Culture and Development: Clash of Civilizations or Global Melting Pot?

I don’t think there is a structural contradiction between globalization and respect for cultural freedom. The world in which we now live is a global cultural melting pot, and not a ‘clash of civilizations’ or ‘macdonaldization’, as I argue in my book “Truth, Errors, and Lies: Politics and Economics in a Volatile World” (http://www.amazon.com/Truth-Errors-Lies-Politics-Economics/dp/0231150687/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1295525437&sr=8-1). Although there is an urgent need for better coordination of economic policy worldwide, there is still plenty of room for cultivating one’s national or local culture, as many people across the world are indeed doing. One of things I appreciate about traveling is learning about the customs, styles and tastes of others and respecting our differences. Feel free to take a look at the photo albums on my Facebook page from my travels (http://www.facebook.com/kolodko#!/kolodko/photos).

On my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/kolodko), under my note “Back to Warsaw (17)” (http://www.facebook.com/kolodko/notes#!/notes/grzegorz-w-kolodko/back-to-warsaw-17/355633471149313), Ms. Danka Nasr posted a note with the following question, “How do you reconcile the retention of national identity with globalization?”

The most important thing in this regard is tolerance of the other. People must learn to be more open-minded and develop a mutual understanding and respect towards the culture and values of other people. Globalization presents both a threat and an opportunity, and I certainly hope for more of the latter. Globalization allows us to enrich our local culture by being exposed to the values from other parts of the independent world, but it calls for an openness and a willingness to learn from each other, and not for xenophobia, conservatism and false patriotism to dominate our thinking. One’s love for her country and customs, can be even more enhanced if one is able to ascertain what it is about their respective culture that is appreciated by others.

While traveling extensively, I have had plenty of occasions to see how heterogeneous values perform in diverse parts of the contemporary world. Recently, following the publication of my book in Arabic (“Hkaak w Akhtaa w Akazeeb. AL Siasah W AL Ektsad F Aalam Motahawel” http://www.neelwafurat.com/itempage.aspx?id=egb174684-5187051&search=books), I visited a number of Arab countries: Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.  The multicultural landscape is most advanced in Lebanon. Traditional culture is protected and taken care of in Oman, while there is not much room for intercultural exchange and tolerance for alternative values in neighboring Saudi Arabia. The difference between Saudi Arabia and the UAE is striking, so close, and yet so far away… Such an approach to multiculturalism does have economic implications. No doubt, the nations which exercise more openness and exchange more values, also exchange more goods, capital, know-how and technologies, and – consequently – are developing faster.

Intercultural dialogue and reciprocated tolerance – in Europe and the Middle East, in Africa and North America, in  the Far East and Latin America, etc.– is a must for a peaceful future, if we indeed are looking for a more sustained, equitable and durable long-term social and economic development. There is only one way out of the existing threats and risk of intolerance from a “clash of civilizations”: an escape forward towards a planetary cultural melting pot. It should occur along the line of heterogeneous values and policies, which I’m suggesting in my book as the New Pragmatism. Though it is basically an economic proposition, it requires a proper cultural environment. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time until we face an even grander crisis, with all its devastating consequences.

One Response to "Culture and Development: Clash of Civilizations or Global Melting Pot?"

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