Byline: Barry Casselman, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Now moving as an invisible wave over the undeveloped and oppressed nations of the world is the natural force of self-governance. Most of the developed nations, following the American Revolution of 1776-81, adopted democratic governing in various forms. They later combined this with education and evolving capitalism, established increasingly successful and open societies.
The 20th century was not a steady advance, with new forms of totalitarian control emerging to enslave large populations. Fascism and communism dominated a worldwide struggle with democratic societies throughout the bulk of that century, including two world wars and a number of coups and civil wars that resulted in unprecedented violence and death on a mass scale.
After the defeat of fascism at mid-century, its totalitarian mirror-image, communism, fell apart in the final decade of the century, creating in the rich cultures of Eastern Europe a number of new self-governing states already educated and industrialized. At the same time, the two largest nations on Earth, each with populations of about 1 billion, emerged from their socialist slumbers to become rising world economic forces. India, already democratic (though torn by religious strife and violence) shed its socialism. China, maintaining a Marxist autocracy, began abandoning its socialistic practices and increasingly embraced capitalistic forms. These two countries will almost certainly rival the United States during this century.
Three large regions, however, did not participate in this political and economic transformation. In South and Central America, oligarchal and dictatorial regimes persisted, often briefly shaking off one form of totalitarian rule for another. Argentina, a great economic power of the 19th century there, lost its head to Peronism in the 20th century and still has not righted itself. An emerging economic power of the 20th century, Brazil, whose population is approaching 200 million, has only at the outset of the 21st century begun to realize its potential. Venezuela and Mexico, each with enormous oil reserves, continue to fail to create equitable democratic societies.
In Africa, which is beset by the worst impact of the international AIDS pandemic, tribal societies continue to trump true democratic capitalism, although the long-suffering oppression of the majority blacks by the South African Boer regime was finally overthrown at the end of the last century, offering some hope for the continent's current bleak future. …