Globalizing God: Religion and Peace in the Social Sciences
EDITORIAL, 12 Apr 2010
#107 | Johan Galtung
Glasgow, British Sociological Association, Presidential Event:
I will try to connect the five terms in the theme handed to me, starting from the end, the social sciences, making the round twice, one for diagnosis, one for therapy.
The social sciences are offsprings of the Western state system of 1648 and secular enlightenment a century later; both waning with Gaia, regions, nations, civil society, localism, globalism, humanism, religions vexing. They reified state-country as unit of analysis exploring the human condition, and rationality resident in individual Western minds as a tool. A foggy North Sea island constructed economics as privatized saving, competition and exploitation, not a Pacific island blessed by nature as preserving and sharing. The leading economics was that of the leading island. And thus it was that geography was marked-marred by straight borders drawn by Anglos overdosed with Euclidean geometry from Eton-Harrow.
In a world thus divided, peace was reduced to competing state interests; sometimes at war, sometimes fragile balance, always judging Self by good intentions, and Other by bad capabilities. Social sciences saw the world as seen from the state angles, propagated by their twin brothers, the media.
Religion, re-ligare, relink, with that out there, tat tvam asi, promised union, with a god up there, or in nirvana. There was the soft reading that god is immanent in us all, and the hard reading of a transcendent god with Chosen People and Promised Land, like the Puritans exported from East Anglia via Leyden to the Plymouth Rock; or the Wahhabs a century later with the same message for Arabia. Two extremisms against each other, one profaning Arabia 1915-45-91, one doing 9/11 2001.
God was the name for the sacred, for that union “out there”, killed in the West with a secularism that offered materialist individualism, consumerism, egoistic cost-benefit with anomie and atomi(zed) social tissue, and an afterlife limited to a golfing-gardening retirement. God became individualized human rights-democracy and globalized markets.
Globalization took the form of foggy island economics: the world as borderless island, even open for finance economy speculation with toxic derivatives ($4.2 trillion traded/day). The epicenter had left City of London for Wall Street.
With 125,000 dying daily from hunger and curable diseases.
Ugly. We try a second sweep, multi-angle, leaving value-free weberism aside (how would you like a doctor mining you for data but refusing to treat you, being “value-free”?).
We do not know what a globalized science of the nature-production-consumption cycle, drawing on human experience from all over in time and space, not marred by Western true-false dilemmas, adding daoist-buddhist yin/yang tertalemmas, will look like. But it will not be foggy island economics alone.
Sociology will have to come to grips with humanity as the unit of analysis, aggregate to the global, not to be confused with comparative sociology. It will draw on epistemes from all corners, with no Aristotle-Descartes-Hume-Locke monopoly.
An intellectual landscape called Peace shows up: chaotic, with fractal geometry, a Trauma Past, a Conflict Present, a Future of Projects. Three key tasks: Conciliation, Mediation, Construction. But the social sciences segmented knowledge and fragmented the world. We must be transnational, with a world view from above, mapping parties and goals, testing goals and the means used for legitimacy (human rights being one standard).
And we need much creativity to make a potential, more accommodating reality; a new empirical reality. We must be more transdisciplinary, drawing on all the wisdom acquired. And translevel, letting insight from, say, the interpersonal inspire the inter-state and inter-regional, and vice versa.
Unwillingness to distance oneself from past errors spells weakness. Look at Western intrusions into Muslim lands and remember: the perpetrator has short memory; the victim never forgets. Like 1915–Sykes-Picot, 1945–Roosevelt-Ibn Saud, 199l–using Arabia as a base. Like seeing piracy off Somalia’s coast but not predatory fishing and dumping of toxic waste.
Religions are not for or against war or peace; readings are; hard, exclusive readings favor war; soft readings are inclusive, as from a Spinoza, a Buber, the Quakers, the Sufis; favor peace. Softies all over the world unite, and have dialogues with your hard brothers and sister! Have faith in sacred beyond individuals, like Gandhi’s unity of humans, the Zulu ubuntu, the buddhist unity of life. Spirituality and rationality need each other.
A Golden Rule: the daoist “suffer the sufferings of others, enjoy the joy of others”. A Silver, egocentric Rule: Do unto others etc. — minding G.B. Shaw’s warning, their tastes may be different. A Bronze, negative, Rule: Do not do etc.
God has to globalize and should have done so before the stock exchange. Hard readings lead to intolerance or grudging tolerance. Badly needed: respect and curiosity; dialogue and mutual learning. There is so much wisdom! Select! Eclect! Go beyond state-territorial and national-cultural borders, and transcend those jealously guarded borders in the mind, between disciplines and religions. Je prend mon bien ou je le trouve; do not compartmentalize the longing for insight and union.
Tags: Politics, god, religion, social sciences
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 12 Apr 2010.
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