The World Moves South and East

EDITORIAL, 17 Oct 2011

#186 | Johan Galtung, 17 Oct 2011 - TRANSCEND Media Service

Dialogue of Civilizations, Rhodes Forum, Greece, 7 October 2011

With the US Empire collapsing, parts of the West de-developing, the state system yielding to a region system with Latin America, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation-OIC and East Asia as new regions–maybe also a Russian Union with autonomy for Chechnya like for the Netherlands in the EU-European Union–the world center of gravity is, indeed, on the move.

Economism has a narrow focus: growth rates, God=Mammon.  However, what does the move mean for civilization, religion, the deeper God? Please join me in a spiritual West-South-East move.  We know the landscapes: the abrahamic religions (judaism-christianity-islam) in the Occident, the hindu conglomerate in the middle, and the buddhist space spanning the Orient, as buddhism alone or with daoism and confucianism in East Asia.  What are some key messages?

Religions, worldviews, are at our hearts and minds.  Huge depositories of the human experiences, religions are mixes of jewels of wisdom and the mud of negativism, reflecting traumas and glories at the hands of, or at the expense of, others.  We drop the latter. Nobody shall tell us that we cannot search for, and select, the jewels, but have to accept the whole package by faith.  The jewels are the truths, the tools, that speak to us, lift us, take us closer to something above ourselves.  The mud divides us, like doctrines of chosenness above others, of promised lands excluding others, of exceptionalism above the law for ordinary humans and lands.  We leave it behind, for quick oblivion.

And nobody shall tell us we cannot eclect equally boldly, put rubies, diamonds and sapphires together in new ways, learning from the dialogues, going beyond, regionalizing, globalizing god.

I—a humanist with buddhist spots–have my jewels collection, fruits of countless dialogues around the world.  I want to share it with you, and invite you to the same.  Here is what I found:

From judaism: that truth is not a declaration of faith, but a process, a dialogue with no end, like in the Talmud, not torah.

From orthodox christianity: the optimism of Sunday Christianity as opposed to the necrophiliac Friday Christianities of the other two: Christ has risen, He is among us.

From catholic christianity: the distinction between peccato and peccatore, between sin and sinners, taking a stand against the sin, yet pardoning, forgiving the sinner who does the same.

From protestant christianity: the lutheran hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders, here I am, I have no alternative; the significance of individual conscience and responsibility; and equality in the face of the Creator.

From islam: the truth of Sura 8:61, that when the Other shows an inclination toward peace so do you; peace breeds peace. And the truth of zakat, of sharing with the poor.  And the truth of islam-sala’am, joint submission, to the cause of peace, togetherness.

From hinduism: the trinitarian construction of the world, as Creation, Preservation and Destruction, which applied to conflict means to pursue Creation by seeing conflict as a challenge to be creative, with Preservation of the parties, and Destruction of whatever generates the violence; unsolved conflict, hatred, habit.

From buddhism-jainism: nonviolence, ahimsa to all life, to the whole earth, not only the human part and the earth-human interface.  And as a part of this what in Japanese buddhism is known as engi, that everything hangs together in codependent origination, no beginning, no end; nobody is totally guilty or totally innocent, we all share responsibility in reducing dukkha-suffering and increasing sukha-fulfillment, with liberation for all, ourselves. The tetralemma, A, B, A&B, -A&-B: either, or, both-and, and neither-nor; not only the dilemma either-or.

From confucianism: the principle of isomorphic harmony; inside ourselves-inner peace, in the family, at school, at work, harmony in society, the country, the nation, the region, world harmony among civilizations; with all levels inspiring each other.

From daoism:  the principle of yin-yang, the good in the bad and the bad in the good, and the bad in the good in the bad and the good in the bad in the good, and so on; a complexity far beyond Western dualism.  And “Share in the suffering of others; delight at the joy of others.–View the good fortune of others as your good fortune.  View the losses of others as your own loss”.

From humanism: the idea of basic human needs, to some extent reflected in the basic human rights as an ethical guideline.

So we move south, and east.  We move away from the individualist consumerism into muslim we-ness and sharing.  And from the muslim claim on the only truth valid for all forever, into the philosophy of ever changing reality.  And we move on from a hopeless caste system resisting destruction, into the daoist-buddhist richness and the harmony of confucianism; from hopeless peace ideas, theories like “balance of power”, or “become Western”, to mutual and equal benefit.  Guided by human basic needs and rights.

The dualism good vs. evil-God vs. Satan, seductive, dangerous, yields to the sophistication of ambiguity; the yin/yang of contradictions.  We add to either-or the richness of neither-nor, and both-and. Conflicts looking unsolvable suddenly open up; the uncombinable can be combined.  We leave behind the idea of an Armageddon, a final battle with enemies beyond redemption, out to do evil, in favor of the joint search for world harmony.  And we are rich.

Our jewels are many and diverse.  We move from the sickening idea of one civilization being universal to a multipolar world in dialogue.  And we can globalize and evolve by choosing the best.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 Oct 2011.

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3 Responses to “The World Moves South and East”

  1. David Doerr says:

    For some centuries the leading Bibles in England had Jesus holding the cup at the Last Supper, and telling the Apostles that this cup (or – mistranslation – chalice)is the cup of the blood of the new testament. When Jerome translated the Scripture from Greek to Latin, he mistranslated the Greek word for “covenant” as “testament”. The Douai Bible, followed by the Authorized Version, continued the mistranslation into English. Why does this matter? It matters because at this point in the Gospels, Christ was referring to the institution of the new covenant (Jer 31:31-34). Note that modern Bibles generally have corrected this mistake, and now use the term “covenant”. It was the failure of the ancient kingdom of Israel to keep to the covenant that brought down their kingdom. (See Jeremiah, ch. 11.) The covenant represents an agreement with God. If we agree to serve God’s will, then God will provide for our needs – security, prosperity and peace. The institution of the new covenant concludes with the statement that no one will have to teach their neighbor or their brother to know God, because everyone – from the least to the greatest – will know God. (Jer 31:34) Now that we have gotten beyond Jerome’s mishandling of a critical point of the Gospel, we must teach others this element of the Gospel, if we want the reward – God’s blessing. That is explained clearly in the section of The Sermon on the Mount at Matt 5:17-20.

  2. Majid Shaghaghi says:

    As you mentioned yourself there should be a spiritual approach towards tackling world problems affecting our daily lives, but in fact therefore one comes across certain fundamental issues which will cause serious obstacles with regard to uniting all towards one goal , we should be aware that
    -(Abrahamic)Religions have been made /founded based on ABSOLUTE dogmas ,remember the famous saying:
    “It is absurd: ergo; I believe it ”
    nevertheless, one can always refer to the common aspects cherished by all of them as well , but definitely each of these religions draws a red line therefrom it must not be crossed and this is exactly what rationalists can not accept
    -a humanist/rationalist is a RELATIVIST which means a rational mind believes in no absolute dogma and everything is valued just according to the relative utility it may bring about for the benefit of the rational individual , and everyone and everything is just a means to achieve the pragmatic objectives ,( utilitarian)
    thus a rationalist as a relativist may chose to put Humanity as the final goal or else the self-interested objectives can be followed , as a matter of fact a rationalist lacks a core- belief to orient his attitude towards the world issues and what we are apt to call modern western culture (which also comprises the Sino-Tibet-Niponic cultures as well) belong to this (relativist) category
    therefore one can consider the world issues as a clash between ” absolutists versus relativists”
    ironically also any religion can interpret its holly book
    to serve the interest of certain individuals ( a relativist approach)
    -my point is :yes we can and we should believe in a higher meaning of life destined by our creator so that we could bring peace among all human beings and also we can learn the constructive wisdom preached in all religions but the moment we put” Human” as the core-value then everything changes since a human is vulnerable to many faults and vices which are exactly the cause of the problems in the first place ,
    perhaps the first step to bring peace among nations would be ” defining absolute God-human values through integrating the common aspects of the main religions into a constructive universal law in such a way that it can not be interperetated ” instead of a atheistic/relativist(human centered)code of rights.

  3. I agree with Mr. galtung.