History as Roadblock to Unity?

21st century may be dubbed as Asian Century by last century optimist, even outside Asia, all based on assumption from demographic and economic trends. This term may brought vision about a vibrant and industrious society of Asia, connecting nations into one big community that worked together.

A decade in 21st century pass, East Asia flourish as a center of productivity that challenge Europe and North America despite alot of disparities. But rather than watching a one Asia communities joined together we alot of military posturing happened within the last two years. What happened?


What Asia Communities?

Asia as a term is a cultural artefact from Europe. In European historical narratives it is a thing to differentiate between Europe as “us” and “other” that is Asia, since ancient Greece dub Ἀσίαuntil recently when European powers call their colonial possesion. Because of that inherently Asia is a cultural term (of not Europe) but Asia in itself is not a unit.

Despite the fact that there is no Asian communities, but we can see the existence of communities across the nation that has close ties regional and have many cultural similarities. It is the community of West Asia, South Asia community, the community of East Asia, Southeast Asia community, and the community of Central Asia.

West Asian Communities dominated by Arab countries, but there is a significant influence of Iran and Turkey, they were dominated by the use of arabic writing until the 20th century. Neighboring it lies South Asian community wich has many contact and influenced by Iran, now India, the biggest state, having a major influence on its neighbors which is relatively small, but faces opposition from Pakistan. It can be said beforehand Tibet culturally oriented to India while ethnically and politically it’s closer to China.

From Tibet we face to the East Asian community that is almost always under the shade of the Chinese civilization and culture. Unlike the various ethnic that now absobed as Zhongguoren now, Korea and Japan have become independent cultural identity which is now supported by its status as an industrial country allied to western powers.

Central Asia is characterized by nomadic cultures that are in many ways similar, although composed of many ethnic groups are very different (Turkic, Mongol, and Indo-European). In the classical period it was present as a bridge between China and Europe which do not know much of each other. In the 19th and 20th centuries it became land exploration by Russia and the China (then Qing Empire) before finally now become independent states, but they once again become the land of exploitation of foreign companies.

And the last is Southeast Asian communities. In ancient times it is a meeting point of two civilization, Indian and Chinese civilizations, then the colonial power slowly crept. Having gained its independence there was a mutual distrust between communist countries and non-Communist in Indochin, before finally ASEAN unite all South East Asian countries into a complete geographic unit (minus East Timor).

Here we see that Asia as a geographic entity has cultural communities are very intense interaction in it, but the same can not be said for the relationship between communities.

Conflict of History

The twentieth century marked the emergence of a national consciousness in Asian nations. With this awareness people begins to see the state and countries are not formed by dynasties or colonizers but of the people who fill it. Then formed narrative history of each nation and the obligation to maintain its prestige. With this came the problem as a nation is not always commendable act or victorious.

Nanking massacre, comfort women, and forced labor are some of the Japanese war atrocities at the time of the second world war, which until now is still debatable whether reparations from the Japanese effort is enough or not. Now on the one hand we see Japanese people do not care about the Nanking massacre, while the Chinese government to make this event as an important part in history lessons at school.

In South Asia the India-Pakistan partition marked hostility which until now remains unflagging. Both sides do not want to lose their prestige, will not budge in all ridiculous territorial dispute. East Pakistan, which after separated from Pakistan now known by the name of Bangladesh, now share world’s most absurd border with India, a Bangladeshi village in rural India which are in rural areas of Bangladesh is surrounded by India. For complicates the situation, the condition of India-China border is also not resolved.

In the West Asia conflict among fellow Arab leaders are relatively rare despite the de facto inter-ethnic hostility that has often knows no boundaries, except from 2011 hostilities between Sunni and Shia tribes became evident in the conflicts in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen. The presence of Israel, the unwanted neighbors, wtill unresolved until now while in the periphery we watched Turkey and Armenia are yet to agree on Armenian massacre/genocide and Iran are trying to instill their influences in the region.

Here we see that the nations of Asia are still busy over the dispute of national prestige both in an attempt to justify their mistake by historical revisionism or in trying to carve prestige of history by winning conflict.

History for One Asia Future

Reflecting on the experience of Europe, then we will find a contrast. European nations have been distanced from the futile attempt to find prestige through history. After the second world war they were no longer bound by the idea of revenge of defeat the past or recapture stolen territory and at the end of the 20th century we see the European economic community united and prosperous.

Of course we in the present can not change the events of the past that already have occurred. All we can do now is look back at the way we view the past, measuring the importance of national prestige through history than the welfare in the future.


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