Dialogue of Civilizations and Social Desovereignization Challenges

Presentation of the Founding President of the WPF “Dialogue of Civilizations” Vladimir Yakunin at the meeting of the WPF International Coordinating Committee in Vienna (Austria), February 1st, 2014

The necessary transformations of the world community must take place not in “the already customary conditions,” as the world buglers of “changes” try so often to explain to us, but rather in humane conditions that presuppose individual and social integrity as an obligatory, new universal norm.

Dear colleagues!
Ladies and gentlemen!
I am sincerely happy to welcome all of you in the hospitable capital of Austria that has become a permanent venue of our international project – the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations.” We have gathered here today practically in full complement which, I believe, clearly indicates that the world dialogue community has a real need for our intellectual and practical activity, and that it also reaffirms our status as a truly functioning initiative.

I am especially happy to welcome here our colleague from Iran, who represents the founder of the inter-state initiative Dialogue among Civilizations – Mohammad Khatami; and I also welcome our colleague and friend from Malaysia – Chandra Muzaffar who heads the well-known “JUST” initiative that tabled an unprecedented project for a Sunni-Shia dialogue at last year’s session. And last, but not least, I am indeed glad to welcome our friends from Germany with whom this year we are planning to continue cooperation on the project of holding an international conference in Berlin on the subject which, with a bit of irony, sounds like this – “Europe: Lost in Translations.”

I would like to call upon you to continue our joint efforts to find answers to the present-day challenges of world development, in the broad sense, those that are determining the current state of society and man in conditions of global transformations. I also ask you to reaffirm our adherence to finding optimal and least conflicting strategies for mutual action to further implement specific initiatives aimed at preserving the civilization potential of human development.

On top of that, I believe it would be appropriate to discuss the draft of an Agenda for the 12th annual meeting of the Rhodes Forum where Fred and I suggest to focus on problems of war and peace. We offer such a theme for your consideration since this year marks the centenary of the start of World War One that precipitated a series of world crises and wars that determined the history of the 20th century. What I also consider important is to draw attention to the problem of consolidating timely public efforts so as not to allow regional, and from our point of view, civilization conflicts to grow into world wars which, in conditions of the existence of modern and highly sophisticated technologies that could lead to the self-destruction of mankind, look fatally dangerous.

For last year’s Rhodes Forum meeting, we used the title of the well-known book by the German philosopher of the first-half of the 20th century, Martin Heidegger. This year we address the legacy of the great Russian author and philosopher – Leo Tolstoy.

I believe all of you are well acquainted with our research at the end of the 2000s that culminated with the publication of three brilliant monographs in the series of “Possible Futures” edited by Prof. C. Calhoun: “Business as Usual: The Roots of the Global Financial Meltdown;” “The Deepening Crisis: Governance Challenges after Neo-liberalism;” “Aftermath: A New Global Economic Order?” These monographs, in my humble opinion, have convincingly demonstrated that within the framework of the currently existing social-political paradigm of our perception of world processes – a paradigm that we traditionally call “neoliberal,” it is no longer possible to find acceptable solutions to the pressing problems facing us. Such is the unconsoling prognosis that stems from the convincing scientific analysis presented in this three-volume work. It is also, so far, impossible to portray the outlines of some kind of new, universal picture of the world within the framework of which it would be possible to fulfill the task of ensuring a stable development of mankind, without conscientiously jettisoning the existing model of rapacious consumption of the world’s living resources which, in the long run, entails degradation of man as an object of the global historical process.

In his article “Globalization of Insecurity and the Dialogue of Civilizations” (published in the collection of papers from the 2011 Rhodes Forum), Prof. Joseph Camilleri describes in detail the ever increasing feeling of insecurity. What is more, this feeling seems to be spreading everywhere: both in different societies which tend to practically determine the strategies and tendencies in present-day globalization processes, as well as in communities that have become involved in global expansion.

All this, I believe, compels us to think about the growing pace and scope of what we may call “barbarization” of international relations. What is meant here is the following: under slogans of “advancing” democracy and “strict observance” of human rights, there are those who are arming themselves with the most ridiculous means to de-sovereign states and to justify interference from the outside into the affairs, history, culture and the very lifestyles of whole countries and regions. Instead of trying to pave the way to attain noble goals, this process is being aimed at attaining poorly disguised interests and at “revolutionizing” the public masses that are rapidly transformed into mobs of marauders and terrorists. What is most frightening about this is: it is no trouble at all for the owners of the world’s only emitter of devaluing banknotes to hire and bankroll marginals of all types and shades in the world that are prepared to commit crimes and spill blood in order to make a fast buck. The list of countries and regions that have gone through “the hell” of learning “all about democracy” included the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and today such “lessons” are being given to Syria and the whole Middle East, and tomorrow – possibly Central Africa. And after that – all along the route?

A thorough description of the condition of present-day societies has been tabled by the eminent European sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. In particular, he delivered a lecture on behalf of our Forum at the University of Trento at the end of last year. Incidentally, work has started at the University to spearhead research in the area called “Living in Times of Interregnum.” Moreover, the book entitled “22 Ideas to Fix the World” in which we published our articles together with him is now being published in Iran. Currently, the book is being translated into Chinese and will be printed in Beijing.

I draw these facts to your attention in order to emphasize that during the decade of its existence, our Forum has become one of the most notable intellectual world platforms whose main objective is to analyze and prognosticate the unfolding scenarios of the development of the contemporary world and to seek a possible alternative for the existing world order. Today it seems quite apparent that if we intend to ensure the further existence of world societies, there is an imperative need to step off the malfunctioning neoliberal trajectory as a motor of the world economy. And not because we have already found an alternative world project, but rather because, to our great regret, that model that used up tremendous world intellectual resources embarked upon a collision course with the very idea of mankind’s existence in civilization space. The global model that is pushing the whole world into the chaos of military confrontations, and mankind – towards extinction must be checked; it must be halted for a certain interval of time so that it could be substituted for a new paradigm of inter-civilization cooperation. Such a pause or interval of time could be when a dialogue of civilizations is going on. That is the period when is possible to shape out and present a general multi-dimensional picture of the world (political, cultural, human values, ecological and so on). This would be a kind of universal map showing the possible clearly outlined and transparent ways of mankind’s development, with a maximally balanced “war and peace” relationship, and one that would enable us to look into the future with a sense of reasonable optimism. Consequently, the necessary transformations of the world community must take place not in “the already customary conditions,” as the world buglers of “changes” try so often to explain to us, but rather in humane conditions that presuppose individual and social integrity as an obligatory, new universal norm.

We believe that it is already possible today to offer a general assessment of the model of a global system that has taken shape in the past decade. The contours of that system are clearly visible, while the results of its practical implementation have already driven the initiators of globalization themselves into a blind alley. And this is not at all surprising if one takes into account that the global cybernetic system of economy, i.e., the world governance system (!) was built on a fragile foundation of primitive pushing through a single-currency financial model. The arbitrary manipulation of this system does not really require a terrific imagination – even an irresponsible, but creative-minded youth who has mastered the skills of a programmer can precipitate formidable financial trouble for a very great number of people and even countries. The forcible usage of this primitive system on the basis of a single world currency not only kindles an all-out “sense of insecurity”; it is also reflected in obvious and dangerous symptoms of currency wars and in apocalyptic expectations of a global economic meltdown. In the evolving circumstances, public interests lay far outside the currently existing “policy of deepening dividing lines.” In such a situation it would be far more reasonable to move in the direction of creating a coordinated world community having a poly-currency financial system that takes into account the civilization peculiarities of the different regions and countries, their security, sovereignty and different rates of development.

The loss of sovereignty, which until recently has been widely defined as a phenomenon of the interstate relations, can now be conceptualized not only in terms of publicity (crisis of the family, inter personal relations), but also as a threat to the very existence of the societies and of the integral personality, as a core idea of any civilizational projects known in the world history.

Global transformations quite frequently coincide with scientific-technical innovations. However, it is possible to understand cardinal socio-political processes not only in connection with technological opportunities or capabilities that may arise as a result of fusing man, society, nature and the cybernetic machine in the 21st century. One must take a critical attitude towards technical romanticism and all the fantastic ideas around it. They should not be elevated to the level of an absolute symbol of world progress. One of the side-effects of such an approach could well be a direct threat to destruction of the natural environment, and as a result of this, impairing the ability to reproduce subsequent generations of people; in fact, this could also hamper the preservation and renewal of the practical conditions necessary for the existence of mankind as a biological species.

We most certainly welcome diverse ecological initiatives that are not aimed at transforming “values” into “price tags,” or at reselling “the right to life” of the people in some countries to others or for making profits for a small group of oligarchs. In the New Year that has just recently arrived we plan to launch a pilot social-expertise project in a unique and pristine area of Russia – the Altai Mountains. And this too is one of the results of last year’s Rhodes Forum since the initiative group behind the given project comes from there. Another reason for this is that we view Nature as the next goal of world integration, for in the final count, it is Nature that forms and gives all the values to the world civilizations.

The ever-growing acuteness and indefinite nature of the current global transformations, in the opinion of the Forum participants, sharply underscore the need for preserving and strengthening the foundations of worldwide cooperation. Since it is precisely the non-violent (from the point of view of politics and economics) potential of humankind that lies in each of the civilizations known to us, and it is precisely this potential that ensures, to a certain extent, continuity and possibly, the peaceful nature of any and all transformations. The destruction or rupturing of even a fine layer of civilization has already given rise to a great number of conflicts, and so far, there are no visible prospects of overcoming them within the framework of non-public globalization projects. So far, we are witnessing a whole string of attempts of strong-arm and standard approaches to the process of “modernizing” countries and regions in various parts of the world, and in so doing, are erasing their identities, as well as their sovereign right to choose their own format or their future. And a natural outcome of such an understanding of “progress” can be seen in the ever dangerously growing and spreading local conflicts that have been triggered by furious response to “contemporary globalization.”

Outside the framework of “a dialogue of civilizations,” any political conflict or even sudden expression of will on the part of one of the representatives of civilizations in the world today (Salman Rushdie, for example) precipitates a round of uncontrolled and dangerous consequences that come as counteraction and an element of protecting the existing world order. However, this does not mean that it cannot be localized (turned into a subsidiary) at a minimally dangerous level on which it emerged. It was precisely the non-violent foundations of civilizations and cultures that led the participants of our Forum to the following conclusion: projects that advocate tolerance and the resulting category concerning ideas of multiculturalism are, in principle, insufficient. What is considerably more important is the real, years-long social experience of coexistence, cooperation among different civilizations in the matter of practically recreating the human development resources.