Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Philosophical Reflections on Globalization

Opinions vary about globalization because of the different levels at which this complex concept has been understood. Though the 20th and 21st centuries would like to show their monopolistic designs on this concept, attempts at globalization had been made throughout the history of humankind. While Alexander the Great of Macedonia, Caesar of Rome, Ashoka of India, Genghis Khan of Mongolia, Napoleon of France, the Colonial Empire of the British and the Communism of Lenin and Mao of Russia and China, have provided visions of globalization by making bold attempts at bringing together the diverse people of the world under a single political and military system, these attempts had not been successful.

After World War II, with the collapse of the British colonial empire, a great deal of debate had ensued regarding globalization, which was conceived in terms of a one-world, two-world, and three-world or multiple-world order. Though the idea of a one-world order gained currency among the politicians and intellectuals, the proponents of the cold war rejected it. From the end of World War II to the early 1990’s, globalization came to be understood in terms of two worlds: the Communist World of the USSR including the Eastern European Countries and China and the Capitalist World of the USA incorporating UK and Western European Countries whereas all the other countries were tolerated and were dubbed as the third world. During the early 1990’s, as this vision or division of the two-world order fell apart with the break up of the former USSR, the USA became the most powerful nation on this earth.

In order to cement this splintered globe, the USA started articulating its own vision of globalization in economic terms only to rest of the world. To accomplish their goal of economic unification, when the US mega corporations did not have their way with the various countries of the world, the US armed forces came to their rescue by enforcing this economic globalization through military action. The US involvement in bloody wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is a clear evidence of this militaristic strategy. Since the past attempts at globalization through political, economic and military domination failed because of the people’s revulsion towards the hegemony of any one country on rest of humanity, the USA experiment on imposing its will on the people of the globe is bound to suffer the same fate.

Though the proselytes are convinced that globalization is inexorable, inevitable and a blessing for the human race, the critics are repulsed by the very thought of it because it is a reminder of the colonial past of the human race where the powerful nations restrained the less powerful countries and lived lavishly at the expense and exploitation of the subdued. The big industrial giants, who want to tie up the entire world, present globalization to the general public in economic terms only. “While the members of the World Trade Organization are trying to negotiate for the best trade terms for themselves, the impact of globalization goes beyond business, trade and finance. In fact it will affect practically every aspect of our lives. Some of these effects may be positive, while others may be negative.” (EWC/EWCA 2002 Conference Theme).

As a philosopher my interest lies in portraying globalization as an all-encompassing concept of moving towards the creation of a one-world culture/civilization where the world economy will have a crucial place but will be only one among many other significant factors.

Globalization as a vision will involve the creation of the following:

1. A One-World Government, where all nations will become states of the Federal Government of the United Nations. The United Nations will be more like the Federal Government of the United States having its centralized economy, budget, army and control on the major resources such as energy, monuments, aviation, weapons, etc. as well as universal health insurance and minimum wage for all citizens of the world. All nations, as the states of this world government, will have only police force to protect the citizens from the anti-social or disruptive elements of the society. Each of the present nations will send two senatorial representatives, who will be part of the World Senate and will have a single vote. The other will be the House of World Congress, which will have representatives proportionate to the size of their country’s population. Both the World Senate and World Congress will constitute the World Parliament, which will take decisions for the welfare of the world. If there is an emergency in any part of the globe, which requires the action of the World Government, that nation will be treated as a state and will be given disaster funding and other help to deal with the crises.

2. A One-Universal Educational System, where every school going child will have the opportunity to go to school at least till the 12th grade. This education will be provided free of charge so that the children, who are the future of the human race, will be literate and will carry on the burden of humanity. (Please check the third part of the paper where a successful attempt has been made through the Ninash Foundation to provide education to the impoverished children by building three Indo-International Elementary Schools in India)

3. A One-World Diverse History, which will be written by the world scholars highlighting the Global leaders of the past who had solved problems through non-violent and compassionate means rather than through fighting bloody wars. All those cruel leaders who were anti-human rights, anti-human equality, and anti-human freedom will be assigned a mediocre place in human history. Each country’s history will be written as the history of one of the states of the world whereas the history of the world will constitute the history of the diverse human race.

4. A One-World Spiritual Quest or Universal Spirituality, which will delineate the quintessence of all religions representing the best aspirations of humankind. The emphasis will be on the universal laws of the spirit revealed by the diverse religions, where inclusiveness will be emphasized and the exclusivity will be de-emphasized. Moreover, each of the present religions will be looked upon as offering a path leading to the realization of this universal spirituality. Vivekananda, who was an Indian Intellectual, identified the quest for the Universal Religion with Universal Spirituality. He speaks of the Universal Religion/Spirituality as follows: “There is only one (universal) religion. The moment you give it a name, individualize it, it becomes a sect and no more a religion. A sect proclaims its own truth and declares that there is no truth anywhere else. (Whereas Universal) Religion believes that there has been and still is, one religion in the world. There never will be two. It is the same religion presenting different aspects in different places. The task before us is to conceive the proper understanding of the goal and scope of humanity which is the realization of Universal Spirituality.” (April 1, 1900)

5. A One-World Diverse Art, One-World Diverse Literature, and One-World Diverse Music, will present universal sentiments as expressed in the world-affirming expression of the human spirit and will be patterned after the World History and the Universal Spirituality. Diversity in art, literature and music will be emphasized within the context of the underlying unity, which is the expression of the world-affirming human spirit. In his work, What Is Art?, Tolstoy expressed a similar sentiment by emphasizing the function of art as expressing universal human emotions such as love, altruism and compassion—the sentiments that are conducive to the spiritual connection among diverse people of the planet earth.

6. A One-World Diverse Philosophy, which will present an all-encompassing philosophy which will reveal the distinctive features of the humankind, their relationship to the universe and their concepts of a meaningful life to be lived here and now. This overarching philosophy will emphasize the exciting diversity of humankind as well as the uniqueness of the individual displayed through the existing philosophical systems of the world. The earliest philosophical books of India called the Vedas, which had presented this idea as: “Ekam Sad Vipra Bahuda Vadyanti” meaning “there is one truth, but many paths to it,” encouraged diverse search for the one truth.

7. A One-World Currency, to be used in every state of the world. The minimum wage will be sufficient to buy a family of four adequate food, shelter, clothing, footwear, transportation etc. to live a comfortable life.

8. A One-World Economy, which will be patterned after the economy of the United States of America. All countries of the world will be states of this one-world government and will be modeled after the states of the USA.

9. A Borderless Village, a world without borders or check points where people will be able to move freely from one state to another, finding job opportunities and raising family in a geographic area of their choice.

10. A One-World Citizen: where a person will not be a citizen of a specific country but a world citizen.

By Ashok Kumar Malhotra

Southern Tempest

I am both bemused and fascinated by the latest racial “tempest in a teapot”, i.e. the mock outrage expressed in some quarters regarding Virginia’s Confederate History Month. Megalopolitan extraordinaire Michael Gerson called Gov. Bob McDonnell’s failure to mention slavery in his proclamation “a sin of omission”, and President Obama deemed it “unacceptable”. Predictably, McDonnell repeatedly apologized profusely for his heinous crime.

Then Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour defended McDonnell, saying that there was no need for an apology, that everyone with any common sense already knows slavery was bad, and that the whole controversy did not amount to “diddly”. Barbour also noted that Mississippi has had its own Confederate Memorial Day for many years and that no one has attacked the Democrat-controlled Mississippi legislature. Thereafter, the DNC attacked Barbour for his insensitivity.

Well, it turns out that according to Wikipedia twelve states have legal provisions to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day (the thirteen Confederate states less Missouri, plus Pennsylvania, which is a well-known hotbed of racist rednecks, according to deceased Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha). Louisiana, for example, is particularly pathetic: she has two days set aside on which the Governor may decree that the Lost Cause be remembered, but only one per year: either Robert E. Lee’s Birthday, January 19, or Confederate Memorial Day, June 3 (which was Jefferson Davis’ birthday). Thus, each year Louisiana can officially honor the General or everybody else, but not both; or the Governor can designate other possible holidays and honor none of them, which as far as I know is what has happened for many years and which is likely to continue.

By the way, I checked the overly lengthy Louisiana statute which creates holidays, and there does not appear to be any mention of the evils of slavery in it. I strongly suspect that the other states’ statutes also reflect the same “unacceptable” “sin of omission”. On the other hand, Louisiana provides for a state holiday for Martin Luther King every year.

But I digress...

What bemuses me about the criticism of McDonnell is the logic at work in the brains of those who claim that every time a public official celebrates Southern history or the Confederacy, one must also mention slavery. That logic leads to absurd consequences. For example, let’s put the shoe on the other hand, as it were:

Every time we mention Lincoln, do we have to note that he wanted to send the freed slaves back to Africa?

Every time we mention the Rev. Martin Luther King, do we have to talk about his adultery and ties to communists?

Every time we mention the obvious evils of slavery, do we also need to remember that slavery is what brought the slaves to America in the first place?

Every time we mention England or Great Britain, do we need also to recount the crimes and injustices committed in the name of the Crown against the Irish, Scottish, Catholics, American Indians, Africans, Asian Indians, Chinese, Autralian Aborigines, Maoris, Jamaicans, etc., etc.?

Every time we mention St. Patrick, do we need to mention his wanton cruelty committed against the snakes of Ireland?

And finally, more generally, every time Obama goes abroad, does he really have to apologize for all of the alleged sins of the United States?

The answer to these questions, for those lacking functional synapses, is “No”.

More importantly, what fascinates me about Virginia’s Confederate History Month is, first, the fact that it is taking place at all; and why now? It seems clear that the Democrats think they can deride McDonnell and Barbour with the usual racial smears as part of their larger strategy of attempting to portray the Republicans and the Tea Party movement as a bunch of ignorant white racists. But why would Republican governors bring all this up now?

The most probable answer is simply inattention to detail, or not thinking things through. The Republicans stepped in it and gave the Democrats ammunition (or at least something the Democrats are lamely trying to use as ammunition). But another possible explanation is that when a large percentage of Americans think that the country is going to hell in a hand basket, the Republicans threw their right wing a bone and differentiated themselves from the Democrats. This is essentially the red cape theory: that Republicans knew that the Democrats would charge like an angry bull and that the Republicans would come out ahead with their conservative Southern base. The problem with the theory is that Republicans already have the support of most Southerners, and I can’t think of anyone who would switch to vote Republican based on this hubbub. Furthermore, nothing puts the fear of God into a mainstream Republican like a claim that he is being “divisive”, or insensitive, much less racist. I am sticking with just plain not thinking things through.

The other thing that I find fascinating is what the implications of the little tempest are for the American ethnic identity. As chronicled by Samuel Huntington, the white American ethnicity has essentially been deconstructed over the last fifty or so years, most effectively by mass non-white immigration and by forced integration, particularly in the South. To have a State—or really twelve States, for that matter—publicly and officially honor the Lost Cause is to throw a monkey wrench into the deconstruction of the white American ethnicity. In other words, rather surprisingly, white Southerners apparently still view themselves as white Southerners; by extension, white Americans still view themselves as white Americans. That ethnic consciousness is something that proponents of the Proposition Nation like Obama and Gerson (and his former boss, Pres. Bush 43) simply can not tolerate. Therefore, Gov. McDonnell and Virginia’s Confederate History Month must be criticized. More importantly, the month honoring essentially white Southern history must be altered to acknowledge the obvious evil of slavery, so that such a distinctively white memorial can not be viewed as a positive and must be seen in a negative light; and the apologies must be profuse.

Nevertheless, Megalopolitans, take comfort, your victory is nearly complete: in my view, there will be no resurgence of Southern (or American) identity. From what I can tell, the younger generation of Southerners has no knowledge of Southern history except what they have been taught in school, which is simply that the Confederates were evil slaveholders. They can’t sing “Dixie” because (a) they don’t know the words and (b) they have been indoctrinated with the belief that the song and the Confederate Battle Flag are racist symbols. Virginia’s Confederate History Month does not represent a turning point; it is just an eddy in the torrent toward Western oblivion.

W. Reed Smith