As we remain isolated in the bubble of our daily lives, and increasingly unengaged with the global society, a new world order is taking shape right under our noses. Why are we oblivious to it, and what lessons can we glean from it? Peter Frankopan, a renowned historian at the University of Oxford, believes the arrogance of the West has left them impotent when it comes to exerting truly meaningful strength and influence around the world. The vpro documentary The Silk Roads, based on his book of the same name, features Frankopan's revisionist insights into world history and exposes the many ways our past and future are interconnected.
The film argues that the United States and neighboring European countries are crippled by a strong sense of nationalism; the belief that their nations should dictate the standards for every continent across the globe. This tunnel vision blinds them to the unique qualities of other nations and limits the fulfillment of their own potential. In attempting to spread their values, the West operates as though it is the center of the world. But that center has long been a self-perpetuated delusion.
Starting around 800 A.D., the Middle East set a supremely prosperous and progressive example for the West. Once western interests seized upon the oil interests in the region, they kept the bulk of the profits and shared very little capital in return. When the U.S. and British oil monopolies were threatened, they bribed the Iranians with weaponry and nuclear capabilities. This shaky alliance was destined to turn sour, and its disastrous implications continue to be felt around the world.
Intellectually ambitious and articulate, Frankopan often scans centuries of rich historical highlights in a single sentence. His work is all about making connections between the realities from which we started, the corrupt actions that have brought us to this point in time, and the destinations that may still await us. The Silk Roads touches upon a vast array of topics including the Crusades, Christopher Columbus, global religious conflict, greed, and modern day warfare. It's a captivating stew that challenges our conventional understanding of history.