and complete summary from a clueless 24-year-old.

The main jist of her point is as follows;

Nations which have been under the rule of a dictator or controlled by a one party state for many  years suffer greatly when democratic elections and free markets are suddenly implemented, whether that is by an outside force (always the bloody USA) or the remnants of an old regime.

Chua states that the following pattern appears every time this happens.

  • The old system comes down
  • Democratic elections are instantly organised in order to give the people the opportunity to decide on a new ruling party.
  • One particular party or individual chooses to run their entire political campaign on a ethnically driven message in order to gain the support of the majority of one specific ‘race’.

The most famous example being Adolf Hitler – Remember, the Nazi Party was democratically elected by the German people. Hitler couldn’t murder his way to the top because he could never get into power, but what he could do was blame the Jewish people for the downfall of the German economy and signing of the Treaty of Versailles which brought about the end of the first world war and defeat for Germany.

Hitler used an ethnically driven message to gain the support of the majority by blaming an ethnic minority for the struggles of the ordinary German person. The rest, is history…

  • Once the leader or party has gained control of the government, the promises that they made to the majority must be fulfilled otherwise their hold on power would not last long.
  • The ethnic majority and government make it their mission to destroy an ethnic minority which is believed to be economically dominant while also to blame for the poverty and suffering of the majority. (I told you this wouldn’t be so clear)
  • The rhetoric used by the ruling party is always based on the same general message – ‘The foreigner/outsider has come into our country and sucked it dry. They hold all of the money and power, we must take it back’

(A clear example of this is South Africa, where a tiny population of white people, descended from Europeans, hold a disproportionate amount of power and wealth, compared the majority of black natives.)

  • The ruling party and enraged ethnic majority (who believe the propaganda) embark on destroying the economically dominant minority in order to ‘take back’ what is ‘rightfully theirs’.

One of the most horrifying examples of this exact pattern being followed is in Rwanda, when in 1994, one of the most atrocious genocides in history took place.

The country had been under a dictatorship until it fell and democratic elections were held. One particular party chose to blame the suffering of the ‘native’ Hutu people on the ‘foreign’ Tutsi people.

Once the party got into power, it ordered the Hutu people to go out into the streets and massacre every single living Tutsi in the country.

What followed was reported across the world as entire cities descended into chaos.

Men, women and children were dragged into the streets and hacked to pieces my mobs of roaming Hutu’s.

As poor as that summery is, I hope you get the basic idea because this is literally going on right now, all over the world.

‘World on Fire’ is an incredibly rich and educational text which puts a fresh view on the rise and trouble with globalism.

Other tentative subjects are examined, such as why half of the world celebrated when the twin towers where destroyed on 9/11 yet live in hope of someday being able to live in ‘the land of the free’.

Anyway, if you want to understand how the world actually works outside of the bubble which we can’t help but live in, ‘World on Fire’ will certainly give you something to think about. The argument is clear and, though hard to read at times, makes complete sense, democracy and free markets are incredibly venerable to exploitation if not managed carefully.

What is so impressive about Chua’s work is that she actually offers a viable solution in the final chapters, but to try and deliver her proposals would do a lot of hard work and years of research a huge disservice.

Read the book, learn something new, see the world differently. Easy.

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