Institute of Social History
Polytechnic University of the Philippines
Virgilio Aquino Rivas
The Rush to Belong
With the virtual expansion of the life-world in terms of purposive destruction of natural and other much recent but pre-globalized mechanisms for coping with the demands of existence, the timeless goal of preserving the integrity of humanity is continually sidestepped to give way to more immediate concerns.
Mostly these concerns drag us into the racecourse to satisfy artificial needs. And insofar as these needs are extremely short-lived, the rush becomes more pressing. This explains the global urgency to make thrilling advances in a rapidly technologizing world. As a result, the competitive lever that had once fragmented the world into First, Second, and Third economies has become far more insistent: there is only one world to belong to. Whoever fails to keep up will be isolated from the rest of the global community.
But, as far as this singularly defining world order is driven much by satisfying artificial needs, there is reason to suppose that our world is becoming less and less humanized. We may argue that globalization has seriously neglected core values of humanity, values that, however traditional they may appear vis-à-vis the modernistic aspirations of today, have been proven to be fundamental and therefore constitutive of any human attempt to modernize the levers of progress over the course of time.
Realignment of Progress
The invasive ‘nature of change’ may be sufficient to explain the inevitability of humanity seeking to expand its landscape from a natural dispensation to a more unnatural, humanly constituted environment. This inevitability is that part of change which may be formulated as follows: the more human civilization advances, the more artificial it must become.
Incidentally, today’s globalization has threatened to expose the dangerous potentiality of humanity to advocate an extremely unnatural or highly artificial dispensation. This artificiality is mostly ignored in the course of our rush to belong to a singularly globalizing world. Several results are already threatening us as shown by examples of system or individual failures: 1) the rise of extremism; 2) the erosion of traditional values; and 3) the increasing loss of humanity’s self-concept. We are proposing here that these results are derivative of major forces of artificiality that has kept the engines of globalization running at incredible speed. These are—
1. The comprehensive flattening of juridical, national, ethnic, religious and market boundaries to clear the global field for a smooth operation of the most artificial force of change, namely, global economic capital.
2. In the course of which, the essential differences of the human order are dissolved in favor of secondary, often, unnecessary system of differences in which global economic capital can thrive unchecked.
In other words, today’s globalization has put much premium on the artificial interest of creating an almost vacuum-like, friction-less space in which global economic capital can perform at its best. In the course of responding to the demand of what could be described as the prototype of high globalization, human civilization is beginning to incur ugly consequences. Along the erosion of fundamental differences of the human order, resistance to this form of global flattening has proven to be capable of extreme violence. Those who are incapable of going with the flow on account of their cultural, natural, and juridical limitations are the ones resisting the global wave with intentions that exceed particular ethnic, religious, or national interests. Consequently, resistance to globalization has acquired an equally global character. The rise of militancy and fanaticism is derivative of this global resistance. Overall, this particular wave of globalization has rendered the prospect of achieving world peace totally devoid of a future. Meanwhile, economically deprived communities, class or national, juridical groupings have also started to feel the downside of this global rush to join in the flow. As a result, nations are now divided along artificial classification: between developed and developing. The crux of the matter lies in how this classification effectively disguises concrete economic divisions which are divisions that are forcefully legitimated by politico-economic power, but, in order best to conceal this power at work, are more effectively presented as divisions along civilizational lines, hence, the formula for demarcating developed and developing civilizations. In other words, it is not enough today that a country is civilized. Its highest realization would be to join the highly civilized order, the highest measure to achieve the status of ‘the civilized’. This is precisely the context within which we can speak of an underlying trend in today’s globalization, namely, proto-globalization.
At the rate this global flattening is operating, globalization is offering humanity the nearest alternative to self-destruction rather than improving the chances of the species to survive for a long indefinite period of time. I will try to focus my thesis on elaborating this part of globalization in the service of offering long-term solutions to one of the major problems facing humanity today.
Improving the Chance of Peace
Ironical as it may seem, one of the chief inspirations behind the persistence of humanity to achieve satisfactory levels of progress, which necessitate building what I call artificial structures of mediation, is that of avoiding and/or dealing with natural disasters and other major consequences bearing unnecessary human costs. The latter part refers to humanly induced disasters, mostly arising from unresolved contradictions that impinge on the practice of actualizing differences: sexual, ethnic, religious, cultural, national, etc. A key element in avoiding irreparable damages is the inventive capacity of the human species to manufacture artificial structures that function as mediating mechanisms across differences stemming from individual prejudices that may assume potentially dangerous shapes in the guise of interests that aim to promote and defend larger inclinations and predispositions of gender, ethnicity, culture, nation, etc.
It may also be said that certain artificial structures are built to deal with nature. These are the structures that are necessarily made artificial for the simple reason that the species cannot deal with nature if they are to employ her unmediated ways—hoping to pit Nature against nature herself. Realistically, every human tool designed to cope with nature is already a result of mediation—a mechanism to absorb, understand, avoid or suppress her potentially dangerous way. Dealing with nature necessarily entails mastery of channeling our contradictions with her into more controlled, artificial setting in which human intervention can have more chances to face and deal with unpredictability.
All these presuppose that human progress is always accompanied by transforming some elements of Nature into artificial mediums that afford us a chance to predict her ways through a meditational, but often tensional interaction. Meanwhile, in the realm of progress that offers improvements on securing peace with human nature itself, the consequences are always thorny. Brokering peace with human nature, a second-order peace model, proves to be more difficult and immediately pressing than it is with brokering peace with Nature, a first-order peace model. Human contradictions often result in critical flashpoints that are potentially immediate threats, while Nature periodically undergoes a sufficiently longer cycle before she offers a new, objectively predictable challenge to humanity. With more sufficient time to prepare, which could mean eons, Nature can unleash her most unpredictable act. But we are talking here of a more immediate present and a more immediately foreseeable future.
It is thus with the immediately foreseeable threat to the future of human civilization that brokering peace in the second-order acquires our attention here in the most immediate present. World peace is undoubtedly a critical human responsibility, which indicates for us that peace is hardly ever achieved vis-à-vis the immediate results of past mishandling, miscalculation and misfortune included, that we all experience in the present.
Nevertheless, we are proposing here that the past had not exhausted fully well its options of improving the chance of peace. We in the present, presumably better equipped with the tools of foresight and evaluation, may be able to judge from what point the past had seriously mishandled these options.
There is a more distant past that would help us identify this point. In respect of historical objectivity, this is the point in which we can evaluate how the model of achieving peace proposed by ancient civilizations had gone awry. We are referring here most specifically to the ancient Greek civilizational model.
The Greeks were the first civilization that had bequeathed us an enduring legacy, among other things, of brokering second-order peace. It is ironic to honor the Greeks in this regard for the simple reason that much of her former glory was wasted in inter-state wars with her neighbors. Greek civilization prospered under the balance. But it was precisely in the way it faced danger that we can find the Greek model in its highest civilizational form. As the Greek model suggests, the measure of civilization is inversely proportional to its resolution to accommodate danger.
Although this model proved unfruitful in the long haul—the Greeks were finally defeated by her neighbors-—this civilization had left a legacy of brokering peace in the second-order which in her time was prevented from actualization vis-vis the persistence of internal and external threats, from the pressures of her citizens losing morale over successive wars to renewed threats from other competing city-states and voracious military regimes abroad.
Still, the Greeks were highly regarded in their attempt to establish an educational legacy which could be proven to be a second-order peace model on several reasons:
1.Education humanizes and re-humanizes civilization.
2. Humanization’s highest ideal is to create a condition in which war is a non-option.
3. Under peacetime, people can best exercise love of wisdom.
We therefore propose that it is through the model of education that the Greeks advanced an alternative to improving the chance of peace.
The Painful Endurance of Peace in Education
We are repeating our assumption here vis-à-vis the Greek model: the more civilization advances, the more its capability to destroy becomes. In other words, a better understanding of our chances to improve peace lies on our ability to deal with the paradox of human progress.
One way to deal with this paradox is provided by the educational model. Education, in fact, reflects the degree to which human civilization takes itself to task in terms of balancing the effects of progress, especially, on its potential to generate undesirable human costs. Its effort to humanize the species may not be perfectly quantified. But, it cannot be denied that a considerable length of training in humanization has somehow resulted into more efficient mechanisms to combat a rather inversely increasing number of threats to the survival of humanity. The advances of educational models of humanization are always belated relative to the nature of social reality to increase the stakes which accompany our ability to intervene and rationalize problems. Every solution that we can come up to vis-à-vis a set of problems is insufficient to deal with the ensuing subsets that emerge unnoticed or that which escape limited human foresight.
Even so, education still remains the best mirror of progress. Education is here understood in a more generic sense. If we mean wisdom as the true practice of human caring, then education is wisdom in its actuality. It is the foundational act of any human civilization that started to become civilized the moment its people understood the value of mutual care, of mutual rearing. It is in this context that the Greeks understood the practice of wisdom, that is, to become responsible for the development of the ‘other’ in a community of equals. This care for the development or improvement of the ‘other’ assumes its most ideal form in wisdom. Incidentally, the Greeks understood the practice of true wisdom as a genuine expression of love, hence philosophy as love of wisdom. Love of care, love of responsibility, love of love. Incidentally, this ‘love of love’ is not whimsical on the part of the Greeks. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle—three of the most important thinkers of the glorious age of the Greeks—emphasized the highest virtue of the practice of philo (love in Greek), namely, love for its own sake.
It is not also whimsical on our part to assume that education is a practical expression of love for humanity, love for the sake of humanity. Humanity is such that for its own sake, the idea and practice of the good is rationalized. Humanity is the beginning and the end of the Good itself. The Good is the raison de etre of our effort to preserve the gains of humanity from destruction. Whatever tends to destroy humanity is evil in its generic form.
Meanwhile, in safeguarding the gains of humanity, the Idea of the University takes a leading role. In place of the academia of the Greeks, we have the modern idea of the University whose etymological origin we owe to the foregone Latin, Romanized civilization of the medieval age.
To lead forth—this is the generic role of the University. The Latin word ducere means to lead; also educare which means to rear. Another Latin word universus which means ‘entire’ or ‘whole’ gives us an idea of the role of the University with regard to leading forth or rearing. In this sense, the University is a meditational mechanism that takes the lead in preserving love for humanity’s sake through rearing and training in human wisdom, and therefore, in nurturing and caring for humanity. The University is therefore a result of human mediation, a mediation of the effects of human progress and the risks involved vis-à-vis the more unpredictable reactions of nature and social reality upon which human mediations are actualized, tested and retested, again and again.
If it is for humanity that the University actualizes the purpose of education, then it is not whimsical to assume that a true University is a University of Humanity, a University of the World.
The Concept of Humanity
We may have reasons to suppose that the failure of the Greeks had somehow resulted into our present predicament. But whatever reasons there will be to justify this pointing the blame, the truth is that the civilization that presumably started all this no longer has the opportunity to defend itself. It is now our charge to reassess where they had gone wrong which may help us redefine our methods of confronting the realities of modern globalization.
In a positive light, we may say that the Greeks had long anticipated globalization. Globalization would have meant for the ancient Greeks as the prototype of humanization, a model for the flattening of accidental human differences under the aegis of wisdom and virtues. A flattening of accidental, somehow artificial differences that continue to sow divisions through a system of differentiations that only add up to the problems already confronting humanity. These accidental differences are brought to light by the assumption that caring for the ‘other’ ideally presupposes that the ‘other’ be taken as a pure inspiration to do good, regardless of juridical, sexual, ethnic, religious, and even national identities with which the ‘other’ can be described. In short, these accidental differences are the targets of educational rearing: they must be reduced to the ideal premise that humanity is a single kind.
But, either it will take a very long process to reduce accidence to the ideal, or, is humanly impossible in the first place. It may therefore not succeed in the long haul given the reality of chance and contingency which mostly operate behind the scene, enough to humble our hopes of perfection. But it is precisely why education is ideal, and why the University is constitutive of the highest aspirations of humanity. University education is necessary for its own sake. Unless we lose our hold on the ideal to which humanity must be essentially committed, any more other reasons why we need to educate humanity stand the risk of throwing off our chance to perpetuate the species. That is also why universal education is a must. It is a must if humanity is still a must.
If it is a must, then we will not lose sight of the highest opportunity that offers itself to us in this age of globalization. One side of globalization has relatively flattened what appear to be accidental differences along gender, racial, ethnic, cultural, geographical lines. Through the internet, for instance, these differences are virtually flattened to produce a global community in which traditional boundaries of space are dissolved. The other side, however, challenges these positive breakthroughs, in fact, threatens to erode the gains that are yet starting to benefit humanity. This other side of globalization is the other side of human progress, which speaks of the paradox of progress we mentioned earlier. As globalization narrows geographical distance, as it facilitates travel in and through time, as it reduces natural limitations into virtual opportunities to transcend time and space, globalization also threatens to widen distance and prolong time in the very space-time continuum it operates by pushing the limits of space and time into dimensions and durations of reality that are humanly impossible to catch up. The world is getting too smaller and narrower to accommodate humanly natural rhythms that require time to develop into fruition. We are now virtually living in a global village that threatens to flatten us into the size of a sub-atomic in which space is infinitely small to accommodate us, and which necessarily entails that we become infinitely smaller if we wish to catch up with the speed of flattening.
It is not surprising why human rhythms resist this kind of change. Unfortunately, in inverse proportion to the narrowing of space that compresses human rhythms, the degree of resistance becomes intensely violent. Overall, the result is a bleak opportunity for peace to prosper, and we could allude to several connotations of this breakdown vis-a-vis our desire to obtain tranquility of mind, or to achieve larger terms of peace vis-à-vis our differences with our local and global neighbors. These suggest the possibility of a breakdown of humanity’s sanity and our individual self-concepts borne of our unique relationships with the environment in which we were raised us which globalization aims to flatten into the model of the subatomic in which there is eternal unpredictability and incomprehension. In short, these give us a picture of the absolute failure of humanity.
As these concerns threaten to implode in the present and the immediate future, as may be shown by global forms of resistance to flattening such as the possibility of another explosive acts of terror and the potential of virtual reality to increase the level of global competition along the satisfaction of artificial needs into a hyper-real battle giving rise to the hegemony of things over humans, there are positive resolutions that global flattening can still offer. For one, the course of flattening can indicate an ideal trajectory for humanity. This is however the same trajectory that may show us a bleak image of humanity that is now treading an unstable path. At any rate, the flattening is sufficient to take us into an awareness of the dangers it poses. This is in itself the positive valence of the course of flattening. Furthermore, its positive valence may be heightened into a universal consciousness of one-ness, a belongingness to a universal singular, the humankind.
For some social theorists, the mere invocation of the kind of singularity that may be positively supposed of the ideal of humankind invites speculations as to its latent totalitarian tendencies. We are not contesting this view. Indeed, several horrible examples of this invocation of singularity have shown us the danger of totalizing a singular standpoint that supposes itself as the true unequivocal representation of the interest of the majority. The phenomenon of 20th century totalitarian and dictatorial regimes will sufficiently teach us this awareness. But even at its worst, totalitarianism amuses itself with a singular desire to represent a universal, unerringly. This universal is humanity. In other words, even at its worst, totalitarianism entertains a positive hope for humanity, but is too impatient to speed up the process of actualizing that hope. As a result, it does not encourage humanly natural rhythms to develop, and instead, force these rhythms to develop prematurely according to a singular, preconceived design. As the model of flattening suggests, any attempt to usurp the place of nature that utilizes time to run the engine of growth and decay and vice-versa risks turning the whole process into artificial procedures of forcing things to mature. This is the reason why totalitarianism will always be short-lived. In the same manner, the kind of global flattening that demands of a variegated humanity to belong to a singular world, regardless of natural rhythms such as those that are defined by uniqueness of place, geography, culture, and national, religious, and ethnic orientations, risks surrendering the entire process of constituting a better human world-order into the dictatorship of things, the hegemony of things and goods over humanity. In other words, we can take the example of the failure of 20th century totalitarianism and dictatorship to indicate for us a potential trajectory of global flattening vis-à-vis the desire to speed up the process of realizing a desirable future.
A World-University: A General Philosophical Curriculum
Against this background, it is only timely that a renewal of interest in humanity vis-à-vis the potential of things to establish their hegemony over us must take center stage. While globalization has been shown to be inevitable and some of its downturns that continue to threaten humanity, it must not be so with regard to the future of the species, our future.
The proposal to establish a University of the World approximates this important renewal amidst global flattening. In place of the dangerous trajectory of flattening that we are experiencing or about to experience, we propose a humanization of the globe. Hence, globalization as humanization. We mentioned earlier that the Greeks would have understood globalization in this regard. We are therefore renewing an interest in the Greek model as a renewal of interest in humanity. The Greek model as the model of humanization.
This model proceeds from a principle of education whose ideal trajectory is to humanize civilization. In this light, the University is understood as a conveyor of this principle. But also, the University as representative of the highest aspiration of humanity, hence, the University of World-Humanity. A world-university.
How this is possible is already suggested by the Greek understanding of the ideal of humanization. Indeed, the Greeks had started this all. The empires that defeated her mimicked her ancient glory by applying the Greek model into their own, redefining the original as new circumstances demanded, but retaining the spirit that had originally inspired the model of the Greek polis. The polis is originally an assemblage of an educated public. It is, in its highest form, a University of the public: the Public as the University. This idea of the public was later taken up by envious empires that defeated her. During the time of the Romans who established themselves from the ruins of the empire built by Alexander who united the Greek peninsula, saved her from the ravages of wars, this idea of the public was refashioned into Republican ( res publica: the public) ideals which the once mighty empire struggled to impose on her colonies. In short, Rome performed a flattening of differences in the light of res publica: the flattening of the world to establish a republican dispensation under the aegis of the mighty empire.
It was a form of globalization, but a globalization of secular power intended to humanize ‘civilization’. ‘Civilization’ would have acquired a particular meaning as betokened the juridical character of the people who complied with Roman standards. The Roman Empire eventually succumbed to fresh military powers that envied her greatness. It only proved that the Roman form of flattening came up short. One of the limitations of her model is that humanization was singularly patterned after a universal ideal of Man, namely, the Roman. It was not humanity in its singular universal kind but the Roman in its supposed universal kind that inspired this odd exercise of singularization as humanization.
It would be not long until the Romanic influences were revived by the Church. The Church employed quite the same method of enforcement accomplished by Rome, but this time, it would be enforcing a retooled concept of Republicanism in the guise of theocracy. Theocracy became the new empire, the new concept of the public. Unsurprisingly, it was during this period that the University was born. Theocracy aimed to flatten civilizations under the rule of God. But it would be no other than the rule of men who believed themselves to be recipients of a divine plan.
Like the Romans, the new empire pursued a flattening of the globe but in the guise of spreading the gospel instead of promoting the supremacy of a particular expression of secular power. It was the gospel that replaced the ancient ideal of the polis as well as the republicanism that sought to revive the Greeks. The gospel, being a sacred power, was enforced.
As would become of the destiny of any imperial dispensation, the once formidable sacred power collapsed. The most important political theorist of about this time, Machiavelli, summarized the spirit of the times: with the collapse of secular power, a need to redefine power became the tall order of the day. This time power ought to be more cunning and discreet. The need to redefine power and reformulate its praxis corresponded to the alteration in the human landscape that had already been flattened for the last 1,700 years—from the Greeks, to the Romans, to the ecclesiastical empire, and to the modern period where all the distillations of the previous centuries were now concentrated. It was only right for power to be discreet. With centuries of failed attempts to humanize civilization through the expansion of the human landscape and the flattening of this landscape, the remnants of these global projects could still be revived which forebode of a more precarious future. For one, if these past attempts find renewed articulation in the present, the corollary revival of the condition under which these attempts were carried out would put up unnecessary challenge to the present that is marking its place in its own right.
In the 20th century, the rise of totalitarianism and dictatorial regimes was accompanied by a nostalgic mood to revive the past, which is viewed as relatively pure vis-à-vis the condition of the present that has increasingly become complicated. Hitler, for instance, propagated the supremacy of the Aryan race, believed to be a descendant of the Axial people who were the first civilized people ever to walk on earth. The horrors of his final solution, to exterminate an impure race, namely, the Jews, proved the danger of tailoring power to the consummation of a certain form of political eroticism with purity. Six million Jews were murdered, burned alive in the process.
After the defeat of the Nazis, a new world emerged from the ruins of the Second World War. The post-war period ushered in the first formal globalization of the planet.
In the ensuing period, the new imperial powers found themselves bracing for another war. It was a war, however, that did not involve open hostile confrontation. Again, we are underscoring here that after Machiavelli humanity has held on to the notion of power that is being required to exercise discretion. This is not to say that major wars could be avoided. At best, Machiavelli remained a heuristic device. Suffice it to say that after witnessing the horrors of a full scale conventional war, humanity cannot afford to repeat the horrors of the past. The Cold war between two major superpowers—the US and USSR—divided the world again, but along ideological lines. However, it was an ideological division only as it appeared to the communists who did not compete for colonization of the world’s markets, but rather of the world’s belief-systems. But before the turn of the 21st century, the biggest successful communist regime in the world collapsed, opening up tremendous opportunities for capital in an ideology-free world. Theoretically, it would have been the perfect opportunity for world peace to prosper.
With the end of the Cold war, proto-globalization ushers. Although it can rightly be proven as second-wave globalization since its formal introduction after WW II, the post-Cold War globalization has afforded better opportunities for its perpetrators to manipulate and accomplish an unprecedented magnitude of flattening compared with the past. A relatively ideology-free world that followed after the collapse of the Soviet Union gives this kind of global flattening the opportunity to expand the human landscape. What makes proto-globalization unprecedented and unique is its ability to transcend traditional barriers of time and space.
As a historical summary, the prototype of humanization started by the Greeks is now being transfigured into the prototype of modern flattening, that is, global flattening. We may deduce that that the ideal of the Greeks in regard to second-order peace model is now being transfigured into a peace-model of the world—a brokering of peace with the world as the next higher step to achieve humanization. This step follows from the task of brokering peace with human nature itself whose failure as a model may be deduced from the inevitability of the wars of the past centuries. Now that flattening has reached an unprecedented state such that the ‘world’ becomes a perfect model for achieving one-ness, the goal of humanization is now entering a stage of articulation in which peace marks the world as its ultimate object of realization. Hence, world peace ought to be the highest object of global flattening, if it is the idea of ‘one world’ that globalization seeks to accomplish.
Conclusion: Teaching Humanity in the Making
Because the second wave of globalization as we experience today has revealed enormous capability to flatten the human landscape with possibilities of tremendous human costs, it is only right to be alarmed of its dangers. Still in proportion to this danger is the potential to maximize an already flattened human landscape to renew global interest in the future of humanity.
As this renewal takes up a challenge vis-à-vis the dominant trend of global flattening, a University of Humanity must take the lead in teaching a model of humanization. It must claim itself to be a true globalizing force that takes ‘humanity in the making’ as its pedagogical goal. There is already a ‘humanity’ secured in the light of globalizing trend, but a humanity that risks inviting the full potential of things to colonize our life-world. The goal of the University of Humanity is to raise this ‘humanity’ into a level far above things, far above the artifices that have been built originally to secure a safe place for their human inventors.
It is here where we can begin to advance a peace-model. Indeed, as the highest possible peace-model, the University of Humanity, of the World is a re-articulation of the fundamentality of humanity. This fundamentality is now being violated in the global scale vis-à-vis the explosive trends of conflicts ensuing from ideological, religious, political, ethnic and national differences. The University of Humanity is the highest possible peace-model on account of the following premises:
1. Humans making peace with the world is making peace with its nature.
2. Human nature can only be appeased by the highest humanization possible.
3. The highest humanization possible is already a presupposition of the educational model as a second-order peace paradigm.
4. Globalization, if it agrees to take the humanization of civilization as its ultimate task, need only redefine its concept of expanding the human landscape.
5. In redefining the concept of expanding the human landscape, the concept of flattening must also be redefined in the ensuing steps to humanize civilization.
6. The next higher step, therefore, would be to redefine globalizational flattening as humanization of civilization.
7. The highest humanization possible is articulated in the concept of the University as the conveyor of the highest aspirations of humanity.
8. The highest aspirations of humanity must be in function of realizing a world secured enough to preempt the potential of things to colonize our life-world.