by Charles Whitaker
At the dawn of a new millennium, we can envision a new era that escapes the twentieth century's darkest moments, fulfills its most brilliant possibilities. The forces of global integration are a great tide, inexorably wearing away the established order of things. - William Clinton, 1999
Yet even as the waves of globalization unfurl so powerfully across our planet, so does a deep and vigorous countertide. . . . What some have called a "new tribalism" is shaping the world as profoundly on one level as the "new globalism" is shaping it on the other. - His Highness the Aga Khan, 1996
Tribalism or globalism - which will it be? A fragmented world where individuals identify only with their own religious or ethnic group? Or, a world characterized by planet-spanning integration of economic, governmental and social systems?
The tension between tribalism and globalism will be the defining characteristic of the 21st century. Tribalism, "a strong feeling of identity with and loyalty to one's tribe or group,"1 causes disintegration of large units, such as empires or nations, into small units, often sub-national ones. Sometimes only a single common thread of ethnicity or religion binds the members of these small groups. Their decoupling separation from larger national units results in the dissolution of the longstanding, the disintegration of the established, and the decomposition of the traditional.
Globalism works in the opposite direction. Globalism is the melding of systems on a planet-wide level: Financial, military, legal, governmental, educational, scientific and technological infrastructures cooperate as integrated, consolidated units. This coalescence results in supra-national organizations like the European Union or the United Nations, with increasing clout over the nations which comprise them.
Make no mistake about it: Tribalism is more than nostalgia; globalism is more than trade agreements. Tribalism and globalism are competitive forces, not just silent causes or results. They push in opposite directions - tide and countertide. With globalism, small units integrate. With tribalism, large units fragment. Just as important, these forces are always co-occurrent - they always occur together. As predictably as Newton's action and reaction, when one appears, so does the other.
Both forces are at work today.
Is one force good, the other evil? If so, which? What are the promises and the dangers of these forces? What does God say about them? How can we, living in the midst of their pulls and pushes, expect them to affect our lives? Finally, why has the sovereign God brought them about?
This article begins a series aimed at addressing these questions. We will see that America pushes the world into globalization. Consumed by her desire to lead the world, she does not understand that she has blindly taken a Trojan Horse into her own gates, a force threatening her very existence. But does globalism's opposite, a return to the tribe, offer anything better?
Globalism is the belief that worldwide integration of cultures is both possible and desirable. Globalists call for the consolidation of religions, economies, social mores, governments - anything and everything that pertains to civilization. By definition, globalists are internationalists, believing that economies, military establishments, and legal systems can and should be transnational in reach, crossing national boundaries. Globalists, by definition, sing the praises of one-world government.
Globalism has been around for a long time. Globalization has not. Essentially, globalization is an economic theory based on the understanding that "technology, as well as information, innovation, and creativity" are as "essential ingredients of economic enterprise" as "capital, labor and natural resources."2 As practiced currently, the theory runs something like this:
1. The internet (and other electronic media) generate an unstoppable, basically uncontrollable, flow of information.
2. Technology is such that this flow of information easily crosses national borders, "exposing a larger and larger share of the world's population to the West's prosperity"3 and, it is worthy to add, its culture.
3. In turn, this flow of information generates "needs" among domestic constituencies which "can be met only with massive foreign investment."4
4. In order to gain this level of investment, nations must build an economic and political environment attractive to today's "electronic herd" of investors. These investors provided transnational private equity flows of about "$1.1 trillion in 2000. For the first time, such flows now rival those in government bonds."5 The investment environment demanded by these investors must be predictable, stable and conducive to growth. For that reason, it is generally constructed around the institutions of democracy and capitalism and devalues the most unstable condition of all, war.
This mix of consumer "needs" generated by information flow, money from foreign investors, and stabilizing institutions like democracy and capitalism, spread peace, plenty and prosperity. Such is the promise of the theory of globalization.
Technology enables globalization. William Clinton alludes to globalization's technology-base when he describes one result of today's integrated economy: "The blocks, the barriers, the borders that defined the world for our parents and grandparents are giving way, with the help of a new generation of extraordinary technology."6
Emphatically, the globalization model rests squarely on the existence - and expansion - of modern communications and transportation networks. The information is usually electronically transmitted; the invested money is transmitted electronically; and goods are shipped quickly and cheaply through modern, technology-enabled transport channels. Without the technology to disperse information, money, and goods cheaply and quickly, globalization would not even appear to be feasible.
However, that is not all. Largely, the technology powering globalization is Joseph's technology. It is the technology of today's American computer systems powering American television and telephone systems over American satellite systems, and on and on. As Albert Gore would be quick to aver, the Internet is an American invention. The "information" in the information flow is of America, by America and for America. What people in other nations learn through American-based media sources is American culture, American standards and American values. Globalization "describes an international system dominated by the United States and its values at almost every level."7 The French Foreign Minister, Hubert Védrine, proclaims:
The United States of America today predominates on the economic level, the monetary level, on the technological level, and in the cultural area in the broadest sense of the word. It is not comparable, in terms of power and influence, to anything known in modern history.8
Inarguably, today's "globalization is made in America."9
All this makes it clear that globalization is more than technology-enabled economics and politics. Based as it is on the flow of information about life in the Western world, globalization is cultural. One anthropologist focuses on this aspect of globalization when he defines it as "the worldwide spread of Western-dominated information and entertainment media, with their presumed effects on values in the places they reach."10 This definition emphasizes the alleged cultural results of globalization, that is, the effects of selling other folk our "fizzy drinks, faded pants, and fatty foods."11
We will see later in this series that not everyone appreciates America's fizz, fade and fat. The result is a severe and increasing backlash from people who fear that globalization is homogenizing culture and thereby endangering their own local customs, traditions, mores and religious beliefs.
Two Pillars of Globalism
Globalism, as envisioned by policy planners today, stands on two pillars.
Liberal Democracy, which has three components:
» A government that is accountable to the people through popular elections.
» Majority rule, with protections for minority rights.
» The widespread and evenhanded enforcement of the rule of law.
Market Capitalism, which also has three components:
» Unencumbered movement of capital from one nation to another. The idea is that money flows, brought about through the "electronic herd's" foreign investment and agency (that is, IMF, World Bark, or the like) loans, will "jump start" slow economies.
» Unrestricted movement of goods and services from one nation to another. This is the "free trade" we so often hear about today - no (or very low) import duties.
» Unlimited movement of people as they search for "a better life." This means that people can migrate easily from one nation to another in search of better work and educational opportunities for their children. This idea effectively translates into "open borders."
The vision of globalization, then, is vast, looking as it does for the eventual integration of economic structures, legal systems, military establishments - in fact, the political and social fabric of the entire world. In spite or what many would have us believe, that vision is a long, long way from reality.
. . . [M]uch of the world has been left out of the [globalization] process: most of Africa and Latin America, Russia, all of the Middle East (except Israel), and large parts of Asia. . . . Globalization is not truly global, but is mainly limited to northern latitudes. . . . [A]s of 1991, 81% of the world stock of foreign direct investment was located in high-wage northern countries: the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada. . . . [T]he concentration of investment in these countries has increased by 12% since 1967. Obviously, the world is not one.12
That is an understatement! Globalization, by its definition, requires developed nations to invest in developing ones to build markets and "jump start" their economies. This, it turns out, is theory, not reality. The same analysis finds, "According to the World Bank, the truly poor countries received less than 7 percent of the foreign direct investments to all developing countries in 1992-98."
What has been invested has not shown much in the way of results:
. . . [T]oday's global capitalism has yet to produce anything like universal prosperity. Much of humanity still lies in the grip of extreme poverty. The World Bank estimates that 1.2 billion people - one fifth of the world's population - live on less than $1 a day. Worse, little progress has been made since the late 1980s, when the new global capitalism began flourishing. From 1987 to 1998, the share of sub-Saharan Africa's population living on less that $1 a day remained constant at around 46 percent. The story was the same in Latin American and the Caribbean, where the poverty rate stayed steady at about 16 percent. . . . The truth is that global capitalism's benefits are spotty. Some societies have not tried it, and elsewhere others have achieved only scant success.13
Indeed, according to some analyses, the Israelite-led organizations (such as the IMF and WTO) designed to further the global spread of prosperity have accomplished only the opposite. Here are a couple of examples:
» Patients who need medicines pay prices influenced by WTO-enforced patent rules, which allow pharmaceutical companies to monopolize drug pricing. Most of the 23 million sub-Saharan Africans who have tested positive for AIDS virus cannot afford the drugs most effective in treating their illness. They will die much sooner as a consequence.14
» For the half of the world's population that lives on less than $2 a day, governmental social safety nets have been weakened by IMF decisions. The globalized economy has not meaningfully reduced poverty despite a long period of sustained growth. Economic inequality is on the rise, as is the marginalization of regions not perceived as attractive trading partners or "efficient" recipients of investment.15
With the world system fast becoming "more like a gated community than a global village,"16 no wonder one well-known South American economist claims that the globalized economy faces an "hour of crisis."17 So far, globalism has not come through with the promised goods - except for a relatively few individuals. This widespread failure of globalism gives impetus to the proponents of tribalism, who argue that integration offers no solution to the world's problems.
Like all social forces in this "present evil age" (Galatians 1:4), globalism is energized by a thoroughly carnal, biologically-based worldview. That worldview is just this:
Survival is desirable. Since mankind is in this world alone, he must fend for himself to survive. He can survive best by being united, consolidating his efforts on as broad a base as possible. Hence, integration is good. For the same reason, tribalism is bad, as it separates people, reducing their chances for survival while increasing the chances of war and conflict.
Christians have no difficulty recognizing the twin taproots of this view. One root is mankind's fear of death. The second root is his refusal to believe that God can and will provide the means of survival. In practice, these two roots - fear and faithlessness - become intertwined. The psychologist Carl Jung called man's fear of death a product of The Self, an apt term, because this fear appears in tandem with mankind's faith in himself as provider. Mankind today is driven by humanism, which puts mankind center stage. Man views God as "gone way off," even dead - not to be trusted as a source of survival. Man's faith is in himself, his mind, his technology, rather than in the invisible God.
Mankind's logic, though perverse, is simple: If man wants to survive, and if God is not to be trusted to provide man the means of that survival, then man is left to provide for himself. Mankind recognizes that providing for himself is a daunting task in a cold world, especially when separated from others. The chances for survival are far better when you are well-connected, able to network freely and share resources - integrated.
This primal lack of faith that God will provide, as well as this fear of failure if separated from other people, is the story of Babel. God's early post-Flood command to man to "fill the earth" (Genesis 9:1) required mankind's geographic dispersion. "There's safety in numbers," was Nimrod's retort, as he faithlessly rounded up people to scoop up slime to mortar bricks for his city. These folk lacked faith in God's commitment to provide. Better, they reasoned, to stick together.
Genesis 11 tells of the peoples' rebellion. It is the story of globalism in embryo. To stop - or at least brake - what mankind feared would be the inevitable downward slide into death as a result of geographic dispersion, Babel's planners resolved to "build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth" (Genesis 11:4).
The city and the tower, taken together, represent the cohesion-imparting structure we call community. Babel's builders believed that her bricks would provide economic and social stability, ensured by shared religious and military establishments. To them, Babel meant survival. The city and tower were, then, the first post-Flood comity of nations. Babel failed, of course, because God's response - dividing mankind's language - so thoroughly forced dispersion that man could never unite long enough to rebuild a single Babel.
Yet how he keeps trying! In one sense, the empire builders throughout history have merely relived the story of Babel. Its successors have been many and great: societies deemed by their inhabitants to be stable, indeed insuperable - Thebes, Tyre, Babylon, Nineveh, Rome. Paris, London, Washington. Babel just gets bigger and bigger - from city, to city-state, to nation-state, to empire, to world. Globalism, representing as it does mankind's desperate response to his fear of death due to scattering, is today's version of Babel.
The Tower Full of Ideas
If Babel's foundation was a worldview based on fear of death and faithlessness toward God, its walls were buttressed by a complex web of ideas. Those ideas materialized to form financial, social, economic and military infrastructures, such as they were. Babel's heir, today's globalization, is also supported by a complex web of ideas. Today, these ideas revolve around democracy and capitalism. These two ideas - and their many spin-offs - gave rise to complex financial (e.g., the WTO and the IMF), economic (e.g., NAFTA), and military (e.g., NATO) infrastructures to support and maintain global integration.
The United Nations, with all its subsidiary organizations, is a tool globalists use to bring about and sustain a single world economy and government. These tools affect the way we work and play, the way we are governed, the mores and culture at large. A glimpse of things to come may be provided by the over-regulated and over-taxed European Union. Its citizens labor under no less than 250,000 pages of bureaucrat-generated "regulations" governing virtually every aspect of public life - even how apples must be stacked for display in the supermarket!
Today, communism is discredited, while capitalism and democracy appear to be the ascendant ideas in the world. So much is this the case that we witness even hard-line authoritarian civilizations, archetypically represented by China, gradually buying into the ideas behind globalization.
Next month, we will peek tentatively into the tents of Shem, to consider those ideas by which Shemites have lived for years. These are the ideas underlying today's globalism. As the peoples of Japheth begin, either enthusiastically or reluctantly, to subscribe to these ideas, they are coming to "dwell in the tents of Shem" (Genesis 9:27). The ramifications for Israel are immense.
1 The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Ed., "tribalism."
2 Avinash Persaud, "The Knowledge Gap." Foreign Affairs. March/April 2001, p. 107. Persaud is Managing Director of Global Markets Analysis and Research at State Street Bank. Foreign Affairs is the principal organ of the Council on Foreign Relations.
3 Paul J. Saunders, "Why 'Globalization' Didn't Rescue Russia." Policy Review. February/March 2001, p. 27. Saunders is director of the Nixon Center. Policy Review is the principal organ of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington D.C.
4 Saunders, ibid., p. 29.
5 Persaud, ibid., p. 107.
6 Quoted by Andrew J. Bacevich, "Policing Utopia: The Military Imperatives of Globalization," The National Interest, Summer 1999, p. 5. Bacevich is professor of International Relations at Boston University. (Emphasis added)
7 Saunders, ibid., p. 37.
8 Quoted by G. John Ikenberry, "Getting Hegemony Right," The National Interest. Spring 2001, p. 17.
9 Kenneth N. Waltz, "Globalization and American Power," The National Interest, Spring 2000, p. 46.
10 See Nathan Glazer, "Two Cheers for 'Asian Values,'" The National Interest, Fall 1999, p. 27. Reading this article is vital for anyone concerned about the fall of distinctive cultural values to the influence of global marketing. His conclusions:
Globalization undoubtedly affects social and cultural features, and, yes, undermines them. But the rate of undermining is surprisingly slow, and the difference in the rates of change in these key social and cultural characteristics between East and West still give the East an advantage. . . . Tradition maintains itself even in the face of so many aspects of globalization.
11 Quoted from Samuel Huntington by Jacob Heilbrunn. See "Globalization's Boosters and Critics," The National Interest, Fall 1999, p. 118. Huntington argues that, "[T]he essence of Western civilization is the Magna Carta not the Magna Mac."
12 Kenneth N. Waltz, "Globalization and American Power," The National Interest, Spring 2000, p. 46. Waltz is a research associate of the Institute of War and Peace Studies and adjunct professor at Columbia University. On page 49, Mr. Waltz quotes Paul Krugman: "The United States is still almost 90 percent an economy that produces goods and services for its own use." Citing Linda Wiess (The Myth of the Powerless State: Governing the Economy in a Global Era), Waltz continues: "For the world's three largest economies - the United States, Japan, and the European Union taken as a unit - exports account for 12 percent or less of GDP. The world, then, is less interdependent than is usually supposed."
13 Robert J. Samuelson, "The Spirit of Capitalism," Foreign Affairs, January/February 2001, p. 205.
14 Richard Falk and Andrew Strauss, "Toward Global Parliament," Foreign Affairs, January/February 2001, p. 212.
15 Falk and Strauss, ibid., p. 213.
16 Bruce R. Scott, "The Great Divide in the Global Village," Foreign Affairs, January/February 2001, p. 160.
17 Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Succeeds in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, New York: Basic Books, 2000.