In an earlier post I mentioned the Public Forum on Building a Cooperative Global Community moderated by Morton Deutsch. As most may know, he is considered one of the leading scholars of conflict resolution.
For me it was the first time I’d had a chance to hear him, and that was a treat, as he really is one of the founders of the entire field of Conflict Resolution and Mediation.
The forum was a discussion on how to address some of the important issues facing the world. Dr. Deutsch listed poverty, injustices to women, racial issues, social inequality and others as problems facing the world, challenging the panel with the question: “How do we move to a world community?”
It’s a provoking question, and one that I struggle with in light of issues surrounding globalization. There is a tension between understanding that we, as humans on a shared planet, have issues to address together, and the notion that each of us may have a separate cultural history and identity worth preserving.
Each of the presenters on the panel had their own take on Deutsch’s question.
Warner Burke talked about developing cross cultural competence, and that one should be “…clear about your role when invited into another culture and what is expected in that role….” He also stressed that extended exposure helps, along with knowing your own cultural influences.
Joshua Fisher talked about expanding the scope of community to include all the actors. And went on to discuss this idea in ecological terms.
William Gaudelli used an example of schools in Thailand eating together as how to live in sync with the planet. More intriguing was his idea that technology might interfere with this style of living; but don’t we rely on the Internet and computers to even HAVE a global community? This question stuck with me as the symposium continued.
David Hansen suggested that now is an urgent time for global community. Cosmopolitanism, he argued, will be an important approach to the idea of global community, a “…fusion of openness and loyalty….”
Lastly, the duo of Victoria Marsick and Connie Watson (AEGIS, Ed.D. candidate at Teachers’ College) gave a presentation on how deep feelings can bring conflict and how transformative learning can help us to look at the tacit things we assume. Best of all, they suggested several practical approaches on how these ideas might be applied in the classroom.
Did I think this was all thought provoking? Yes. But even when we broke up into smaller discussion groups for the next 30 minutes, there seemed to be little idea on how to practically apply some of these concepts or where to even begin.
More than that for me, I have issues with the premise that a cooperative global community is a good idea. Sure there are large issues like climate change that may need a globally organized response. Yet I cannot escape the notion that striving for a global community simply ignores important differences between groups.
Cultural differences, religious ideas, social structures and norms, are different throughout the world, and the differences between them are what drive change, what allow us, as a species, to have a chance to develop and grow. They allow us to test ideas of interaction and community that may or may not work.
Don’t we need social conflict to grow? And if we seek a globalized world with a single community, which elements will be discarded? and who decides?
Perhaps it’s like Dr. Deutsch suggested at the end of the symposium:
“…let us maintain the hope that we can improve the world, let us fulfill our hope by actions…we won’t solve the issues all at once…giant things happen because the little things happen.”
What do you think?