National interests over global interests Sisyphus, Cerberus and the new world order
Posted on September 14th, 2017

with Ravi Ladduwahetty Courtesy Ceylon Today

Indeed, Russia and the U.S. were allies during the two tragic conflicts of the two World Wars, which allows us to think there’s something objectively bringing us together in difficult times, and I think – I believe – it has to do with geopolitical interests and also has a moral component.

– Russian President Vladimir Putin

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus or Sisyphosˈ was the king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth). He was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, repeating this action for eternity. Through the classical influence on modern culture, tasks that are both laborious and futile are therefore described as Sisyphean.

On the other hand, also in Greek mythology, Cerberus often called the hound of Hades, is the monstrous multi-headed dog that guards the gates of the underworld to prevent the dead from leaving. Cerberus was the offspring of the monsters Echidna and Typhon, and usually is described as having three heads, a serpent for a tail, and snakes protruding from parts of his body.Cerberus is primarily known for his capture by Heracles, one of Heracles’ twelve labourers.

The new world order

It is moot to note that most of the global issues and the bones of contention are of a Sisyphean nature and they are described as Sisyphean.

This is manifestly and patently clear in the case of the clarion call for global change. We have again gone to the bottom of the hill, again like Sisyphus, with the US opting out of the Paris Accord which was heavily lobbied for by the new French President Emmanuel Macron. Reaching global consensus on each of these matters which are of global importance, are Sisyphean by nature.

There are some countries which have already opted out, while some other countries stand firm on international standards regarding these global matters.

Take for instance, parameters in relation to integrating economies and global economic development. It is then that national interests come in. Otherwise, what else would explain BREXIT? England opted out of the European Union, as it felt that an unnecessary number of Europeans were moving in and out of her territory. So, here again , there were the national interests which came ahead of the global or at least regional interests, as was very evident, in this instance.

This is the Sisyphean task. Each time that the man was asked to throw the huge stone off the mountain, God Olympus ensured that the stone kept rolling back before the mountain. It was a never ending task for Sisyphus. That is evidenced by the candid examples which are seen in global geopolitics and global geo-economics of today. Whether it is climate change or whether it is disarmament or economic integration, global leaders agree on certain parameters, then they beg to disagree like the Paris Accord on Climate Change! States in our global community accept theories when the national interests match up to theregional or global interests, be they climate change, disarmament or economic integration as the case may be.

Take the case of the Paris Accord in 2000 where most Member States of the UN and others agreed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Now the United States President Donald Trump himself says that the US cannot agree to global standards! Then, there are other countries, which also state that they need more time for the interpretation of the conditions. Sri Lanka, as well as some other developing countries, has stated that they have not reached the level of operation of the developed countries, in this regard.

This includes India and China which is a manifestation of a pathetic situation. The so-called developed countries have come together which have had multiplier effects on the environment in different countries. These are not figments of imagination, but time will tell what serious impact climate change would have on the world.


The next topic would be disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.

It is a good thing that the NPT or the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty has worked. There is the IAEA or the International Atomic Energy Authority Board of Governors also at work.

There is a clarion call from these global institutions that there should be no nuclear weapons.

But evidence shows that these very countries are continuing to increase their nuclear arsenal. It appears as if North Korea is continuing with their agendas while maintaining that they do not heed to the global call.

Global economic integration

Global economic integration is one of the best forms of enhancing per capita incomes and living standards of the world. In this instance, the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) is better than the most powerful economic power in the world which is the EU, which is seen crumbling with BREXIT. In sharp contrast, there is CARICOM and ASEAN which are seen as huge success stories.

However, Myanmar is seen to be ethnic cleansing and the movement is seen to be losing its respect. It is in this context that the CARICOM say they are better. When they tried to do the same ethnic cleansing, it is the Dominican Republic which tried to ostracize and take away the membership of Seychelles.

So, under these circumstances, the implementation of the new global order is a gargantuan Sisyphean task, and will never happen until and unless the global order and interests match with the national interests. It is then that we could see the proliferation of globalization. It will be then that Sisyphus will be able to throw the stone beyond the hill where God Olympus will not send it back.

As for Cerberus, the dog which was guarding the underworld, there is one thing that he was vulnerable to and that was good music and he would fall asleep to it, permitting the return of Orpheus’ wife from the dead.

Now we see the manifestation of this in global geopolitics. A sop (an euphemism for a bribe) to Cerberus in the form of music ! That is to the countries which protect their own interests. This is also manifest with the presence of the United States in the Indian Ocean, which is not for the protection of the Indian Ocean and its border countries, per se, but to mitigate China’s presence in the Indian Ocean! What a tangled web we weave!

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