Sat 18 Feb 2006
What is the most important issue facing the nascent generation? One could argue coherently for environmental, political, religious, or economic issues, though attempting to determine the most urgent of these, all of which are well-known and actively discussed in the current global forum, would be impossible. The truly imperative issues are those which are rarely spoken of, because these are the issues that are allowed to progress to a point where halting and ameliorating the pressures they cause comes too late. The ominous shadow cast by globalization facing humanity – the homogenization of cultural variety – extends throughout the aforementioned, oft-touted categories and emerges relatively unsung as those categories maintain their temporal dominance.
So why is cultural variety important, the cynic asks? The various answers to this question range from the sophisms of the philosophical, to the subjective meanderings of the romantic, to the tacitly understood truth. This truth involves all of the mainstays of the relevant dialogue, though it connects to these pillars of modern social thought in ways which are rarely discussed. To answer this question objectively, one must consider what would be lost if the variety humanity enjoys were to deteriorate into oblivion.
Variety of perspective is important because without this variety an objective view of one’s cultural frame of reference is impossible. Without an objective view of one’s cultural frame of reference, evolution and adaptation of perspective based on successions of gradual, unseen changes in one’s social climate are meted out without the necessary safeguard of those perspectives from outside which observe and warn should these changes take a turn down one of the many historically-proven paths towards self-destruction. Isolationist societies which disregarded outside perspectives in the past are proof enough of this, and the value of a plethora of perspectives ranges across the religious, environmental, political, and economic fields of human endeavor. The self-check of humanity, performed on one limb of the organism by another, would be lost should we allow globalization to destroy cultural variety.
Much of humanity’s amassed archive of thought and observation was made possible through comparing and contrasting relative perspectives on all matters which unify the human experience on earth. Through borrowing from one culture which had evolved in an environment suitable for the articulation of a certain kind of thought, unlikely to sprout elsewhere, another culture is able to initiate its own study of the subject – from which the originator can then borrow in return, and enrich its own discipline. Whole academic disciplines will fade into obsolescence should cultures meld into one, comparative studies of societies, traditions, languages, technologies, histories, literatures, mythologies and philosophies: these tenets of human inquisitiveness cannot survive without the muesli of the multicultural. The inter-cultural trade of ideas, made invaluable by its very variety, would be lost along with that variety if homogenization continues unabated.
Economically, cultural variety plays a pre-eminent role in the maintenance of the mercantile structure: without the variety of objects traditionally gathered or produced by the many cultures inhabiting earth, there would be far less to trade and what was left would become monotonous, thus losing much of its commercial value.
Politically and religiously, the absence of disparate views concerning the same notions of social and religious experience would lead to the gradual weakening of the few remaining political and religious systems, for lack of those controversial perspectives which led the systems to bolster their philosophical notions and sustain the relevance of their ideals in the past.
Environmentally, the trend globalization is setting is one of industrialization, exploitation of environmental resources, and an apathetic view towards the dwindling reserves of such resources. This view is then acquired by developing cultures who wish to remain afloat in an international arena where ‘progress’ is measured by a nation’s commercial gains. What would be lost if this is allowed to continue is the relevance of those culture’s traditional definitions of progress in things other than the material, such as moral and spiritual progress in perfect symbiosis with nature – both forms of development the ‘developed’ world sorely lacks.
Essentially, globalization has inherent within it the intention of assimilating the variety of human societies on earth – and perhaps the biggest moral dilemma presented by this conglomeration is the fact that only those societies which have developed along their evolutionary path the tendency to force assimilation onto other societies will survive the globalizing trend, leaving those cultures from which they could learn the most concerning passivity and non-violence extinct along the way. But even these changes are only the pent-ultimate detrimental affect of the eradication of cultural variety. The greatest loss would be nothing as spectacular as the truncation of the socio-cultural web and its affects on academic disciplines, nor economic, political, religious, or environmental implications: the greatest loss would be the permanent limitation of all individuals’ possible life-paths.