MARION – When worlds collide, must they clash?

When worlds collide, must they clash?Brazil has been one of the favorites to win the World Cup right from the very start. This is not just due to the home aantage — in Neymar they had a world beating star Hopes of holding the trophy high were dented but not totally dashed when, in the quarterfinal, a Colombian knee collided with his vertebrae.

Headlines such as “Can Brazil cope without their fantasy footballer?” and “Brazil’s World Cup dream suffers setback” were everywhere earlier this week. We all know that famous quote by English footballer-cum-commentator Gary Lineker: “Football is a simple game.

Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” But no one really expected the utter trouncing the host nation’s team suffered at the hands of Germany in the first semi-final.

The analysis columns the next morning were full of comparisons between the temperaments of the two nations. Adjectives such as “emotional,” “panicked” and “frantic” described Brazil while “disciplined,” “calm” and “clinical” were widely used for the Germans.

You could be forgiven for wondering whether they were describing a football match or lifestyles.Is it really as simple as all that? Is a country’s performance on the sports field or in the political arena of, say, the United Nations so directly linked to national temperament?Certainly when the continents meet at great sporting events we can see differences in personalities.

But the German fans, understandably, celebrated their great victory with all the exuberance of Brazilian carnival revelers! So maybe it is all a bit deeper than superficial theories imply.Political commentators often attribute a people’s choice of government to their temperament.

Cold northern Europe with its Protestant heritage is more suited to hard-working, dedicated, serious and democratic governments. The scandals of warm southern Europe where politicians’ corruption and sexual infidelities are tolerated, as long as they are not too big and the economy is okay, are not for the northern Europeans.

One of the most fascinating facts from political history is that, although we associate democracy with Ancient Greece, the claim to the longest running democratic political institution in the world belongs to a body that first met on a spot where the continental plates of Europe and North America meet.We all recall Istanbul’s clever slogan for its Olympic bid “Let’s meet where the continents meet”.

The Viking people of Iceland met in the Althingi parliament in the year 930 on a plain where two tectonic plates collide. This rift valley forms the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

They met around the Law Rock, and appointed a law speaker whose main task was to recite the laws of the land. All free men could attend the assemblies, and they would stay in temporary camps during the session.

Political history books praise this early example of democratic rule at a time when much of Europe was ruled by kings, most of whom claimed their thrones through divine right.But haven’t we seen something similar in the eastern hemisphere, too? The Jirga meeting — a community council — of tribal leaders in Pakistan or Afghanistan is an often forgotten example of making decisions by consensus.

The choosing of the Khans in the Mongol Empire also followed the community council approach. There is clearly scope for re-examining the Western or European-bias in political science and the study of international relations.

In his 2011 work, “The Holy Roman Empire and the Ottomans,” IIIk University’s Mehmet Sinan Birdal attempts to do just that. In his view, experts in international relations are wrong in excluding the Ottoman State from their analysis.

They claim that it is not comparable with European states because of its Islamic identity. This book has recently been published in paperback by IB Tauris and is soon to be published in Turkish by IletiIim YayInlarI.

In this academic treaty he studies how two major European powers made the transition from rivaling global imperial powers to states that, while exercising absolute power within their boundaries, accepted the right of other nations to co-exist. This concept of continuity and change is key in the study of international relations.

In choosing these two case studies Birdal can compare not only the western and eastern ways, he can compare how the Catholic and Muslim worliews shape politics, and he can also examine two historical rulers — Charles V and Suleyman the Magnificent. How these men consolidated power and oversaw the transition of their countries from medieval empires, with claims to world domination, to functioning states that recognize the validity of other states was more similar than the rivalry between the two would lead us to imagine.

“In the sixteenth century, the Ottomans and Habsburgs were equally matched in the size of their respective territorial domains, population, agriculture, minerals, manufacturing, transport and economic organization. Both dynasties legitimized their reigns with reference to a theologically inspired universal worliew.

”A large part of the book is dedicated to expanding on each of these points, examining how the paradigm of despotic rulers establishing the functions of a state (such as the rule of law, education and health systems, rights and responsibilities of citizens) played out in history against the backdrop of Catholicism and IslamThree cheers for Birdal’s stirring attempt to correct the imbalance of analysis in the world of international relations when it comes to the Ottoman state. But sometimes in an effort to be academically rigorous in order to have his claims taken seriously, his arguments can become heavily academic and therefore dry and labored for the less pedantic reader This impression is compounded by the unfortunate choice of very small print-size.

In addition, a considerable knowledge of the technical terms used in the discipline of international relations and political science, coupled with familiarity with the writings of academics and commentators in these fields is assumed. A newcomer to the subject will need to spend as much time browsing their dictionary or googling a name as actually reading Birdal’s arguments in order to understand themThis is a pity since in a key chapter Birdal explores how people’s worliew influences the shape and form of the state institutions they develop.

In the introduction he poses the question “Which aspect of the value system is significant for the performance of the state in the state system?” His answers to this are linked to law and legitimacy and in this he produces an original work. He attributes the different results between the western and eastern empires to the degree to which the state was centralized (similar to the Republican-Democrat small government-big government divide) rather than to Christianity versus IslamBirdal may well disagree with the football commentators who put Brazil’s loss down to emotional personality.

And in tonight’s final, when Argentina play Germany, he is certain to doubt the Lineker quote that says it is a forgone conclusion for Germany to win. For, going against the flow of much analysis in the international relations arena, he argues that tactics are as important a factor as worliew.

“The Holy Roman Empire and the Ottomans” by Mehmet Sinan Birdal is published by IB Tauris. 16.

99 pounds in paperback ISBN: 978-178076710-9Rating: three stars out of fiv.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman