Thursday, October 20, 2005

This post is undergoing regular editing!


Having discovered Joshua Landis' pages a few weeks ago, I'm turning to them quite frequently. Today, a very interesting rip in his post from:

By Hind Aboud Kabawat, 14 October 2005

which reflects much of my thinking on this: the world is changing but governments are the last to recognise these changes or perhaps, to be fair, they may see what is happening but be unable or unwilling to act on new developments and changing attitudes decisively and quickly enough: always a lag phase despite the constant discussion of politics. The internet is both a vehicle for change and a metaphor and analogy for how the change and innovation is working. And there are other natural models which offer ways of overcoming social problems without rescourse to coersion as socialism was bound to do.

Any analysis comes back to "The more people talk with each other the more they are likely to understand and trust each other". Though with the InterWeb it can seem the opposite, with the mass of half-formed idea floating in a sea of ignorance and misinformation. However two aspects of the internet activity are instaneity and changeablity.

It would be foolish to embark on a full-blown essay on what this leads to and could amount to, since this has been extremely well covered by many thousands of brilliant writers and academics.

The Third Way was much reviled. ButEtzioni's communitarianism provides a starting point for examining what it is about our lives that we relly want to change. The communitarian trio of

* state
* market
* community

clearly point to the areas that can be tackled. My interest is to work on the third in order to understand and control the first wo. That is based on a simple axiom: the individual, and then the smll group come before the nation and mechanisms such as finance.

My preference is not reheat the old stew of communitarianism but to look at what globalisation is. A key indication that someone thinks it important is a Google search with a 'z' giving 53,100,000 links. Google: globalization

The Globalisation Website

What is apparent from such primers is that globalisation is not a new phenomenon as some might imagine.

I see the globalisation model - essentially how money, effort and organisation transcend national boundaries and the consequences of this - can be used to define a new globalisation which is based more in values, deeper aspects of culture, stability and change.

A complete definition involves more than economics.{Wiki: globalisation} lists other definitions and mentions where in one defintion it is roughly equated with {wiki: internationalisation}. Though the bottom line is always economies and economics, it is time to think more how people, ideas and attitudes spread and what they can mean for human betterment. With the current ease of communication there is a feeling in the air - a euphoria almost - that somehow this very ease is going to change things, to make things better in a way that economic progress, growth and increased properity, has not and cannot.

The basic idea seems nowadays to be capitalism/industrialisation is good, because while it spreads wealth even more, it will ultimately reduce population growth. We soarly need to re-engage with the debate on population at the same time as sorting out seemly intractible problems in certain part so the world. In the medium term economic growth will further devastate the world: more people, less trees, more polluted air and water, the destruction of habitats and species which may not be reversible. In the long term, with the eventual adoption of worldwide accepted rules (which are actually simply sets of recognitions about what it is to be human) as to how to protect what we have left of the earth, things may improve in all these areas while everyone being better off. But ultimately the economic model is not enough. But of course to say now, "No more growth!" is tantamount to saying "We've got what we want - you have to stay in poverty" in order to save the planet from environmental destruction.

The model I like to think of is the {wiki:immune system} which is essence is also bound by ecological rules. One of the first things you might come up against is autoimmune response, where the body in effect eats itself because it cannot tell the difference between self anf no-self. Many of these are life threatening: {wiki:autoimmune diseases}

While it is said that humans are no longer bound by the rules of evolutionary theory, this is not really true when it comes to our immune systems which constantly adapt to further threats to the body from outside. No increase in brain size but a complex steady-state system (as are bodily heat, oxygen and sugar control) under-the-bonnet mechanism which ensures any new virus or bacteria or chemical has soon got an antibody to counter-act it. This is both only evolutionary and ecological because evolutionary theory works within the principles of ecology.

So why doesn't this model apply in the social world? In simole terms why does the feedback mechaism not work? Why has the obvious failures in Iraq post-2001 not been remedied quickly? Why does a malign state such as North Korea continue to exist? How is it possible that we have allowed the North Koreans have been so cut off from the the rest of the world? Wasn't it our duty to ensure they did not remain in the dark for so long despite the division created by the Korean war? Why are most Africans in abject poverty when its mineral wealth is enormous? This sounds like a recipe for world socialism. Too late and shown time and again to be unworkable. But certainly the United Nations and the sum total of all the other international cooperation have not solved problems people round the world want to be solved. Individuals sit at home worrying about other individuals inthe workd. this has become more possible (the fretting) because of the power of the new media. In fact, so much is propogated so quickly that the disssemination itself often has an influence on events: the young Irish journalist, Rory Carroll, working for The Guardian, kidnapped in Sadr City a few days ago has been released days later. 500 years ago, the poor man would have been hanging by his arms in a fetid dungeon for years before word got out.

It may seem mad to look at the political situation in Iraq and the wider Middle East, or other trouble spots in the world, at the unfairnesses and power plays, in terms of an immune system model. But such a framework is far superior to social notions such as nations, economics and religion, which are always out of kilter with the other aspects of culture. Culture, in the sense of it being what humans make and do, has always spread round the world, from the dawn of humanity, yet it does not even out the bumps, so to speak: niches are formed (people and territory) and social group still remains at loggerheads with other social group, throughout the world. The boiler-room of nation-states - economic activity - has a tendancy to be blind; while one of the major social binding forces, religion, is ineluctably socially and politically conservative: it is always social control (leave aside for now the seeming necessity for ritual and prayer) in the form of rules made by God to be obeyed, or made by God and modified by Man, (or the necessity for social cohesion through recourse to the supernatural, if you want to be less strident) masquerading as something else such as spiritual growth and development, as what people need and long for.

In my worldview,
Weltanschauung, an attempt to both create the conditions for true free-trade right across the world and to push religion - its bad effects on society such as division and hatred of the other which is in any case hard-wired into Man through the in-group drive - gently but firmly, out of the public arena into the personal domain, would be the greatest advance we could attempt.

Immedately someone asks, "Since humans are social animals how is it possible to keep religion personal?"
"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." almost seems to say you can't do it alone. I have always believed God would simply not exist without with community. This might seem both axiomatic and ridiculous in that all religious and non-religious who may study religion, will say that it is about confirming each others' faith. I believe this is where the danger lies. Whereas God is infallible, men are not. What they are congregating for may not be what they say they are congrgating for. How are we to be sure men enter a church on sunday in a little vilage in the middle of England because they see some material advantage in doing so not because they wish to be close to God? We suggest it and many cynics believe such things, but we can't prove it. if a man says he goes with others to pray to his God, we are in a pickle if we say, "No he's not, he's networking".

Dissemulation is so part of being human that a way of associating that gets round these types of difficulties has to be something automatic, obeying rules which we have input, but which takes account of facts such as lying, obfuscation, and red herrings. TO BE EXPANDED

A country like Iraq without religion would be left with its economic and social (including tribal) divisions - a lot easier, presumably, to overcome by dialogue and compromise than religious differences - rather than the mountainous barriers of faith between basically the same people who actually have much the same ambitions, objectives and hopes.

The problem with a world totally free of organised religion - which is what no religion means - is always that freedom also means freedom to believe in God and worship; but freedom to worship often then ends back with the unnecessary social divisions created by religious schism which is a built-in part of religion as any sociology of religion will tell you. A perfect study of schism is the Protestant church in America since the Pilgrim Fathers.

The fact that great percentage of humans still adhere to notions of the supernatural is not so much a condemnation of backward thinking, but a sign of their continuing needs. But religion is not the only way to satisfy those needs or calm the existential anxiety most experience. The continued existence of mass religious observance in the modern world surely indicates other means of satifying those needs have not been found. Certainly greater material comfort might lessen the need for religion, but even the rich or the astro-physist have been known to believe in God.

This thought-stream is liable to be appended, amended, edited and generally altered or even completely deleted at a moments notice

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memories of a childhood in Iraq in the 1950s * thoughts on events in the Middle East

Location: United Kingdom

expatriot in Middle East as child, retired teacher.

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