Courtesy Reuters

Asian Revolution and American Ideology

Asia wants revolution; Asia needs revolution. The only Asian nation to which this truth does not apply is Japan, whose society was transformed in the nineteenth century.

Once all of Asia was in a state of equilibrium, with its agrarian societies relying for survival on a delicate balance between land and population. Land suitable for rice-growing was limited and rice-eating populations struggled for subsistence; they had neither the time, ability nor energy to think of governing themselves or even of participating in government. The task of governing was left to the few, a small, specialized class of scholar-officials. To labor and obey was left to the many. Thus the centralized state came into being, strong enough to protect these precarious balances from ever-threatening natural or artificial forces, skilled enough to undertake the control of the flow of water, the life- blood of the staple production.

In the centers of Asian culture, in India, Java, Cambodia, Japan and most especially in China, there was strong central government and a statically arranged society. In China, it was a pyramid, the peasants at the bottom, the land-owning gentry above them, still higher the scholar-administrators and at the summit the emperor, the divine maintainer of the equilibrium between land and population, man and nature, heaven and earth.

Confucius gave this stability a philosophic base which sanctified harmony and reverence for authority. But if the balance were disturbed, if the emperor could not control the avarice of landlords, the corruption of officials, the looting by invading barbarians, and if therefore the masses starved, the sacred work-cycle stopped and there was chaos, there yet was a remedy: the ruler ceased to be divine. Rebellion was permitted, nay called for, and the successful rebel was by his victory ipso facto vested with divine power. A new dynasty was born and the balance was restored. The Chinese formula was adopted, with modifications, throughout East Asia.

This kind of equilibrium was to last four thousand years, until one day Western

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