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Beyond Globalization:
May the Best Culture Win!

Chris Tong, Ph.D.

SECTIONS:

     
    Introduction
   
1.   Cooperation without Tolerance: The Limits of Communism
   
2.   Tolerance without Cooperation: The Limits of Capitalism
   
3.   The Post-Cold War Era of Globalization
   
4.   A Cultural Renaissance for the Post-Globalization World Order
     
    Bibliography
     

Introduction

As the great spiritual master Adi Da Samraj has emphasized [9], cooperation and tolerance are the necessary foundation stones for a new world order. To fully understand their importance to a new world order, let us first examine the old world order and the current world order, and track the consequences of the absence of one or both of these foundation stones.

In the Cold War era, the world was split in two: the "West", or capitalist sphere of influence, and the "East" or communist sphere of influence.


1. Cooperation without Tolerance: The Limits of Communism

Communism is an ideal that emphasizes cooperation through classless, communal living based on shared, materialistic ideals. It presumes that all fundamental human problems can be solved by the elimination of classes and the re-distribution of wealth and other resources. Communism, in any of its actually implemented forms, however, also tolerated no independence. It cultivated not only community but uniformity. It castigated all non-conformists. The State dictated what to think and how to act. As a result, all implementations of communism became "lumbering beasts", unable to adapt to the ever-changing world circumstances and pressures. The need to adapt rapidly has only increased with the onset of globalization [1]. As a result, severely lumbering beasts like the Soviet Union collapsed completely. Less lumbering beasts like communist China have been forced (reluctantly) to introduce forms of capitalism. Holdouts like North Korea are literally starving to death. And indeed, not only all communist states, but all authoritarian regimes of any kind, have been impacted similarly, for similar reasons: a purely top-down, or monolithic structure of control does not respond quickly enough to change.


2. Tolerance without Cooperation: The Limits of Capitalism

In contrast, the West and the United States in particular has been the land of the "free" ("free" to choose, not necessarily "free at heart"), where an individual's right to pursue whatever path and lifestyle he or she likes is not only tolerated, but even glorified (so long as he or she does not directly infringe on the rights of others). In some sense, the byline of the West is:

"May the best ego individual or corporate win!
Let the marketplace judge!"

And so in this new era of globalization, it is the marketplace that sets the bottom line values on what will succeed. It is no accident that the idealism of the West is named capitalism: "capital" money is king (as well as judge and executioner for the less fortunate). If one cares about something other than money these days say, the environment one must find a way to make one's environment-saving proposal square with "good economics". If you want to save a rain forest, you had better create "eco-tourist guide" jobs in the rain forest with comparable pay to the "clearcutter" jobs, if you want the natives, however much they love their land, to side with you rather than the lumber industries. The natives have to feed their families, and that will be their bottom line, even more so than their love of their land. Who can blame them? And don't expect much political assistance for your causes from higher levels. Capitalism, in its valuation of money above all, has scuttled the Kyoto Accord (insofar as the United States, the biggest environmental offender, has withdrawn from it) and similar attempts to establish, on a global scale, values other than (and higher than) the merely capitalistic.

And so the first major failure of capitalism is that, while it supports the right of any individual to believe whatever he or she wants to believe, in practice, it makes it very difficult for any value system other than the materialistic and egoic "me for myself" to gain ascendancy, in terms of real numbers, real organization, and real power. In effect, capitalism works to ensure that no alternative value system could get big enough and powerful enough to threaten its ascendency, even as it argues the right of individuals and relatively small, powerless groups to hold whatever views they like.

For the same reason, capitalism also tends to severely limit the size of genuine "communal units" that hold alternative values. In fact, generally the largest true communal unit in the West these days is the "family unit". Politicians often portray themselves as champions of "family values"; but the deeper, unspoken implication is that no higher cultural cooperatives will be supported (unless you consider "big business" and "transnational corporations" as cultural cooperatives I do not!). There are very few examples of larger communities, actually living and working together communally under a shared system that is significantly different from the materialistic/egoistic status quo of capitalism.


3. The Post-Cold War Era of Globalization

Capitalism won the Cold War. The bipolar world collapsed into the unipolar world of capitalism, which is now (in effect, if not by intention) conducting a "mop-up" operation that will eventually subsume all remaining cultures. Globalization is basically just another name for capitalism on a worldwide scale. The remaining countries in the process of being "mopped up" include the Islamic countries; the holdouts from the Cold War (e.g., North Korea); the various indigenous peoples (Australian aborigines, New Zealand Maoris, etc.); older cultures (India, China, etc.); and newly self-reflective cultures (the countries of Europe and Japan, which gained wisdom firsthand through the still remembered suffering of devastation wrought by the World Wars on their own homelands). All look on the American Empire with both envy and dismay: envy, because all egos desire materialistic self-fulfillment; but also dismay, in that they see a soulless, adolescent culture (with nothing better or greater to do with their leisure time than watch "reality TV" and eat hamburgers) taking over the world. This culture is appropriately called "adolescent" insofar as . . . it is mostly only aware of itself; it acts like it will live forever; it thinks it can drive at any speed and not get into an accident; and it hasn't had any significant war on its own land that would gain it some wisdom based on first-hand experience of the horrors of war (its current generation mainly knows and "fights" war at a distance and on TV); etc. This adolescent culture is creating a soulless world that is increasingly pleasurized in body and stimulated in mind, but also increasingly empty and desperate at heart.

The "smash" of civilizations and the resistance. It is no longer a "clash of civilizations" [2], as some have called it, as though there were a parity of power (as during the Cold War). Rather, this mop-up operation is a "smash" of civilizations. But not every other culture is going down without a fight, as the Islamic jihadists (among others) demonstrate. And the aborigines, the Maoris, the native Americans, and other indigenous peoples are resisting in their own way, even as are the European Union, Japan, and other first world countries, similar though they already are to the subsuming American culture.

Naturally, many Western analysts (steeped in the culture and viewpoint of capitalism) presume that the root of these conflicts is poverty (alone), and eradicating poverty (through MacDonaldization) will eradicate the resistance as well. But poverty has always been only one part of the problem. The other very significant part has been the preservation of one's own culture. There is a fear among many such cultures that if they "make a deal with the devil" to address their poverty and backwardness, they will also lose their culture, and hence their very heart and soul. History has not exactly proven them wrong.

Resistance from within the MacDonaldized world. But even should this soulless culture take over the entire world, these forms of resistance will live on. They simply will have shifted from the geographical "outside" to the geographical "inside" of the dominant world culture. (The details of 9/11, for example, were primarily worked out in Hamburg, Germany, not Afghanistan.) And they will function in the manner of networks rather than countries, using the advances in technology to communicate with each other (even as hackers, the mafia, and drug rings are already doing to further their own interests) and to work against the super-culture (the Internet, suitcase-sized radiological or nuclear weapons, and more are coming into play). The "war on terrorism" will start to look a lot like the "war on crime" and the "war on drugs".

And this resistance will take religious and spiritual forms as well, aimed at addressing the soullessness of the super-state. For instance, Stephen Carter [3] has suggested that the Bill of Rights had in mind not merely the separation of Church and State, but the enabling of churches to function as independent cultures, independent pockets of power, with their own shared values, and their own lifestyles, which can differ from that of the surrounding (and now soulless) culture. In a better-organized world, such independent cultures could thrive as "two-story buildings", or "body and soul". Yes, the "basement", or "body", that ensures material well-being is provided by the democratized, capitalistic state. But the "above-ground story ", or "soul", or "heart", is provided by the independent culture. The liability we are currently suffering is that the "basement" is taking over everything, to the point where there is no "above-ground story" worth telling.

Ongoing conflicts. Even though the entire world may be MacDonaldized, that does not mean it will turn into a single superstate, or that wars will disappear (even though some idealists see, e.g., [1] tend to believe in a "Pax Americana" wherein no two countries that contain a MacDonald's will ever go to war with each other). Even now there are "intractable" conflicts within "MacDonald world", like the one in Northern Ireland. A lot of these intractable conflicts have to do with the fact that two different spheres of influence are competing for the same geographical territory (Northern Ireland, Kashmir, Taiwan, Israel/Palestine, etc.). Other ongoing conflicts are due to the related fact that geographical divisions and ethnic or religious divisions do not coincide. This is particularly true in some of the African states [4], where the geographical divisions are the residue of the British and other colonial empires of the nineteenth century, and have little to do with the way the native peoples align themselves (then or now). This lack of coincidence between geographical divisions and ethnic or religious divisions has also been at the root of the centuries-old conflict in the Balkan states [4]. Both cooperation and tolerance are required to resolve these situations, in either of the two possible ways: agreeing upon a different, geo-political boundary; or forging a more workable, peaceful arrangement and co-existence within the existing geo-political boundaries. (Or some combination of both.)

The United Nations will never become a world government. No nation-state is willing to cede its sovereignty to that degree. Quite the contrary! Every "piece" of the shattered Soviet Union demanded sovereignty, and now "pieces" of the "pieces" (e.g., the Chechnya region of Russia, the South Ossetia region of Georgia, etc.) are seeking to splinter off in the same manner. So is Kashmir (claimed by both India and Pakistan). Even the "European Union" found it difficult to converge on a common Constitution, now that its members are being required to not only share the benefits, but also to share the power. (The problem? The ones with more power currently France and Germany didn't want to give up any of that power; and the countries with less power wanted more.) Indeed, if human egos could easily be completely self-sufficient and self-protected, they might not even agree to be a member of a larger state and strike the bargain that creates "civilization and its discontents" [5]; each one of us would declare himself or herself a sovereign nation-state! Whether writ large (in the actions of a nation) or writ small (in the actions of an individual), such is the nature of human egoity (in the absence of spiritual realization). For the foreseeable future, then, the best the world can be is a fellowship of sovereign nations. And so there will always be a need for both cooperation on shared values and shared priorities, along with tolerance of differences.

The need for larger global values and accord. Purely capitalistic globalization always is shortsighted. It works on the "free market" principle which is always a reaction to the current moment. It can't anticipate in any but a corporate-centric sense. It won't respond to the longterm effects of what we are doing (and it is doing) say, to the environment unless or until those effects are in its face: we begin to run out of potable water or clean air; the effects of global warming start to effect the global economy; we over-fish our oceans beyond the point of sustainability; the ever-increasing demand of the market for oil finally empties our last oil reserves; etc. Clearly, preventive measures are required to address such issues; merely reactive mechanisms like the global markets will always be too slow and too late. The damage will have been done and much of it may be permanent and irreparable.

One noteworthy exception to this picture: the carbon market (currently most widely implemented by The European Union Emission Trading Scheme [11], which requires the participation of all European Union member states). While still very much a work in progress, the carbon market is an instance where those concerned about the longterm impact of greenhouse gases on global warming created an entirely new market wholecloth, whose present-time, profit-oriented activities are designed to simultaneously benefit the cause of reducing global warming. We need to engage in much more of this kind of creativity (the "eco-tourism" I mentioned earlier is another example), which creates or re-fashions economic markets for the sake of particular non-economic values (social, environmental, etc.). In the case of greenhouse gas reduction, market creation had, as its necessary companion, new governmental regulation, in the form of the overall "cap and trade" approach, with mandatory "caps" on greenhouse emissions pushing companies into either cleaning up their act or trading on the carbon market.

But even this example continues to demonstrate the bigger point that globalization and capitalism alone are not sufficient for running the world in a way that fosters non-economic values. People and nations with greater wisdom and foresight than the marketplace alone must come together and forge global accords, regardless of whether it is immediately (or even ever) profitable. Cooperation and tolerance are essential to this process.

Even if we leave aside global concerns for the moment, and focus solely on the material prosperity of individual nation-states, differences in prosperity among those nation-states already integrated (to one degree or another) into the globalized world are worth explaining. It appears that those societies which instill trust and cooperation because of shared norms and cultural values are more capable of creating (at lower cost and with less overhead) the innovative business structures that lead to prosperity, than "low trust" societies [6]. For this reason alone, cultural values like trust and cooperation should be strongly encouraged.

It is simply too easily forgotten that when it comes to economic activities, one of the greatest virtues a country or community can have is a culture of tolerance. When tolerance is the norm, everyone flourishes because tolerance breeds trust, and trust is the foundation of innovation and entrepeneurship. Increase the level of trust in any group, company, or society, and only good things happen. "China began its astounding commercial and industrial takeoff only when Mao Zedong's odiously intolerant form of communism was scrapped in favor of what might be called totalitarian laissez-faire," wrote British historian Paul Johnson in a June 21, 2004, essay in Forbes. "India is another example. It is the nature of the Hindu religion to be tolerant and, in its own curious way, permissive . . .When left to themselves, Indians (like the Chinese) always prosper as a community."

Thomas Friedman, The World Is Flat [10]


4. A Cultural Renaissance for the Post-Globalization World Order

In a real sense, we have reached the end of the line, both here in the West and on a global scale. Let us not mistake decadence for culture [7]. We have burnt our cultural house to the ground. We have killed God, we have overthrown all authorities, we have isolated ourselves from any communities larger than the family unit (and even there the divorce rate is high), and we have replaced any genuine culture in which a greater purpose is the basis for all cultural activity with the sole value of materialistic self-fulfillment. All we are doing is "killing" time. All we are doing is making a pseudo-culture out of each individual ego, as though it were a nation unto itself.

Materialistic self-fulfillment as our sole cultural impulse is nothing more than horse manure to the human heart. But there is a right and valuable use for horse manure, as every farmer knows! Good things don't grow in barren soil. As Abraham Maslow pointed out [8], lower needs must be handled before we even are in a position to be aware of our higher and deeper needs.

Horse manure obviously should not be valued in itself; by itself, it stinks! The right use of horse manure is for fertilization. The best use of the MacDonaldized world which has the potential to provide at least basic material well-being for all is that it serve as the soil in which real cultures, based on higher values, are grown.

The right use of the cultural razing of the twentieth century is to grow a new crop of cultures in the twenty-first, and enable a new kind of evolutionary process to begin, based not on the "survival of the fittest", but rather, on the "flourishing of the happiest". Out of the ashes of our former houses can emerge a cultural phoenix or several.

Earlier on, we characterized capitalism in its current form of globalization by the byline, "Let the best ego individual or corporate win! Let the marketplace judge!" The right evolutionary process for the post-globalization world will be one in which the fundamental principle is instead,

"May the best culture win!
Let the human heart judge!"

And the fundamental values of a "cultural ground" that accommodates such a culture-evolving process are tolerance of such new cultures, and cooperation within such cultures [9].

Cooperation and Tolerance

from Fundamentals of The COTEDA Institute
by Chris Tong, Ph.D.
Director of The COTEDA Institute for Global Accord

The COTEDA Institute for Global Accord is dedicated to bringing about global accord through cultivation of cooperation and tolerance in the world, primarily by creating a truly spiritual culture capable of undermining human egoity and its disastrous consequences. For more on The COTEDA Institute, click here. For more on Adi Da Samraj, the great spiritual master who has championed these principles, click here. Bibliography

[1]  

Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and The Olive Tree.

     
[2]  

Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.

   

 

[3]  

Stephen Carter, The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion.

   

 

[4]  

Robert D. Kaplan, The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War.

   

 

[5]  

Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

   

 

[6]  

Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity

   

 

[7]  

Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life

   

 

[8]  

Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being.

   

 

[9]  

Adi Da Samraj, Eleutherios: The Only Truth That Sets The Heart Free.

   

 

[10]  

Thomas L. Friedman, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.

     
[11]  

The European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/emission.htm


© 2006 Christopher Tong
 

 

 
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