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God, Gold, and Glory

We often use the words: “capitalism, liberalism and neoliberalism” interchangeably when referring to the current global economic, political & sociocultural system to provide a plausible explanation for our way of living. Despite being proposed by different economists throughout history, they all point out a similar pattern of thinking. Arguably, it all started with the famous triplet: “God, Gold, and Glory” with the Crusades in the 12th century. The arrangement of the words are subject to discussion, the phrase referring to the motivations of various European states engaging in colonial activities, which arguably permanently changed the global political landscape. Even after nine centuries, these concepts still play are role in the 21st century, and I aim to explain in this article how, why, and what will this triplet possibly evolve to in the future. 

“God” often being listed as the first of the “3Gs”, underlining that it was the primary motivation of colonial states during the era of geographical discoveries. The term “geographical discoveries” also include the crusades due to the first interaction between European and Middle Eastern states only after the “jihads” started by Umayyad Caliphate during the 7th and 8th centuries. Similarly, the Arabic word “jihads” refers to: “the series of wars in the name God” underlining a similar motivation for Islamic states followed later on. Due to the changing power relations between nations arguably caused by the second G: “Gold” after European countries accumulated riches, the global power of Islamic states’ ability diminished. This led to their evolvement for being “periphery states” according to the dependency theory proposed in 1949 by two economic thinkers, namely: Hans Singer and Raul Prebisch. God, or more generally “religion”, has been used as a political tool by nations more directly in the middle ages. Despite its lesser role in current political affairs, it is still possible to figure out the part of “God” in the 21st century. For example, the majority of far-right parties’ political agendas, several states ruled in theocracy and monarchy referencing to the holy book of their respective religion. Similarly, colonial powers used “God” to help indigenous populations to “find the right way”, which permanently shaped those societies’ structure. One possible explanation behind the usage of religion as a political motivation is because it provides an easy perspective to the meaning of life: “Humans are created by God and given life to live on Earth as a test, those who obey to Him shall be rewarded in the afterlife and those who do not will be punished”. This way of reasoning has been mandating a single series of “truths” to societies which reduce the tolerance to search for new information and learn beyond the stated rules in the religious texts, especially in developing and underdeveloped nations, which is one of the significant explanations behind the high global inequality.

Another reason why “God” used a political tool by government officials throughout history can be explained by the second “G” in the triplet, which is “Gold”. Religious wars throughout history had been indeed declared as the purpose of reclaiming a holy site or city. These wars were an ample opportunity for the poor, criminals and serfs because the “New World” came with new riches, a chance to see and live in the Holy City. Most importantly, the opportunity of repentance meant a new beginning for these people. Religious wars were also crucial for people from aristocracy: monarchs, lords, and the clergy saw an opportunity to expand their territory and influence. Meanwhile, the traders were also interested in these wars because a legitimate European land meant fewer restrictions for trade, and ultimately, a new land meant new commodities and products. The class that benefitted the most from the crusades was the middle-class traders due to their economic gain route, which opened the way to the birth of the banking system in Italy found by the Venician merchants, which increased their influence over the monarch rivalling the aristocracy. This change in the economy, later on, has lead to the earlier forms of capitalism with geographical expansions, the emergence of new overseas markets that brought even more riches to the European nations like Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal. Briefly, the main goal of wars and similar expansionist policies is “Gold” or, in other words, economic gain.

The third and final “G” in the triplet is “Glory”, referring to the conquests, annexation of new territories. During the search and attempt to keep the authority in the new land, the colonial states were also constantly in rivalry to grasp the immense region. Since the available lands to conquer are finite, competition was inevitable. Examples are the mercantilist policies of monarchs to keep gold in their lands during the 17th and 18th centuries. For example, Britain’s international trade policy made the gold flow from Portugal and Spain to different countries to break the early Spanish and Portugal dominance; the Anglo-Dutch Wars throughout the 17th century to halt the Dutch navy’s rising power. In the previous section, “Gold” seemingly pose the reason behind “God” or the religious wars and missionary activities, the “Glory” of nations is the reason why each tries to beat the other: to gain more power and influence over the other, to gain more glory and reputation in the global arena. Technically, glory and power do not mean the same thing; they ultimately lead to the same outcome. For example, the earlier mentioned colonial expansion during the Age of Discovery witnessed numerous wars and power struggles; in the end, some states like Britain and France had emerged as more powerful than the others like Germany. This economic struggle led to the First World War in the early 20th century: Germany sought more land to colonize joined by the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary (the Central Powers) fought against Britain, France, Russia, United States, Italy, Romania and Japan (Allied powers). The result of this war aside, like every other war, I think that “Gold” is also the means used by nations to gain power and “Glory”. Germany Empire was shattered after WW1, replaced by a temporary “Weimar Republic”. The conditions imposed by the Allies in the Versay Treaty led to severe consequences in Germany, such as hyperinflation, poverty, lack of military power and a heavily Jewish dominated German economy. These changes in the country led to another World War declared by Adolf Hitler, the chancellor at the time, to “repair the damaged German pride”. Hitler used tools such as the media, biology to explain why Germans are the superior race and appealing to people’s sense of nationalism by offering them the long-deserved “Glory” for Germans; he could merge Germans under a single purpose and legitimize his fascist regime. Similarly, colonial and other forms of totalitarian activities had been justified by thinkers like Thomas Hobbes, who wrote his famous book: Leviathan in defence of the kings’ absolute power, claiming monarchy to be the ideal form of government. This “justification” concept is also still relevant in today’s politics and economics, such as the failed 1980s neoliberal argument: “trickle-down economics” claimed to provide an indirect benefit to the poor through the rich’s investment, abandoned after the rising economic inequality. Furthermore, political justification is especially relevant in the form of environmental injustice. Multinational corporations gain the approval of the governments in developing/underdeveloped countries, which gives them “the right” to carry on with their business operations by all means, even if it creates environmental degradation or social disorder. The “Gold”(more robust economy) and “Glory” (better relations with developed nations, stronger position) those governments might gain is superior to the well being of the common folk. Ultimately, the race for gold and glory, in other words, the economic and political power, can be explained by the dependency theory, pointing out the dependency of economic sovereignty of the periphery and semi-periphery nations to the core nations that can be justified by the examples listed above.

Briefly, even though the typical listing of the triplet puts God in the first place, gold to the second and glory to the last, I argue that it is the other way around due to the reason stated above. The concepts: “power” and “glory” were used interchangeably since the triplet does not mention “power” due to the phonetic purposes. Based on a similar way of reasoning, it can be argued that nations desire more gold to gain more power to gain more glory. Therefore, this triplet is like a chain in which all three concepts are connected and can be used to reach the other. Furthermore, due to its arrangement, this triplet is also misleading, putting “God” in the first place, underlying a “holy” and therefore “altruistic” message to the colonial ideals, which again all comes down to the way of “justification” that is still relevant in today’s politics.

Despite the more evident drawbacks, capitalism also introduced many positivities. International trade increased the cultural interaction that led to a more “connected” world with the broader usage of English as the global language. Moreover, more commodities and products became available in wider regions around the globe; the life expectancy in developing countries increased; poverty rates reduced; the technology has advanced, which led to the higher value given to the empirical knowledge. Meanwhile, economic, political, socio-cultural and environmental inequalities widened, leading to international and higher inequality, especially in developing countries. The higher inequality triggered further polarization within nations that caused social disorder in many nations like South American, North African and Middle Eastern countries: Venezuela, Libya, Syria, and various other countries. More wars caused higher demand for guns, which meant more business in the arms sector; environmental degradation led to worse living conditions like hunger, famine, lack of access to clean water, diseases such as Covid-19. Higher competition in every industry led to people having more mental problems, stress and anxiety, which benefitted the psychologists and the medical sector, making it the second-largest industry after the arms sector.

Similar to the “chain argument” for the triplet proposed after the specific discussion of each concept, the same mentality is also evident in the pros and cons assessment for capitalism. The world we live in is full of the good and the bad triggering another factor without us even realizing it. The chain is also predicted to continue with the rise of the “Green” way of doing business; increasing demand for “vegetarian and vegan” products will be the newest form of capitalism. If the triplet is applied in this case, “God” will demand that “Harming nature and the animals is a sin”. “Gold” will come from the new greener business operations and “the socially responsible corporate” image. Lastly, “Glory” will come to corporations and governments alike who follow these new rules. At the surface, this new transformation seems more generous; however, the underlying criticism here is the persisting pragmatist perspective that creates the possibility of past negativities of the earlier forms of capitalism, such as the similar power relations with high inequality. The main change in future capitalism will come from the “long-term mindset” of the rich, which will inevitably become necessary since the resources of our Earth is finite. This shift in mindsets can be explained by the boss who will oblige to the environmental and other forms of socio-economic and political restrictions. New rules will affect their gainings less than the linear economic model mindset that aims to provide higher financial profit at the expense of environmental degradation. The boss will gain less for now only to achieve more in the longer term since the new of doing business will be and has to be more sustainable. It all comes down to human nature, choosing what is easy or the right thing to do. Based on the historical examples, I predict an “easy” choice so that the triplet will continue. Still, this time, it also has to be the right choice in addition to being pragmatic if we want the triplet to continue further in the future.


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