It goes without saying that one of the major all-encompassing events of the last part of the second millennium was undoubtedly the advent of globalization, as a clear political expression of the triumphing capitalism and market economy theories, following the end of the Cold War and the bi-polarization of the world.
The concept of globalization, itself, was not something new to mankind, it was a dream nurtured over the centuries, by various thinkers and statesmen who failed to see it materialize in such a magnitude as is the case today. However, this hope was rekindled in modern times by a thought crafted, that the rapid technological advances achieved by humanity will ultimately result in the world becoming a “planetary village”.
After the short-lived euphoria that followed the birth of the globalization, soon fear and mistrust ensued and many a nation saw in it Trojan horse for hegemony and control carefully and intelligently mounted with the intention to impose a McWorld1 on humanity at large. The diplomatic denunciation of this concept came from France that saw in this act an Anglo-Saxon drive to control the world and consequently destroy progressively all other cultures, languages and civilizations. To thwart this veiled aggression on cultural values of humanity; the French called on the world to respect the “other” and his culture2 and to defend it from the onslaught of the global uniformization.
Nowadays, however, the rejection of globalization has taken an unfortunate turn, for each international conference attended by the world main powers or G8 meetings is marred by bouts of violent clashes between the security forces of the host country and anti-globalization militants who congregate to the site of the meeting from all over the world. The last of these saw the death of the young Italian protester Carlo Giuliani (23 years) in the city of Genoa where G8 leaders were meeting lately in July 2001. According to political analysts and observers, these international events are tuning more into occasions for the celebration of anti-globalization than what they were meant for in the first place.
The legitimate fear expressed by the rejectionists of globalization worldwide, whether peaceful or violent, means that if this phenomenon is left unchecked it will destroy everything around it in a flash, and especially vulnerable cultures with no economic strength. This may not be the ultimate reason for which globalization was set up for in the first place, but it is an outcome that has to be taken into consideration.
Globalization would not be seen today as an overwhelming danger to humanity by many, if it were not for its ability to stifle the local cultural expression for the sake of uniformity at the global level.
Education, more than ever before, is solicited today by everyone to prepare the individual to face the challenges of the future and the uncertainties of tomorrow with determination, responsibility and faith. To achieve this, education is called upon to display, in no doubtful terms, openness and flexibility towards what is different and unknown, with a view to achieving fully the overall objective of learning to live together.
Learning to live together is an integral part of the ongoing life exercise of constructing meaning, for there is no such a thing as absolute truth and it should be emphasized that expressing the wish to live together involves much affectivity and a great deal of emotions.
Education, to be relevant, has to help the individual construct his own “structure of meaning” by helping him and providing him with the necessary tools for building painstakingly his values, ethics, attitudes and behaviour as well as his own personal code of morality, obviously in tune with that of his society, which will constitute his own natural baggage in life. As such, the individual is required to learn self-esteem and self-respect which are the basis for accepting the “other” in his “otherness” and showing solidarity, respect and empathy for him. Self-respect and self-esteem are the basic qualities that make coexistence, cooperation, mutual understanding, and conflict resolution something achievable and possible.
Intolerance, hatred and rejection of the “other” by means of violence and/or ostracism are generally the end result of ignorance and stereotyping. So, expressing the wish and the willingness to learn to live together entails unequivocally knowledge.
Armed wit knowledge, the individual pushes further daily the limits of fear and broadens the field of mutual understanding and acceptance. And, likewise, investigates one’s strengths and weaknesses and learns to discover other people’s passions, fears, customs, beliefs, expectations, motivations, suffering as well as needs and aspirations.
The learning process is a matter of faith in humanity as a whole and faith in the individual, and the desire to work together towards carrying out joint projects and ultimately fulfilling common dreams and aspirations for a better future for everyone.
To achieve these lofty ideals and to give the education a new meaning and a new lease of life, the learning process has to reach out to common values and cultural diversity to overcome ethnocentric tendencies.