“Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life.” Albert Einstein, born on the 14th of March, 1879, and died on 18th April, 1955. He was born in Ulm in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.
“….when you kill a man you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell lie, you steal some ones right to truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.” The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseni, Endearing Afghanistan born writer now living in USA.
“We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act.” Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902).
The Beginning of Realistic Thinking
The story of human situation is the story of human sufferings, development and triumphs over time – decades, generations and centuries. Though much has evolved and has been accomplished in terms the improving the conditions of human beings in the economic, social and political spheres, the truth is: there are still humans left out from enjoying equality, justice and freedom in full measure.
The ancient wisdom believed and propagated the birth and growth of humans to be as natural and inalienable as the fundamentals of the nature itself, it also coupled these “rights” as it were with natural duties and responsibilities, to ensure orderly human development and to enable maximum numbers or majority of population, if not all, enjoy the fruits of equality, justice and freedom in full measure.
Human situation has been studied, analyzed and described since long time in as many ways as the number of people inhibit this planet. It has been explained from the base instincts of greed, envy, prejudice, jealousy and criminality to the elevated true enlightenment stage of Nirvana, salvation and self-knowledge-hood.
The purpose of this write-up, however, for practical reason, is to limit our analysis and understanding of the human situation or simply put, the human life in the context of socio-economic circumstances, impacted by the fast-engulfing globalization effects, reaching out to even the least developed and poorer countries and almost all corners of human habitat.
Toward a New Order of Living
Globally the world is just emerging from its worst recession since World War II, at the same time, the world community is facing challenges of changing economic geography, climate changes and environmental damages. the industrialized and developed nations as well as the emerging countries, representing 80% of world population and called as the Group of G20, have been entrusted with the responsibility of arriving at a concept of fairness, balance and common good both within their national boundaries and development activities and in their international transactions, in the context of socio-economic and environmental sustainability. The principles of common good and shared values are to be promptly understood and steadily internalized and implemented with transparency and accountability.
To this end, humanity’s most ambitious efforts are to successfully manage the harmonization of the world’s separate economies, governments, and cultures. This ambitious collective experiment in human history is often called “globalization”. If it succeeds, humanity may enter an epoch of opportunity and prosperity for a greater proportion of the earth’s inhabitants than ever before. If it fails, it could retard progress for generations.
Economic globalization has to inevitably lead to political globalization. Already we see national sovereignty diminishing. European nations surrender or subsume sovereignty in order to form a more perfect economic union. The International Monetary Fund dictates economic policies to nations from Russia to Indonesia. The United Nations and NATO intervene in the internal affairs of autonomous nations such as Iraq , Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former secretary-general of the United Nations, writes, “It is undeniable that the centuries-old doctrine of absolute and exclusive sovereignty no longer stands. A major intellectual requirement of our time is to rethink the question of sovereignty.” Adds Bronislaw Geremek, Poland’s foreign minister, “Relations between nations can no longer be founded on respect for sovereignty – they must be founded on respect for human rights.“
Market Values vs. Moral Values
Many nations in the developing world are asking whether the dictates of the market threaten their fragile experiments with democracy as governments are increasingly pressured by global investors and entrepreneurs. Politicians around the world are asking, “In a world where the market decides, what is the future of liberal democracy?” Side by side, cultural globalization entered a new phase with the advent of global TV and the Internet. Bart Simpson is the rage in Calcutta (now named as Kolkata). Wheel of Fortune in Nairobi. Americans may be concerned about the effects of media violence on their children, but they don’t begin to appreciate the consternation that other nations have as to the consequences of an imported postmodern culture on their children, as well as on the very moral and spiritual fabric of their societies.
“Nothing in history,” says Akbar S. Ahmed, a respected Pakistani scholar, “has threatened Muslims like the Western media.” American culture “corrodes the innermost structure of balance and authority in that crucible of all civilization, the family.” Czech philosopher and Prof. Erazim Kohak writes that, to the people of central Europe, “the American dream has very little to do with liberty and justice for all and a great deal to do with TV soap operas and Disneyland.” What the nations emerging from decades of communism need, he says, is “a clear moral vision of free and responsible citizens.“
In light of such reactions to America’s culture, its little wonder that Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter, says “Hollywood’s postmodern culture has now become a significant threat to America’s national security.“
If globalization is going to fulfill its potential, it must be more than just a technical process. It must be a human process, a psychological process, a spiritual process, a process of deepening consciousness and increasing sensitivity to other people and cultures.
Thus, we need a generous understanding of the unique cultures and psychologies of non-Western nations who are trying to grasp an alien economic system and trying to marry with an indigenous social structure. Whatever form of capitalism emerges in such nations must find root in their unique psychology and historical experience if it is to survive the storm winds of global competition.
Also, we need to understand that globalization is not simply an abstract activity “out there” somewhere. It makes personal demands on each of us as individuals. Globalization requires each of us to become a more integrated personality, for common sense suggests that it takes integrated personalities to create an integrated world, where unity in diversity is possible and based on mutual respect and mutually beneficial advancement.
In the final analysis, globalization is the result not only of technological achievement, but also of the quality and harmonization of human attitudes and perspectives.
Impact on Younger and Next Generation
Just as the world was getting flattened by globalization, technology went on a rampage — destroying more low-end jobs and creating more high-end jobs faster than ever. What computers, hand-held devices, wireless technology and robots do in aggregate is empower better-educated and higher-skilled workers to be more productive — so they can raise their incomes — while eliminating many lower-skilled service and factory jobs altogether. Now the best-educated workers, capable of doing the critical thinking that machines can’t do, get richer while the least-educated get pink slips. For example, the old time receptionist at our office has been replaced by a micro-chip to give the caller voice mail and record queries to be machine-responded with standard information.
As the globalization and technology are making the value of higher education greater and more expensive than ever, and the price for lacking it more punishing than ever, with little assistance from the government to those parents and children who cannot afford the rising cost of higher education. Unless the governments factor in these new circumstances in its development agenda, the disparities in income and opportunities will tend to widen leaving more people at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
The globalization with its instant communication has made the world a single place. What it means to live in this place, and how it must be ordered, become universal questions. These questions receive different answers from individuals and societies that define their position in relation to both a system of societies and the shared properties of humankind from very different perspectives.
Facing Reality of 21st Century
Structurally and analytically, globalization comprises the set of dynamic relationships among the four core units–societies, international system, individual selves, and humankind. Empirically, globalization involves the “conjunction of different forms of life”. This is expressed in terms of interactions between leaders, societal players or groups holding different views of world order.
There are people who still seem convinced that some of us are and must be greater than the rest: more educated, more endowed, more rich, more wise and it is very little they can do to correct this eternal imbalance. What is not realized is that though such manifestations of differences in the quality of life may be inevitable (or maybe natural), the fundamental strength of civilized society is to ensure equal opportunities, without any discrimination, to all so that each one of us can grow and enjoy our place on the sum to the best of our potentials. There are of course some negative thinkers in our midst who may say otherwise.
It may be we have to come to terms, once and for all, with a society without human happiness and, of course, without taste, without solidarity, without similarity of living conditions. It may make no sense to insist on these aspirations, to revitalize the traditionally known old time civil society or community. This can only mean dreaming up new utopias and generating new disappointments in the narrow span of political possibilities.
If we look at the huge masses of starving people, deprived of all necessities for a decent human life, without access to any of the functional systems, or if we consider all the human bodies, struggling to survive the next day, neither ‘exploitation? nor ‘suppression’ are adequate descriptions. Basically, these are the outcome of our lack of vision and neglect the human fellowship over time. Fortunately these are remediable inequities and injustice in the system crying for leadership and political will to re-establish an egalitarian society with virtues of sharing and caring.
It is one thing to describe modern society as a functionally differentiated system that generates social classes as a useless by-product of the selective operations of its function systems. It is quite another thing to define society as a social system that can change its form of primary internal differentiation.
This is no longer a question of social and political responsibilities, not to mention of ethical concerns. It is not a question of whether or not sociology as a science has to commit itself to find a solution to the globalized conundrum.
We cannot give an ‘objective’ and definite answer to this question unless we are prepared to delve into some of the ancient wisdom bequeathed to us by our fore fathers which seem totally forgotten with our pre-occupation with realising daily short-term short-lived material goals with little inherent human values.
Read below and reflect on what Swami Vivekananda had said during his various public addresses to the western audience during his tour of USA and Europe in the late 19th century:
1. Love Is The Law Of Life: All love is expansion, all selfishness is contraction. Love is therefore the only law of life. He who loves lives, he who is selfish is dying. Therefore, love for love’s sake, because it is law of life, just as you breathe to live.
2. It’s Your Outlook That Matters: It is our own mental attitude, which makes the world what it is for us. Our thoughts make things beautiful, our thoughts make things ugly. The whole world is in our own minds. Learn to see things in the proper light.
3. Life is Beautiful: First, believe in this world – that there is meaning behind everything. Everything in the world is good, is holy and beautiful. If you see something evil, think that you do not understand it in the right light. Throw the burden on yourselves!
4. It’s The Way You Feel: Feel like Christ and you will be a Christ; feel like Buddha and you will be a Buddha. It is feeling that is the life, the strength, the vitality, without which no amount of intellectual activity can reach God.
5. Set Yourself Free: The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him – that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.
6. Don’t Play The Blame Game: Condemn none: if you can stretch out a helping hand, do so. If you cannot, fold your hands, bless your brothers, and let them go their own way.
7. Help Others: If money helps a man to do good to others, it is of some value; but if not, it is simply a mass of evil, and the sooner it is got rid of, the better.
8. Uphold Your Ideals: Our duty is to encourage everyone in his struggle to live up to his own highest idea, and strive at the same time to make the ideal as near as possible to the Truth.
9. Listen To Your Soul: You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.
10. Be Yourself: The greatest religion is to be true to your own nature. Have faith in yourselves!
11. Nothing Is Impossible: Never think there is anything impossible for the soul. It is the greatest heresy to think so. If there is sin, this is the only sin – to say that you are weak, or others are weak.
12. You Have The Power: All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark.
13. Learn Everyday: The goal of mankind is knowledge… now this knowledge is inherent in man. No knowledge comes from outside: it is all inside. What we say a man ‘knows’, should, in strict psychological language, be what he ‘discovers’ or ‘unveils’; what man ‘learns’ is really what he discovers by taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge.
14. Be Truthful: Everything can be sacrificed for truth, but truth cannot be sacrificed for anything.
15. Think Different: All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.
Works of Swami Vivekananda, and a huge volume of situational analysis of socio-economic-political conditions in several countries available on the internet.
V. Muthuswami, Chennai, India.
UN Retiree Activist Group striving for justice in the UN.
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