Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Cultures and Countries Are Things of the Past

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

Cultures and Countries Are Things of the Past

Perhaps the core question with respect to globalization has to do with identity. If this issue can be adequately addressed, then many, if not most of the crises confronting people everywhere (especially in impoverished and conflict-ridden countries) can begin to be ameliorated.

The international community (a misnomer if there ever was one) continues to try to jam the square pegs of transnational dilemmas into the round holes of nation-state mentalities and structures. Fragmentation can only worsen, and crises increase and intensify, as long as the basic premises of the status quo remain inviolate.

It isn’t just a matter of the end of the international order (and its stillborn descendant, the multilateral order). The human crisis is complete—it is a crisis of consciousness itself.

In political terms, humans have had a tribal mentality for tens of thousands of years. Nationalism is a sophisticated version of tribalism. ‘My country’ as an American, Iranian, Chinese, etc. is still the first psychological and political premise for the vast majority of people.

Even so, why are parochialism, sectarianism, and nationalism growing evils? Partly it is because the response of governments and international institutions to the multi-faceted human crisis in the global society is falling so far short of sufficiency. People see no alternative but to cling to a tribal mentality.

When a New York Yankee pitcher plowed his plane into a high-rise apartment building along the Hudson River last week, there was a massive military reaction in the United States. A frightening number of fighters were sent into action over major American cities, because, as the military commander of the system said, “we have a sacred responsibility to defend our homeland.”

Nation-states matter less and less. We live in time of stateless terrorism, yet there are few places where the atavistic patterns of tribalism are not being repeated. The European Union is one notable exception perhaps, though people there, as everywhere, feel disconnected from their governments and the EU process.

On the other hand, people all over the world are looking for a way ahead flowing from the common interests of humanity. Progressives are failing to tap into this hunger, taking the premise of national sovereignty as a given, and a necessity, while fearing anything that might lead to a ‘monolithic’ global polity. To many on the Left, all forms of globalization must be implacably opposed.

But even though corporate-state globalization is, to use the cliché, the ‘hegemonic paradigm,’ there are other facets to globalization. Another aspect allows people and ideas to flow not just across borders, but regardless of borders. The first kind of globalization demands a new dimension in world politics, while the second kind permits it.

It may be a question only a philosopher would ask, but what is identity? And is it possible to hang onto it?

The irony is that by hanging onto identities and traditions, one accelerates their erosion. Conflict and confusion increase in people, and all kinds of counter-reactions and neuroses result.

Take the Disneyland of Dubai, which has been having it both ways to this point by segregating Western businesspeople and tourists from the locals, who are trying to retain their traditional ways. (The Emirates have 1.2 million residents, but only 250,000 are citizens). “People see us as these creatures walking in their midst,” said one citizen, “aliens wearing all black or all white, which they think means we are closing ourselves off.”

The first thing therefore is to meet, within oneself, the psychological tendencies toward division, fear, and resignation. The de facto global society is first an expression of what we are as individuals, not the result of cultures, governments, politics, and policies. Trying to retain or change things at these levels, without radically changing oneself, only exacerbates psychological and cultural divides.

The ideal of ‘unity in diversity’ is an impossibility. Diversity grows out of unity, not the other way around.

Our place in the world first flows out of our relationship to humankind as a whole, not from the cultures and nations we’ve been born into. We can and must emotionally perceive ourselves first as human beings, rather than members of particular, partial groups. Doing so will open a new dimension in world politics.

************

- 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: martinlefevre@sbcglobal.net. The author welcomes comments.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Keith Rankin: Narrow Vision: Subsidised Cars And Street Immunity
Problems make the world go round. Many of us – maybe the majority of workers, and certainly the majority of well-paid workers – earn our living addressing problems. A problem-free world would represent a major crisis for modern social-capitalism. (Yet standard economic theory continues to present the productive economy as a mechanism for 'satisfying wants', as distinct from 'addressing problems... More>>


Biden In Tokyo: Killing Strategic Ambiguity
Could it have been just another case of bumbling poor judgment, the mind softened as the mouth opened? A question was put to US President Joe Biden, visiting Tokyo and standing beside Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida: “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?” The answer: “Yes. That’s a commitment we made.”.. More>>

Dunne Speaks: Robertson's Budget Gamble On Treasury
The popular test of the success or failure of Grant Robertson’s fifth Budget will be its impact on the soaring cost of living. In today’s climate little else matters. Because governments come and governments go – about every six to seven years on average since 1945 – getting too focused on their long-term fiscal aspirations is often pointless... More>>


Digitl: Infrastructure Commission wants digital strategy
Earlier this month Te Waihanga, New Zealand’s infrastructure commission, tabled its first Infrastructure Strategy: Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa. Te Waihanga describes its document as a road map for a thriving New Zealand... More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Leaking For Roe V Wade
The US Supreme Court Chief Justice was furious. For the first time in history, the raw judicial process of one of the most powerful, and opaque arms of government, had been exposed via media – at least in preliminary form. It resembled, in no negligible way, the publication by WikiLeaks of various drafts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership... More>>




The Conversation: Cheaper food comes with other costs – why cutting GST isn't the answer

As New Zealand considers the removal of the goods and services tax (GST) from food to reduce costs for low income households, advocates need to consider the impact cheap food has on the environment and whether there are better options to help struggling families... More>>