The United States of the World (or the Genius of Genghis)
by Stephen Morris
Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have all this unpleasant disagreement in the world? No nationalism, no religious extremism, no factionalism. What if we were all one big country, and our differences were more along the lines of the differences between Tennessee and Kansas as opposed to Palestine and Israel? What if we were a United States of the World?
Turns out, it’s not a new idea. Genghis Khan was thinking along similar lines back in the 1300s when he swept down from the steppes of Mongolia and conquered the known world from the Pacific to the Mediterranean.
Genghis (by the way, it’s correctly pronounced “jen-guss,” as opposed to “gang-guss,” sounds a little softer) was raised in a Stone Age culture, impoverished and illiterate. A Stone Age culture was not significantly different from what we promote today as “green living.” People lived self-sufficiently by taking full advantage of natural resources. They lived in autonomous, decentralized groups—local living at its finest—eating organic foods, with a barely detectable carbon footprint. Of course they were living off small rodents and scavenged carcasses, not shopping at Whole Foods, but let’s not get technical.
The world at the time was dominated by two great cultures—Islam and the Chinese. Western Europe (and its predominant faith, Christianity) was mired in the Dark Ages. The Europeans were downtrodden people huddled in primitive dwellings and caves. Why do you think it was the “dark” ages, as opposed to the “enlightenment?” The Mongols stopped their Westward migration when they reached Europe, because they couldn’t see anything worth conquering, plundering, or stealing.
Here are a few other tidbits about Genghis:
1. Genghis Khan abolished the then widespread practice of torture.
2. He embraced and encouraged religious freedom, allowing his conquered people to maintain their cultural traditions.
3. His despised aristocratic privilege, and ran his kingdom as a meritocracy.
4. He was a lifelong learner who advanced the rights of women in Mongol society.
6. To manage his far-flung empire, Genghis Khan developed communications and management techniques far more advanced than known to humankind hitherto. In so doing, he deserves credit for ushering in what we now think of as the “modern world.”
7. He was the greatest military strategist ever, ruling a self-made kingdom of nearly 12-million square miles. His governing influence remained dominant for nearly seven centuries.
Why then, is his image synonymous with brutality, savagery, backwardness, and violence? Did he have a bad publicist? In fact, he had a very good publicist in his own time. It was part of his military strategy to culture a reputation so war-like and horrific that opponents would submit peaceably rather than endure the threatened atrocities. If you submitted to the Great Khan, he would treat you decently. If you resisted, however … gulp.
Why is our image of Genghis Khan so starkly in contrast to the leader portrayed in our books? The answer is easy, the historians lied. Purposely, consciously, and deliberately the historians of the Western world created a false image of the greatest conqueror in recorded history to suit personal and nationalistic needs. To back up this statement I will cite the use of the word “mongoloid” (meaning “in the manner or style a Mongol”) to describe a genetic birth defect that, in fact, has no relation or connection to the people referenced.
He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword, a sentiment from the Bible, but Genghis Khan died an old man surrounded by loving family, his legacy firmly in place for the next few centuries. His goal was to unite the whole world in one empire which sounds a lot like like the United States of the World. He didn’t fully succeed, but he came much closer than any other individual in history.
Quotable quotes attributed to Genghis Khan:
* “There is no good in anything until it is finished.”
* “A leader can never be happy until his people are happy.”
* “No friend is better than your own wise heart!”
* “If you can’t swallow your pride, you can’t lead.”
* “It is easy to forget vision and purpose once you have fine clothes, fast horses, and beautiful women. When this happens, you are no better than a slave, and you will surely lose everything.”
“People conquered on different sides of the lake should be ruled on different sides of the lake.”
Genghis Khan may have been illiterate, but he was wise, with some valuable lessons that the leaders of today’s world would do well to heed. Sure, he pillaged a few villages, but putting that aside, we can learn from the Great Khan how to be loyal, how to understand people, and how to induce and manage change in a world that seems to be changing faster and faster.