Spring/Summer 2015 GCGI Journal
Published: June 2015
(Scroll through below for the Papers Published)
This Spring/Summer Edition of the GCGI Journal consists of selected papers from submissions of Friends of the GCGI and others who share the spirit and values of GCGI. Many thanks to all who submitted articles and who continue the struggle to make this world a better place. Steve Szeghi
Kamran Mofid, Economics, Globalisation and the Common Good: A Lecture at London School of Economics “The Value of Values to Build a World for the Common Good”
Our country, the United Kingdom, like all nations of the world, despite many good works, deeds and actions by so many individuals, organisations, civil societies and more, is facing a number of major socio-economic, political, ecological, moral, ethical and spiritual crises.
Our crises can only be addressed, reversed and resolved, and our goals can only be achieved, if we change direction, adopt new values and become concerned with life’s bigger questions. We must reconnect ourselves with nature and with our true human and spiritual values. Moreover, as members of the household of humanity, we must provide security, sanctuary and constructive engagement for all of our human family. Sustained by the bounty of all, called by the Sacred, and animated into action by the Spirit of peace, Justice, and Reverence for All Life, we must be guided by values and take action in the interest of the common good, empowering each other to build a better world, for all of us.
Imagine a political system that puts the public first. Imagine the economy and markets serving people rather than the other way round. Imagine us placing values of respect, fairness, interdependence, and mutuality at the heart of our economy. Imagine an economy that gives everyone their fair share, at least an appropriate living wage, and no zero-hour contracts. Imagine where jobs are accessible and fulfilling, producing useful things rather than games of speculation and casino capitalism. Imagine where wages support lives rather than an ever expanding chasm between the top 1% and the rest. Imagine a society capable of supporting everyone’s needs, and which says no to greed. Imagine unrestricted access to an excellent education, healthcare, housing and social services. Imagine hunger being eliminated, no more food banks and soup kitchens. Imagine each person having a place he/she can call home. Imagine all senior citizens living a dignified and secure life. Imagine all the youth leading their lives with ever-present hope for a better world. Imagine a planet protected from the threat of climate change now and for the generations to come. Imagine no more wars, but dialogue, conversation and non-violent resolution of conflicts.
Chuck Watts, Caring Citizens Are the Solution
If you’re reading this, you are already committed to expanding the common good, what elected representatives of the 13 American colonies referred to as the “public good.” In this sense, you and I are already common good partners. Our common challenge in a world suffering with a chronic empathy deficit is to grow our base so we may collectively challenge modern day monarchies and the corporations they charter to daily undermine our democracies and republics. More than likely, you get up everyday like like I do thinking about how to build an empathy surplus in your sphere of influence. You and I are not alone. In the text that follows, I want to share with you how a book by a cognitive scientist, read in 2004, set me on a course to co-found the Empathy Surplus Project, a non-profit organization committed to building demand at the local level for effective government driven by empathy and responsibility for self and others. The Empathy Surplus Project, and its affiliate organization, the First Caring Citizens’ Congress of Wilmington, Ohio, are modeled after Rotary International’s Rotary Clubs and are tied to the United Nations through the United Nations Global Compact, a platform for inspiring ethical and sustainable business practice. By writing about the major milestones on my journey to positively impact the common good, I hope to generate opportunities to form partnerships with others that will strengthen the capacity of caring citizens everywhere to drive social change from the communities in which they live and work.
Those closest to me say Dr. George Lakoff’s best selling book, Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, changed my life. In 2004, I joined a group of friends to study the book at a local pub, one chapter per week. At the end of ten weeks I was convinced there was hope for the future — common sense regarding the need for an empathy surplus could be built.
Anita Kiricenko, The Impact of Biometrics on Identity Formation
Both in academia and political decision-making, there has been a discursive explosion around the notion of identity that is particularly bound up with all possible risks present in a globalised, highly technological and overly mobile current system. Identity is constantly understood under the risk of fraud, crime, terrorism and so on (Ajana, 2010). Due to urgent need for its securitization, biometrics is seen as a solution for not only protecting identity from before mentioned risks but also managing social services in a highly objective manner.
This paper aims to delineate the relationship between identity and biometrics with particular reference to vulnerable groups such as immigrants. In order to understand what aspects of identity biometrics captures and how it affects identity formation, the paper starts with the analysis of identity itself. Taking Arendt stance on Modernity as the epoch where the line between private and public domain is blurred, paper covers both individual and societal dimensions of identity in order to capture its complexity. Drawing upon the work of Btihaj Ahana, some of the variations of identity have been explored. It was shown that identity on individual level should be seen through the combination of “who” and “what” aspects which helps to avoid simplification. The societal dimension of identity was based on Charles Taylor insights that emphasize the importance of historical context in identity creation. For that reason, current world order was defined as the structure based on relativism, individuality and neoliberal principles which together encourage the creation of flexible and constantly adoptable identity.
Steve Szeghi, A Reflection on Austerity, Corporate Influence, and Privatization upon Higher Education; Increasing Inequality and a Suffering Earth
What is happening is fairly clear. How what is happening is occurring and how it is connected is less so, has not gained sufficient attention, and shall be the focal point of this paper. Who is responsible for what has happened is also quite clear. The responsibility resides with policymakers in most countries of the world. Why they are doing it is less clear but more relevant to this paper is why the voters in so many countries of the world allow policies to be pursued which are inimical to their economic and health interests.
What is occurring is the plundering of the planet through human induced climate change, other forms of pollution, and a host of additional ecological impacts. Sheer human numbers and the scale of human economy and settlement are in themselves robbing other species of critical habitat necessary for their survival. What is occurring also is a rather rapid increase in inequality both within countries and globally. Although certain countries such as China, in terms of per capita income may be improving verses others such as the USA, the individuals who make up the Chinese economy are becoming less equal. There are of course some who benefit tremendously from these trends. It is in their economic interest to keep the trends going. In order to accomplish that and to insure that nothing is done which promotes equality or the environment that would truly matter, particularly if it would jeopardize their economic interest.
The whole world seems to have fallen in love with Debt Obsession, and it is the wrong kind of debt obsession, debts that are far from real, debts on paper and computer screens. The real debt is with the earth, and with social justice, not so readily dispatched. We are passing to future generations an environmentally impoverished planet and a legacy of injustice and fraying community bonds. Debt obsession and the austerity that frequently follows was imposed on many an unwilling nation by the Washington Consensus. Today debt obsession plagues Washington D.C. even in domestic policies as it haunts the global corridors of power. Little seems spoken of today by policymakers other than the supposed need for austerity which in turn brings cuts in government services, cuts in regulatory agencies, including those which safeguard the environment and protect the rights of labor, the depletion of public and social infrastructure, and ever more privatization of public assets and the sale of what is left of the commons. All of this has resulted in increased power for corporations, lower wages, higher profits, and an increase in inequality even as people receive fewer services from government, diminished public spaces, and an ever compromised environment.
Jamshid Damooei, The True Value of Liberal Arts Education: Looking into the Origins and Consequences of Running Universities like Business Entities
This essay looks at the origin of liberal arts education and how it has become influenced and dominated by the market forces. It questions the purpose of our modern educational system and its value for the creation of civilized human societies. The contention of this essay is to relate changes in the educational system to the economic forces that brought about these changes and created the political environment within which our existing educational system functions. It concurs with the views that the problem began when the educational system was isolated from its human values and the search of knowledge without adherence to the creation of wisdom took center stage in the politics and the organization of our educational system.
Where and How It Began
The origin of the university as an institution is debated among scholars. In explaining the starting place of universities, Dr. Kwaku Person-Lynn, who is a professor of African American Studies at Loyola Marymount University, in an article titled: “Afrikan Origin of the University,” writes:
“Very few are aware that ancient Kemet (called Egypt by the Greeks) was the intellectual, spiritual, scientific and industrial center of the world in ancient time. Ancient Greece’s greatest scholars polished their skills and acquired their knowledge in Kemet (Egypt).”
Humanity has come a long way from the early days of establishing centers for education in the tradition it started from ancient Egyptian times to the present time. The purpose of this essay is not to fantasize about the past without seeing the imperative of change and evolution of societies around the world. It is more about questioning the premise of change and its evaluation in direct relation to what served humanity well and questioning the impacts of the forces of change that made us lose what could be functional and positive.
Michael Britton, Indigenous, Modern and Post-Modern: Disrespect, Dominance, or Learning Together
Should business schools educate for yesterday’s world, or for a future that has not yet arrived? The world we inherited from the twentieth century was a world of autonomous countries, businesses, individuals and classes out for themselves. What lies ahead is a world all seven billion of us regard as just, worthy and heart-warming. We know how to educate business students for the first, but not the second.
Today’s world consists of a global superclass, two hundred plus countries, and thirty thousand indigenous/ethnic/first nation societies viewed as small, tradition-bound, “living on the margins,” powerless, vulnerable and “backward.” The super-class that steers the world in accord with its own interests is seen as the group to be in, but remains muddled about the future it wants to create, being at once fiercely competitive and given to thoughts of gross global happiness.
Yesterday’s world called for skills in competing for wealth and power. Different skills are required to produce a world where all societies grow more resilient, we as a species make a world we all love, and gross global happiness actually develops: skills in deciding on a collective future together, with concern for each other, pulling together for a shared existence all societies find worthy, just and heart-warming. Modernity doesn’t have those skills to teach, but there are others in the human community who do.
Looked down on as quaint rather than skillful or wise in the ways of humanness, many first nations have traditions that focus on how diverse individuals sustain a shared life. There is wide diversity among these peoples and, like all cultures, they have their limitations and flaws. Because we focus on those weaknesses, we find it difficult to turn to these peoples for guidance. But we’re in need of idea systems that build community rather than erode it if we’re to morph from neoliberal modernity into a global age all peoples treasure. Hence the question: can indigenous peoples teach us something about how to make our world better? Can they teach us how to teach business students a mindset capable of accomplishing that goal?
Kamran Mofid, Sustainable Development Goals: Where is the Common Good
In the year 2000, the world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration: A commitment to a peaceful, prosperous, and just world. The declaration included a set of targets for development and poverty reduction to be reached by 2015. These came to be known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
A cursory look at the world today can easily show that the MDGs journey has been nothing but a big disappointment: Where is “a peaceful, prosperous, and just world “? Hopes were raised and hopes have been dashed.
These goals will expire on December 31, 2015, and will be replaced by yet another set of gaols, namely the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
I would argue that just as with the MDGs, the new proposed SDGs will not change the world for the better, as long as they are guided and inspired by the neo-liberal values and agenda which shaped the MDGs. These values are not compatible with the socio-economic and environmental goals we so desperately need to achieve and implement.
As well as setting goals every now and again, what people need to hear is an account of why there is so much suffering in this world. Why is there such a sickening level of abject poverty and inequality in and between nations? Why is there such a level of global mistrust and injustice? Why is there so much environmental degradation? Why are we told there is not enough money for education, health, sanitation, drinking water and social services, but there is always plenty for military expenditures and waging wars? If we try to answer these questions first, then there would be a greater possibility of attaining those goals.
To find those answers we need to appreciate that the ethos of neo-liberalism is destructive of the very SDGs we are seeking to establish in our relationships in society and with Mother Nature. The current neo-liberal capitalist paradigm – economic liberalization, marketisation, privatisation, free trade, endless economic growth, profit-maximisation, cost-minimisation, fierce competition, huge bonuses for short-term gains, and more – provide strong incentives to ignore distributive justice and ecological sustainability, the very aims of the SDGs.
When economics and politics are based on the worst aspects of human nature, then societies become riddled with inequality, violence and mistrust.
Shirish Nathwani, Modern and Ancient Views on the Value of Meditation in Promoting Health, Growth, and Balance in Life, with an Introduction to Samarpan Meditation
The state of our health and well-being is highly influenced by the nature and complexity of our thoughts and thinking. Positivity or negativity, compassion or hatred in thinking and the consequent thoughts that we harbor, arise largely from our exposure to various life experiences. The feelings that arise from each of those thoughts create our attitude and when this is expressed repeatedly, form our habits which in turn become our personality. Experiments are now proving that we are largely programmed by our personality traits or mindset which can be computed to predict our behavior1 and it seems that even as a human being, we have become servants of our unconscious habits and attitude. What we say and express comes from our defenses, fears, conclusions, and attempts to survive. In other words, in spite of our great human potential, unaware we permit the formation of a character that determines our entire performance in life.
Having gone through all kinds of stressful challenges, while becoming adults, we have lost our child-like purity, spontaneity and the joy of living in the moment. Unfortunately however, growing up today, our children too are not much free from ‘toxic stress’, as shown in the landmark research paper of Feb. 2013 Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics2.
Michael Britton, Indigenous Participation in Dialogues on Economic Reform
In my country, the United States, we focus on life here and now, in this living adult generation, and how things might be materially better for us today. None of this putting off to the afterlife of the better circumstances we could create and enjoy right now. Without thinking about it, we disappear from the life of our feelings the generations that went before us and the generations coming after us. I suppose in a way we consider ourselves to be shaking off the shackles of old ways, old obligations, old attachments that threaten to hold us in bondage, locked in the old life that kept ordinary people living lives of limited means, ambitions, sense of their own talents and feel for the horizons of life. We believe our thinking is empowered by ignoring the constraints of old proprieties.
And yet what if this concentration on the living generation as the only generation on our policy and planning horizon does more than free us to imagine and embark on new possibilities? What if it also makes us less able to effectively take care with our own lives and our own institutions here and now? What if this shucking off of the lives that were, and the lives that will be, cripples our feel for our own lives, for what really matters to us, here in our time?
Christoph Meyn and Sean Goodman, The endless pursuit of the essence of peace: Rethinking definitions of peace
The term peace has come to be a buzzword in political, scientific and everyday discourse. But do we always refer to the same thing? Do we even know exactly what we refer to? Attempts at defining peace are numerous and debates over the real or essential meaning of peace are abundant – yet are they really conducive to the problem we face when we state an absence of peace? In this paper we argue that they are not, and they are not because of a specific reason: Debates center mostly around what is called in philosophy “real definition”, notwithstanding the little importance empirical social scientists attribute to this type of definitions. We therefor give an overview over the differences in definitions found in scientific inquiry and analyze already established theoretical notions of peace. Then we give empirical resonance to these concepts and conclude with the underlining of the necessity of a dynamic operational approach defining peace.
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