Here in Malaysia, there is a sense that it is hard to move forward because we seem to be held back by the heavy baggage of race and religion – issues that divide us.
Some of this baggage might be imposed on us by forces that prefer the status quo – the Old Politics – to remain. But I think we have reached a stage where there is a real sense that we could lose out – and not just in economic progress – if we do not evolve towards a higher, more enlightened state of consciousness.
Of course, we are not alone in this respect. Many other countries are also struggling with issues of racial and religious chauvinism or xenophobia that are holding them back from realising their full potential.
Over the last couple of centuries, rapid advances in technology, travel, and communications have brought us closer to one another so that the world has now shrunk into a “global village”.
But the forces of globalisation have also had their negative effects. Environmental concerns are no longer limited by national borders; so too the potential for nuclear devastation.
Similarly corporate-led neoliberal globalisation has widened income inequalities across the world, enriching the top 1 or top 5 per cent of the population. Multinational corporations have grown immensely powerful and are perceived to be “the new rulers of the world”. Workers, on the other hand, are struggling to make ends meet.
We have ‘commodified’ the free gifts of the earth and privatised them: water, the hills, islands, even the sea. These are all up for sale and are being gobbled up by predatory forces. We have alienated ourselves from Nature and instead exploited it to such an extent our very survival as a species is at stake.
So the term globalisation has been tainted through its association with a certain kind of exploitative economic model that increasingly looks at the world in a materialistic, commercial way.
Theologian Leonardo Boff says the word planetisation, which carries a more positive connotation, is better than globalisation.
The great Jesuit philosopher and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) had elaborated on planetisation.
Planetisation, he said, is “the profound ordering of things” that will enable “human collectivisation to pass beyond the enforced phase, where it now is, into the free phase.”
Under this free phase, de Chardin believed that people would at last understand that they are all “inseparably joined elements of a converging Whole”.
They would then have learned “to love the preordained forces that unite them”. This free phase would be “a natural union of affinity and sympathy”.
So planetisation is a more positive way of looking at our evolution.
This process is irresistible, said de Chardin. “So many opposing forces (ideas, passions, institutions, peoples) meet and clash around us that to the thinking person it may well appear that the human ship is rudderless in the storm. Are we going ahead or astern, or are we simply hove-to? No means of telling while we remain at sea-level: the waves hide the horizon.
“I can see only one way of escape from this state of uncertainty which threatens to paralyse all positive action: we must rise above the storm, the chaos of surface detail, and from a higher vantage-point look for the outline of some great and significant phenomenon.”
After two world wars and so much upheaval, he felt that the human family is even more closely bound than ever before – and then there is a tangle of social and economic relationships as well.
For de Chardin, there is a major cosmic process at work, which he called “human planetisation” — a tide of ever-increasing unification, under a universal sense of evolution, no longer based on wealth but on genuine progress.
“What is really going on, under cover and in the form of human collectivisation, is the super-organisation of Matter upon itself, which as it continues to advance produces its habitual, specific effect, the further liberation of consciousness.”
“Let us look it in the face and see whether, using it as an unassailable foundation, we cannot erect upon it a hopeful edifice of joy and liberation.”
De Chardin says in this final phase of human freedom, “what finally divides the men of today into two camps is not class but an attitude of mind — the spirit of movement” forward towards real progress and unification.
It is up to us to decide if we really want to move forward. Perhaps we need to rise above the swirling storm to gain a better perspective of where we are and where we want to head to.
Do we really want the baggage of racial and religious divisiveness to hold us back? Or do we want to move towards a higher plane of consciousness and realise our full potential, in harmony with the world around us?