“Crisis of Globalization or Globalization of Crisis?”

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When Awareness Turns into Luxury
By Nidal Sakr

This article is an attempt to investigate current problems, to gain better understanding of today’s reality, and to see if some solution can be sought.

Here we will briefly visit with awareness as a requirement for functional society and how awareness relates to contemporary problems.  Part one will assess the state and level of awareness while part two titled “So as Awareness May Not Turn into Luxury,” will try to provide answers to how we can remedy the awareness dilemma, as a passport to address challenges we are all faced with.

Reading current state of affairs leads to the conclusion that crisis has become a phenomenon that is familiar to all, and at every aspect of all societies and nations, and that crisis became a matter of norm rather than exception.

The impact of crisis has become so profound that it is felt across communities and its realization is no longer exclusive to any intellectual elite or social or economic class, or even age group.  Further, crisis has surpassed national borders and geographic and cultural barriers such that it truly has become a global and complex phenomenon.

Crisis reflects in various forms, but most evidently on its impact in shortages where plain bread and food has become a luxury many millions cannot afford, particularly in places which until recently were known as leaders in civilized world and for their abundance of food stocks.  Crisis is also manifested in skyrocketing rates of mental disorder, unjustified crimes, and spread of violence and conflicts at alarming rates.  At the corporate level we witness incompetent leadership, marginal performance and low moral among employees.

Whether our observations are made at the level of local community or country wide, or even across countries, we still see the same problems, as relations are generally marred by tensions and conflicts rather than peace and harmony.  Such a phenomenon, although may differ in details, certainly persists in many societies, and is depicted in terms of the various aspects of mental health problems and conflicts.

Perhaps it is worth noting that a good part of the literature written on the subject has, in general, focused on describing what the problem is, and has been marred by ideological motives, only to reinforce the crisis and to emphasize conflict as characterization of relations between nations and cultures.  We also see that countries have adopted “clash” as a strategy to further their interest and influence, and to both serve and expand such interest.

We also notice that writings on the subject do not go as far as to attempt to provide a remedy or an exit from conflicts based on deep and thorough analysis to what got us into the current crisis as a way to read our way out of it.

First, we must acknowledge that causes of the crisis vary according to its various dimensions, although there seems to be some sort of pattern among different examples, which in turn may lead to the conclusion that crisis as a phenomenon may itself follow some sort of systematic pattern.
As to cultural variations between societies, it seems that some societies do have responsibilities that go beyond solving their own problems, to providing answers to problems of other societies.  Part two will explain how world cultures can contribute to solving global crises.

Diagnosis of crisis:
Perhaps crisis can be summarized at three different levels:
First:  Crisis in Awareness
Second:   Crisis in Responsibility
Third:  Crisis in Leadership

Crisis in awareness is considered the mother of all crises.  Lack of awareness is caused by either poor or lack of realization and deep understanding of current realities.  Lack of awareness, in itself, leads to underestimation of both extent and magnitude of responsibility, and to negligence in understanding the requirements and liability of leadership.  Such negligence contributes to the emergence of incompetent leaders who would seek and fight over leadership, while not bringing anything but misery and suffering to all, including to those whom they lead.  It is worth noting that incompetence in leadership is a universal phenomenon that goes beyond political to corporate as well as social and family.

Perhaps no two would disagree with our diagnosis so far, as discontent with leadership may be seen across the globe.  Should evaluation of leadership be strictly made contingent upon serving higher interest of nations, perhaps only a handful of examples may be cited as exception where leadership enjoys popularity among majority of its constituents, including those who were elected through either democratic or “semi-democratic” means.

On the corporate level, we also observe discontent and lack of confidence in leadership among many employees, as well as eagerness on the corporate level not to share experiences of success with competitors.

As for families, schools have become the only outlet to families for raising children where the only values kids learn are those acquired through their school experience and peers, with the exception of very few families.

To understand the problem and its various dimensions in spite of its enormous complexity, one may find answers in citations from the uniquely universal civilization of Islam which, among others, provided both insights and understanding of the issue.

I find great insights in the Omari wisdom as he said: “You are led by the likes of you,” in explaining the intrinsic relation between leaders and followers as well as between rulers and the masses.

Although some would like to describe nations in terms of masses and ruling elite, it may be useful to point out that the term elite here is used liberally as leadership often lacks the realization and understanding of realm of problems that is usually shared by the public.  Also, indulgence in the royalties of leadership often extracts leaders away from the ordinary experiences of the masses.

Perhaps we all need to be reminded that one basic fact is that nothing in life is eternal, thus any temporary gains by leadership must soon pose a challenge to leadership itself which in turn becomes an un-avoidable crisis which the leadership ends up facing.

Hence the argument of cyclicality in leadership seems plausible in terms of circulation of failure.  Both leadership and masses do share the responsibility of failure in that failure in leadership is partly caused by the failure on the part of society to instill an adequate sense of responsibility in children and upcoming generations.

“Istikhlaf” is a beautiful concept, which translates into both collective and singular delegation of responsibility.  Such notion implies that any individual responsibility does in fact have embodied dimensions that spell into a collective responsibility that is assumed on the level of individuals.  If you raise a good child, the chances that he or she will have positive influence on his/her peers and those who are around which in turn translates on larger pool of common good being transmitted.  Thus all society members are in fact society builders.

That sense of responsibility toward one’s self and others can only come through instilling awareness in the individual of how human qualities are extended through human interactions.  Fairness towards others can be seen as extending positive qualities through such interactions, hence imploring higher sense of justice.  Leadership which does not enjoy high levels of awareness is bound to be unjust and irresponsible.

Awareness is the antidote to ignorance just as justice is the antidote to injustice.  Any failure in responsibility and willingness to handle it without being fit for it is, in itself, the essence of ignorance and injustice.

Before we all rush to release ourselves from responsibility for how things have become, let us all be reminded of a saying:  “you are all shepherds and each are responsible for your herd.”

Thus, the first steps towards realization and awareness start by each of us getting acquainted with his/her herd and where responsibility lies and to what extent responsibility is.  Then we will meet again in part two titled: “So as Awareness May Not Turn into Luxury.”