Civilizing Globalization. Beyond Institutions, Human Education

Civilizing globalization, that is, making it coherent and compatible, to put it briefly, with the values of humanity and dignity of the people, is an ethical and political objective of an extraordinary commitment, from which no theoretical reflection and no political movement can legitimately escape. But, first of all, what can be understood, in this perspective and for these purposes, by "civilization"?

Among the many and different attempts at an answer historically elaborated over time, and in particular among the most recent ones, it may be useful to assume, at least to open and synthetically articulate the question, the concept of "hexagon of civilization", elaborated and proposed by the German political and social scientist Dieter Senghaas. A metaphor that identifies and defines six great transformations which are at the base of the civilization process as it is configured in the internal life of States. The first is the "de-privatization of violence", which is taken away from the hands of individuals and is entrusted to a legitimate public authority. The second is the control of the monopoly of de-privatized violence by the "rule of law" or the "constitutional State". The third is the “control of passions”, in other words a cultural and anthropological transformation. The fourth is “democratic participation”, essentially the participation of everybody in the deliberative and decision-making processes relating to common issues. The fifth is "social justice", in short, equality in life opportunities. The sixth, finally, is a "constructive culture of conflict", oriented towards mediation and tolerance.

We could usefully add to this "hexagon" a further "transformation" (it would thus become a "heptagon", in a new geometric metaphor), which is just starting: the "environmental" one, which consists in a different relationship with nature and with the surrounding world by men, who have finally become aware to think and take care of the complex and intertwined "totality" of the multiple aspects of life (not only human, also animal, vegetal, etc.). As is increasingly evident (even the current pandemic is teaching that), this is a decisive existential challenge for the very survival of the human species.

In this context, the institutional dimension of the problems to be faced, the one that historically has been at the basis of the federalist reflection since the time of Kant and Hamilton, is obviously indubitable, and, as we have seen, it is also a fundamental aspect of the "hexagon" proposed by Dieter Senghaas. But the necessary and decisive institutional road to civilization is not, nor has it ever been, sufficient. The institutions themselves, as is well known, are born and develop only in coherent and adequate human and cultural contexts, without which either they are not born at all or they wither and die over time. Beyond institutions, there is the equally decisive dimension of human education, which constitutes the finest and most pervasive "fabric" capable of binding men together and of determining, at least partially, their thoughts and behaviors. In the era of globalization, in which technologies make available to all new and extraordinary tools for building that "fabric", the theme of human education runs increasingly across all institutional and social processes in progress. Human training, it must be remembered, is not only the formal and institutional one that takes place in "designated places" (schools, universities, associative centers, etc.), but it is more generally that which in fact takes place every time an individual interacts, by any means and in any place (therefore also online and through the network), with others. In this sense, it should be noted that in no other epoch of human history has the process of education, that is to say in substance, of mutual teaching and learning even in informal and unintentional ways, been, for better or worse, so extensive (worldwide, global), dense and pervasive.

In this perspective, a specific reflection on what can and should be understood today, in the era of globalization, by "human education" for the purposes of the civilization process, appears necessary and appropriate.

Paraphrasing Dieter Senghaas' geometric metaphor mentioned earlier, I believe we can speak of a "triangle of education". In summary, education (first of all, but not only, the one provided in the "designated places"), in order to be effective and appropriate to the times in which we live, must be interdisciplinary, intercultural, permanent.

First of all, interdisciplinary, that is, characterized by its relationship and intertwining between different disciplines and different knowledge, by a plurality of "gazes" on the world, without which reality cannot really be understood in its entirety and complexity. In its absence, the "disjunctive and reductive thought" of which Edgar Morin has often spoken triumphs, and consequently science and culture, disconnected and shattered, lose their human dimension. They outline and describe a human figure too disconnected and shattered, essentially false.

Secondly, intercultural, that is, capable of recognizing and letting the different cultures present in the world, and the different "symbolic universes" that characterize the different human communities, communicate with each other. In the globalized world, where the flows of people, goods, values, images, etc., run across all territories and places, recognizing "otherness" and being able to have a dialogue with it has become essential for human coexistence. Ethnic, religious and cultural conflicts are everywhere just "around the corner", not only if institutions aimed at peace are missing, but also if a shared ethics of global dimensions is not adequately elaborated and promoted. Therefore, a dialogic and plural educational process is necessary.

What is it, and how is a shared ethics configured? This question is answered in a synthetic and at the same time articulated way, among many others who have written about it, by the Spanish philosopher and writer Raimon Panikkar (of a Catalan and Catholic mother and an Indian and Hindu father, therefore an exemplary figure of the contemporary reality). Panikkar writes: "The only form of ethics that has any force today must be an intercultural ethics. This imperative is pragmatic, because it is not based on an "a priori", but simply on the fact that if there were no alternative ethics for the current world, there would be the mutual destruction of humanity, the extermination of men and ecological disasters". To this end, Panikkar outlines and proposes a "decalogue of the ethics of dialogue": the other exists "for" each of us; the other exists as a subject and not only as an object (not only men, but even trees, animals, etc.); the other is not an object of conquest, conversion, etc.; the other has his own rights, like me, in a mutual relationship; even if I think the other is wrong, I must get in touch with him; being willing to dialogue is the supreme ethical principle; dialogue must be open and total; ethics is linked to politics, it is placed in a cultural context, and all this makes it relative, but concrete and effective; ethics and religious dialogue are closely connected; ethics is not to be promulgated, it is discovered together in dialogue.

Finally, thirdly, education must be permanent, continuous and recurrent from the beginning to the end of life. Continuous education, its reasons, the possible and necessary policies to promote it, entered the international public debate especially starting from the 1970s, with the UNESCO "Faure Report" of 1972 entitled Learning to Be, the documents of the UNESCO Conference held in Paris in 1985, and the 1996 UNESCO Report produced by an international Commission chaired by Jacques Delors. Subsequently, various documents of the European Union are published, such as in particular the "Memorandum on lifelong learning", drawn up by the European Commission in October 2000, in which not only the cultural, but the civil and political dimension of this type of education emerges to the foreground, as necessary to make the active participation of all citizens in public life possible, i. e., in essence, “to learn to live together”. The concept of lifelong learning proposed in the document is articulated and developed through six “key messages”: new basic skills for everyone to be able to participate actively in social life; greater investment in human resources; innovations in learning and teaching to ensure lifelong learning; assessment of learning results; revision and development of the orientation processes; promotion of continuous education paths as close as possible to people and their living places.

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