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A global cultural revolution

Since the end of the cold war, hundreds of new concepts spread like wildfire to the remotest corners of the globe, expressing themselves through the means of a new language. Higgledy-piggledy, let us give a few examples:

globalization with a human face, global citizenship, sustainable development, good governance, consensus-building, global ethic, cultural diversity, cultural liberty, dialogue among civilizations, quality of life, quality education, education for all, right to choose, informed choice, informed consent, gender, equal opportunity, equity principle, mainstreaming, empowerment, NGOs, civil society, partnerships, transparency, bottom-up participation, accountability, holism, broad-based consultation, facilitation, inclusion, awareness-raising, clarification of values, capacity-building, women’s rights, children’s rights, reproductive rights, sexual orientation, safe abortion, safe motherhood, the rights approach, win-win, enabling environment, equal access, life skills education, peer education, bodily integrity, internalization, ownership, agents of change, best practices, indicators of progress, culturally sensitive approaches, secular spirituality, Youth Parliament, peace education, the rights of future generations, corporate social responsibility, fair trade, human security, precautionary principle, prevention…

Nobody may any longer deny the predominance of these concepts in contemporary culture - the main feature of which is to be global.

This apparent mishmash of words and concepts may not be altogether condemned nor endorsed. Genuine human aspirations and perennial values got entangled with the bitter fruits of Western apostasy, which corrupted the process of globalization from within.

The new global language, however, tends to exclude words specifically belonging to the Judeo-Christian tradition, such as:

truth, morality, conscience, reason, heart, virginity, chastity, spouse, husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, complementarity, service, help, authority, hierarchy, justice, law, commandment, dogma, faith, charity, hope, suffering, sin, friend, enemy, nature, representation…

Didn’t Jacques Derrida, the master of postmodern deconstructionism, suggest in an interview by the French newspaper Le Monde, shortly before dying in 2004, to eliminate the word “marriage” from the French civil code so as to resolve the issue of the juridical status of homosexual couples? The exclusion of certain words is a factor that must be taken into consideration when analyzing the challenges of the global ethic.

A certain number of new concepts turned into global paradigms. A spontaneous generation of concepts thus became a normative process, through which the minorities in power imposed on all their ideological interpretation of the new concepts: the normative process was accompanied by a process of ideological radicalization. To speak publicly of homosexuality as a sin, for instance, now amounts to breaching one of the supreme norms of the new culture: the absolute right to choose or the principle of non-discrimination.

The new paradigms reflect dramatic paradigm shifts marking the transition of Western civilization from modernity to postmodernity. The new, postmodern paradigms destabilize the old, modern paradigms. Let us give a few examples of these shifts:

from development as growth to sustainable development, from government to governance, from representative democracy to participatory democracy, from authority to the autonomy and rights of the individual, from spouses to partners, from happiness to quality of life, from the given to the constructed, from the family to various forms of families, from parents to reproducers, from objective and measurable material needs to an arbitrary rights approach, from charity to rights, from cultural identity to cultural diversity, from majority vote to consensus, from confrontation to dialogue, from international security to human security, from universal values to a global ethic, and so on.

The cultural changes that have taken place since the end of the cold war have the magnitude of a global cultural revolution. Their implications are extremely complex and must be studied one by one with the utmost care.

The influence of the new norms is not limited to the adoption of a new conceptual framework: the new paradigms became dynamic action principles, which have already led to concrete and irreversible transformations in all sectors of social and political life. These transformations affect us all directly, where we are, in our daily lives, especially in the areas that are the most important for personal and social morality, such as education and health: new laws and policies, radical changes in mentalities and lifestyles, codes of conduct for businesses and institutions, changes in the content of curricula and textbooks, new norms and decision-making methods in politics, health care and education systems, new strategic priorities for international cooperation, radically new approaches to development, fundamental transformation of democratic principles and mechanisms - a new social ethos imposed on all.

The efficiency of the revolutionary process has been such that the new concepts are by now omnipresent. They imbibe the culture of international, supranational and regional organizations, the culture of governments and their ministries, political parties (both left and right) and local authorities, corporate culture, the culture of health and education systems, the culture of the media, the culture of countless networks of NGOs and transnational governance. At various degrees, the new language has also penetrated into world religions - even in Catholic NGOs and charities.

Everywhere in the world, societies and nations now live in a culture governed by the values of consensus, diversity, partnerships, sustainability, holism, choice, gender equity, bottom-up participation and so on. For better or for worse, whether or not we are aware of it, the global culture educates us all. Let us repeat that the content of this culture, which is externally seducing, is not self-evident. It is not neutral - neutrality being a myth invented by the proponents of laïcité, that nobody ever genuinely believed in. The new values are ambivalent. The possibility of a genuine consensus coexists with a radical agenda. Ambivalence is not a synonym of toleration and choice, although the majority would tend to believe so. Ambivalence is a process of deconstruction of reality and truth, which leads to the arbitrary exercise of power, domination and intolerance. The paradox of postmodernity is to seek to deconstruct the modern ways of exercising power yet at the same time introducing new, more sophisticated and subtle ways of power-grabbing.

Integrated in a culture, the new concepts are not a jumble. They are in a dynamic driven by an inner logic. The new concepts are interrelated, interactive, interdependent, indivisible, mutually reinforcing. They belong to a system, a whole in which all is in all. For example, in the new system, good governance, which presupposes consensus-building and bottom-up NGO participation, is the way to implement sustainable development, which goes through gender equity, of which universal access to reproductive health, itself founded on informed choice and the right to choose (i.e. the right to abortion), is the precondition. The new paradigms are themselves holistic - to the point of totally including each other.

A new ethic gives the new paradigms their unifying configuration. This ethic is global. The global ethic has taken the place of the universal values on which the international order had been founded in 1945 and by now considered obsolete. The starting and end points of the global ethic are not those of the traditional concept of universality: the global ethic is marred by radicalization. It is impossible to understand it without relating it to the “new theology” which preceded the cultural revolution and pushed God’s transcendence “on the other side”, entrusting immanence to man.

Most of the new norms have not yet formally entered international law and therefore are not yet legally binding. Yet the power of the revolution was such that they bind differently, not only governments but, primarily, mentalities and behaviours inside all the cultures of the world. The new ethic is a Diktat. In terms of efficacy and efficiency, it seems more powerful than the rule of law and international law. In practice, it already rules the nations of the world. Which head of state proposed, articulated and spelled out alternatives to the new paradigms? Which organization successfully challenged their underlying principles? Which culture effectively opposed resistance? The fact is that all influential social and political actors all over the world, not only did not resist, but internalized and now own the new paradigms. Alignment has been general.

In spite of its devastating efficiency, the cultural revolution went almost unnoticed. It has been a quiet revolution. It took place without bloodshed, without open confrontation, without coup d’état or overthrow of institutions. There even never has been, anywhere in the world, an open and sustained democratic debate on the content of the new concepts. Without wanting to minimize the responsibility of those who did not take the revolution seriously while it was happening, these factors contribute to explaining that no organized opposition or resistance manifested itself. Everything happened by stealth, by way of consensus-building, advocacy, awareness-raising and sensitization campaigns, formal-informals, peer counselling, clarification (the “experts” do it for you and determine what is right), dialogue, partnerships, parallel processes, social engineering, cultural adjustment and other soft techniques of social change that are manipulative insofar as they hide an agenda and are used to impose on the majority the agenda of a few.

The revolution took place both above and under the national level (at the UN and through the NGO movement, abusively called “civil society movement”). The true owners of the agenda are not governments nor the citizens they represent, but pressure groups pursuing special interests which, as we shall see, grabbed global normative power by stealth. These groups were the spearhead of the revolution, the trailblazers, the experts who forged the new, manipulative language, the sensitizers who led “global campaigns”, the consensus-builders, the facilitators, the primary partners of global governance, the social engineers, the champions of the global ethic.

Bypassing democratic principles, the revolution did not upset the external structures of political institutions. It did not change their mandate. It did not bring about a new political regime. Radical changes of mentality and behavior occurred within institutions, inside enterprises, schools, universities, hospitals, cultures, governments, families - inside the Church. The institutional façade remains standing, while foreigners already occupy the rooms. The enemy must be sought within: inside is the new combat ground.