Friday, March 7, 2014

Globalization Causes Tribalism

We think of fundamentalists of all stripes as dwindling inevitably in the face of irresistible forces of globalization. George Friedman of Statfor believes we have it backwards:

There is another element to the communications revolution to which elites are blind. Elites, by definition, are often brilliant and attractive-looking people who, because of their own sophistication and social confidence, welcome cosmopolitanism in all its aspects. For they are never insecure in the midst of exotic environments. But most people in this world are not brilliant, not terribly attractive and therefore not confident. Their lives are full of struggle. So they naturally take refuge in family, community, religion or some form of solidarity group. And in an era when mass communication technologies foster a vulgarized assault on traditional values -- whether directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly -- the sense of alienation among the masses intensifies, leading them deeper into such exclusivist beliefs.

So it is not an accident that there is now a resurgence of Orthodox Judaism and evangelical Christianity in the United States, just as there is a resurgence of ideological Islam across the Greater Middle East. Whether it is trashy mass culture in America or relentless Westernization in the Muslim world, people require an ethical and a spiritual anchor against the forces of technological alienation. In Asia, perhaps the most technologically modernized region on the globe, nationalism helps to fill this void. For nationalism is modernism writ large. As people who do not retreat back into religion lose their literal faith in God and thus their belief in individual immortality, they take refuge in what the late Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz called a "collective immortality."

The Lure of Nationalism | RCW

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