Roadblocks to a “Dialogue of Civilizations”

Roadblocks to a “Dialogue of Civilizations”

An Address by Jagdish Kapur (1920-2010), Co-Chairman of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations”, presented at the 5th Rhodes Forum, October, 2007

From the point of entry into the twenty-first century, there has been a rising crescendo of economic discontinuities and shifting balances of power, increasing cultural and religious confrontations and terrorism. We are engulfed in a state of chronic insecurity and deepening gloom. Old techniques of force and domination are being employed to resolve problem which belong to another age. The beneficiaries in a system of globalised deprivation and selective aggregations of wealth do not realise the chaos which is being created by the simultaneous fragmentation, of cultural, religious and political entities and globalisation of economies. This has become a major contradiction of the twenty-first century.

All its consequences are visible. Therefore one of the most important contribution by persons dedicated to civilizational issues through a dialogue is to help remove (or set aside) the physical and metaphysical roadblocks, which are frustrating all efforts towards a humane future.

Science & Spirituality

Before the middle of the last century, classical Newtonian Science and Einstein's theory of relativity were challenged by Werner Heisenberg when he introduced what came to be known as the 'Uncertainty principle'. His principle implied that scientific quantities and concepts do not have an absolute independent meaning and get conditioned by experiments and those who perform them. This undermined the cherished belief that the science can reach out for the reality within the existing understanding.

There was a linear connection between science and the emerging social structures, and institutions and limitations which gave shape and direction to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. First came economic changes subsequently followed by political institutions and the entire processes of industrialization.

When Einstein's theory of relativity unveiled other parameters and linkages, the need arose to raise the levels of human understanding beyond the concept of the Newtonian science and establish another support structure i.e. supramental on a spiritual scale. This is when the problems began to arise because there is a disconnect between the disciplines of science and spiritual meditative techniques to reach out for higher advances in physical sciences and by taking these beyond the uncertain parameters. This leaves the uncertain sciences bereft amoral and ethical constraints. The human process which dominates the science dictated twenty-first century are thus also without such limitation and we are thus blindly and recklessly advancing towards material horizons, without resolving the uncertainties of science. We are witnessing that the high rise pyramids of affluence are collapsing in an insecure and turbulent world.

Research is on, and attempts are being made to evolve new concepts, which can be compatible with the present state of physics and cosmology. We have to seek power of understanding through elevation of the human mind, to enable us to penetrate and cross the barriers of uncertainties of science and the disorderliness, violence and injustices of the processes of material development.

Need for Multipolarity

There are more than two hundred entities we call nations. There is a wide diversity of ethnicities, cultures and religious traditions. Everything in the biosphere is plural and out of that plurality emerge a wonderful world of great diversity, of religious traditions thought and beauty. And these diversities through their synthesis, give them identity. When we say a person is an Indian, it creates images in our mind, of poverty, its spiritual traditions, cultural sensitivities and even a man like Gandhi who with a stick in hand walked a hundred miles to the sea to break an unfair British Colonial Salt Law and in this process awoke from slumber and freed a nation from the British colonial rule. To die for what you believe in, he said, not kill others for your beliefs. Similarly, many European countries provided diverse images of great scarifies, culture, art, literature sciences, even the great socialist revolution in Russia, Confucius in China and the Universal Buddha, which now belongs to many countries.

All contributing to the great treasures of humankind.

Many of these problems are arising in the processes of building unipolar power structure for economic developments, cultures and religions. The divisive forces have drawn a dangerous line between the rich and the poor. The instigated cultural conflicts are creating an ethical, religious and gender divide. The increasing violence of the globalising process is catalysing vast multi-dimensional unrest worldwide. The perpetuity is structured on peace and orderliness. We have therefore to begin the process of re-thinking to approach the human future with the new instruments of peace and non-violence. The message to the oppressors should be clear that they can attempt and possibly succeed and destroy, but the oppressor cannot succeed in his objective of the exploitation and domination which is the principal aim.

Once the message is clear, there is some chance of reducing the levels of violence, which is becoming a part of our lives. Another factor, which emerges in the planning of long term strategic non-violent approach, is a human approach related to the psyche of the oppressor and the oppressed. But in the long distance, violence, which is now becoming the norm where the aggressor has no contact with the victims, an appeal to human compassion will not work. The only hope will be to rise above our personal interest and create a coalition of the peace loving visionaries of the future.

This will continue to be a part of non-violent strategy and action. (But what a purposeless waste of human resources and human life is a question the aggressor will have to answer) of a coalition of peace loving nations, sworn to non-use of weapons or violence except for self-defense and for the protection of the weak and the deprived.


The techniques of competitive high-energy development have transformed our planet into an ecological death trap. Natural disasters causing vast devastation are becoming a daily occurrence. It is nature's warning, for reconsideration of our development strategies, and save the coming younger generations from getting overly committed to sensual development and becoming desensitized to human sufferings. Continuation with these policies will close all avenues for a humane future.

Eternal and ancient tribal civilizations arranged their life's flow in accordance with natural processes. They worshiped, the forces of nature, and sought the protective blessing of the angry Gods and Goddesses of Katrina, tsunamis, and earthquakes. And we the custodians of modern civilization- call them-uncivilized and have been systematically interfering with the natural phenomena and bringing the wrath of nature on hundreds of millions of deprived people without recourse to protection and help. This is a civilizational failure.

Human mind

The tragic forgetfulness of the ethical and moral needs of sustainable civilizations is injecting the poison of violence in the human mind.

This is being mortgaged to the media and sense devices and violence that it promotes and, thus, taking us away from the Eternal values and the diverse synchronicities which govern the dynamics of the cosmic force that condition our lives.

Value Structure

For the protection of the operative paradigm for development in fact for its very survival, we are evolving promoting and strengthening a value structure which is in disharmony with the natural laws that are an inseparable part of the human body and mind – a part of nature's diversity, but with a consciousness, which expands and determines human creativity and destiny. It gives humans sensitivity and psychic instincts so as to enable them to function in harmony with natural process. It is subject to pleasure and pain and continuously expands the creative potential.

All this is being altered by the media, under the compulsion of the competitive forces, of the so-called free market, which is being transformed by the power currents of conflicting interests and egos. Seeds are being planted for ethnic religious and civilizational conflicts, and desensitizing the minds of hundreds of millions of young people, some of them our future leaders. These potential leaders of the twenty-first century are being desensitized against poverty, genocide and terrorist killings of innocent women, and children. To make this more effective, media images are then shifted to vulgar display of luxuries. Young people are expected to make their choice.

With the rising levels of human desensitization, we are nearing a point of no return and disturbing images of human insanity are becoming visible in many countries endangering the entire human future.

The tragedy is that the practice of luxury and its unlimited manifestation and profession for self-assurance and qualifying as a celebrity is being promoted as the human future. But the only effect was is further deepening of the crisis.

Therefore the liberation of the human mind from the indiscriminate tightening of the shackles of deforming values should be an important element in any dialogue of civilizations.

Money as the Final Reference Point

Whether you are a financial oligarch, a professor, an artist, an author or even a religious teacher, the quality of your work or contribution to society is judged in terms of your ability to garner financial aggregations. So, even wisdom and art have a financial reference point. Human creativity in science as well as in art has become linked to the market places. So, countries within countries are taking shape - one for the top one percent of the population and other for the rest, laying the foundations for a tragedy in the future.

The denial of moral law and psychic transformation of the youth through these sense based values of affluence and their desensitization to eternal values, is leading the entire human race to the growth of violence in the human mind. And all this done in the name of progress and is one of the principle reasons for the aggregating chaos. The pomp and power of external wealth always ends in deforming of the humans. As it had happened in the past, the search for singularities without multipolar unity in diversity, civilizations will burst into conflagration.

People have lost consciousness of the sacred and the entire spirit of sacredness has been transferred to meaningless, material and physical aspects of the human beings. Return of the eternal values reflected in every aspect of nature, dialogue will only be a recourse when violence no longer appears the only option.

Let us step back and see the Unity and interconnectedness of all phenomena and all that exists on our planet. When a tribal in Brazil goes and touches a stone in the ransacked rain forest, he is pleading for the protection of his sacred places.

A New Vision

Through a dialogue between diverse religious and cultural traditions, we need to evolve a new human vision. The multipolarity of this vision will end discrimination between different traditions, and recognise their contributions to the eternal values as the foundation of the entire human civilization.

Each nation in terms of its physical and human resources, and the intensity of its own religious and cultural traditions, should evolve its own vision in terms of its needs and desires.

The harmonization of diversities of nations with the larger nations with the human vision can start a new process of globalised world diversity, peace and harmony.