THE GREATEST CHALLENGE: IMBALANCE OF ECONOMY AND CLASH OF CIVILIZATION

As the introduction I gave to the administrator just now, I’m an undergraduate student in School of International Study of Peking University, interested in ethical topics, this assay based on my reading and thinking, trying to look at the ethical challenges from a view of new fruits of today’s international study.

First of all, please permit me to clarify my answer from the very beginning, the greatest ethical challenge facing the planet today is the imbalance of development across the whole planet and then it causes the clash of civilizations, leaving a heavily broken world order.

Now the spontaneous question is why the above is the greatest challenge?

Before conclude the greatest challenge, we have to clear that what’s ethics. In my opinion, the tersest definition of ethics in this essay is the relationship between people and states as well as the principles to deal with these intricate relationships, that is to say, the premise of today’s discussion is that we conceptualize the states as individual agents who compete and cooperate with each other in society. Therefore, the point of this essay is the relationship of the states.

After that, we’re supposed to focus on the range , the whole planet, of this topic. Climate change, terrorism, poverty, communicable diseases like AIDS etc. are all global ethical challenges on the surface, however, the greatest challenge should be the most rudimentary reason which causes the above crises but not the superficial phenomena. To achieve this goal, I suggest that we start form a new angle of view, an both all-sided and innovative angle.

Casting back the history after World War 2, we can see the phenomena below: swift development of economy in Europe, Japan, eastern Asia like Singapore and Taiwan, and then China as well as other Third World countries. Just like the former two world wars, the imbalance of economy led to imbalance of international politics. Besides, the new-run competence not only refers to the traditional colonialism or their own market shares, but also rely on power of influence, mainly cultural influences to domestically and abroad.

When Western World countries appeared on top of the other states in all fields, western culture had a spontaneous monopolistic position in the world, but today China and some Islamic countries like Iran enjoys a fast progress in economy, asking for more discourse power because the cultural nationalism has already gone up together. To make matters worse, the burgeoning globalization makes states to meet each other and identify themselves more clearly by noticing differences, this broadening the unseen gaps between different-cultural countries.

Let’s take the relationship between the USA and China for an example. The traditional theory in American international study field is absolutely realism and balance of power, on the contrary, China has an opposite way to explain the situation, standing up for peace and fame but not shameful interests. Due to the differences, the USA and China has opposite understandings of the concept “peaceful rise”, one focus on “peaceful” but the other “rise”, this contributes to distrust obviously and then a crisis between them. As to the USA and Islamic countries, the former is always arguing that western democracy is the most awesome regimen and repels the latter to fit it into their own countries, this leading to a violent rebound in many places.

So the most important and confusing question is “who is right”. We’ve already come out of the out-moded single-standard ethics, but what’s exactly the modern multicomponent ethics and how to build mutual trust is the greatest and the most confusing problem today.

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Thank you for this excellent and perceptive message.  I think some of us need to work on developing a universal ethical alliance interconnecting agencies and businesses everywhere through a common ethical framework that could help bring these unbalanced forces back into balance.

You make many good points.  Let's talk about this more. Maybe take a look at the Great Transition Initiative -- http://greattransition.org

thank you for this insightful article.  i did hear president Vladimir Putin say "WORLD ORDER-NEW RULES OR NO RULES" it's something that's eating society up. take the conflict in Syria for instance- the US the EU and other western countries think President Asad is illegitimate and so should go...RUSSIA and CHINA thinks the choice of president of SYRIA is in the hands of the SYRIANS...the SYRIANS are divided between pro and anti ASAD...the bigger question is: whose vision of the world is better? and who makes a President legitimate?

Thanks for these comments -- posted, I see, in October 2013, so perhaps not entirely current or hot -- but I like what you say, Liu Yixuan, and I like the way you say it.

I'm kinda feeling a burst on all this stuff right now, just kicking out a lot of keystrokes at the moment, and I want to go through your remarks in a "dialogue" format.  I'm feeling this "broadband integration" thing in my spirit, and sketching up connection nodes in my brain -- who should we be talking to, and how should we interconnect all this stuff to actually start making ethics-guided changes on this planet?

We need a big cybernetic control system that helps guide decisions, and is "informed from everywhere by everybody" in ways that are highly reliable and "vetted", yet not driven down people's throats by some top-down command elite.   There IS a way to do this -- in the "perfect balance of top-down and bottom-up", which is probably the essential question in democracy.

***

LIU: As the introduction I gave to the administrator just now, I’m an undergraduate student in School of International Study of Peking University, interested in ethical topics, this assay based on my reading and thinking, trying to look at the ethical challenges from a view of new fruits of today’s international study.

BRUCE: Thanks for this message.  I never took a class in ethics -- or in international relations -- but 20 years ago, I did work on a listserv discussion on global ethics, for a project being developed by the Parliament of World Religions -- who created their "Declaration Towards a Global Ethic" for their 1993 Parliament event:

http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/_includes/FCKcontent/File/Towa...

I don't have a lot of current knowledge on this subject -- but I got the issue in my bones.  I feel like I know who to talk to.  We need something simple and clear, with a lot of broad buy-in.  Maybe emphasize broad principles like "interdependence" rather than narrower specifics.  Maybe we don't need to decide about "torture" for example -- though obviously it is very important.

I like the big way you framed this question, Liu.  "How to build mutual trust is the greatest and the most confusing problem today".  Very well put, and I agree.

LIU: First of all, please permit me to clarify my answer from the very beginning, the greatest ethical challenge facing the planet today is the imbalance of development across the whole planet and then it causes the clash of civilizations, leaving a heavily broken world order.

BRUCE: Hmm.  This seems like an educated point of view.  The imbalance of development is driving the clash of civilizations.  Let me absorb that, because this seems like a very important point.  But I might want to suppose that the "heavily broken world order" -- is broken for this reason and (probably) many others -- all of which we must somehow find a way to address, all at the same time -- through some very fundamental ethical framework that fully accommodates our "cultural diversity" yet bonds us together as humans -- as "one human family" (in the words of Martin Luther King in his Nobel Prize lecture).

LIU: Now the spontaneous question is why the above is the greatest challenge?

BRUCE: Yes, tell us!  I love the way you put this -- just so natural....

LIU: Before conclude the greatest challenge, we have to clear that what’s ethics. In my opinion, the tersest definition of ethics in this essay is the relationship between people and states as well as the principles to deal with these intricate relationships, that is to say, the premise of today’s discussion is that we conceptualize the states as individual agents who compete and cooperate with each other in society. Therefore, the point of this essay is the relationship of the states.

BRUCE:  Hmm, ok, I think I got this.  Maybe not totally -- but close.  I like that word "tersest".  We need more terseness   :):)

So, we are talking about "relationships of the states".  Now of course -- states are not monolithic objects, and do inherently embody diversity -- as we are most wrenchingly learning in the USA, in the context of our gridlocked/paralyzed congressional process.  But maybe in the context of international negotiation, appointed representatives do act as "agents for the state", and in that sense, a nation-state can/should be understood as a monolithic active unit of force -- a single operator with motives...

LIU: After that, we’re supposed to focus on the range , the whole planet, of this topic. Climate change, terrorism, poverty, communicable diseases like AIDS etc. are all global ethical challenges on the surface, however, the greatest challenge should be the most rudimentary reason which causes the above crises but not the superficial phenomena. To achieve this goal, I suggest that we start form a new angle of view, an both all-sided and innovative angle.

BRUCE: I like your list of concerns -- and myself do want to see all of them -- and many others -- approached as "interdependent" -- as many commentators are pointing out.  Climate change is very much connected with trade and market forces, for example.  Similar interconnections can quickly be identified.

LIU: Casting back the history after World War 2, we can see the phenomena below: swift development of economy in Europe, Japan, eastern Asia like Singapore and Taiwan, and then China as well as other Third World countries. Just like the former two world wars, the imbalance of economy led to imbalance of international politics. Besides, the new-run competence not only refers to the traditional colonialism or their own market shares, but also rely on power of influence, mainly cultural influences to domestically and abroad.

BRUCE: I am very interested in this broad theme of "balance".

Maybe -- if we were starting to synthesize a very basic body of doctrine for a global ethic -- we might want to include "interdependence" and "balance" as critical factors.  We should start hammering out some principles like this -- then go find all kinds of supporting documentation that further highlights the simple core principles.  Regarding some of these themes, right now I am reading a book by the Dalai Lama entitled "Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World" -- where he lists some of these basic ideas, most of which can be grounded in or found within the major religions and ethical systems of the world.

LIU: When Western World countries appeared on top of the other states in all fields, western culture had a spontaneous monopolistic position in the world, but today China and some Islamic countries like Iran enjoys a fast progress in economy, asking for more discourse power because the cultural nationalism has already gone up together. To make matters worse, the burgeoning globalization makes states to meet each other and identify themselves more clearly by noticing differences, this broadening the unseen gaps between different-cultural countries.

BRUCE: These pressures are out there -- and this lovely idea of "trust" -- is it realistic?  I would love to see that be true -- but the pressures of business and economics are so strong, so compelling.  But we need to push for the ideal -- and to do that -- we must work together to clearly define the ideal...

LIU: Let’s take the relationship between the USA and China for an example. The traditional theory in American international study field is absolutely realism and balance of power, on the contrary, China has an opposite way to explain the situation, standing up for peace and fame but not shameful interests. Due to the differences, the USA and China has opposite understandings of the concept “peaceful rise”, one focus on “peaceful” but the other “rise”, this contributes to distrust obviously and then a crisis between them. As to the USA and Islamic countries, the former is always arguing that western democracy is the most awesome regimen and repels the latter to fit it into their own countries, this leading to a violent rebound in many places.

BRUCE: To fully grasp this thought, I would have to better understand some of your language -- like "peace and fame but not shameful interests".  What is an example of a "shameful interest"?  In the USA, for example, we have a strong emphasis on the "right of free speech".  This can lead to the free distribution of pornography -- which could easily be seen as a "shameful interest".  Or maybe you mean something else -- like self-gratification in business -- "greed" -- making a huge amount of money and spending it on selfish toys, while people in another part of the world are starving....

LIU: So the most important and confusing question is “who is right”. We’ve already come out of the out-moded single-standard ethics, but what’s exactly the modern multicomponent ethics and how to build mutual trust is the greatest and the most confusing problem today.

BRUCE: Yes, "who is right"?  Good question.  If we want a "world that works", we gotta come up with a way to answer that question.  My thought would be -- build a network that asks 1,000 leading spiritual and religious and ethical and academic groups what they believe the answer is, and look for common ground and broad agreement.  Something like that -- some kind of "inspired democracy" that combines wisdom and listening.

I need to find out about this concept of "multicomponent ethics".  That's a new one for me.  Not "cultural relativism".  Not "say something different to different audiences".  Not "situation ethics" -- but maybe -- what I think the real best answer probably is -- which is -- there should be some guiding ethical principles that enable individuals and the entire world to make every ethical decision on a case-by-case basis, so that every single ethical decision we ever make is guided by the intimate details of the immediate situation -- plus is connected to universal principles of wholeness and oneness and healing and life-force.

The question of who is right or wrong in whatever context of any discourse has always been at the epicenter of morality.Thus what is morally right or morally wrong is evaluated on the  cherished values and cultural background of the evaluator.Going by  modern multicomponent ethics as you have defined it, is a gradual process and obviously lies heavily on mutual trust irrespective of our various divides,tolerance,respect for humanity and collective responsibility for the betterment of humanity. 

Most interesting and comprehensive dialogues.  Three laws/phenomena come to mind for World Peace and Human Harmony: 1. Golden Rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  2. Newton's Law: -"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction: 3. Chaos Theory ("butterfly effect" phenomena).  Macro and Micro Human Behavior (both collective/states/societies and Individuals is extremely complex, dynamic and extends across the whole of the sciences, religions, philosophy, et al.  Al

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