Saturday, January 24, 2009

Collaboration of Civilizations


Scholar Samuel Huntington made the term "clash of civilizations" popular as the Cold War was coming to close, predicting that conflicts in the post-Cold War era would be based on fundamental differences in culture and religion rather than political ideology. What Huntington may have failed to predict is the acceleration of what I would call the collaboration of civilizations. The New York Times has an ultra-cool example of this concept today, featuring a story about the emergence of Chinese hip-hop (yes you heard me CHINESE HIP-HOP!):

"While American rappers like Eminem and Q-Tip have been popular in China since the 1990s, home-grown rap didn’t start gaining momentum until a decade later. The group Yin Ts’ang (its name means “hidden”), one of the pioneers of Chinese rap, is made up of global nomads: a Beijinger, a Chinese-Canadian and two Americans.

“The big change was when rappers started writing verse in Chinese, so people could understand,” said Zhong Cheng, 27, a member of the group who was raised in Canada but born in Beijing, where he returned in 1997. “Before that, kids listened to hip-hop in English but maybe less than 1 percent could actually begin to understand.”

Yin Ts’ang’s first hit was “In Beijing,” from the band’s 2003 debut album, “Serve the People” (Scream Records); the title is a twist on an old political slogan. It sets a melody played on a thousand-year-old Chinese fiddle called the Erhu against a hip-hop beat that brings Run D.M.C. to mind. The song, an insider’s look at Beijing’s sights and sounds, took the underground music scene by storm, finding its way into karaoke parlors, the Internet and even the playlist of a radio station in Beijing. " (Read the whole thing here)

Around the world people, often young people, are leading a cultural revolution that is pushing the boundaries of what "unity in diversity" means. While it is true that some ancient battle lines have reemerged between the peoples and nations of the world, it is also true that some of those same lines are being transformed into circles of unity. It is the cultural dimension of the process of integration and disintegration so eloquently described by Shoghi Effendi:

"Such simultaneous processes of rise and of fall, of integration and of disintegration, of order and chaos, with their continuous and reciprocal reactions on each other, are but aspects of a greater Plan, one and indivisible, whose Source is God, whose author is Bahá'u'lláh, the theater of whose operations is the entire planet, and whose ultimate objectives are the unity of the human race and the peace of all mankind." (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 72)

While you're at it enjoy this music video from the Dawnbreaker Collective