The mood of much of the world is grim these days. Turmoil in the Middle East, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees; random terrorist attacks across the globe; geopolitical tensions in eastern Europe and Asia; the end of the commodity supercycle; slowing growth in China; and economic stagnation in many countries—all have combined to feed a deep pessimism about the present and, worse, the future.
Historians looking back on this age from the vantage point of later generations, however, are likely to be puzzled by the widespread contemporary feelings of gloom and doom. By most objective measures of human well-being, the past three decades have been the best in history. More and more people in more and more places are enjoying better lives than ever before. Nor is this an accident— because despite Samuel Huntington’s foreboding, what has occurred over recent generations is not a clash of civilizations but a fusion of civilizations.