KERİM BALCI

A caveat: Turkish endism

Endism is the belief that a developmental process must reach its culmination, and »»

Endism is the belief that a developmental process must reach its culmination, and that the continuation of such processes does not require human intervention because development beyond this point is not possible. The Book of Revelation in the Christian Bible is full of prophecies about the end of days: The Lord’s Kingdom of Heaven shall descend to Earth and ever after there shall be neither war, nor sin, nor repentance.

The religious belief in the end of days is based on a revolutionary understanding of history. Something extraordinary happens -- like the Second Coming -- and the human struggle for domination over the Earth comes to an end. Though not entirely unrelated to the religious versions of endism, secular versions based on an evolutionary understanding of time also exist: Human civilizations have been increasing their level of coexistence through the ages, a process of improvement that shall come to an end once perfection is achieved. Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History?” is a prime exemplar of secular endism. By its logic, liberal capitalism was the Geist (spirit) to which human civilization aspired. There would be, here and there, countries and cultures left behind, but eventually all would meet in the Free Market’s Kingdom on Earth.

Be it religiously or secularly conditioned, endism is not science; it is belief. Accordingly, it cannot be proved wrong. It operates within a logic that it itself creates. In the face of endism one can be an unbeliever, but never an undoer.

Turkish Foreign Minister Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu has always been an unbeliever on the subject of endism. His collection of essays titled “Civilizational Transformation and the Muslim World” (1994) criticizes theories of endism that declare the end of religion, ideology and history. Davutoğlu claims that Fukuyama’s “end of history” in fact derives from a civilizational crisis experienced by the West at that time. According to Davutoğlu, the West had become unable to generate civilizational transformation, and had exhausted its capacity to contribute to the human search for a better future. But this didn’t mean the ultimate Truth had been reached. Western civilization had lost its fertility, but it was wrong to claim that henceforth there was nothing new under the sun. The Muslim world had the potential to become the new Atlas, shouldering the burden of civilizational evolution.

The first decade of the 21st century proved Davutoğlu right. New civilizational zones are emerging that parallel -- or even directly oppose -- Western civilization. History has been proved alive and well.

But I have a caveat! Endism is an illness of the strong. It is understandable that a crew member awaiting his turn at the ship’s helm may reject claims the journey has come to an end. The powerful, on the other hand, will tend to want to dock in the final harbor. Jesus claimed to be Alpha and Omega at the same time. He was the first and last word. Fukuyama was a believer in US hegemony; he thought American capitalism had pronounced the last word on human development. Now countries like Brazil, India, China and Turkey have uttered new words in the silence following US liberal capitalism. These words will not be the last to be spoken either.

Truth does not lie in the custody of any one nation, any one party or any one person -- nor will it ever do so.

2012-07-04

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Columnist:: KERİM BALCI