Ramifications of Globalization

by Dr. Arnd Hollweg, Berlin, Germany

Culture is an anthropological dimension. It is part of human life in time and world. Anthropological time and world must not be confused with the spatial and temporal nature of physical processes. The time and world inhabited by man are not identical with anything the hands of a watch can measure, or with empty space. The question of human identity concerns anything that occurs in man's external and internal life. The two different realities complete and complement each other. In his body man can only be in one place in time and world. In his spirit he can leave his body and confront himself but he cannot ignore himself in his body. Were he to do this he would negate himself and would lose all consciousness of himself in his place in time and world. The process of being human in life therefore means that he accepts this difference of spirit and body that also determines his relation with his environment. In his external appearance, i.e. in his living body, he is part of nature. He lives in it as a spiritual self in the body whose life develops in socio-historical contexts.

That is where culture has its place. The Latin word cultura can mean two things: on the one hand "cultivation", on the other hand "education or training". The two meanings belong together in a relationship of difference. Man cultivates the earth and has to develop and train himself to do so. He thus has to mediate in the relationship between himself and reality. His human-ness means that he has to act as a creative force at the point where his life connects with the earth, with nature, cosmos and history. If the speed of light, the charge of an electron or the force of gravity were just a little smaller or larger neither planet earth nor we ourselves could exist. Knowledge of the world and self-knowledge cannot be separated from each other. Man is given to himself only through the world, and the world is only given to him because he is contained in it. This constitutes the complex of his relationships with life and with reality. In the understanding of modern science and scholarship the relations between self and world, between subject and object, between mind and body, spirit and nature, individual and collective are separated from each other. Therefore theory and practice today tend to be opposed to each other, and man has great difficulty overcoming this through the imagination of his intellect. They block his holistic perception of the world of his life as he finds it.

There he finds himself in interpersonal relationships of parents, brothers and sisters, communities and groups of all sorts without which he cannot live. Living together with them brings limits and possibilities, joy and suffering, health, sickness, all kinds of handicaps but also a concrete man-made reality of various things like instruments, roads, cars, houses, shops, kindergartens, toys, schools and books. Man shares nature, meadows, crops, trees and plants. His food comes out of the earth, which also provides a firm ground for him on which he can build and move. Cosmic elements fire and water, light and darkness, air and rain as well as the changing seasons shape his life.

No man has created this world that he enters through his birth. And the active scientific intelligence with its mono-causal methods of reproduction, its empty worlds of imagination and concepts has no access to what happens in the human life and world. Against Rene Descartes, who initiated modern dichotomic and symbiotic scientific thinking with his thesis: "I think therefore I am", I would start with the thesis: "I live, therefore I think." For Christian faith the act of God precedes human life. Man can only find his identity when he can enter into a relationship with God, the Creator. This is mediated trans-personally in the working of God's Spirit through Jesus Christ. God's promises contained in it are for all people who open themselves to Him and thereby find an eternal foundation for their transitory life in time. At the end of the creation narrative in the first chapter of the Bible we read: "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good." That does not exclude the fact that man can miss the identity, meaning and goal of his life when he separates himself from the ground of his being and splits his thinking and understanding.

For the question of culture from the global point of view this means primarily that

  • Man's identity depends on his spirituality and corporeality in relation to itself and to the reality of wherever he is in his life in time and world, in which his thinking also takes place.

  • The split between spirit and body in the global technological processes and media and their inherent dynamics are becoming a menace for man and for the whole of humankind. Their misuse of power can lead at any time to the breakdown of the reality of human relations and of the social and cultural dynamics active in them.

  • Christians believe that the good in God is stronger than the evil in us men. They trust in the dynamics of God's Spirit who is active in all of reality, and in their lives. Therefore man has to care for the well-being of all people and nations and is responsible for the consequences of his actions.

Because modern sciences block off scientific people's holistic and personal relations with their fellow human beings man needs culture and its perception of body and spirit which shows him, and makes him conscious of, what happens in human life on earth. The inclusion of scientific knowledge into the socio-historic context happens through language, which also is the means of understanding between arts and sciences.

The cultural access leads into the complex world of human life. In contrast to scientific language, the language of culture includes body language, gestures, the language of what to do and what not to do, the language of our behavior, the expression of our eyes and faces and much more. Thereby it is universal as the language of our local human everyday life in which we are being socialized from childhood. But there never can be only one culture because culture evolves at the concrete place of common human life in time and world. Contrary to the anthropological identity, cultural identity is multi-dimensional, subject to change and includes the world of human life within its knowledge. Dramatically the inclusion of man into an historic event can be represented by the relationship between his inner experience and his outward actions. In poetry, desire and suffering, heights and depths of human life can be experienced. In painting, man can express his inner feelings, social events, beauty and discord in nature and many other things. Literature confronts man with the fact that counting the number of letters does not make the meaning accessible, or replacing a single letter change the meaning of the whole. This may suffice as an impulse to thought, in order to draw attention to the connection between the different ways of gaining knowledge of reality, and to indicate the urgency of inter-cultural exchange.

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