The Third Millennium
Essays on the Human Predicament
By Hugh M. Lewis
Copyright © 2000, by Hugh M. Lewis
I--Basic Problems and Prospects
Dilemmas of the Global Imperative
Selection and the Human Succession
Brief Natural History of Humanity
and Global Social Circumscription
Acculturation, Differentiation, Stratification, Assimilation
Systems: Open and Closed
II--Basic Principles and Progress
& Pacifist Revolution
Rights and States Rights
Rights and Anthropological Relativity
Information Revolution and the Dawn of the Information Age
Culture, Global Society
the 21st Century
It is quite natural in the year 1999 to look forward to the
dawning of the 3rd Millennium, and its implications for humanity on
earth--especially for people of the Judeo-Christian tradition because the
concept of the Millennium has long had vital connotations of the coming of a
perfect age. Upon the edge of the 3rd Millennium, we can look both backward to
where we have been, and forward to where we are now going to be.
It is quite legitimate to ask but quite impossible to
answer whether or not humanity will even be here in another thousand years
from now, and if so, then what kind of state and world will our distant
descendants then occupy. If we assume that a generation of humankind recurs
every 27 years, on average, then in a thousand years there will have been
approximately 36-7 human generations upon the earth. We can look back to the
condition of humankind at 1000 A..D. Europe was then just awakening from a
dark shadow of a previous Millennium of involuntary servitude and violence, of
religious ignorance and feudal anarchy.
At the edge of the 3rd Millennium, we can see clearly
several major difficulties looming upon our collective horizon. A great amount
of ink has been spilled on these issues already. It is nearly enough now to
list them in rank order of their importance: Global Population; Loss of
Bio-Diversity and Mass Extinction; Militarism: Human Authoritarianism &
Inequality: the Global Challenges of Human Development. This ordering is
paradoxically in reverse of the predominant trends in spending and policies
pursued by most governments and major organizations today. A great deal of
money and human energy is currently being invested in the pursuit of often
short-sighted policies of economic development, and while other vast amounts
of resources are consumed uselessly in vicious cycles of human corruption and
in the maintenance of systems of structurally reinforced inequalities, and
even more is wasted in building armies and destructive weapons.
Proportionately very little effort or money is being spent upon solving more
basic and in a sense more pressing issues of global pollution, loss of habitat
and bio-diversity, and in concerted policies to control and alleviate the
pressing problems of human overpopulation. These problems are all
interrelated. They are the direct result of the rapid proliferation and
success of the Human species on the earth, especially in the last few decades.
Upon the dawn of a new Millennium we must ask ourselves honest questions as
human beings about where we've come from, who we are and what we are doing in
our world. We can make no more distinctions between black and white, Moslem
and Christian, east and west. We can no longer afford the ethnocentrism and
prejudice that had bound our ancestors to a long dark past of perennial
violence and chronic suffering.
It is time as a single world of modern human beings that we formulate our
new one thousand-year resolutions, and these resolutions must be something we
do not collectively forget before the following Springtime. Our resolutions
for the new century and the new Millennium must now be built upon a deeper and
more realistic understanding of what it means to be a contemporary human being
on the modern earth.
As mass communications and the information revolution breaks down invisible
barriers and bring us all potentially ever closer together, we cannot escape
the daily evidence of our shared and common humanity. On television we see
live satellite images of suffering and violence from the all corners of the
world, and we know that it could just as well be happening next door.
Unlike our grandparents, we can no longer naively or with self-deception
maintain the petty ethnocentrism, delusions of prejudice and hatred, and
comfortable illusions of "our better world." It is our common and
shared fate to become responsible members of the world community whether we
wish to be or not. We have a collective identity and implicit responsibility
to this global human community that we cannot freely shirk without a sense of
having not done something right.
This responsibility is in the final analysis a democratic one--one that is
based on equality and freedom of choice. It is our responsibility to exercise
this freedom and to actively participate in the possibilities of this new
found global democracy. The ground swell of global democracy, the natural
outcome of the information revolution, is potentially a grass roots movement
of major proportions. It is our new found responsibility to put aside our
emphasis and attention to cultural differences and our preoccupation with
separatist and divisive chauvinism, and to promote those qualities that are
shared and common to all human beings--qualities of individual importance, of
achievement and success, of family love, of courageous and heroic commitment
to causes beyond our own selfish ends.
Like it or not, we are all connected together. Not only are we all
connected to one another, but we are also all intimately connected, singly and
in groups, and as a whole species, with our natural world and the larger
physical universe. We cannot escape the fact and consequences of this sense of
total, universal connection to our world.
We are greeted at the dawn of the Third Millennium with an immediate and
pressing set of problems that we must resolve if we are to assure the future
survival and well being of our progeny on earth. There is no single worst
issue or separable set of little problems--we are confronted immediately and
dramatically by a single, large, complex problem that has an impending sense
of urgency. Indeed, if we think about it, there is an overwhelming sense of
immediacy that lurks in the background of all our lives. It is like a huge,
black, ominous storm cloud that now overcasts the entire earth in a foreboding
It is the global imperative of the dawn of the Third Millennium that we must
collectively face this common set of problems, or, by failing to do so, face
the threat of disaster and eventual extinction. It is a complex synergy of
many kinds of issues connected together that demand our attention and remedial
action. Its complexity and chaos entail also that the solutions cannot be
simple or straight-forward to implement. But solutions are there, one way or
At the dawn of the Third Millennium we are confronted with the imperative
that we must change ourselves and our old ways of doing things that were
oriented toward isolated selves in many isolated communities. We cannot afford
to simply continue in previous modes and maladaptive patterns of social
behavior without in the long run dearly paying the piper and seeing our
children led off into the mountain. We cannot afford to ignore these dilemmas
and to delude ourselves that our actions do not have larger consequences in
We really have no choice any more. To fail to change is to allow the world
to run amok within the next century. We can believe that this will never
happen, we can wish that it wouldn't, we can rationalize how and why it
probably won't--but we must assume responsibility for the roles we can and may
play in the future turning of events. And with the increasing
interconnectedness of our world, there is also increasing opportunity for both
constructive philanthropic acts as well as for mass destruction.
The dawn of the Third Millennium is a wake up call for all people to unite
once and for all, to come together on common earth and deal together for a
common future or to else suffer collectively a shared, tragic fate.
The argument is made in this book that the only reasonable solution to the
common predicament of humankind is to unite together into a single world
federation of nations. A genuine global government--a single world state that
is powerful enough to enforce its rule of law over all individuals and single
nation states. It is true that the world is not quite ready to go this far,
but it is imperative that this does happen sooner than later if humanity is to
continue further without a great deal even greater of mass destruction and
bloodshed than was witnessed in the previous century.
The danger of a single dominant world state is to risk the rise to power of
a single tyrannical and totalitarian entity that controls all things. The only
means of creating a world state that is relatively immune to this kind of
possibility is to define it as a democratic institution in which the rule and
routine of the law is placed above the control or influence of any human
being, but is the common mandate of all human beings.
Modern nation states themselves, especially those that are totalitarian and
authoritarian in structure, cannot be trusted to turn their weapons to plough
shares. The effort at global unification must be at last a grass-roots ground
swell--an effort ultimately "of the people, for the people, and by the
It is the responsibility of all people, regardless of their nationality,
religion, ethnic identity, to define a new kind of citizenship--citizenship of
the world--that transcends and comes before all other socio-political
identities. Legal citizenship to modern nation states that often demands
absolute loyalty and coercive life-sacrifices of its constituency, must be
made to yield its final coercive and violent authority before this larger and
potentially more powerful sense of identity. National citizenship must be
subsumed and encapsulated as but one alternate identity within the global
nation of humanity. The basis of this alternative identity is to be found in a
common and shared sense of humanity.
This is both our destiny and our duty at the dawn of the Third Millennium.
Part I--Basic Problems and Prospects
In spite of all the advances of our sciences and technology, at the edge of
the Third Millennium we are still almost as socially backward and undeveloped
as we were at the beginning of the last century. Major political issues in the
United States today are anti-abortion, prayer in school, creationism and
possession of firearms. China, containing one/fifth of the world's population,
with misrepresented growth rates, remains still an essentially Orwellian world
of big brother and newspeak--a totalitarian state controlled by only a very
small percentage of the total. All economies today remain based almost
exclusively upon petrochemical and fossil fuel exploitation, even though this
has been clearly demonstrated to be the major contributory factor to global
warming. Militarism, social authoritarianism and gross structural inequalities
are not only prevalent in the world today, but in many respects are even more
vicious and destructive in their consequences than they were one hundred years
ago. Undoubtedly, the central problem that humanity faces in the 21st Century
is the problem of humanity itself.
Basic Dilemmas of the Global Imperative
There are a number of basic dilemmas now confronting humankind. Most of
these problems are common knowledge, though the issue of their global
interrelationship and complex negative feedback and synergism remains poorly
These basic dilemmas include:
1. The problem of human over-population,
2. The problem of environmental circumscription,
3. The problem of militarism and authoritarianism,
4. The issue of ethnocultural differentiation & assimilation,
5. The problem of mass poverty, and
6. The problem of modern socio-economic development.
These problems concern basic structural issues that underlie the patterning
of the relationship of humankind to the natural world. Structural relations
are long-term patterns usually lurking in the background of the unfolding
everyday landscape. In all their complexity they do not simply go away if
ignored and they are fundamentally intractable to superficial and token band
aid efforts at their resolution.
The problem of human population growth is obvious to everyone, but its
basic importance has been lost to many people. The human population is
doubling very quickly. In fact, no one knows exactly what the total population
of the earth is now at the dawn of the 3rd Millennium, and probably we cannot
really know. The U. N. Declared the 6 billionth baby born just before the new Millennium, but this number was largely symbolic and most probably grossly
underestimated both the actual rates of population growth and the total size
of the human population on earth.
The hard evidence suggests that the published statistics are probably lower
than the actual amount and that the rate of growth is greater than we estimate
it to be. Human population is fundamental to the global issue because more
than any single factor it drives the other problems as a basic, feedback
Whatever the actual numbers or the eventual long-term consequences of human
population growth, it must be understood that this problem is a
"population time-bomb" ticking away in the background of all our
lives. It has a delayed effect. We cannot know how long it will be before it
goes off, but it can be seen in the structure of the long run that this is
likely to happen sooner than later. We are witnessing the beginning of the
consequences of the real "population explosion" in our own time in
subtle symptoms that are easily ignored. The increasing social pressure of
population in core regions, the stress of social systems and the increasing
pollution of local and regional environments, the loss of habitat and the
retreat of wildlife from the oceans, fields and forests, all indicate a basic
problem of global circumscription of the human population.
The population explosion is likely to really begin happening when the human
population approaches or overpasses some hypothetical carrying capacity of the
earth. Not enough arable land to feed the masses--too many people creating too
much pollution. Increasing but unknown levels of regional and global
circumscription should place natural limits on the growth capacity of the
human population. This would be reflected in increasing rates of starvation,
malnutrition, disease and poverty, even if these are indirectly the result of
human conflict and violence.
Just as we do not know the exact size of the human population, nor its real
rate of growth during any one period, we also cannot really know what the
finite limits of the earth's natural resources are, what its "carrying
capacity" to support a huge human population really can be, nor when the
limits of our own development and scientific technology may be eventually over
stepped. These are basic but fundamentally unknown questions.
But we do know that the human population is very large and growing larger
by the day. We do know also that the global environment has been increasingly
influenced and stressed by the presence and activities of so many humans. We
also know that for whatever gains science may achieve on the frontiers of
development, there are also many hidden costs that have not yet been measured.
To continue to deny these basic realities is to deny the truth and
experience of our own everyday sensibilities. It is to put on our ideological
blinders and commit our selves to narrow-minded and short-sighted political
agendas that are doomed for extinction like anachronistic dinosaurs from a
by-gone era. To try to argue against these realities, and to preach attitudes
and actions that are contradictory to their indications, is to push humanity
and human civilization forward in a mad, headlong rush over the edge of the
precipice of uncontrolled development during the first decades of the 21st
We cannot rely any longer on any established governmental agencies in the
world to communicate to us a truthful, fully honest and realistic vision of
the world. In the long run, they undermine our sense of credibility in their
reliability and validity as agencies and sources of sound and realistic
information about the world. But enough signals come through, even in
extremely closed societies, to make it possible for any honest and sensible
human to put the basic facts together in a logical way and to derive the kinds
of conclusions that are in any reasonable analysis inescapable.
The population "explosion" will have a delayed effect and will be
felt by increasing annual increments of stress upon our social systems world
wide. As the average age of the human population grows younger with each
passing year, and average life span increases for adults across the board, we
must realize that the final count down has already begun. As increasing
numbers of youth reach adulthood, and reproductive age, their demands on the
social systems around the world increase exponentially, changing in kind and
focus, in volume and need, with each passing month of each succeeding year.
The problem of population itself is a complex issue and is not just a
matter of birth rates and infant mortality rates. It is an issue that
inevitably involves other kinds of problems. One of the most important points
about human population is that, being a culturally organized species, all
human beings have some kind of impact upon their habitat and lived
environment, and human social systems in toto have even greater cumulative
impact on local and regional environments. This problem of the cultural impact
of humankind on our environment brings to bear the second set of issues and
that is the problem of environmental circumscription and ecological
destruction of the earth's natural habitat.
We are all witness to these events that affect the background of our lives,
and yet we continue in the same modes of behavior that originally cause and
lead to these very results. We know it is wrong, but we cannot help it beyond
token contributions to rather weak and flaccid, mostly symbolic, efforts to
assuage our own sense of guilt. And if we attempt to make a concerted effort,
it is almost guaranteed that we will run headlong into the status quo of the
established state powers that be and large private interests. We will realize
just how powerful the petrol-chemical industry really is that fuels the global
economy --how it controls government policy making, and conspires against
people who induce changes that would be unprofitable for themselves. And this
dilemma of structural inertia in the current system and of human social
resistance to its change is central to understanding the solution to these
We can add to the list of the oil-suppliers and automobile manufacturers,
the gun makers, the makers of tanks and armored weapons, and the producers of
missiles and military aircraft. We can name companies, mostly based in the
United States and Europe, that are some of the largest private companies in
the world. But behind this pattern of inertia and structural resistance to
change, lies an even more perverse and pervasive pattern that I will call the
pandemic of militaristic organization and mobilization and social
authoritarian power structures that rely on the perpetration of military
violence for the preservation of the hierarchical and asymmetrical order of
nation states within the current world system.
Militarism is a very old story. Human beings frequently resort to organized
forms of social violence to achieve their aims, protect their interests, and
promote a stilted sense of communal solidarity and purpose. It is not
difficult to find numerous examples of such violence even in the most recent
past or in the modern era. It is not unusual to find strong suggestion and
evidence of inter-human violence in the fossil record. The history of human
civilization is in fact mostly a bloody history of military conquest and
destruction of one group of people by another.
Anywhere we go we can find corrupt governments backed by even more corrupt
military people in control of entire nation states. Wars occur globally with a
regular and expectable frequency. It is necessary to understand that
militarism is a kind of social pathology, a disease of the body politic that
leads to a destructive orientation and eventual destruction. It must be
understood also that, anthropologically speaking, authoritarianism is a
panhuman pattern structurally characteristic of all developed social systems,
and that it begets patterns of parasitic corruption and violence that result
in obstructing positive social innovations. Authoritarian power structures are
all similarly characterized. They are anti-democratic and aggressive in
establishing their own prerogatives at the expense of many others. More
extreme forms shade off into dictatorship and oligarchical totalitarianism.
Poverty must be construed as a by-product and result of the dominance of
authoritarian power structures in the world. If democracy begets economic
growth and development, then it is clear that its opposite leads to stagnation
and depression. Endemic poverty is the result of the chronic lack of access to
basic resources, the lack of social productivity, and in the larger framework,
the unequal distribution of productive resources and their by-products. This
uneven distribution is so pervasive and becoming so acute that in the
"underdeveloped countries," mostly those that belt the equator,
there has emerged a permanent underclass of dispossessed people who
increasingly dwell in absolute poverty.
Poverty is also a vicious cycle and has its own internal mechanisms that
aggravate patterns of endemic impoverishment. Endogenous ethnocultural
patterns become established among the poor, in exogenously reinforced
frameworks of structural inequality and exploitation, including a pattern of
secondary gain, that leads to their perpetually reinforced dependency and
structural inferiority within the confines of the larger systems. Poverty is a
major problem because the poorest people in the world are also the largest
source of population growth in the world.
The rich can blame the poor for the problems of the world, but along the
way the rich must also acknowledge their strategic roles in the larger system
and in the maintenance and articulation of its structural inequities. It is
the structural imbalance and unevenness of the global system that is the
primary exogenous factor producing poverty in the world today. Of course, poor
people most often require authoritarian and military-style management, which
asymmetrical requirements therefore justifies the pattern of authoritarianism
and militarism in the world.
It is logical to conclude that development as we know it is the final issue
of consideration. It is held by many that only through development can we
solve the problems of poverty and inequality in the world. But it has been
recognized lately that development in the modern style that has most often
disregarded the land and nature as an inherent natural resource base, has led
to the systematic destruction of the environment. At the same time, such
development that disregards human development as little more than a productive
resource to serve technology, also produces the basic structural asymmetries
in knowledge, technologies and in the capacities for people to apply knowledge
effectively to their adaptation in a changing global environment. This
reinforces the asymmetry between the rich and poor, so that promotion of
development is mostly a catch-22 benefiting a few at the expense of the many.
The global imperative is that the human system is now a complex one and is
reaching levels of systemic super-criticality. Comparatively minor and
fundamentally unpredictable events can cause random chain-reactions that
spread and take their own course in destabilization of the larger system. The
extent and consequence of these "minor events" affecting the profile
of the overall system is unknowable, but they can be expected to occur with an
increasing prevalence and frequency.
We cannot know how much the increasing super-criticality of the global
system is being offset by factors of economic growth and integration and
technological development that serve to stabilize the world system under its
own mass and complexity. Whatever the actual case may be, it is inarguably
clear that the entire set of problems of the global imperative describe a
complex vicious cycle in which negative and counter-productive patterns
reinforce violence and destruction, and positive actions tend to become
precluded at birth. But the world changes in its own way. The same
technologies that may enslave humankind to its own vicious system can also
liberate us from ourselves.
The challenges are set down now clearly before us. The means to respond
effectively has also been laid at our doorsteps but deserves and demands
explication. Now it is time for us to think about these issues and then to act
in a decisive manner.
Cultural Selection and
The Human Succession
To understand the history of the earth is to understand that it has
witnessed a continuous succession of one natural regime of life after the
other. Seas and oceans turn into swamps that become deciduous forests and then
turn into deserts. Mountains gradually lift and slowly erode away and decay as
continents imperceptibly shift and large land shelves sometimes shake. Within
each succession, there occurs a gradual biological pattern of extinction and
speciation--new forms of life and selective regimes emerge in the new suite of
changes and old forms of life based on previous adaptive patterns slowly give
way and disappear.
The mountains, forests and farmlands that we know today were not the same
ones of even a thousand years ago. Pine is replaced by spruce and cedar,
spruce by willows, willows by slower growing hardwood trees. Species of animal
also constantly come and go on the global stage. We cannot know what the
average life span of a species might be, we cannot know. Some say about four
or five million years, but drawing a clear boundary around a species is
difficult to do in space, much less through time.
The human species has emerged as the one dominant species on earth today.
Second place must either go to rats, cock roaches, or some incurable virus, if
that is even a life-form--we have attained our "God-given" place on
the great chain of being, but that is about all we really do know. The human
species is not yet totally free of the vicissitudes of the laws of natural
selection. Human extinction is perhaps an even greater possiblity in the
modern era than it had been at any time previously in its natural history.
The species of Homo sapiens cannot survive independently or completely
separated artificially from the nature that we have so sought to dominate and
control. In our obsession and compulsion to exclude death from our own lives,
we have so squashed nature into square holes that we have run the risk of
cutting ourselves off completely from the foundation of our own being in the
world and, hence, of our very survival in that world. Like all masters, we are
dependent and tied to the very thing that we attempt to dominate and control.
We cannot do without nature without ourselves perishing in the process.
Therefore, if we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves, and it is this
conclusion that makes of our late destructive efforts on earth a form of
The critical factor in understanding the natural history of the human
species is our capacity for cultural adaptation to the natural environment.
The original function of culture and its reason for emergence in the evolution
of humankind was that it facilitated human survival, reproductive success and,
eventually, our physical domination upon earth.
It is somewhat foolish of some "bio-cultural" anthropologists who
seek biological foundations to our cultural patterning to ignore the vast
prehistoric and historic evidence that points not to a pattern of biological
determinism, that is what humankind left behind when our ancestors emerged
from the cave, but to a pattern of cultural determinism. Nature does not
determine directly humankind or our social patterning--humankind is
increasingly determining nature and nature's biological patterning.
The term "world openness" has been applied to the human species
as one of its key characteristics--behaviorally we have been freed from the
fetters of nature, from its instinctual imperative, by the fact of our brains,
our language and our cultural patterning. We have been permitted to
reconstruct our environment to suit exclusively our own needs for survival.
It is this same pattern of cultural determinism that is at work today in
driving modern human civilization and our predominance on earth as a single
species. So much has this happened that through our science we have gained
control of evolution itself. We are now even manipulating the genetic codes of
many species without regard to the long term forces that produced these codes
in the first place. It is not to pass judgement on this process as good or
bad. It is to state only that it is happening, and that it is an inevitable
result of "human nature" to artificially manipulate and control
their natural environments in ways that are fundamentally not the same as
"animal nature." We have gradually replaced natural selection with a
process of cultural selection
Cultural selection can be found in the domestication of plants and animals.
It was practiced even before this period with mammoth hunting and shell fish
gathering that led to massive shell middens and mass kill sites of the largest
game. Cultural selection is an influence of human activity on the processes of
natural selection on other species. It is also a process that has affected the
evolution of the human species itself. We have turned the processes of
cultural selection upon ourselves even more than we have practiced it upon
other species--this has led to both our own destruction and our success.
Cultural selection has been the single most important determinant that has
led to the predominance of the human species on earth, and the ultimate
control the human race has upon life itself. It has led to what can be called
the era of hominid or global hominid succession. This succession even has
meant that whatever else nature has been doing, especially in the past Millennium, it has had to yield increasingly to the encroachments and demands
of a human-made world--an artificial world of concrete, asphalt streets,
factories, fences and pollution.
It is indeed absurd and hypocritical to continue to formulate policies and
theories of genetic determinism and bio-cultural selection driving human
social patterning while in daily life depending upon the very agencies and
faculties of our own cultural construction and selection. To argue this case
is to simply and blindly ignore the realities of a human made world. It is
equivalent to the hypocrisy of preaching creationism in class, while using the
products of science to teach anti-scientific doctrines, computers, projectors,
and microphones that are part of the exact same science that gave us
The long-term survival of the human species will depend foremost upon our
being able to find ourselves an adaptive niche or plateau in the larger
natural order of life. If we do not create for ourselves such a position in
life's web, then we are setting ourselves up for both the destruction of the
environment, and of ourselves, because we are ultimately tied to this
environment for our own survival. Hopefully, this adaptive plateau will be
characterized by zero-population growth of the human species, and by obtaining
natural limits of growth of our socio-economic development, a form of
development alternative to the kind that we have so far advanced. Success at
this stage of human development will not be measured in the degree to which we
have overcome our natural environments, but by our ability for long term
survival within a natural world.
We can only wish for a return to nature. The fact of the matter is that it
will not happen, at least not in the way that we know or understand it to
happen today. It will happen in a different way perhaps. If we humans should
finally drop the bomb upon ourselves, or if some new strain of hemophagic
virus should become virulent and epidemic, then we can look forward to the
rapid end of the human succession and the gradual return of a new selective
regime of nature. We can only fantasize what this new suite of natural life
would be like. I can imagine a 1950's science fiction movie with the
irradiated rise of giant, human-sized insects and chitinous creatures with the
strength of bulldozers and the viciousness of sharks, mass producing at a
phenomenal rate while feeding on the remains of an irradiated and mutated
A Brief Natural History of Humanity
An encapsulated natural history of humanity on earth is not an easy thing
to write. It might be better entitled a history of "inhumanity" but
it has not just been one of violence. History proper begins with the invention
of writing, and really takes off with the printing press in the mid-15th
But to give a true consideration of humankind on earth we must push back
the biological clocks at least 5 or 6 million years. Fossil evidence is
gradually accumulating that point towards a divergence of a distinctly
hominoid line at about this time. Interestingly, the first uniquely human
trait to emerge at this time was the characteristic of bipedalism--that humans
could walk, trot and run long distances on two feet, and did not need to use
their knuckles or palms to help them keep balance. This is a evolutionary
feat--we can look to special brain structures in the medulla oblongata and the
cerebellum that permit this specialized activity to occur with an automatic
sense of reflex and yet by virtue of our own voluntary power.
Quasi-tropic traits are those that exhibit a remarkable degree of
plasticity and yet which affect to some extent the biological conditioning and
subsequent evolution of the human species.
Coupled with bipedalism, there were three other sets of traits-- freeing of
the hands to perform other, more complex functions than trotting and climbing
in trees; freeing the mouth to function in other ways than as an organ for
eating and biting; and freeing of our eyes to scan and take in a wider horizon
and broader field of view than is possible with our noses to the ground.
Though half facetious, this second set of traits is coupled with the emergence
of other cerebral brain structures--special locations like Broca's area for
speech and language apprehension, occipital regions for detailed visual
pattern recognition, and the emergence of hand-eye coordination that permit
wonderful feats of manual and pharyngeal dexterity. It is clear that language
was not a bio-cultural miracle--an all or nothing occurrence to have suddenly
burst on the evolutionary scene with one mutated Eve. It probably emerged
gradually as an increasingly sophisticated system of calls, names, and hand
gestures. Of course, perhaps Neanderthal and archaic Homo sapiens were more
guttural than their modern descendants. Perhaps they didn't have the full
vowel range or a complete set of consonants, but their language systems were
otherwise no less deficient in basic communication needs than are our own
In time language was indispensable because it made survival easier and it
therefore hung around a long time, promoting larger brains. Those who
communicated best tended to be those who more readily apprehended the dangers
of their world and responded more intelligently. Selection favored the
talkers. Another pattern that probably emerged 2-3 million years ago was one
of gradually increasing infant dependency and slower development of human
growth. This is another kind of those quasi-tropic traits that only interest
It is really a hen or egg kind of question. Longer periods of infant growth
and dependency enabled longer, more complex learning, which enabled bigger
brains. Rapid selection for bigger brains was obviously the rage at this time,
as there is a tremendous increase in cranial capacity from 4-500 cc. up to a
phenomenal 1500-1600 cc. This increase appears to be steady and lineal, and
points to the fact that something important was happening during the
"stable" period of Homo erectus. Related to this emergence was the
wide adaptive radiation of hominid species. For the first time our precursors
were to be found in large numbers out of the African continent, and in far-off
places like Asia and the Pacific. Also associated with this period is the
distinctive use of flaked and chipped stone tools. The chopper chopping tool
complex characteristic of the Chinese remains suggests that the adaptive
radiation occurred at a fairly early period, and this tradition took its own
course of development.
Evidence has arisen that modern Homo sapiens began populating the earth
about 50 to 30 thousand years before present, and relied heavily upon
watercraft by which to do it. Archaeologists tend to be rather conservative
and data bound in their conjectural constructions of human prehistory. They
tend to want to keep dates and achievements as proximal to the present as
possible. To grant the development of an extensive network based upon common
adaptation to shared waterways as a secondary mechanism driving early cultural
development is something that Archaeologists in general are not prone to do.
To build a hypothetical reconstruction of such a waterways system when most of
the evidence is washed away with the tides, is anathema to building the past
from the depths of the ground.
Nevertheless, archaeological evidence of the early peopling of the
Southeast Asian Archipelago, the Australian continent and the New World,
suggests that waterways had to be effectively breached in mass. It also
suggests that long distance trading mechanisms had long been in place that may
have indirectly integrated many regions of the globe.
The rise of pristine agricultural civilizations in the last 10 thousand
years, and especially in the last 5 Millennium, were indirectly the by-products
of an earlier and more extended period of waterway adaptation that
circumnavigated the globe and that probably reached back a previous 30
thousand years in time, perhaps culminating sometime in the late Neolithic
when sea-levels had reached their lowest levels.
The subsequent historical spread of technological civilization is common
knowledge. It is enough to remark that by and large the conventional history
of humanity has been a bloody military history of imperial conquest and
colonial subjugation, and gradual emancipation of both the spirit, the minds
and bodies of humanity from the social constraints and cultural bounds of its
own making. Perhaps we turn against nature with such fervor and zealous
violence because we cannot really turn against our selves and our own cultural
machinations. Nature and the fallacy of naturalization, a form of reification
or misplaced concretization, is a way of symbolically displacing and
legitimating on a very basic level the fact that our cultural realities are of
our own making.
Human cultural history has also been a long buried history of endless trial
and enduring tribulation, of failure and folly, of ignorance and prejudice. We
see only the few humanistic glories and scientific successes in the march of
humankind like landmarks scattered along a distant road of broken backs and
littered bodies and bones. This road has been built upon the back of nature.
It is necessary mainly to point out that the basic acculturative processes
of civilization are trans-cultural, or acculturative, and trans-national in
nature, and they are fundamentally irreversible in their largely unintended
historical consequences except through total destruction. Once societies
acquire a new invention or innovation that is beneficial, they will not
willingly give it up. The sweeping changes now being created by the advent of
semi-conductor technology will penetrate and cause permanent changes in all of
the furthest corners of the globe, and it will not all be monopolized by one
computer software mogul.
We cannot predict the exact consequences of this new technological
transition. This information revolution has the effect of changing the
developed parts of the world as much as they are altering the undeveloped. Its
impact will be felt in almost every aspect of our daily and shared lives, and
will reach symbolically deep into our conscious and unconscious life. But we
can expect that the world will inevitably change for better or worse.
The Population Bomb
and Global Circumscription
The main sign of the success of the human species is of course the size of
its population. How big are we? The world has just recently celebrated the
birth of baby 6 billion in Sarajevo, as officially announced by the United
Nations, but there is something suspect and false about this business. The
statistics and methods are strangely secret--the lack of real evidence betrays
a reality of false reporting. We honestly do not and cannot really know how
many people there are, though we have been well over 6 billion and we, the
human species, are probably in fact quickly approaching 7 billion.
We must understand the geometric aspects of this natural growth curve. At
the time of the birth of the United States, in 1776, there was estimated to be
about 2 billion people on earth. By the year 2012 we will be over passing the
7-8 billion mark.
Many claim now at the dawn of the 21st Century that there is no cause for
concern. Many say that six billion is in fact a very small number. Many put
the old Malthusian theorists who make pronouncements of the population
explosion as unrealistic dooms-day criers.
The total number of humans to have lived on earth is put at 70-80 billion,
but we cannot really know this as well. We do not know how populated the
prehistoric world was. Take the New World for example--population estimates
for the pre-contact Americas vary from 2 to 20 million souls. We might apply
this principle of variation to almost every region on earth.
The problem of population is that large
numbers of people simply do not go away. Humans live for years, not just for
months. Physiologically speaking, they all have about the same nutritional and
medical requirements. If they do not eat enough protein or consume enough
calories, they will suffer malnutrition. If they eat too much fat or
carbohydrates, they will suffer over-nutrition.
The central problem of a large population is that of feeding itself,
reproducing itself and surviving to a ripe old age. Invariably, populations
will stress the environment in critical ways. Larger and larger populations
must venture further and further afield to obtain the necessary resources to
sustain the population and its growth rate.
In a global system, a huge population stresses the global environment, such
that demands of large populations in one corner of the globe can have large
effects on populations in other regions. Now the huge population of the Han
Chinese, probably 1/5th to 1/4 of the world's total population, is probably
one of the least innocuous upon the world system--to a great extent its
population is self-contained and self-subsistent. It imports little rice and
grain from other countries, unlike the United States whose much smaller
population consumes a much greater proportion of the global natural resource
base. But it is clear that no human population, in large enough size, can be
inconsequential or entirely innocuous upon the earth's environment.
Relatively small populations--the 270 million in the United States and the
100 million or so in the commonwealth countries and in Japan, are probably the
world's greatest consumer, and thus their demands and needs can have far
reaching global impacts.
With development, we can talk about a concomitant
"need-inflation" that is the result of increasing patterns of
consumption and integration. Inflation of needs results from increased
patterns of material and resource consumption and in turn leads back to
increasing patterns of consumption.--this pattern is fueled by increased
development. It is a predictable pattern of global economic integration.
This means that with increasing population in the world, coupled with
increasing development, there will accompany the "population
explosion" and a resulting "revolution of rising expectations,"
especially when this is fostered and fueled by the mass communications media
and by the global information revolution. This revolution of rising
expectations will also lead to greater revolutions of equality as more and
more dispossessed poor people of adult-age begin demanding a greater place in
the global system and a greater, more proportionate share of the earth's
It is doubtful that birth control in the form of voluntary and family
planning programs are as effective as they ought to be. Religious resistance
to such programs and basic ethno-cultural values of kinship that place a
premium on child birth help to demote such programs in some of the poorest and
most populous regions of the earth.
Death control is an alternative strategy, but there is even greater moral
resistance to its systematic implementation. As far as death control is
concerned, medical developments in general are gradually but steadily
prolonging the life expectancy of adults in most parts of the world, and
rapidly lowering rates of infant mortality.
Death control may well take its own direction in a larger framework as new
diseases born of human social patterns spread and cause their damage. The
final or lasting effect that this form of natural death control takes cannot
be known or estimated. The plague in Europe and European-based diseases in the
New World during the contact and post contact periods were significant factors
in the massive reduction of these populations, far more than any wars, natural
disasters or other forms of human violence.
Weapons of mass destruction make the prospect of death control by human
violence increasingly expectable, especially when combined with the growing
likelihood of political conflict and competition for resources indirectly
resulting from both population growth and uncontrolled development.
Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has been occurring on a large
scale for the last half century, and this process is proceeding rapidly. It is
in the long run an inevitable consequence. The paradox is that these weapons
are now falling into the hands of leaders in some of the politically least
stable regions of the earth.
It is hoped that increasing socio-economic development and integration will
stabilize the world against this sort of violence. At the same time, there is
an inherent deterrent value in the use of weapons of mass destruction because
in general everyone is killed and there is no clear discrimination between
allies and enemy. On the other hand, there is an increasing potential for the
use of such weapons in acts of terrorism that remain essentially beyond any
political control. Terrorism is clearly waxing on the global horizon, as
small, unstable and radical groups realize a greater potential to affect
politics by random acts of violence. A World War III that dwarfs the scale of
destruction of all previous wars on earth cannot be predicted but this remains
also a possible outcome of current patterns of military development.
The population explosion is not something that happens suddenly--not even
in one night or even in one year. It will transpire gradually and perennially,
over a period of a decade or so, and will culminate in a climactic set of
events that will most likely be violent and destructive. Thus it is an
internal "implosion" event of the global system more than a literal
The real consequence of human over-population is that over-population is
not just a local or even regional kind of event. It is a global phenomenon and
is beginning to have real global consequences. As its result, we can refer to
the phenomenon of increasing global circumscription--the human species
reaching its limits of growth everywhere and anywhere, and suffering the
increasing restrictions, privations and consequences of this situation. These
limits will be felt increasingly in many different ways. We can look to an
average decrease in the quality of life for most people--loss of opportunity,
greater competition for even minor or trivial resources, etc. At the same
time, we can expect an even greater and growing disparity of class inequality
between the richest and poorest people on earth. Not only will the number of
poor people increase, but the wealth of the rich will also increase and become
more concentrated in the hands of the few.
This is perhaps an inevitable process, as
there exist no structural mechanism in place to prevent or compensate from its
occurrence. The current capitalist world system is founded on basic structural
inequalities of global resource distribution that were rooted to an earlier
period of colonial imperialism. The post-colonial era has served the interests
of the old masters economically. Only global scale warfare can alter the basic
profile of these structural relationships. At the same time, development
efforts in the underdeveloped regions of the earth where the greatest and
poorest concentrations of people are found, continue to run up against the
perennial obstacles of corruption, cronyism, and nepotism that is the
consequence of the control of authoritarian power structures. The foreign
policies of state of the developed nations do little to promote democracy in
the third world. In fact, first world nations deliberately encourage the
status quo of authoritarian regimes, as this tends to reinforce the larger
status quo of the system with all its structural inequalities. It leads to
certain kinds of basic contradictions of the global system--the developed
countries can enjoy the freedom of democracy because they are developed and
wealthy enough to do so. The undeveloped countries must continue to suffer the
tyranny of violence and authoritarian control because they are undeveloped.
Certain powerful religious organizations are also implicated in this process.
Underlying this theory is the hypothesis that economics is a principle
determinant of other structural and political patterns. Alter the profile and
patterning of the distribution and utilization of basic resources, and you
must concomitantly alter the political and social organization of the society
in question. The paradox is that before one can alter the basic profile of
resource distribution on a global level, one must first change the pattern of
resource-control, which leads back to the question of politics and social
Global Environmental Circumscription
The second major dilemma faced by humankind at the dawn of the Third Millennium
is the increasing amount of human impact on the natural environment
of earth. Global circumscription of the natural environment is an increasingly
apparent reality. Many will argue that this impact is negligible and therefore
relatively unimportant, just as they argue that human population is not really
a major issue. But global circumscription that is reducing our natural
resource base very rapidly, and that is causing permanent loss of other
environmental "resources," remains a persistent and increasing
problem that cannot be honestly denied or forever avoided without dire
consequences for all of humankind.
The critical issues of environmental destruction includes, in general:
1. The question of global warming, which seems to have been occurring at a
steady rate at least since active monitoring began in the late 1950's.
2. The question of the bottleneck and loss of species diversity and the
replacement of natural habitat for natural selection processes by human-made
or artificial habitat.
3. The pollution, damage and permanent destruction of these natural
habitats and the permanent loss of non-renewable resources available within
these habitats. Desertification and soil loss are a part of this third
dilemma, but we can also point to the eventual depletion of accessible
petroleum and coal deposits, and the destruction of natural forests
Global warming is not a certain trend. Long term weather and climactic
trends are difficult to determine. But the evidence of the melting glaciers
and polar ice caps, rising sea levels and the increasing turbulence of the
weather--unexpected draughts, unusual flooding, multiple hurricanes--all these
patterns suggest that there has been a general shift in the global weather
pattern towards gradual but steady increases in average annual temperature..
The case for global warming is mostly a case against the fossil-fuel
industry, upon which the global economy runs. The burning and manufacturing of
petrochemicals produces a number of gases that are toxic to nature, but it is
not a clear case. Sea water levels are gradually rising each year. On the
other hand, nature may also have built-in mechanisms that can serve to arrest
or balance the patterns produced by humans--except that we chronically
debilitate these natural capacities by our development and deforestation.
The situation of global warming points directly to the dramatic effects of
the human impact on nature, and that is the destruction of the natural
ecosystems of the global environment. We are now in a mass extinction event.
We do not need to wait for another large meteorite to fall to the earth to
wipe out the majority of mammals on earth--we are doing that ourselves. Of
course the only species left to be wiped out by a natural event would be the
human species itself.
The destruction of the rain forests is the primary example of this damage
assessment of human civilization, though it is not the only form that this
destruction takes. The rain forest habitat is recognized as the richest and
most diverse set of natural ecosystems on earth. It is a concentration of life
teeming with bio-diversity. The largest rainforest region is the Amazonian
drainage system. This is followed by the rainforests of the island of Borneo
and the numerous surrounding islands. These ecosystems have been ages in the
making, but it has only been less than a century in its undoing.
The real loss this represents for science is the bottlenecking of the
genetic totipotency of biological life on earth. As species pass into
extinction with each passing year, and as natural habitat allowing for the
speciation and production of new species is systematically removed to make
room for pasturage, plantations and small farms, new roads, townships and
hydroelectric projects, we lose irreplaceable biological information that is
the product of billions of years of evolutionary history. This loss of species
diversity is critical, and can spell disaster for life as we know it, because
it leads directly to the restriction of the ability of life in general to
adapt and respond successfully in the long run to new changes and new
environmental regimes. The factors that drive natural selection within a
larger ecosystem are broken down. The loss of this bio-diversity is a tragedy
of the greatest proportions.
With the destruction of the natural environment and its rapid replacement
with a humanly constructed one, the "home" for wild plants and
animals is being destroyed. Natural habitat loss is the single greatest
contributor to the modern mass extinction of species on earth. Once
disappeared, this natural habitat cannot simply or easily be repaired or
replaced with an equally viable one.
Global circumscription is the unavoidable consequence of increasingly
massive human population and the cultural impact on all natural environments.
This impact occurs on many levels and is not completely understood. Indirectly
it has been affecting even the remotest and least populous corners of the
Circumscription is about the fragility and complexity of the relationship
between the human species and its cultural adaptation and development and its
natural contexts in the larger world. It is about the ultimate finiteness and
limitations of the natural earth and its resources, which limitations impose
upper limits to both our cultural adaptation and our population growth. The
realization of those limits comes gradually but undeniably--as we strain these
relationships we increase the risk of disturbing irreversibly not only the
natural ecosystems upon which life on earth is made up, but also of destroying
our own relationships and adaptability for survival in such systems.
Increasing global circumscription brings with it the realization of the
natural limits of our human population growth and cultural development--we
must learn these limits and to abide by these limits if we are to continue in
The history of warfare, and indeed most
conventional history is de facto military history, is one of increasing scales
of violence and involvement. All over the world, extensive evidence
demonstrates unequivocally the basic social violence that human beings are
prone to. Almost all pristine civilizations were founded upon the rule of the
sword over neighboring groups of people. Things have changed little, as
science and technology has only made the killing more efficiently horrendous.
Beyond seeing a military orientation, any military orientation, as a
"duty" or an obligation, it is important to construe it as something
else, as perhaps a necessary evil, but also as a kind of organized madness and
culture of destructiveness that achieves no other purpose than death and
destruction and that has no other function than promotion of the rule by
violence. In this matter, "our" armies are no better or worse than
those of the enemy, as the end result remains the same. The necessity of war
and of military styles of life entails a kind of tyranny of violence over
people and over the natural world.
It must be acknowledged also that military organizations are for the most
part unproductive and even parasitical to the host society that supports it.
Military organizations drain off expensive and precious resources, and tie
these resources up as weapons and tools of violence and destruction--they
produce nothing of lasting value. This is even more true in modern times than
it was in early human history. The meaning of "total warfare"
assumes larger and more grotesque and tyrannical dimensions with each
succeeding generation. This destruction extends beyond the bounds of human
destruction to incorporate the massive destruction of the environment as well.
Most governments, even the smallest and poorest ones, continue to spend the
major portions of their national budgets on the purchase of new and expensive
weaponry, resources that would be available and more wisely spent on more
benevolent programs are drained away.
It is important to see militarism as a kind of social disease, a social
pathology that affects groups of people with delusions and attitudes of
in-group solidarity and out-group projection. Militarism is a product of human
culture--it is value system that is taught and learned and passed on from
generation to generation. That human beings have a proclivity towards
violence, especially mass violence, is undeniable. This predisposition is well
rooted in our deeper history, and suggests biological origins of the human
species in contexts of competition and warfare.
The notion of militarism as a kind of social disease that has destructive
consequences constitutes a kind of social theory about warfare and human
violence. In this we must understand the patterns of socialization for
aggression and enculturation of violence and tolerance of levels of violence.
Human aggression and violence are to be seen not so much as or only as innate
instinctual drives, but as these basic drives that have social direction,
social definition, and that are molded by cultural constraints, sanctions,
rewards and incentives, that give it focus, meaning and tangibility in human
behavior that it might not otherwise have. How we show our aggression, and
what we do with violence, and the tolerance and promotion for violence, is, in
other words, culturally constructed and therefore also culturally
malleable--it can be shaped in almost any direction that we wish to turn it
Organized and group violence as it is evinced in the modern form of warfare
is different and separate from violent behavioral tendencies of individuals.
The relationship between social patterns of violence and individual acts of
violence is at best only indirectly and complexly related.
Militarism is a product of our social organization and social pressures to
conformity. It is an institutionalized form of violence that, under special
conditions, legitimates such violence on a massive scale. Underlying the
military cult of violence is a kind of culturally embedded authoritarianism--a
generalized worldview and belief system that power and force are intrinsically
necessary and makes right and that the world is indeed justly ruled by the
tyranny of force.
Militarism as a social disease is but one facet and symptom of a deeper
sense of disorder that has long affected humanity. It comes through an
emphasis on conformity to authority, especially forceful and potentially
violent and punitive authority, and it also entails the de-emphasis and
devaluation of the role and development of the individual in the world,
especially as a naturally creative and independent being in the world. In this
sense, violence is a form of frustrated creativity that is innate to the human
psyche--one that results in a compulsion toward destructive violence and a
pathological preoccupation with control, death and the symbolic forms and
results that violence takes.
In other words, human beings are so violent and destructive, not so much
because they were born that way, but because they learned how to be this way
as the result of their socialization, enculturation and integration into
violent and warlike societies. Human beings have an innate aggressiveness that
is related to their sexual and creative drive--this aggressiveness can be
sublimated to a great deal of productive and creative energy, but also it can
otherwise be frustrated and rendered into something perverse and violent.
Military social organization and the mobilization for social aggression on
whatever level or scale, entails the maintenance of certain ideological
symbolic structures, of ethnocentrism, and of internal authoritarian power
structures that are based on asymmetrical structural hierarchies. It entails
fostering and maintaining socially and subjectively on an impersonal level
certain rigid and dogmatic mindsets, values and world views that preclude
alternate orientations or the possibility of adaptation or adoption of a
greater variety of understanding. It entails a kind of behavioral conditioning
on lower order patterning of defensive mechanisms and response that preclude
the possibility of more sophisticated and differentiated forms of response.
Humankind pays a heavy price for its social organization for violence in
many ways. Not only do military organizations parasitically consume basic
resources and expend energy and technology for fundamentally destructive and
counterproductive purposes, but it also limits, constrains and distorts human
development and the human resource base that is available to a society.
The paradox and dilemma of our orientation for social violence is that we
require military style organization to effectively defend ourselves from other
people and societies who adopt an aggressive, military way of life. Pacifist
appeals to a common humanity frequently do not work with madmen and
totalitarian dictators who thrive on death and destruction. In a world where
violence is always a very real and sharp-edged possibility, violence always
begets more violence, and only the foolish and innocent fall victims to the
conqueror's sword. Emancipation often entails taking up the sword to break the
chains of bondage.
The real challenge therefore is how to effectively constrain military
violence in the world and maintain sufficient but minimal defensive military
organization in the world, without becoming the victims or servants of our own
military predisposition or of other's. Furthermore, this must be accomplished
on a global or trans-national level, and in a genuinely democratic way. This
has not yet been accomplished except through rather imperialistic means of one
nation or the other achieving hegemonic military control over the world.
Just as civilization has grown and advanced, so too has militarism, as a
kind of social affliction of state civilization, also developed and evolved
into a form much greater and in many respects more terrible than it has ever
been before. We do not anymore need to imagine the horrors of nuclear
holocaust to see and feel the real power and terrorism of militarism. We can
find it now even in conventional warfare that can be waged with pinpoint
accuracy and extreme lethality from a safe, push-button distance. Rarely any
more do people need to engage in hand-to-hand combat and blood-letting to
realize the consequences of warfare. Rarely now is combat confined only to a
small group of professional soldiers. Usually modern warfare involves as its
victims innocent children, average citizens and just about any body else who
happens in harm's way. The weapons that have become more accurate and lethal
in one way, have also resulted from and in a far less discriminating pattern
of mass destruction.
Authoritarianism is the disposition of people to adopt a strong,
anti-democractic and hierarchical disposition in relation to other people.
Authoritarianism is a fact of human nature and human culture. We are all
potentially authoritarian and every society has aspects of authoritarian
control in the world. In face, authoritarianism on some level is necessary if
we are to live in an ordered and fair society. The human capacity for
authoritarianism is derivative of the human capacity for aggression and for
its compulsive repression, control and sublimation into other aspects.
Socially, it is the human capacity to control and manipulate others
unfairly--a projection of our own compulsive repression, and a derivative
function of structural asymmetry in society. It is a very deep-seated and
fundamental aspect of human nature.
Authoritarianism has several aspects. Authoritarian people value conformity
over individuality. They value strict punishment. They value shows of strength
and brutal solidarity. Authoritarian personality tends to be dogmatic, closed
minded and prejudiced towards out-groups. Symbolically, they show strong
attachment to and dependency upon external symbolism, especially in the
concrete and literal sense. They show little capacity for abstraction, lateral
thinking, or a tolerant attitude towards human differences.
Psychological authoritarianism refers to those personality characteristics
that lean towards bigotry, prejudice, and hatred of out-groups, especially as
measured upon the classic F-Scale inventories. Different varieties of
authoritarian attitudes have been recognized based on response patterns to
different kinds of attitudinal inventories. Authoritarian character tends to
be more compulsive than usual, and more ego-centric. Also, they tend to be
under-achievers in normal social life, which means that they also tend to be
afflicted with low self-esteem and a poor sense of social status and
ego-identity, which they frequently over-compensate for in seeking dominant
positions in society.
Social authoritarianism refers to several recognizable types of government,
most commonly found among undeveloped nations, in which rule is by a small
oligarchy or even a single dictator, who is in control or is controlled by the
military. Authoritarian power structures refer to the pattern of authoritarian
behavior accreting into administrative positions of power and prestige in
Anthropological Authoritarianism must be understood as the cross-cultural
and comparative aspects of alternative forms of authoritarianism in the world,
and an elucidation of what can be considered the pan-human capacity and
predisposition for authoritarianism, as well as the structural aspects of
authoritarian social organization and socialization for authoritarianism that
is shared by all societies on some basic level. Authoritarianism as an
inherent facet and distinctive patterning of humanity has not been studied as
such by anthropologists, though many anthropologists have remarked upon and
noted its occurrence and patterning in the world.
Authoritarianism can be said to be characteristic in one form or fashion of
all societies on earth, although its expression and elaboration varies
considerably between different cultures. Some groups enhance and elaborate
violence, social asymmetry and authoritarian tendencies, while others tend to
play it down and suppress its expression culturally. There are many variable
factors that influence its expression and historical development in society,
and this creates a complex explanation for its occurrence.
Needless to say, studies of enculturation indicate that authoritarian
patterns of socialization are deeply rooted to a particular cultural
orientation, but vary systematically with other related factors in fairly
expectable ways. Thus anthropological authoritarianism does have a more
general paradigm of understanding, at least on a hypothetical and theoretical
Authoritarianism is not uncommon. In fact evidence suggests that in many
circumstances it is the rule and not the exception, lending credence to the
notion of Homo hierarchicus. People psychologically and socially tend towards
the abuse of their power over other people when in positions of control. This
is often unconscious, or at least unconsciously compulsive or motivated.
Authoritarian people tend to adopt certain ideological belief structures
that symbolically reinforce and legitimate their attitudes and actions--these
belief structures are characterized as closed-minded and narrow in focus,
rationalizing and self-seriving in expression.
Authoritarianism is a social patterning that is mostly the product of
primary and secondary socialization, particularly, I believe, socialization
for aggression. The predisposition to resort to violent aggression as a means
of resolving conflicting issues is a suggestion of the lack of development of
more sophisticated ego-control mechanisms that would otherwise effectively
channel innate aggression and socially induced frustration in more
Authoritarianism is also culturally reinforced. Success based upon
authoritarian characteristics is frequently rewarded in most state societies,
even in contexts that are ostensibly open and "democractic" in
orientation. People value symbolically the appearance of "strength"
and dominance, even more than the cunning of intelligence and the wisdom of
good temper. Symbolic forms reiterated and frequently portrayed in the mass
media appeal to a lowest common denominator that reflects this basic
authoritarian orientation. Cultivation of non-authoritarian value orientations
is marginalized and construed as a form of weakness and vulnerability. Thus it
connotes, among other things, a predisposition to failure.
But the cultural reinforcement of authoritarian orientations is more basic
and insidious than this. People do not need to be muscle-bulging weight
lifters to be capable of blind and violent conformity to the narrow norms of a
society. Violence and tolerance for violence is acquired and valued, often
surreptitiously, within a society. It is a social psychological phenomenon of
mass appeal that bypasses intellectual reason and appeals to the gut-level of
instinctive aggression. We can all be secretly supermen no matter how weak and
plain we may really be, nor no matter how perverted the expression of our
secret desires may become. Thus we have cases of successful figures of
society, obsessive-compulsive to the extreme, beating their wives, abusing
their children, and committing violent atrocities to strangers.
The holocaust in Germany is only one example of many in the modern era when
a supposedly rational and well-ordered society can run amok with authoritarian
actions. It is perhaps the clearest modern example of how blind obedience to
conformity can be fostered among children, women and otherwise good-hearted
adults, and how, in the name of duty, this can be subverted to systematic
evil. But this can happen to any society--no modern society is fundamentally
immune to its possibility.
It is a paradox that the striving for competitive achievement that is an
earmark of developed societies, tends at the same time to foster a kind of
compartmentalized competitive authoritarianism that, in its extreme form,
leads to an undercutting of achievement by the strength of compulsive
repression that may especially hinder the higher level development of
cognitive-behavioral faculties. Achievement must therefore be understood as a
culturally defined, culturally sanctioned value. Being relative to its
cultural construction, achievement is usually a social value on which one's
ego-identity and status-identity in a society is based and rewarded through
resource acquisition and opportunity. The emphasis on achievement that is
constrained in specific social settings and contexts, may preclude the
development of other achievement orientations in alternative ways, and can
result in the long run in a form of distorted or exaggerated achievement
orientation that is driven by the fear of failure more than the desire for
Inequality is a fact of life. Many inequalities are rooted in nature and
physical differences cannot be undone. To be born physically or mentally
handicapped is a fact of life that cannot be simply reversed. Cultural
practices and social institutions exist to either exacerbate the basic
inequalities of life, or to attempt to reverse some of these basic differences
between people to create a context for the realization of greater equality.
The concept of equality is, like that of human rights and human freedom, an
ideal that exists as a possibility in the best of all possible worlds. It is
like a perfect triangle--though rarely seen in nature, we cannot deny its
mathematical and a priori truth. The source of this sense of equality, and its
demand on earth, comes from the same source as does the understanding of human
rights and freedoms. It springs from the subjective experience of human
suffering and from the sympathy we extend unselfishly to others. This
inter-subjective capacity of human beings to share the experiences and
feelings of others in the world is what separates us off as something more
than mere animals. At the same time, because it is not necessarily innate or
fixed by nature within us, it creates also the possibility of its denial and
Equality is an ideology that is touted by almost all nations, but is
realized in fact by very few. Absolute equality is an unrealizable ideal. The
emancipation that human beings have struggled for through history and
sometimes won was a greater degree of relative equality. The realization of
greater rights, freedoms and opportunities for people who are in a
structurally inferior position in a society. The demand for equality often
leads to the overturning or toppling of an entire state system, as happened in
the French Revolution or later the Russian Revolution.
Social inequality is inevitable in a stratified state system, because state
organization requires the concentration of administrative authority and the
separation of classes along occupational and marriage lines. It is inevitable
in a stratified global system as well. To expect it can ever be otherwise is
unrealistic. It is not a question of creating a completely fair system of
total equality. Such an attempt leads to dysfunctional and counterproductive
"communal experiments" that fail in the long run either because they
turn into totalitarian entities to "get the job done" or else
nothing gets done because no one has the authority to enforce state decisions.
The central issue is a question though of creating relative conditions of
greater or lesser equality in any one area, of constraining authority and the
effects of authoritarian power and control in ever narrower margins, and of
inducing the kinds of freedoms and cultivating the kinds of responsibilities
in more parts of more people's daily lives, such that inequality eventually
may become not so disparagingly blatant as it is today and increasingly
The realization of the notion of equality is a relative one--we can speak
of averages and relative degrees of equality achieved in any one situation or
place, compared to other similar cases.
In order for equality to be realized more broadly on earth, it is necessary
that we redefine our human identity of ourselves and others in the world, to
see past all the myriad differences of people, and to enlarge the symbolic
circle of our sense of community to encompass all people on earth. This
entails relinquishing or at least playing down nationalistic and ethnocentric
prejudices which place our own "kind" before others and separate our
selves and our communities from other people of other communities. This
redefinition must be done on a broad scale. It can only come from the
realization of the basic humanity all people share.
Enlarging the circle of our shared identity in the world also entails that
we expand our sense of self-identity as individuals in the world. We are not
just exclusive members of any particular grouping of humankind, but on a basic
and shared level we become implicit members of all groups. We must become
capable of seeing ourselves in many different kinds of people and of learning
to walk in the moccasins of many roles and types. This entails that we must
relinquish some of our basic compulsions and inhibitions that serve to
restrict us and channel us along narrow pathways in life.
The realization of human equality in the world entails a realization that
all people have both good and bad, that all people are equally capable of
doing good and bad things in the world. We are none of us so innocent that we
are free of guilt and responsibility to try better, and few of us are so
guilty that we absolutely forfeit our rights to our humanity completely.
The notion of equality is an ideological one--it is an ideal that we either
regard as valuable or not. Even the writer of the Declaration of Independence
and many of the framers of the U.S. Constitution, some of the most important
statements ever made about equality, kept slaves--this was the basis of an
unresolved issue over equality that led a hundred years later to a bloody
civil-war. The problem of inequality and equality is indeed a statement of the
history of human civilization. Human civilization was to a great extent
founded upon the blood and sweat of slaves and involuntary servitude.
Slavery still exists, and involuntary servitude takes other forms. Coercive
structures that impel people to live and do things they would not otherwise do
have changed with the rise of the world system. But coercion and exploitation
of human labor and reinforcement of structural and social inequalities remains
a fact of life in the beginning of the 21st Century.
It is important to separate the issues of social and structural inequality.
Social inequalities are what one notices in everyday life in the class based
distinctions and pretensions that so many people adopt in relation to one
another. Structural inequalities are more pervasive, more perverse and usually
occur unnoticed in the backgrounds of our lives. They are the inequalities of
opportunities, the impersonal and systematic discrimination based on category
or quota, the inequalities of advantage, education, information.
Altering the structural system that reinforces and creates basic
inequalities in the world cannot constructively be accomplished overnight. Any
major revolutionary change in this regard can only have consequences that are
more destructive than constructive, and that may end in a system more
tyrannically coercive and violence-based than even the current world order.
Reform of the structural system is had in small bits and pieces and is a
cumulative process that begins in everyday life and in common places,
extending itself gradually to a grand scale and momentum. Different forms of
equality are recognized--we can talk about political equality, social
equality, economic equality, and ideological equality. Many regimes pay much
lip service to ideological equality, but in fact promote programs of great
actual inequality and violence. A large proportion of humanity today live in
conditions of blanket ideological equality guaranteed by their state, when in
fact the degree of totalitarian influence and control is extreme.
Ideological equality in itself does little without the actual instantiation
of equality on earth, but it does create the symbolic justification and
preconception which is prerequisite to the greater realization of equality in
the world. The grant of one form of equality does not necessarily entail all
forms. What we strive for is finding greater relative equality, while working
for the realization of greater potential equality. Authoritarian control can
never be completely eliminated in state organized societies--it must be
narrowly delimited and restricted in its scope and degree of control in our
Without a doubt, greater equality cannot be achieved in the system until
the tyranny and disease of violence and authoritarian power control is
lessened in the world.
Greater human equality in the world cannot be realized until a world state
is created that will provide the structural framework protecting and promoting
such equality. As long as people remain divided into ethno-national groupings,
there will be wars, totalitarianism and human inequality. We can argue what
form such a single world state should take, but without a doubt it must be
democratically organized, for only in a genuinely democratic state where the
average citizen is given political freedom to vote and decide independently,
and powers of individuals are regulated and restricted by the fair rule of
public law, can the setting exist that will create genuine human equality.
Acculturation, Differentiation, Stratification, Assimilation
Ethnoculture is the distinctive cultural identity situated in place and in
period of time, that defines itself at least in part in relation to other,
alternative groupings. It may in fact be a distinctive sub-grouping of a
larger cultural identity--as per se a national culture or an ethno-national
cultural orientation. Ethnoculture tends to be local in orientation and
distinguished by detailed traits commonly shared and acknowledged by the
members of the grouping.
We all share some sense of ethnocultural identity and heritage that is in
part what we inherit from our parents and grandparents, and also what is the
consequence of our own histories and the impinging of the larger context on
our everyday lives. Ethnocultural identity often embodies some model of
kinship and a familial framework that is core to its constitution and symbolic
articulation in the world. It is this relational network which makes
ethnocultural identity such a basic part of our experience--so much so that we
tend to accept it as natural or "God-given." In fact, we are bound
within our ethnocultural identity on very basic levels in our preferences,
speech patterns, appetites and aversions, and we cannot easily escape or
forego these patterns even if we try to.
Ethnoculture is a concept of human identity
that situates the individual as a "social animal" in the nexus of a
web of interpersonal relations and a culturally defined context from the time
of birth until final death. Ethnocultural identity tends to be distinctive and
unique for individuals and for different groups of people who share a suite of
basic traits--it is inherently differentiating through time and across space,
and leads to greater division and discrimination between people based on
relatively minor and superficial qualities or characteristics.
Through our ethnocultural experience, our attitudes, views of the world and
response patterns to our experience of the world are shaped and constrained in
fundamental ways, and this mostly invisible and mysterious force in our lives
largely pre structures and determines the kinds of relationship we will
maintain with the world throughout our lives. It situates us definitely in
everyday life in both time and place--it locates us in certain, undeniable
provenience of the stream of human life.
Why not culture and why
"ethno-culture." The name "ethnoculture" is not intended
as a politically correct term or to highlight the notion of
"multiculturalism." Ethnocultural studies are systematic and
distinct--the subject and objects of their research are clear, and the
methodologies that demarcate its sub-disciplinary boundaries are unique to it
self. Ethnoculture is to Cultural Anthropology as Ethnohistory is to History
writ large. Ethno-culture attempts an ethnographic description and
ethnological explanation of a distinctive grouping of people--primarily in
endogenous terms--in the people's own terms, and particularly in relation of
the "proto-typical" individual to a larger context of relations with
other groupings and in the identity of the group in literature.
At the same time, it seeks to locate the individual subjective experience
in the framework of the larger historical and cultural realities impinging
upon the group, as well as the range of both individual and group variation
found within a particular ethnocultural orientation, both over time as well as
Ethnocultural studies tend to be analytically detailed systematic, engaged
explicitly in minutia, as well as comprehensive and nonexclusive in scope, and
integrative or systematic in framing the small in relation to the large. Its
excoriation of meaning and information in the patterning of people's lives
borrows much from the older paradigms of culture history and philology.
Ethnocultural differentiation is a natural process of groups to splinter
and split apart and to define an essentially separate identity as against the
host or parent body. Like the related processes of linguistic differentiation,
ethnocultural differentiation is a natural process of cultural development.
Because it is essentially an historical or what Boas would have called a
cosmographic process, it is one that is complex and non-predetermined.
Ethnocultural differentiation is contrastive to the larger historical
processes of acculturative fusion and assimilation that occurs especially when
more powerful or cosmopolitan societies come into contact and relation with
more closed and localized groupings. Trans-culturational processes of human
civilization also tend to run against the grain of more normal and
"natural" processes of ethnocultural differentiation. The
"uni-dimensional" culture of modernization is an example of how very
different groups of people will converge on certain specific traits because of
their common sharing within a larger global exchange system.
At some level, people are still prone to go to fight with one another over
minor symbolic or cultural differences, because competition and group identity
dictates conflicting relations between groups, even if in fact they share
common language, clothing, cars, etc.
That the concept of ethnoculture may be important to understanding our
Global Imperative has escaped the critical notice of most people, though wars
of increasing violence based mostly upon ethnic difference and differences of
ethnocultural values such as religious belief, are still occurring and are
Ethnocultural differentiation and stratification are in fact occurring at a
greater rate than ever before, and we are having to bear more and more
directly the consequences of this increasing human pluralism in the world.
Most of this differentiation is politically organized from above by a few
elite who seek dominance and exclusive control over a narrow resource base,
and are contrived by vested interests who attempt to mobilize groups based on
their ethnic identity and solidarity. Difference between people become
highlighted and marked as boundary maintenance mechanisms. Groups work
together to provide mutual advantage, often at the expense of well-defined
out-groups. Thus, ethnic stratification has become a new kind of
political-social-economic game of manipulating peoples world views, attitudes
and actions for some kind of gain in the world.
At the same time, the possibility and potentiality for increasing
integration within the global system also presents itself in world society.
The possibility for overcoming prejudices and discrimination based on the
ethno-schismogenesis and exaggeration of in-group/out-group boundaries is much
greater as people can more freely share their own subjectivity to a broader
range of people via the Internet.
People hold dearly, often violently, to their mother cultures, especially
when they feel these are threatened by rapid change or by the presence of
alternative out-groups they little understand. These feelings of intense
attachment and identity are very fundamental in our self-awareness, and these
often lead to great violence in the world.
Ethnocultural stratification can be referred to as the long term structural
relations that are established between different ethnocultural groupings of
people, especially when these relations tend to be asymmetrical and
non-reciprocal in a political or economic standpoint. Ethnocultural
stratification tends to be "diagonal" and it occurs as much within
ethnocultural groupings as between different or distinct ethnocultures.
Ethnoclasses are sub-groupings within a society that distinguish themselves
by the interconnections between class and ethnocultural identity--members of
the same general ethnoculture may be separated nonetheless by occupying
Ethnocultural assimilation refers to the process of the absorption of one
ethnocultural grouping or its traits by another, often dominant grouping, and
by the loss of identity of the original ethnocultural orientation and the
adoption of the ethnocultural patterns of the dominant group.
Ethnocultural acculturation refers to the process of exogenous borrowing
and change that is the result of contact between different ethnocultural
groupings in time.
Ethnocultural shock is the result of sudden loss of original or support
ethnocultural contexts, as with immigration, refugees, or destruction in the
face of natural disaster or human aggression.
Ethnocultural integration is the process of creolization between different
ethnic groups, often entail intermarriage, or amalgamation, or the mutual
symbiotic coexistence in a common setting of two or more ethnocultural
groupings, often exchanging or sharing affinities with one another.
Ethnocultural aggression & conflict is frequent and often very bloody.
It is rooted in hate and intolerance, that defines prejudice and ignorance
about others, it is rooted in stereotypes which dehumanize the other as
something less than human, it is rooted in structural competition for resource
which can appear to threaten the survival of a grouping, it is rooted in a
demand for group solidarity and conformity which excludes all possibility of
alternation and which seeks to reinforce its boundaries by targeting
out-groups as a rallying point. It is true that ethnocultural violence is not
waning in the modern world, but is actually on the increase as more and more
people come into collision and competition in the global market place.
World Systems: Open and Closed
It is commonly understood and acknowledged that we live within what has
been defined as a capitalist world system, dominated by the "core"
countries of the United States, Britain, Japan, France. We can consider it on
a grand level as a kind of economic imperialism in which foreign policy and
economic trade relations are reinforced through trade sanctions, embargoes,
etc., and sometimes even through the use of military "intervention."
The actual extent of development of the World System remains somewhat
questionable. Only several communist countries remain effectively outside of
this system, and there are a few "rogue" or pariah states as well
that do not function fully within the framework of the system. The global
system itself is largely an undetermined one, as much as the major players
like the United States, Japan and Great Britain, would like it to be
otherwise. This means that ultimate control over its development is largely
absent, and no single entity has achieved a complete monopoly of control in
the international arena. In fact, from a political and an economic standpoint,
it is very much a chaotic system that frequently runs "out of
What drives this global system? First, a huge and powerful military with
state of the art weapons technology, and a near monopoly by the core nations
on nuclear power and nuclear weapons technology. Secondly, there is a heavy,
almost exclusive dependence on fossil-fuel technology that drives development
and powers the heavy industry of the system. Third, the First world countries
effectively maintain academic and government-sponsored leadership in science
and technology, in particular, now the vanguard of the information revolution
and the biological revolution. Fourth, a well-established banking and credit
system that has been focused within the industrialized nations and has served
to concentrate a vast amount of wealth and control of resources in certain
The world system is in fact not a new thing. Previous "world
systems" have been around a long time ago. These systems are often
construed as imperial civilizations, and indeed they have frequently been so.
The traditional Colonial European Kingdoms--first Portugal, Spain, England,
France and the Netherlands, vied for power and control on the high seas, in
the frontiers of the New World and in the spice markets of the Old World.
Later, with industrialization, this developed into another kind of system in
which raw materials came from the colonial entities to be transformed into
commodities in the home markets.
The modern World System is the by-product of two world wars, a long Cold
War that is not quite finished, and a shifting arrangement of socio-political
and economic allegiances and treaties between the many nations of the world.
In the modern system, Japan and Germany, albeit transformed through
reconstruction as democratic entities, compete successfully with the old
established ex-colonial superpowers. New up and coming nations enter into the
competition for global markets and resources, albeit in lower-class positions.
The current world system is characterized by economic structural
integration in the face of ethno-national stratification and increased
differentiation between groupings of people. This lower level ethno-cultural
differentiation can be understood to be related to class closure at the upper
strata of this system, through economic opportunities and marriage patterns.
This partial closure of the global system entails, among other things, that
social mobility from the lower to the upper levels are extremely controlled
and circumvented by a variety bureaucratic and authoritarian mechanisms, and
that symbolic identification within the system must be in other forms than
that of achievement in terms of competition. Ethno-national identities are
competing common interest groups that utilize their internal networks as
leverage for achieving mobility within the system. Symbolic identification and
constraints at the group level preclude individual participation of the
members in a larger framework of resource competition. Principle competitors
are construed as alternative ethno-national groupings, and not as the
overarching controlling interests, which are, for the most part, effectively
invisible in most contexts of everyday life except in very marked
At the same time, structural integration is marked by a kind of economic
acculturative assimilation of "modern" values that are defined and
dictated by the global market economy. Like ethnic stratification at the
bottom, economic assimilation into the system encourages and enforces ties of
dependency upon the normal structural relations of the system. Unequal and
non-reciprocal ties that tend on average to systematically disadvantage the
poor in relation to the wealthy. The poor are taught daily through the
commercial hype of the mass communication media that they must
"emulate" the life styles of the rich to achieve status, success and
happiness. Indeed, even the core values of what it is to be beautiful, rich,
and successful, are manipulated by this same system.
Though the world system is a powerful one, it is by no means an infallible
or absolute system. It remains basically open-ended and unfinished though it
is also highly uneven and structurally unbalanced in favor of the elite.
However powerful or asymmetrical in its structure, the World System is in fact
a self-organizing one and is, in the structure of the long run, a basically
unstable one. It is composed of no single nation or entity that has enough
strength to enforce a confederation of nations. It is an increasingly complex
system and economic integration entails crosscutting interdependencies between
different nations that can both enhance stability and at the same time lead to
super-criticality. In such an environment relatively minor events can create
chain-reactions spanning the globe that can result in major systemic
The basic structural openness of the world system can be both a boon and a
bust for its continuation in the long term--destabilization and break down can
occur relatively rapidly, but the economic costs would be tremendous and
inhibiting. On the other hand, its openness permits a degree of flexibility
that allows new nations and new organizations to come into the center of the
stage for control and competition. This can be both stabilizing and
destabilizing, but it does entail that the so-called "world system"
might adapt itself to new arrangements in the long run.
World systems are nothing new. What is new is the extent and actual global
qualities characteristic of the new world system. Most of the globe is being
effectively integrated at some level and in some way into the global system,
and this system is a modernizing one that entails a foundation of sharing of
basic technological amenities and worldviews whatever else the differences of
culture, language and worldview. Only a few regions on earth today are beyond
the reach or purview of this system.
Structural integration of the world into a single system is inevitable and
will continue to happen. The possibility for its break down and for world war
are also always present in the background and complex chaos of the system. It
is up to ourselves in the final analysis to determine which kind of system we
wish to establish for ourselves on earth, and how much control and power we
are willing to grant it over our lives. If we do not act soon to decide these
issues, the likelihood of the long run is that somebody else will decide for
us, and then the results will probably be less than satisfactory for most
people on earth.
The potential benefits of structural integration of the world far surpass
the advantages of maintaining competitive and conflicting national differences
and promotion ethno-schismogenesis in the world. The costs of ignoring the
imperative of global integration--indeed it is also a part of our global
imperative, is that we must in the long run pay the price of greater human
inequality and suffering in the world.
Part II--Basic Principles and Progress
A better world in the 21st
Century begins within our selves, and extends systematically out through our
families, our communities and our homelands to encompass the entire globe. New
technologies offer us new opportunities to realize greater freedoms and
greater human potential in the world today. The realization of greater freedom
and human productivity is directly related to enhanced global development and
to democratization of human society. At the same time, the potential for
greater realization of human potential also entails a concomitant realization
of greater individual and social responsibilities to act in an appropriate and
adaptable manner, both in relation to one another and in relation to the earth
itself. Our imperative is to change or to perish. The destruction of the
earth's habitat is the destruction of humankind on earth. The earth is our
home, and we have become its stewards.
The future of the world is open-ended and
underdetermined by the current powers that be. It can turn in any one of many
possible directions. It can lead humanity to disaster, which is the greater
likelihood if we continue in our current modes of adaptation unaltered, or it
can lead us the realization of greater good in the world, if we make a
collective effort now to change our worse habits and adopt newer, saner ways
of doing things.
It is clear that the predominant system that is controlled by vested
interests have a commitment to the status quo that will stand in the way and
create resistance to any significant attempts at fostering alternative
development. These powerful interests have the resources to effectively
prevent any kinds of changes in the world that they perceive as being contrary
to their own private interests. But this is a temporary situation in the
world, and the common interests of humanity are in the final analysis their
own best interests as way.
Alternative development must be accommodative of these orientations and
interests groups, and not contradictory to them--but at the same time efforts
at alternative development must not yield to these interests or to allow our
primary objectives to become compromised and rendered ineffectual because of
Modern development and modernization as we have known these to be are not
so much inevitable as they are politically and economically promoted and
therefore permitted to continue in the way that they have. Many vested
interests have huge stakes in the game of development. But conventional
development in the way that it has been unfolding is without a doubt not
necessarily the best possible hypothetical future to behold. It is not without
its own intrinsic contradictions that make our whole-hearted and unquestioning
acceptance of its mandate more than a little uncomfortable and in the long run
The future can unfold in any possible number of directions, and it is
worthwhile in the brief period remaining before it does do so, to seriously
consider some of the other options that may be available for humankind other
than those that have been placed before us by the powers that be. There is a
great deal of media-hype and information control that is dedicated to creating
the illusion that the predominant world is the only possible way, and that any
other way is not efficacious or unworkable. Many of the basic technologies
upon which alternative development could be founded have been around for a
long time now--at least as long as the fossil-fuel industry.
The ignorance and prejudices, rooted in "common sense" that would
resist such alternative development are in fact the by-product of this
tremendous effort to hard sell the contemporary system as inevitable,
desirable, and even "natural". It is paramount therefore that the
promotion of alternative development attempts to counter and reverse some of
this public attitude away from the consonance of the system and social inertia
to basic change.
Success of the human species in the Third Millennium will in the long run
depend on how much it can promote alternative forms of development during the
first half of the 21st Century. These alternative forms involve alternative
power technologies primarily derived from solar energy, and upon the
widespread adoption of basic democratic social innovations that lead to
greater equality in the world.
Alternative development is therefore a critical issue affecting the destiny
and future course of human history. Alternative development includes as well a
clearer notion of Human development--the issues of promoting Human development
are inextricably tied to the promotion of alternative development such that
one will not be successfully achieved without the other.
The object of alternative development is to provide an alternative
direction for world development and global integration other than what has
been the predominant mode of the modern era in the 20th Century. Alternative
development does not aim to replace or displace the current patterns of
development that are mostly based on the petrochemical and military
industries, so much as to complement these with a greater range of viable and
profitable alternatives that are less violent and destructive of our world.
Part of the function of alternative development is therefore in a sense
"mediation" between the host world system and the natural and human
world in a global, regional and local sense. It makes continued fossil-fuel
development possible and tolerable, indeed sustainable, by placing brakes and
constraints upon this development, and by reinforcing the current energy
system with a safer and more sustainable substitute.
Alternative development consists of a number of factors working together.
Development of eco technologies and eco-cultural orientations which depend
upon these technologies is an important step in this direction. The success of
these technologies and cultural orientations depends on the scale of their
adoption in the world, and therefore upon their active promotion among
different peoples of the world
Alternative development in part also involves alternative human
development, and a redirection of the meaning of "human development"
in the world. Human development has mostly meant "human resources"
in the production systems of the past--it has rarely been construed as a kind
of right, as something that is its own goal and objective in the overall qualitative
improvement of the human condition.
As a side note, an extension of human development entails the promotion and
eventual adoption of more democratic institutions in the world, and a
concomitant withering of authoritarian power structures. Economic well being
and vigor depends on open and free market systems and upon the incorporation
of greater numbers of people into the decision-making process.
Promotion of alternative development requires redirection and cultivation
on a mass level of alternative human values and views of the world. Human
valuation is seen as an essential ingredient of the world system, underlying
economic value and structural patterning on earth.
It entails, among other things:
1. The promotion of Pacifism
2. The collective realization of Earthboundness
3. The development of Techno-ecology and Eco-technology
4. The cultivation of Eco-culture
5. The realization of the Information Revolution
6. Promotion of alternative Human development
An alternative vision of the future sees a return to reliance on solar
energy sources and spin-off technologies of these alternative energies to
drive our system, and less reliance on the fossil fuel based technologies that
have predominated, especially in the 20th Century. To some extent, it sees a
return to steam-power, but not driven by the burning of dirty bituminous brown
coal. Upon this alternative energy base we can see the gradual rise of new
kinds of buildings, streets, and cities that are made of alternative materials
other than timber and concrete. We can envision air-craft that fly into outer
space beyond the grip of the earth's gravity, and cars that reach speeds in
excess of 300 miles an hour--effectively turning a trip across the continental
United States into a single day's drive. These are not fantasy visions of a
science fiction writer, they are in fact the possible and better technologies
that are available to us today. It also sees powerful personal computers and
software that are cheap enough and available enough to be distributed more
evenly and more equally in the world.
The lack of initial profitability construed in the development of these
technologies must be understood against the background of the increasing
incentives and desirability of these technologies, and in fact, in the lowered
cost of such technologies once they reach the level of mass production and
global distribution. This lack of profitability and "high" cost
thresholds to initiating alternative development are more apparent than real,
and are biased by the predominant capitalist point of view that sees profits
as primarily short-term gains.
Such technologies in fact tend to be lower net cost in operation and to
involve longer life-cycles of its components. The gain of such an alternative
system is cumulative and gradual, but its development, once it takes root,
will grow exponentially and in the long term, quite rapidly.
Non-violence & Pacifist Revolution
What are the values of pacifist philosophy. The concept of nonviolence
entails a non-destructive approach to life. How shall we measure our
destructiveness? By our capacity to do harm and control the patterns of the
world arbitrarily--to bring to an end life. We can say that in a basic sense
the world system that we currently live within is fundamentally a violent and
destructive one. Many of its processes eventuate or cause the destruction of a
great deal of life on earth. It has been happening at such a rapid rate and to
such a great extent in the world that we can no longer blithely chose to
ignore it or the consequences.
Promotion of the values of pacifism is a difficult thing to do in a world
full of aggression and violence. The principles of passive resistance require
a kind of courage and self-sacrifice that is uncommon to the average human
being. Few exemplars have existed to lead the way in this regard. And there
have always been too many Hitler-types who would easily kill off every Gandhi
in line without a twinge of remorse or second thought. On one hand the world
must be protected from the innate aggression of mad-men like Hitler--thus the
doctrine of pacifism must embrace a policy of active, strategic defense.
Likewise, we cannot carry the concept of ahimsa, or non-violence, to the
absolute extent that we refuse to deal effectively with a swarm of locusts
eating our crops or with a strain of virus killing our children. We swat a fly
in the house when it annoys us, and we smash a mosquito engorged with our
baby's blood, but this does not make us violent in the world. Violence that we
seek to undo is the structural and social patterning that results in violation
of humanity's basic rights and in general and deliberate destruction of the
environment on a massive scale.
On the other hand, the use of violence in any form or fashion, even if
restricted to defense, entails the risk of its misuse as well and thus a
vicious cycle of violence begetting more violence. It is true and perhaps
unavoidable that by adopting methods of violence to counter and defend
ourselves from violence, we are rendering ourselves our own worst enemy. The
sad conclusion about the reality of widespread violence in our world is that
it forces us to become violent to defend ourselves--removing from us our
responsibility and freedom of non-violence.
Pacifist revolution is not defined only by the value strategy of passive
resistance, but also by the concerted strategy of resistant activism--it
entails a kind of aggressiveness and defensiveness that is essentially
non-militant. The best military strategy is an indirect approach that wins war
with the least amount of destruction and bloodshed. In the long run, everyone
loses in the violence of war--therefore diplomacy that successfully
accomplishes the goals is preferable to going to battle.
Pacifism is a valuable, indeed, a precious doctrine. It must be practiced
as much as it is preached, and tempered by the sober realization that
humankind will probably never be entirely free of violence. It is a cultural
orientation, an alternate orientation other than the predominant modes of
national chauvinism that are promoted in the name of patriotism and loyalty
under a flag. As a cultural patterning, it is something to be learned and
taught--parents must learn to put into practice its basic principles, and then
to try to teach these principles through example, modeling, emulation and
valuation, to their children. Teachers have the same task to teach their
students. Likewise, leaders must instruct their people.
Concomitant to the principle of non-violence entails we must also cultivate
an attitude of openness and tolerance to human differences and cultural
variations in the world, as we are increasingly confronted with such
differences and their consequences in our lives. Openness and tolerance must
be construed not just in a passive way of live and let live, but in an active
form of curious enjoyment and appreciation and positive evaluation of human
differences in the world. One of the great religious doctrines of the world,
the concept of universal love, must be applied in our daily lives and extended
to every person.
The principle of nonviolence and the promotion of active pacifism in the
world thus entail another set of values that we must embrace in the world, and
this is the value of self-sacrifice, charity and generosity in the world. The
concept of greed and profit incentive that underlies so much of the capitalist
system must be construed in a basic and fundamental sense to be contrary to
the principles of pacifism and eventually lead to destructive consequences
that are entailed in the exploitation and theft of other people's property or
Just as pacifism does not necessarily preclude the intolerance of Hitler,
it also does not necessarily preclude the dynamic and beneficial aspects of an
open capitalist market system. As it is not a contradiction to defend human
rights against the violence of a Hitler, it is also not contradictory to
promote profitable orientations through the organization of labor and capital
in the world system. But this must be accomplished without corruption,
exploitation--achieved through honest hard and intelligent work. Gaining of
value for all is the ultimate purpose of development--value gained within the
system should not be exclusively or primarily at the expense of others.
What does a pacifist revolution of the 21st Century look like. It is an
ad-hoc, grass-roots organization of common people as equals, regardless of
their station or class in life, regardless of their language or national
affiliation, working together for a common cause--the cause of world-peace and
world justice. Working with the knowledge that without justice there can be no
lasting peace, and without peace, there can be no true justice.
At the same time, we must all be brought to the final realization of giving
up our immature and somewhat childish preoccupation with the tools and weapons
of violence--that violence is something easy to accomplish but impossible to
ever undo. We must reach inside of ourselves to unlock the deep-seated
compulsions that tether us to our violent toys and obsessions, and to release
more creative forces in our daily lives. Thus a pacifist orientation entails a
relinquishing of the symbolism and means of violence in our everyday life, and
a deliberate, conscientious exploration of our own creativity and hidden
potential in everyday life.
The alternative system must promote this effectively in the world,
providing leadership and an organizational framework and alternative cultural
context that will allow people to securely and safely adopt alternative value
orientations without fear, without discrimination or violence. This has always
been a tall order, a well-neigh impossible requirement--but in the modern
world at the dawn of the 21st Century, it is now not only a realistic and
realizable possibility, it is becoming a necessary imperative.
Much of what must be resisted emanates from what can be called "human
nature" --it is so basic and so embedded in our world and our identity,
that we even feel threatened by the suggestion that it may be wrong or lost.
The refusal to bear arms under circumstances of national fervor over war will
be construed not only as an act of cowardice or desertion of duty, but it will
be treated as a crime against the state.
At this level, the state is exercising its ultimate coercive authority over
its constituency--the power to arbitrate the life and death of its people. It
is at this level perhaps that this form of coercive authority, what is the
privilege and power of nation states in the modern world and that leads to so
much violence in the world, must be primarily challenged. This coercive
authority of the state stems from the rights of states to make war to defend
their independence and territorial integrity, which stems from the independent
sovereignty of states.
But if the rights of states are ultimately even if indirectly derived from
the rights of individuals within the states. Individuals either tacitly or
actively yield their rights to the state for the sake of the protection and
promotion this citizenship provides for them, then it follows that actions by
the state that deprive its citizens of their basic rights and freedoms are
unjustifiable and lead to the potential forfeiture and delimitation of state
This is a difficult question. It is clear that Hitler's aggression that
ended in World War II was an illegal abuse and transgression of legitimate
authority by the German State. To a great extent the German people were either
induced by blind collective delusion or by fear to conform to his dictates and
the systems coercion, or else to suffer a cruel death. On the other hand,
American involvement in Vietnam is less clearly an act of overt aggression,
though its continuance and escalation lead to a great deal of unnecessary
destruction and violence.
But it falls upon the shoulder of the people themselves to decide and
determine the limits of its states, or any states, legitimate authority. The
problem is that once instituted, states in fact yield a great deal of control
and power over its constituency, and most often, individuals are in a very
weak and disadvantageous position to enforce their ultimate prerogatives over
the state. This is why in totalitarian states, as in modern communist China,
the right to congregate in large numbers outside of state sanctioned
activities is generally denied its people.
Total warfare that is characteristic of modern warfare, that involves the
mobilization of entire nation states and all their industrialized resources,
is a consequence of the potential totalitarianism of the modern state. Again,
Hitler's Germany is a clear example of this. But even very democratic and
otherwise usually non-aggressive nations like the United States can at times
adopt fairly totalitarian orientations in the world that result in total
warfare. The world witnessed this in Vietnam.
At the dawning of the age that, with the horizontal proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction, and with the kinds of technological refinements
of modern warfare, we cannot and do not have to afford to continue with
mobilization and means for making total warfare. The eventual outcome of such
warfare is unthinkable for every rational human being.
It is possible though to return the problem of defensive warfare to the
business of highly trained and well-equipped professional elite, much as we
rely on well-trained policemen and detectives to protect us and guard our
rights and freedoms in the world. The means for organizing relatively small
military organizations that can effectively enforce world peace without
committing the world's resources to total acts self-destruction have been at
hand for several decades now. What is missing is the willingness on the part
of nation states to do so, because of the yielding of their own power and
independent authority in the world this would ultimately entail. The peace
keeping forces mounted by United Nations efforts are usually a joke,
ineffectual even in preventing small arms violence by ill-equipped militia
Such development would require a joint commitment by the world's major
powers to supplying the technology and expertise required for such a global
police force. It would also entail a genuine commitment to a global democracy
and to a strong paradigm of states rights that do not preclude the realization
of individual human rights. In a world composed of powerful private interests
and many petty authoritarian dictators, this is perhaps asking too much.
Human Rights and States Rights
Human rights are always a silent, chronic background issue in our lives. We
struggle every day without a clear sense of what they are or what they entail
morally in our world. And yet they are extremely important because they
structure our relations with others in the world--they set limits to what we
can and cannot do with others, and what others can and cannot do with
ourselves. We mostly only know them when we really lose them or when others
violate our sense of our rights.
It is obvious that totalitarian governments in the world must by definition
be anti-democratic and thus must actively demote and devalue the role of human
rights in the world, and want to convince their subjects that human rights are
either a threat to the state or a conditional privilege granted (or taken
away) by the state.
The issue of states rights deriving ultimately from the sanctioning and
mandate of the people, the collective "will" of the people, so to
speak, and being ultimately constrained by and legitimated by basic human
rights, remains an important normative and philosophical point to develop,
because a lot of real things in the world hinges on its justification.
The power of independent nation states is derived from and granted, however
implicitly, by its people. It is limited by its responsibility to protect and
uphold the rights and interests of its people. The nation state is usually
construed as a corporate entity whose organizational life and imperative is
greater than the needs or rights of any individual within it, or even greater
than the sum total of the rights of the individuals who compose it. At this
point of its development, a state changes from being "of the people, for
the people and by the people" in a direct and active sense, to becoming
"over the people, above and beyond the people."
This mandate of state authority is usually derived on the grounds of
protecting or promoting the "national cultural heritage" of the
people, which is held to be greater than the biographical lives of the people
who compose this heritage. Much of this is ideological rhetoric and symbolic
construct that has no necessary a priori--it is collective illusion fostered
by the state as a means of secondary legitimization of its institutions and
policies. It is at this level of "no-man's land" as with the gray
regions of secondary and derivative human rights, that the possibility for
prevarication and manipulation of rights and powers mostly occur and for which
few clear solutions actually exist. It is this gray between area of derivative
rights and privileges that lead us to extended court room battles.
It is unfortunate in history that all too frequently vested and corrupt
political interests have an undue amount of power and influence, and
deliberately and underhanded exploit and exaggerate issues of ethnic identity
and solidarity and out-group threat and scape goats, for their own empowerment
and aggrandizement in the world. Most people appear too often to be
susceptible and easily led in this way, and leaders not only realize this mass
weakness, but presume it in many of their policies.
Human rights is the only valid universal meta-ethical doctrine that exists
for humankind, not because there is some natural imperative or mandate that
makes it so, but because we in our history have collectively agreed to make it
so. We know human rights mostly by their violation. We know it by our long
history of slavery and the violence of aggression and totalitarianism the
leads to the loss and violation of rights on a grand scale.
Human rights are a semi-explicit doctrine ultimately about the fundamental
value and worth of the human being, as both an individual and as a member of a
larger society, in the world. It states that this value and worth is in some
sense absolute and inviolable--we cannot justly put arbitrary limits or impose
cultural constraints over it.
The concept of human rights has gradually expanded over the decades,
especially in relation to modern development, to embrace a broader range of
issues and basic areas of life. These include in a general sense the rights to
life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. More specifically we
recognize the rights to freedom of speech, assembly, religion, defense, etc.
Among the basic rights as laid down in the American Bill of Rights, we can
include several others that have subsequently risen to the fore as vital
social issues. These include the rights to a home, to a job, to equal
opportunity, to vote, the freedom of expression, freedom of privacy, freedom
of information, the right to alternative life-styles, the right to health,
education and basic welfare of our families.
States Rights, the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of
ethno-national groupings, are the symbolic and de facto extension of human
rights, applied to the rights of groups to form for themselves and freely
operate as separate and independent communities.
Because the paradigm of states rights ultimate derive from the doctrine of
individual human rights, the domestic analogy of individual rights becomes a
viable and appropriate model for understanding the interactions and normal
relations between states. Because states rights are derived from basic human
rights, the power and moral, meta-ethical legitimacy of a nation to assert is
prerogatives is fundamentally constrained by these same basic individual human
rights. Nations cannot justly forfeit or alienate basic human rights, though
they frequently do so. At the same time, no nation has the privilege to
consider itself above or beyond the purview of the basic paradigm of human
rights. The Nuremberg Trials and many war crimes trials subsequently have
demonstrated the value and intrinsic importance attached to the doctrine of
basic human rights by the international community. The case of cultural
relativity cannot be justly made against the assertion of human rights either.
Cultural variability in the interpretation of constraints, rights and
responsibilities varies widely between different groups of people, but upon a
meta-ethical level the actions of all states, either domestically or
internationally, is fundamentally constrained by the doctrine of inalienable
basic human rights.
In the international arena, there is a place for an institution like the
United Nations to enforce the doctrine of human rights and to keep peace among
nations. The United Nations has grown in its effectiveness over the last
decade, but it remains still limited and fundamentally weak to enforce its
mandate even among relatively weak nations, unless it is backed up by the
military might of its more powerful sponsors. The mandate of the United
Nations will be made stronger and more effective when it is able to enforce
its rule with a heavy hand among a genuine federation of nation-states that
cannot legally act outside of this union.
Human Rights and Anthropological Relativity
As anthropologists, we have a moral obligation to
search for some sense of realistic resolution to the dilemmas posed by ethical
and cultural relativity for the doctrine of human rights. We cannot as
professionals simply pose this problem and challenge the world to find a
solution to it and then simply walk away from it claiming our professional
ethics and disinterest of objective inquiry. Anthropological relativity of
value and worldview is a realistic fact of human life--Roman slaves were
little better than cattle, and people regular put to death in the Coliseum was
a normal and popular, if somewhat brutal and bloodthirsty, form of
entertainment. Even in the modern era it is not difficult to cast about and
find similar examples of cultural practices that test our sensitivities and
understanding about what basic rights and violence are. I would include in
this the controversial issues in contemporary American society over gun
control--when youth walk onto a campus carrying automatic weapons designed
only to kill people. Communist China today claims cultural relativity of its
long and ancient history--modern communists appropriating for their own
purposes and empowerment and long heritage of traditional Chinese
civilization, as it justifies totalitarian policies that lead to massive human
rights violations and to wide scale corruption. It even goes too far as to
define human rights as capitalist promotion of democracy and as a threat to
the normal social order of the Chinese people.
To deny the relativity of values on some level, even if just for the sake
of philosophical argument and conjecture, is to side-step the centrally
critical issues of real importance, that are relative status of human rights
in the real world, and the limits of variation or of tolerance that the world
community and humanity seeks to define in relation to human rights. There is a
great deal of room for interpretation and misinterpretation of what are basic
and derivative rights and freedoms, responsibilities and the limits of
authoritarian domination. But if we honor and respect alternative cultural
traditions that may place different valuations on people and their freedoms,
at the same time, we also all implicitly recognize and on some level
acknowledge the basic limits to authority and coercion in any society, beyond
which there is only intolerable violation and cruelty.
From the standpoint of a meta-ethical doctrine of universal human rights,
we all of us, as equal members of humanity, have a moral obligation to respect
and uphold some notion and practice of this doctrine, that ultimately
transcends and places limits on the relativity and variations of the pattern
of culture. To claim cultural identity and relativity, in other words, does
not exonerate us from the moral constraints of the doctrine of human rights,
and places basic conditions and limitations on the amount of cultural
variation that we can ethically tolerate.
Though head-hunting was a common cultural trait in Oceania, incorporation
of these tribal societies into a larger world system of relations entailed
that this pattern be arrested and prohibited. Slavery in Africa is another
endemic cultural institution that, from a human rights standpoint, was
construed as intolerable and was eventually eradicated.
Earthboundness can be described as a subjective and collective state of
mind. It is the realization on some level of our being of our inherent
limitations on earth, and of our vital relationship and dependency to earth,
hence it is a growing understanding and a new sense of responsibility to
caring for and managing the earth in a manner that is good both for it and for
ourselves. The earth is our home, like it or not. We can make it a mess--we
can destroy it, or we can clean it up and set it back in order.
It is a common realization similar to the one that people of Columbus's age
perhaps had when the earth was demonstrated to be round and interconnected
east and west. Earthboundness can be a sense of the isolation of the planet
earth in a vast and almost boundless universe. It can also be a sense of our
common place in the greater natural scheme of things. Astronomers and
astrophysicists search the edges of the universe for the big bang, but
philosophers must still ask the question of what lies beyond all of this. And
yet we are temporarily, for all intents and purposes, still tethered with our
feet on solid little earth. This shared realization of our finiteness and the
finiteness of life on earth, of the earth's resources and of our own longevity
and tenuousness on earth, impinges upon the things that we do and how we view
the world in many ways.
Earthboundness is a steadily increasing realization of our responsibility,
individually and socially, to the earth, to its stewardship as caretakers.
This sense of responsibility is something that we cannot simply escape or
ignore even if we choose to. It is always in the background of our lives like
a gigantic question mark looming over the horizon. We must also realize that
what we are in charge of taking care of is not simply our own to do with as we
please. This has been our common problem for many centuries so far. Our sense
of responsibility is as rentors. Mother nature is our land lady. We are
realizing increasingly, especially as we enter into and take control of the
world of the gene, that we cannot simply manipulate nature in anyway we see
Earthboundness is a very basic alternation of our collective world-view
that is tied to the growing realization of the finiteness of the world and of
the constraints of the human condition in the world. It is in a sense a
preconception--a collective "preunderstanding"--it comes before and
basic challenges our rational faculties for understanding and relating to the
world. Perhaps, for many reasons, we are in fact "seeing" the world
differently from the way our ancestors saw the world. This fact of altered
perception of our world entails that we must reformulate our symbolic and
ideological structures that would rooted to an earlier sense of vision and
relation about the world.
I call this new point of view "earthboundness" because I believe
that the dawning shared realization of the limits and boundaries imposed by
our basic relationship to the earth and our ultimate dependency to the earth,
is at the core of this altered conception of reality. We are increasingly
feeling and learning about these limits and boundaries in ways that our
forefathers never could have known. With this new point of view, comes a
growing awareness of new responsibilities and also of new kinds of freedom
which is the by-product of our technological civilization.
Earthboundness as a worldview is probably the first collective
understanding that is genuinely or potentially pan human--one that is shared
by all people together. It transcends all previous religious philosophies and
ideologies. It is because part of the earthbound perspective is the common
realization that we are all in the same big boat together drifting through the
vast empty seas of space.
Worldview is important because it orients us every morning, and allows us
to sleep well every night. It helps to render coherent and orderly the
multitude of experiences and perceptions. It provides us a common set of
attitudes and symbolic framework by which we can communicate, explore new
experiences, test out our subjective feelings, opinions, and sense of reality
against those of others. Without a coherent worldview, at least implicitly,
our sense of reality would be quite disordered and even destructive.
So far, the earthbound perspective exists but only in the background of our
lives. We all know it is there--the same sense of the earth's problems and our
relationship to the earth is taught in China as it is in the United States.
And yet, as a coherent, clear view of the world, and of our place within it,
it has not yet been in itself rendered explicit.
Earthboundness is also a state of mind, but more than a world-view, it is a
state of being in the world. It is not a transient state of being--it is a
habitual, regular and everyday way of living. We know that gravity is a subtle
but extremely powerful force of nature that keeps us mostly right side up.
There is no more direct evidence of our earthbound condition than when we
clumsily drop something from our hands or trip and fall to the ground. It
reminds us, among other things, of our humility before the forces of nature.
We thus kow tow before nature without our willing to or not. We are
embarrassed, but we need not really be.
Because we are in some small measure rational beings, what we think and
believe is important to our lives--it gives us a sense of order and direction,
and sometimes even, we act upon this sense of order in ways constructive or
otherwise. Earthboundness has several components. Earthmindedness, that in its
explicit form allows us to think, feel and hopefully talk about our
relationship to the earth in a variety of ways, and Earthbeingness, which is a
hopefully conscious way of living when we come to accept in our everyday lives
our sense of earthbound being. It is like the second thought we have when we
go to toss out a piece of rubbish paper. We make sure it goes to the proper
place rather than anywhere--we do this even if at first it requires a little
extra attention and energy on our parts, until it becomes a matter of routine
Earthbeing has a deeper sense of meaning. It can be construed as a state of
being in the world that is not vicarious, but immediately apprehended in the
apperceptive recognition of our own position and place in the world--of our
own sense of being in the here and now. It entails a giving up of the
illusions of ego-attachment, of fetishes, of impulses that are dangerous or
harmful. It entails the cultivation of a spirit of being in a natural state,
with our selves, with one another, and with the larger world.
Earthbeingness therefore has wider implications for our socially
constructed world--for our cities, our skyscrapers, our freeways, our suburban
sprawls, our slums and ghettos. We must ask ourselves the honest question of
what these are in our lives.
Of course, a great deal of money is invested in advertising over the
television to get people to accept and desire things that perhaps are not
completely consonant with an earthbound way of living. We are told that
bigger, faster and newer trucks are better than smaller, older and slower
ones. It becomes a question of our status-identity in the world--if we own the
fetishes of capitalism, then we are, at least for the moment, somebody
important. It is difficult to resist the social pressures to affluence and to
conformity. There appears little counter-voice or basis for alternation of
value that enables us to feel comfortable and unthreatened about our selves
and our ego-identity in the world.
This pressure occurs on a symbolic level in our everyday lives. It affects
how we see and feel about our selves and our worldview. It is inescapable if
we are to participate successfully and normally even in a minimal way with
everyday society, especially in the most developed regions of the world. It is
constant and unyielding, like the fast lane of a busy freeway.
Earthboundness therefore at some level will entail a reassessment,
reevaluation and perhaps a revitalization of our symbolic structures in a way
that yields a view and orientation to the world that is more consonant with
being in the world, that is less vicarious, less attached to material fetishes
and the corrupt sense of power and good this brings with it. It may entail a
new found simplicity, a conscientious return to a simpler way of living that
is less cluttered with the compulsions that drive us such long distances to
acquire greater wealth and the status symbols that money buys. It will
therefore entail a new sense of humility, and a disdain of the ephemeral
vanities that the modern world is made up of.
If this sounds like good Christian eschatology, it can also just as well be
basic Buddhist or Hindu values as well. In fact, earthboundness knows no clear
religious boundaries--it transcends all previously known religious doctrines,
and, in the process, incorporates many of the basic values.
Eco-culture is an new form of general, pan-human cultural orientation based
on the possibilities of social integration represented by free information
exchange of the Internet, and by the eventual promotion of alternative primary
institutions of production as well as consonant alternate secondary social
institutions of symbolic legitimization and social organization. Institutions
of primary production include solar based energy sources and extended
electrical technologies derived from solar power, alternative intelligent and
automated technologies of production, and secondary institutions of social
organization and legitimization. It also entails on a subjective,
phenomenological level, the promotion of orientations in everyday life, by our
habits, the choices we make, our conversations and interactions, that are
conducive to a non-violent and symbiotic relationship with the natural world.
Lip service has been paid to the emergence of a "modern" global
culture constituted mostly in the capitalist market place, that is
increasingly erasing ethnocultural and national boundaries of identity. This
modernization is apparently having an assimilative effect of bring all styles
of art, architecture, fashion, and products of manufacture, into a common form
or mold--streamlined and similar no matter where they are produced or
designed. Very little of this new material culture of world civilization is in
fact conducive to or a part of a genuine global eco-cultural orientation.
Eco-culture in fact does not exist on a very wide or widely shared basis,
but a general need and platform for its emergence does exist today. Much of
what passes in the name of environmentalism is in fact a form of
market-oriented appropriation of popular themes and consciousness. But
eco-culture is not about environmentalism or environmental activism per se--it
is not only about camping out in trees or protesting nuclear tests. It is
about the cultivation of alternative life-styles that lead to a grass-roots
movement--a ground-swell, that predetermines basic consumer attitudes and
habits in the global marketplace, that redefine basic market values and
reorients economic development toward new avenues that are considered more
healthier than what is currently promoted. To unhook the average consumer from
the status hype of new large cars, new clothes, sporting apparel, etc, and to
symbolically refocus cultural attention toward alternative status and more
mature life-styles would be to liberate a great deal of humanity from the
chains of economic coercion and constraint that tie them to the modern system.
To provide the average consumer with a viable set of reference points and a
context and identity that allows them to better redefine their basic values
and attitudes in relation to the system, more independently and more
fulfilling of their lives in a meaningful way, is essentially to undermine the
authoritarian power structures and the status quo of the current system which
demands and expects absolute conformity on very basic levels.
Eco-culture must be more than a mere ideology, or a vague philosophy of
empty words--it must be defined by our collective actions and shared
involvement in the real, material world, by its transmission to our children
and by its institutionalization in our global social order. In this regard,
promotion of eco-culture is an activist program, and to some extent attempts
to encourage a revolution, albeit a pacifist, or non-violent, revolution in
all that we do.
Eco-culture is by definition global in perspective. We cannot see it as
regionally isolated or preferential to a particular place or period of time.
It exists for every human being equally. The present world system as it
exists, divided politically into competing nation states, must not only allow
eco-culture to develop, but eventually help to promote its development in the
world. Without a doubt, active promotion of eco-culture on earth will
encounter much resistance, some of which may be violent. Change in
conservative and asymmetrical social systems is always met with forceful
resistance, especially when the new changes threaten the status quo of the
power-relations that already exist.
Eco-culture is therefore a global culture, but it is alternative to the
predominant mode of global culture as it exists today as the product of the
capitalist development of world civilization. Eco-culture therefore is
anti-thetical to many of the manifest and promoted values of modernism that
exist in the world today--values that are largely defined by class and status
acquisition of material fetishes and fads. Eco-cultural development is not
anti-modernism or counter-cultural. It is simply alternative, different from
the main stream of this development. It is in some ways complementary to this
mode, and in other ways antithetical to it.
It must be understood that eco-culture and its promotion is not reactionary
or antithetical to the established order of relations. It effort is to provide
to the world an alternative way of development on all levels of social and
cultural integration that is designed to complement and reinforce the
established order, while at the same time minimizing the most adverse effects
of this order.
Eco-culture can be described as a new way of living, a new world-view, a
shared set of primary and secondary institutions and symbolic systems of
conceptioning that is more consonant with our sense of earthboundness and more
symbiotic to a steady-state of natural evolution on earth. Development will
continue on earth--but the driving force behind this development and its main
strategic direction in the aggrandizement of the power of a few, must change,
and the ultimate foundation of this development must also as a consequence be
changed. The compulsions to power, to status, to acquisition of material
wealth and resources that has long driven capitalist development, the mass
appeal to common human vanities, to vicarious enjoyment, to thrill seeking,
must give way to a more sober and more sophisticated dynamo of human
motivation and evaluation.
Many of the values of eco-culture have already been defined in the context
of this work--pacifism and non-violence, universal tolerance, creativity and
openness, charity, generosity, honesty, thrift and productivity. Other values
must also be seen in relation to this orientation--frugality, the golden mean,
and the old-time capitalist values of hard work, punctuality and industry.
The development of eco-culture on earth will entail therefore a kind of
peaceful revolution, a casting-off of the chains that tie us to the big
system, and a conscientious declaration of independence. This revolution will
be slow in coming, but inexorable in its consequences. Part of the dilemma of
its realization is that most of the poorest and dispossessed people on earth
only want to become wealthy and rich, and would not give up this dream for
values which remind them too much of the humility of their own disadvantaged
backgrounds in life. The real resistance to the promotion of this kind of
alternative orientation will not come from the wealthy, but from the poorest,
Eco-culture must be about global equality in a maximum sense. It must be
about freedom in a way that has not yet been realized. It must also be one
that permits people greater latitude for achievement and acquisition than they
would otherwise enjoy, even within the normally developed system.
Eco-culture will be something that we teach to our children--something we
value enough to teach to our children. Our children will have to grow up into
it as if it were natural. But how to teach something that is alien even to
ourselves, that we poorly understand? Cultivating eco-cultural values and a
consonant way of life must on some level entail reconciliation of a host of
discrepant realities between the world as it is and the world as it could and
should be. We must battle with this issue everyday in many basic ways.
Human development is a critical concern of the 21st Century. There are
billions of people on earth, but the promotion of human development lags far
behind the promotion of economic and technological development--most often
human development issues take second place, or are in fact demoted, in favor
of frequently short-sighted strategies that aim at quick economic development.
Governments, institutions and most people themselves cannot be trusted to be
unselfish enough to want to promote human development beyond token symbolic
efforts. The need for human development is increasingly acute in the world,
and the consequences of its promotion or continued demotion in the world may
prove fatal or critical to the long term successful adaptation of the human
species on earth in the 21st Century.
With so many new people on earth, the demand on resources and the
requirements for development which strives to improve the average quality of
life for all human beings is growing greater and greater by the minute, while
the predominant system remains for the most part negligent and unconcerted in
its efforts in this way. Basic and derivative human needs, upon which human
rights are based, are increasing in direct proportion to the increasing size
and environmental impact of the human population.
Humans are seen, in light of the capitalist world system, as simply
"resources" that can be developed primarily in terms of their
efficiencies and productive capacities within the machinery of the global
manufacturing and market system. Their social qualities are directly tied to
their relative position in the global ladder of socio-political-economic
Human beings are not simply resources--they are the ultimate ends of all
development, and human development is not merely a form of economic
development, but it is a goal in itself. We strive to promote human
development in the world or else fail to do so, primarily because it is
fundamental to the definition of what it means to be human on earth. Human
beings, collectively, are the primary determinants and sources of all value on
which the modern world system is built. Even economic values, in the final
analysis, are derivative of basic human value.
Human development is in fact a human right that is owed to each and every
person. The promotion of human development in its more genuine aspects does
not debilitate or take away from economic development. Rather, its greatest
consequence is that promotion of human development in societies creates the
preconditions to the greater economic growth and development of that society,
especially when that development is based on institutions that create greater
equality between classes of people in a society. This holds whatever the
traditional cultural patterning or historical heritage of a particular
Much that has gone on in the developing countries in the name of economic
development has in fact resulted in increasing stagnation, corruption and
greater violence. Programs currently aimed at human development are often
compromised in their structural organization and function, or by their
relative positioning within the global system, such that they are rendered
corrupt and false in their representations to the world, and even frequently
tend to the demotion and interference of genuine human development rather than
the other way around.
Promotion of genuine human development frees people from the constraining
forces of the system they live within and allows them to accomplish their life
goals. It provides new opportunities for people to realize a better life and
to pursue dreams.
The challenge becomes for us how to promote genuine human development in
the world. Human development is more about the realization of innate human
potential on an individual level, and about the average social improvement on
a social group level, than it is about the "alleviation" of social
"problems" that are themselves the result of structural asymmetries
in a larger system and of embedded ethnocultural patterns on an interpersonal
level. It begins on the proposition that beneath the skin, on a deeper level,
all people are basically the same, and in general, expect and want and value
the same basic kinds of things in life. The cultural form or the symbolic
expression of these needs and expectations vary widely, as does group identity
and patterns of group solidarity and goals, but these kinds of differences on
deeper analysis tend to be relatively superficial and comparatively
superfluous in comparison to the pan-human cognitive and normative framework
that is derivable from the typical existential predicament that most people
find themselves within, especially now within the modern world system.
Human development derives from the fact that human nature is in fact
inherently creative in orientation, and that it is not normatively healthy
unless it is allowed to develop its fullest creative potential. We cannot,
beyond the meeting of basic needs, dictate to all people or even any people
what is best for them in terms of their own development. All people must be
permitted and allowed the opportunity to realize this for themselves without
social interference. The focus on the individual is a radical hypothesis in a
world where most traditional civilizations and culture demote the position of
the individual to group identity.
This is the basis for the justification of the human value strategy of
promoting human development in the world. It is rooted in a social philosophy
that is basically philanthropic--human beings are born good and innocent, and
are taught, directly or indirectly, to be bad. Not only are humans basically,
by definition, fundamentally "good" but they have on average much
greater potential than most of them realize in their life-times, for a complex
variety of reasons.
Human development is therefore a grand value strategy that is contrary to
reliance on militaristic strategies of the threat of force. Indirectly but in
a very real sense it affects economic production, because, by raising human
value, this value translates into greater productivity and the realization of
greater economic value, which in the final analysis is the social realization
of human value in the first place.
Promotion of human development in the world entails therefore the wide
scale adoption of what Denis Gabor referred to as social innovations on the
secondary level of socio-cultural institutionalization. These social
institutions are primarily educational, and human service related
organizations. Fostering new institutional arrangements in the world is no
simple or straight-forward task. The most difficult aspect of this is inducing
people otherwise set in their ways to accept new ways of doing things.
Conservatism of traditional cultures worldwide, and all the attendant
ethnocentrism found within these different orientations, have the inertial
effect of resisting adoption of innovations on a scale that these would be
effective in the world.
The question of how to do this is a top priority in the development
anthropology game. Fortunately, no single private interest has made a monopoly
on this topic, for it they did we can be sure that there would only be more of
the same old modernization!
The realization of human development in the first place depends upon the
freedom of humankind from the tyranny of violence and from the constraints of
the threat of violence in everyday life. Furthermore, it entails the
realization of individual independence and the protection of individual human
rights in most social contexts. These are fundamental prerequisites to
building a foundation for human development in the world.
As far as the promotion of human development in the world, it is true that
we are our own worst enemies. Human development begins at home and in our
selves. We must work on ourselves first, and not worry too much about what
others are or are not doing. Indeed, our cultural conformity and socialization
frequently entails the embedding of unconscious repression and compulsions
that foster our authoritarian relation with the world in very basic ways, and
that limit our own development as human beings. Creating the preconditions
that encourage and provide direction for this kind of alternative and
individual human development is a requirement of society in general, but it
comes to full force in the familial context of the home environment.
Human development entails leadership training, alternation to more
acceptable modes and values of living, rehabilitation and remediation, it
entails achievement reorientation, motivational training, retraining and
acquisition of basic and advanced skills in a variety of directions.
Human development entails enhancing both the average quantity and quality
of life for all people--the level of human development is measured and
determined by this pan human standard. We cannot assess the level of
attainment in human development by comparing average Americans with average
Chinese or Malaysians--such comparisons only show us, more than any thing
else, how far we have still to go.
Quantity of life in terms of access to wealth and resources and quality of
life in terms of basic indicators like relative health, well being, education,
etc., are indeed interdependent sets of factors. We cannot ultimately improve
the quality of life without somehow first increasing the average quantity of
life. At the same time, we cannot simply enhance the quality of life by merely
augmenting material possession or acquisition.
Techno-Ecology and Eco-Technology
Modern industries were quick to jump on the new biological revolution that
enabled genetic manipulation of corn crops. They did so short-sightedly and
without regard to the possible long term or indirect consequences of human
interference in the genetic transmission of biological information--the
encoding and transmission of life itself. They did so only in the selfish
desire of capitalizing on a new form of technology. Genetic manipulation is a
clear and stark example of the effect that modern scientific technology is
having upon the natural ecology of the earth--at many levels and in many
different ways. The history of capitalist development reveals that most of it
has been by definition short-sighted because it was always based simply and
only on terms of rapid and immediate profit-maximization--or rather a strategy
of the nearest possible, short-term gains.
Modern technologies indeed create and foster their own kinds of ecology on
the earth, as many otherwise feral species of life are forced to adapt to the
new human-made conditions imposed on their natural habitats or else pass
rapidly to extinction by habitat loss and extreme resource competition. These
new human made ecologies prove usually to be not very adaptive in the long
term--they tend to have destructive and unbalancing consequences for natural
ecologies in the larger framework and the suites of species that normally make
their homes within these regional contexts.
Eco-Technology can be defined as the alternative technologies, such as the
primary institutions of production, that promote more sustainable large scale
adaptations of the human species on earth, or at the very least are less
destructive of an eco-cultural orientation than are the currently predominant
fossil-fuel based technologies. These primary alternative institutions are
basically solar-powered, either directly or indirectly, along with a host of
spin-off technologies that are derivable and exclusively dependent upon these
alternative energy resources. The information revolution has made this new
kind of technology not only more possible, but potentially even more
efficacious and even more profitable than traditional-styled technologies!
As Buckminster Fuller was fond of remarking, information is anti-entropic,
and if we are to understand the synergism of an alternative system of basic
and advanced technology, then it must be understood from the standpoint of its
structural-functional integration derived from information technologies and
the possibilities that this new kind of cybernetic integration creates.
Eco-technologies have a primary derivative source--solar energy--either
directly or indirectly utilized by a variety of means. Upon this general
source of energy, technologies that are efficient and ecologically efficacious
are elaborated as viable alternatives to the common forms available today. The
wide-scale adoption and development of these alternative primary institutions
sets up a new foundation for alternative development that is outside of the
present system and yet remains complementary to that system.
The challenge is the development of an alternative eco-technological
infrastructure that is complementary to the existing fossil-fuel economy. Many
of these alternative technologies have been around for a long time, but the
justification for their lack of development has been the availability of less
expensive alternatives and the high cost of their development.
This is only partly true, and disguises the real issue that has been
involved in the promotion of alternative eco-technologies. The large oil
companies and derivative companies of automobile and truck manufactures would
not want forms of competition to enter their lucrative market place that might
in the long run undermine their own profits and profitability. In fact, in the
long run, if properly designed, eco-technologies may actually be more
efficient and less expensive than the current petrochemical based industries.
The promotion of these alternative technologies does require some
rethinking and rewiring of the system--old money will die and new money will
be born. Even more, it requires a general receptiveness and willingness of
current socio-political systems to adopt these kinds of programs. If the new
alternative technologies can be cultivated and allowed to rise to the fore,
then the old Industries of oil and coal combustion would become eventually
relatively limited and specialized industries, with a few functions
accomplished more efficiently by gas or other forms of petrochemical
combustion than otherwise, hence being irreplaceable by alternatives.
The promise of these programs promoting alternative development is that,
relatively speaking, they are non-destructive of the natural environment, and
produce far fewer harmful side affects that the current state of technology.
They would be designed for the long run, to run on a regular or continuous
basis without the need for constant inputs of huge amounts of coal or oil.
Because on average they would tend to be long lasting, steady and relatively
reliable, many of the issues that are contemporary to the
petrol-chemical--cost of gas at the pump, for example-- industry would
eventually simply become irrelevant.
The focal foundation of techno-ecology is the elaboration of solar and
gravity powered technologies, and the advanced application of these
technologies to the viable and economical solution of practical problems in
the world. Spin-off technologies would also be forth coming from promotion of
this development. Furthermore, new development based on these technologies can
be directly applied to accomplishing scientific objectives that have not
otherwise been obtained.
Alternative development will succeed in rendering global social
organization more complex and occupationally differentiated--the structural
dynamics of pan-human social order would take on new dimensions and new orders
of magnitude as greater amounts of power become available to more people at
less cost and greater net efficiency. It may also remove some of the
foundation stones that currently influence militarism and current asymmetries
in the world order--competition for access and control over basic energy
resources, for example.
The real challenges faced by alternative techno-ecological development is
not its cost-effectiveness, but rather the organized resistance it will
receive from many super-powerful lobbies and private interests who mandate
government policies and manipulate public awareness and opinion. But these
challenges can be effectively met, and in time, their resistance will wither
away in the face of a growing global receptivity and demand for cheaper
sources of power and the by-products and technological spin-offs of these
The sooner the human race gets unhooked on fossil-fuel consumption as their
primary source of power, and becomes hooked on alternative solar sources, then
the sooner the foundations for world peace and for pan-human development can
be better secured in the world. In the meantime, we must concern ourselves
with dealing with a world of our own making, but not completely of our own
For such alternative technology and development to occur, it is clear that
governments on all levels must become more cooperative and willing as
participants in this effort. Promotion of such development will entail the
extension and integration of regions world-wide that have little to do with
political boundaries, much as the information revolution based upon the
Internet has had little to do with national boundaries of culture, language or
At the same time, governments alone cannot be relied upon to assume the
initiate for beginning new programs of alternative development--the people
themselves, as global consumers and producers, must assume the initiative and
put the real power in their own hands.
The Information Revolution and the Dawn
of the Information Age
The advent of the movable type printing press in 14th Century Europe
spelled the beginning of a major cultural revolution and the dawning of the
Renaissance. The availability of books to read lead to fresh perspectives and
new accounting, that was the birth of science, capitalism, modern art and
architecture and the exploration of the world.
With the advent of the PC and global Internet services, we have been in the
midst of a new kind of revolution that of the electronic information age.
Conventional textual storage and printing operations have been rendered fairly
obsolete as the primary means of information transmission and storage. We do
not now know the full implications or possibilities of this new age, but it is
happening upon the dawn of the Third Millennium. Many spin-off technologies
have yet to be discovered or invented from the possibilities presented to us
by this breakthrough in digital information storage and processing.
One of the yet untapped possibilities of this information revolution is
that control and manipulation of mass information, upon which modern nation
states have used as a means for mobilizing and controlling their constituency,
is being rapidly and effectively undermined by the free, immediate access to
information on the web. Censorship and propaganda upon which modern
totalitarian states have depended for the manipulation and control of the
masses, is being rendered obsolete--an anachronism of a frequently brutal 20th
Century. At the same time, individual people, given instant access to the
entire globe, have the potential for making their own voices heard. The social
consequences of this new information revolution may prove to be greater than
the technological inventions that will be forthcoming from it as well.
The information revolution promises new foundations for social exchange and
integration and moderation of worldview on a level heretofore impossible. For
the first time means are directly placed in the hands of people who can act
privately, as individuals, in a potential forum and network that is worldwide
in scope. People have the means now for voting directly on issues and for
making their own voices heard around the world. Under such conditions,
totalitarian and repressive governments, even secret agencies in otherwise
democratic nations, are finding manipulation and control of the truth to be
more difficult than ever--there are huge stakes involved in this game of mass
communications and information manipulation.
Information organized and transmitted electronically and digitally has a
different form, function and topographical organization that did the previous
form of printed information. Its presentation, its processing and its impact
is also changing in basic ways. We can talk about the continuous reshaping of
our world-view--a reorganization of how our attitudes and values about the
world, and of our own identities and the identities of others within it. Old
boundaries of our prejudice and ignorance must yield and wash away under the
flood of new information available through the Internet.
Electronic Information storage entails that a new form of literacy will
take precedence over the previous form of textual literacy. This
transformation of consciousness is an unavoidable consequence. Practically any
kind of information of any level or quality will become available to anyone
who has access to the Internet. The means of organization and presentation of
this information will change in fundamental ways--the old outline form will
yield increasingly to a new "electronic stream of consciousness"
that will beget a style of learning and thinking that is based upon its
interconnectivity with the virtual world.
This new world-view is a global worldview--it is a globalized collective
consciousness that we plug into each in our own way and on our own time. The
structure of our social system is becoming increasingly intelligent, and
super-organically synergistic, to use an organic analogy. As this
informational capacity increases, communications become instantaneous around
the globe and more direct than ever before. At the same time, people and
organizations grow in their sensitivities and sensibilities about the world.
As our worldviews and collective attitudes and values are being reshaped,
so too will our actions and what we do also become redefined thereby. This is
an inevitable process. Thus the information revolution will have teleological
consequences that will penetrate and influence almost every aspect of our
shared and private lives.
These changes are inevitable. They will come regardless of government
actions to prevent it. As more people connect up to the global system and
share in its values, as the virtual system itself becomes more intelligent and
responsive to the queries and needs of people, the system and its culture will
begin to define itself more clearly and in a more differentiated sense. We
cannot stop this process from now occurring--we can shape the direction in
which it goes, and the overall consequences it will have in our lives.
But the current electronic information revolution will have many more
consequences than we can now imagine--they will eventuate in a degree of
applied automated intelligent systems which will have the consequence, as did
early industrial revolutions, of freeing many more people from the drudgery of
hands-on work. Increasingly people, liberated from the repetitive, mindless
drudgery of the assembly line, will be given the opportunity to "make
Within a capitalist framework, this can result in the problem of the
commons--the displacement and mass unemployment of people by new, more
intelligent machines. This entails that political and economic reforms must
keep pace with the rise and growth of electronic literacy and connectivity in
the world, or else the potential for spreading the gap between haves and
have-nots, or those in the know and those who remain outside of the
information loop, and for fostering greater asymmetries and inequalities
within the system, will be realized in a way never before imaginable.
It is for this reason that the information revolution must have greater
entailments for change than just technological invention and development. We
must apply the same lessons we are learning in the information technologies to
inducing social innovations and new patterns of human development that
effectively compensate, indeed are better than, the losses experienced in the
transition from an old fossil-fuel service economy to a newer automated
digital information economy.
At the basis of the information revolution is Buckminster Fuller's anti
entropic formula--information through knowledge and communication creates
synergistic patterns that defy the thermodynamic law of chaos. New information
technologies create new values and new sources of value--these are invariably
human in essence or meaning. They can effectively make something from nothing.
It creates the possibility for new levels of integration and differentiation
within the system that both empower the individual and realize greater
resource potential for all individuals.
By means of the Internet, humans have the capacity as never before to
define their own sense of value in the world, to realize their own
individuality and creativity, and to influence and participate in the
important affairs of the world as equals. Political organization takes on new
meaning and scope over the Internet, when many people can meet in a collective
virtual forum to deal with issues of mutual concern--we no longer need to
depend upon periodic elections to choose representatives to do our bidding for
Gone are the dictators and military tyrants of the 20th Century who ruled
by military violence and the threat of destruction. They have no place, no
room, on the Internet except by futile attempts to control its access and by
lame efforts to propagandize their own violence.
The Internet provides means for directly accessing the will and conscience
of the people--far more cheaply and effectively even than the penny-presses of
the late 19th Century. It presents people, all people the world over, with the
opportunity and the possibility for achieving a new level of structural
integration in the world, one that transcends all previous styles and methods
of doing so. It remains up to the people themselves to try to achieve this new
form of organization.
This global reorganization of human social relations entails that people
must assume a collective orientation in a system that is largely
self-organizing. Old forms of political organization cannot be trusted to
disenfranchize themselves in the prospects of realizing a more stable global
unity. In the final analysis, the information revolution becomes the
revolution of the people, for the people and by the people. It becomes the
freedom and responsibility that people must realize for them selves by means
of the Internet.
Global Culture, Global Society
We must look to the beginning of the Third Millennium as the rise of a new
human orientation that transcends previous national horizons and ethnic
chauvinism. It presents us the possibility of a new age human, the age of a
To be viable, global culture cannot be the uni dimensional form of culture
represented by modernity and modernization that is the exclusive product of
capitalist development and participation in the world capitalist system. It
must become an alternative culture that permits a wider range of variation and
tolerance for basic ethnocultural differences. Structurally, it must provide
all people with greater latitude and freedom of choice in defining their
relationship to the overall system. It must help to empower people at all
The possibilities of the Internet and the information revolution are the
foundation of a new cultural patterning that is by definition global in
worldview, and individual and local in its manifestation and consequences, and
that transcend all previous cultural boundaries and orientations that were
fixed to locally specific or regionally exclusive orientations.
The possibility for the rise of a new global culture is at hand that now
transcends national cultural boundaries--not just any particular national
cultures, but, at least by definition, any and all national cultures. Many of
the institutions upon which previous national cultures have been based will be
rendered simply inconvenient and obsolete by the realization of new
possibilities through the information exchange of the web.
The rise of global culture entails a merging together of the differences
and the adoption of a common pattern of living that is transcending many of
the basic boundaries that have separated people time immemorial. We can no
longer afford the petty ethnocentrism and chauvinism of a bygone era--these
attitudes and prejudices will seem increasingly discrepant as more and more
people hook onto the Internet and as the Internet explores is greater levels
of information & knowledge integration.
We regularly use products that have been made by hands on the other side of
the globe--often composites of sub-component manufactured and assembled in
many corners of the world. And many of the products that we use are pretty
much the same whether they were bought and used in the United States or in
Russia or Uganda or Chile. Wars and the constraints of the present system
remind us continually that the global system is not quite there yet, but it is
well on its way.
We can make out the outlines of global society already. It is without doubt
a stratified society. Global stratification is increasingly cutting across
ethnic and national lines to separate the few winners from the many losers. As
much as it is an increasingly stratified society, it will also become
increasingly differentiated--it will enable a kind of modular articulation
that reaches to the level of the individual and the small group.
As much as the new information and communication technologies allow for
global integration across previous boundaries, they also entail an inevitable
process of increasing differentiation of the global system in ever finer units
of production and control. The hyper-specialization that was the ear-mark of
the 20th Century will yield to a new kind of generalization that is focused
upon the increasing realization of greater capacities of the individual who is
no longer restricted to a single monotypical regime of work.
Global civilization is a shared, trans cultural process that incorporates
increasingly more people on the earth. As more groups become, one way or
another, members of the global society, we are forced to ask ourselves the
central questions of what kind of system we want it to become. To fail to
actively participate and opt collectively for an open and democractically
organized system, means that by default it will become an increasingly closed
and autocratic system.
The currently emerging global culture is a stratified one. It is defined as
a "modernized" culture that is materialistic and technological in
orientation. It is also really accessible only to the few privileged elite of
each society that enters the ranks of the world system--most of humanity still
remain locked in local parameters of structuration. "Modern" culture
is primarily also "western" culture, as it derives from European
styles and capitalist based economics. Promotion of modern culture as a global
commodity to be bought and sold is the source of a great deal of acculturative
stress and storm for many relatively undeveloped societies in the world.
Acculturative pressures which stem from the metropolitan cores of the
developed world have mixed results--it is rarely politically coercive, or
directly assimilationist, but it is often indirectly so through the
manipulation and control of resources to the national governments. It has
substituted the direct forms of political coercion common in the colonial era
to the indirect but far more effective means of socio-economic coercion
available by mass communications and economic policies affecting trade
relations and international markets. Acculturation in the post-colonial era
does not aim at direct assimilation, but at indirect accommodation into the
global system of diverse ethnocultural groupings in a manner that preserves
the original status quo and asymmetrical hierarchy of the original order.
It must be understood that the trans-cultural processes of civilization
have always been "globalizing" even in the early proto-historical
periods of humanity--civilization catches on and takes hold and does not
regress. Of course, there are dark ages where knowledge is forgotten, but in
those interim periods of the loss of one civilization, the seeds are sewn
invariably among the far-off tribes of the world for the eventual rise of an
even grander order of civilization. Once the secrets of silk production leave
the isolated realm of China, silk becomes not just a Chinese monopoly, but a
common possession of all humanity. So be it with Pentium processors and
The knowledge, technology and communications that drive this global culture
is having an effect of imposing a process of modernization upon all people
regardless of the differences and isolation. This process of modernization has
a homogenizing influence--it makes cars, clothes, and modern values very
similar in almost any airport in the world. It is also creating greater
disparities between those in the main stream and the many fragments of
humanity that remain disconnected on some level.
Part of the wonderful thing about the emergence of the global culture is
that increasingly the individual has potential to have a greater influence on
the overall patterning.
With globalization, there is implicitly a globalization of our
responsibility. We can no longer act completely separately or with an
exclusive sense that the consequences of our actions will not be felt around
the world in one way or another. We cannot behave in ways believing that our
behavior will escape notice and attention around the world. At the same time,
it is creating new opportunities and possibilities for acting and for the
realization of our actions.
It thus puts upon us, individually and collectively, the new challenge of
measuring up to the possibilities in a productive and philanthropic way. We
live now in an interesting time. Individual actions can help to define new
patterns in the world. The complexity and chaos of the emerging global system
permits a kind of human butterfly effect. People must recognize this
potentiality and try to organize their actions in a way that can have positive
consequences for humanity.
Beyond the 21st Century
All indicators point to the fact that the fate
of humanity rests in the balance of the early 21st Century. Totalitarian
governments even now are in secret collusion in sales with one another of both
conventional, modern weapons and with weapons of mass destruction. These
governments, controlled by very few of their national populations, maintain
strict ideological and behavioral conformity of their constituencies through
symbolic manipulation and censorship control of the mass communication media
and educational institutions, and rely structural on the rapid mobilization of
their people especially against targeted out-groups in order to maintain their
These governments for the most part remain outside the normal league of the
Nations that are participating as full members of the modern global system. To
the extent that they are systematically marginalized and excluded from full
participation within this system, they can be seen as unstable elements in the
structural self-organization of this system. The consequence of this is that
historical happenstance can twist quickly the fate of the world, by the
election of a mad military dictator, by the radical actions of a terrorist
group, by a violent coup d'etat, or a reactionary movement of an extremist
political party or mass movement. This type of scenario can rapidly ignite a
World War III and bring to an end the current structural stability of the
As we approach quickly the edge of our collective world history, basic
unchanged conditions of overpopulation, environmental circumscription,
poverty, authoritarism and unrestrained militarism, create the supercritical
conditions that would be ripe for such scenarios to occur in. They set the
world stage for such catastrophic chain reactions to occur.
It is vitally important that we learn to look beyond the next decade, even
beyond century, beyond the bounds of the lives of our grandchildren, to what
kind of an earth we wish to leave to our posterity. We must begin betting on
the very long run of humanity, and put aside our own short-sighted
preoccupations with profit-maximization and seizing the market moment.
The question of our long term, collective fate, is an important question,
and will not eventually go away by our continuing to ignore it. We have an
increasingly earthbound sense of responsibility to try to answer this
question, and this sense of responsibility is gradually dawning on our
collective horizon. We have a choice, we can work together towards or better
world, or we can, by default of our own passivity, allow the world to continue
to go in the direction it has been taking. If it does so, all significant
indicators point to the fact that it will not take very long to realize a
worse fate for humankind.
Our responsibility is not only to try to see beyond the current predicament
of humankind, which is in the final analysis mostly arbitrary, constructed,
and politically constrained, and to try to understand this predicament in all
its detail and complexity, but we must also try to take action, both
individually, and collectively, to attempt to rectify the global situation
before it is finally too late. We must work together in this effort. The means
for us to do so have presented themselves in the final hour. We have the
information and increasingly the technology for using that information--now we
must put it into practice in ways never hitherto realized or realizable.
We do it not for ourselves, for our own aggrandizement and wealth. We do it
for our children and for our posterity. When we say "our" we do not
know any limits or boundaries of our collective identity--we mean all people,
regardless of the color of their skin, their heritage, their history, or their
choices and actions in life. We do it for our greater sense of humanity and
for the long term good of all humankind. We do it because we are human and we
share in this basic identity a collective relation to all other people on
This book has been written in the perspective of the long-term view of the
world. It seeks to see beyond the next century, not so much in detail as in
general scope. To deny the large storm clouds gathering on the common horizon
of our world at the dawn of the 21st Century is to do a disservice to humanity
and to our posterity. To know that something foreboding is looming large on
our horizon and to fail to act is to commit a kind of crime, a crime of
We make choices everyday which can effect, both individually and
cumulatively, the final outcome of our collective destinies. We live in a
world and in an age where the potential for our actions to have a global
impact is much greater than ever before.
As this book demonstrates, there are clear answers to these questions. We
do have alternatives, and they are not simply windmills on the horizon. These
choices and the solutions they represent are not simple ones--they are
immensely complex, but they are in the end analysis finite puzzles that are
capable of definite solution and resolution.
It is fitting that this work should end with a proverbial clarion call--a
call to arms--not of weapons, but of interlocked hands bearing help to the
disadvantaged of the world, and barring the violence of the corrupt upon the
innocent victims of their evil designs. This call to revolution is not a call
to greater violence, but a call to seeking alternative life-styles that share
some basic features in common. These include a common commitment to the
improvement of the human race, to preservation and promotion of the earth's
natural environments, to the realization of alternative technologies that do
not erode and wear away the foundation for our own survival on earth, and to
more responsible involvement in the decision making that is necessary to
secure a better world.