Meditations: Think Globally and Act Globally
Think Globally and Act Globally
One of the side effects of globalization is a reaction that is really a flip side to it: localism. Many well-intentioned people, in the North and South, take an attitude of ‘local solutions to local problems.’ However the entire strategy of emphasizing local control hasn’t worked, and needs to be radically reconsidered.
I define corporate globalization as complicity between transnational companies, governments, and international banks and institutions, giving rise to the most extensive, ruthless, selfish, and self-destructive empire in history. The empire extends far beyond America, though the military might and economic engine of the “sole remaining superpower” makes this the epicenter of rapacious globalization.
This is obvious and has been known by many people for a couple of decades. At the economic and political level at least, the diagnosis for the modern version of the age-old pattern of exploitation and enslavement of powerless people (if by much subtler and sneakier means) is pretty clear. The problem arises with the prescription, which has been codified by the catchy phrase, “think globally and act locally.”
If one thinks about it, “think globally and act locally” is not just simplistic; it’s an unworkable contradiction, both psychologically and practically. Given that “as one thinks in one’s heart, so one is,” if a one truly thinks globally, then one also acts globally in one’s locality.
The idea of acting locally while thinking globally perpetuates the notion that people in developing and developed countries can ignore or sidestep globalization and focus on their own communities. Indeed, the myth of local control, which has attained the status of dogma in some quarters, actually weakens the ability of subjugated populations to understand and cope with rapacious globalization. It undermines people’s capacity to see, understand, and address the big picture. It can also reinforce provincialism, the universal human tendency to view the world in terms of ‘my people.’
Philosophically and functionally in the global village, there is no ‘them;’ there is only us. Therefore an emphasis on locality, rather than the totality of humanity, reflects and reinforces the root cause of the human crisis, which is the emotionally held orientation of ‘us vs. them.’
The Tsunami that ushered in the New Year, killing, injuring, and displacing so many people from so many countries, provides the most heart wrenching case in point. In the wealthy countries of the West, the relief effort has allowed many comfortable, self-indulgent people to expiate their guilt and convince themselves they really do care about globalization’s underclass. It’s no coincidence that the king of counterfeit caring, Bill Clinton, has been appointed the UN envoy for Tsunami reconstruction. His buddy-buddy act with Bush the First while touring Tsunami sites attests to the non-choice that the Democratic and Republican parties of the Empire present for the America people, as well as the desperate straits of our image abroad.
In the “global South” (itself an unhelpful dichotomy in a global society), where millions of people live in extreme poverty, local efforts to aid Tsunami victims have produced an understandable resentment. For example, a widely held sentiment in sub-Saharan Africa is that it’s like “feeding your neighbor’s children while your own are starving.”
The point is well taken, but it reflects a reaction of localism. Children belong to humanity, not to their parents or a particular people, so every well fed adult who self-centeredly accepts the status quo is actually feeding their own children while allowing their neighbor’s children to starve.
The great divide in this world is not between localities, or even geographic regions. It’s between those who don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, and have the time to reflect on these things; and those who must worry about where their next meal is coming from, and don’t have the time to reflect on anything. In short, it matters much less where one lives than whether one has enough to live on, and cares about humanity.
Contrary to another cliché, charity does not begin at home; it begins with the love of humanity. Identifying with a particular people and “acting locally” made sense when people lived in distinct cultures, separated by geographic barriers. The barriers no longer exist, except in people’s heads and hearts.
When enough people begin to feel globally and act globally, both in the intercontinental village and in their own localities (which are increasingly the same thing), then starvation, neglect, and war will finally become things of humankind’s sorrowful past.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: email@example.com. The author welcomes comments.