The modern world is undergoing dramatic changes. One of the leading tendencies is economic, social and technological globalization. Its numerous aspects have already been and remain a subject of many debates and discussions. Some profound reasons are offered both by the globalists and the anti-globalists. All this can be solved through multiculturalism and interfaith dialogue based on tolerance and peace among various cultures.
Culture is the basis for self-identity, it both unites (giving the sense of community) and disunites (there existing other cultures). As a rule, culture has a group nature that has been evolving for decades, centuries and millennia. Globalization as a tangled knot of various life spheres (such as politics, economy, ecology, communications) is growing wider spread and intensive throughout the world. It has to be taken for granted, whether we will it or not. Globalization causes fears and hopes. I’ll tackle upon it later in my report. But the first and most important thing to mention is the fact that global challenges of the present time, on the one hand, are the causes of globalization, and on the other hand, are its effects. It is especially noticeable in the environment.
None of the countries, even those as large as Russia, can solve the environmental problems by itself. Another good instance is economy. Being a representative of the country that earns every other frank of the national income due to cooperation with foreign partners, I have the right to declare that our today’s prosperity grew, first and foremost, out of international economic cooperation. Culture is not an isolated concept. On the contrary, it is intrinsically inherent in the social structure. Culture is a social form of life with its traditions, values and way of thinking.
What can united us more now is the common danger which is terrorism and how to construct peace and deconstruct terror.
Many believe that the Western civilisation, led by and a guiding star with which other nations must orient their historical way which America has a moral right to correct whenever necessary.’ In comparison with globalization, culture is national in its nature. A single humanitarian “culture” can only exist when ultimately simplified (which is achieved by ruining national cultures). The limit of systemic simplification is its death.’ The world of culture is multi-coloured, which is its advantage. Getting to know other cultures enlarges an individual outlook on the world, it brings together different countries and becomes a reason for respect between the nations. It is a way to a broader view of the world.
Today, any people begin to reflect on the influence of the global economic crisis on the cultural and spiritual heritage of the world civilization. Will the humankind wise up after being shattered by economic collapses? Are political leaders prepared to draw on the lessons of the most serious crisis since the post-war time? The point is not only in the revival of the global economies and finance. Leading ideological doctrines, state policies, public opinion, professionalism and conscientiousness of governmental officials, and aptness of democratic institutions will largely contribute to the process of overcoming the recession and avoiding its repetition. We cannot underestimate the exceptional role of science, education, morals of the society, creative potential and knowledge of the intellectual elite. What changes in the public life outside economy are brewing?
In 2000 at the Moscow conference held by the Roman club Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan pointed out the problem of harmonizing globalization and culture. He remarked that ‘the quicker we move towards universality, the stronger become the cultural distinctions. That’s why one cannot see globalization as a leading world tendency, forgetting about the existence of cultural, religious and historical values inherited from the past. It is essential to mention that changes in culture have a more complex character than the ones in the sphere of technologies or even economy. Technology as well as economy are secondary to culture.
Global culture is unlikely to prevail over national cultures. But it would be odd to deny long-established tendencies rooted in the most powerful world state, the USA, urge to promote its lifestyle, values and culture. American culture has succeeded a lot. The Internet has become a mighty tool to put these tendencies into life, including expansion of the English language, the basis of global culture. Without language proficiency an Internet user will fail to serf it to the full extent. Many people object to such expansion for both political and cultural reasons. This is another challenge to investigate. The question arises whether to treat global culture positively or a priori negatively? It is not that a state or a culture strives to expand, globalization has internal reasons, rather economically than politically determined. Globalization is supplied by the indefatigable hunger for information about everything in the world. The Internet can be called an essential constituent element of the global culture and the tool to create it, however there are other elements. Although, on second thought, the phenomena such as international fashion, pop culture and many others tend to flow into the Internet like streams and rivers to the ocean. While experts are debating on benefits and drawbacks of the global culture, local globalization processes are in progress, which can hardly be considered in the negative. Information technologies penetrate into all traditional methods of archivists’ work, and many things have already become impossible without these technologies.
Information centres as museums and libraries perform similar functions, the only difference being in the source of information: documents, books or items. Another tendency is sure to expand on a large scale that is presenting information about archive records and the very records in a digital mode on the Internet. At present many sites provide on-line access to archive documents.
Regarding the notion of “culture”, I fully concur with the definition provided in the Mexico City Declaration on Cultural Policies adopted in 1982, which states that culture is “the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or social group. It includes not only the arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions and beliefs”. This Declaration reiterates that “every culture represents a unique and irreplaceable body of values since each people’s traditions and forms of expression are its most effective means of demonstrating its presence in the world’. Building on these definitions, the concept of “global culture”, far from meaning a uniform and standardized set of values shared by the entire world, can also be regarded as a “global culture of diversity”, that is a worldwide interconnected network of different cultures co-existing within Nations.
The world is in the transition period today – transition to a post-industrial civilization. The problem of collective solidarity becomes topical for all nations and civilizations again. European and American 20th-century humanities raised acute problems of social identity, too, including the problem of globalization which prompted the greatest debates. First and foremost, it is necessary to admit that globalization in the main is a necessary and natural historical process that started not today, nor yesterday. Some date it as far back as the conquest campaigns of Alexander the Great or early Christianity, or the formation of the Roman Empire or the discovery of America by Columbus. The process that we call globalization, however, is not new, but nowadays it is incredibly intense due to a hurricane of new information and communication technologies. Globalization seeks to bring nations back to supra-national unity characteristic, as some fear, of a totalitarian regime, and it is viewed by many as a sort of danger. Advance of Western life standards, consumer goods and conditions of everyday life (international tourism being its major force and consumer) eliminates disparities in various externals of life that we call culture in the broadest sense of the word. Unification and diversity are, of course, the two colliding antipodes that oppose and threaten each other. Does globalization viewed like that really put culture in fatal jeopardy? Everyday life is the most conservative keeper of cultural values, but it implies creativity as well.
We can state today that the process of ‘Westernization’ which started, probably, in the age of great geographic discoveries, is drawing to an end, and we can see signs of its replacement (though not very evident yet) by some kind of ‘Eastern-ization’. On the other hand, the effect of assimilating ‘melting pot’ is not valid any longer. In the course of a large-scale cross-border migration ethnically alien civilizational penetration creates ‘a critical mass’ that ensures the self-production of cultural identity. Such a phenomenon can be observed in the USA which is gradually transforming into a bilingual society. It is manifested in several Western European countries.
Dr. Shehab Al Makahleh, Director General of Geostrategic Media Center