Globalization: A Summon to Social Renewal in the 21st Century

Globalization: A Summon to Social Renewal in the 21st Century

By Hazel Henderson

Hazel Henderson offered these remarks at the Center’s Second Annual Global Citizen Awards Ceremony, held in 1996. Her award co-recipient that year was Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. Ms. Henderson is the author of many books, including Planetary Citizenship (2004), a dialogue with Center founder Daisaku Ikeda, and Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy (2006). She was introduced by Ambassador Juan Somavia, Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations.

Juan Somavia: An Introduction

As a friend and colleague of Hazel Henderson, it is my privilege this evening to salute Dr. Henderson’s global solutions shaping, both intellectually and politically, the way policy makers and civil society alike think about economics and society in general. Hazel has creatively and tirelessly urged us to apply human values to the “dismal science,” to challenge the commonly accepted notion that the market, left to its own, will solve all social problems. She has coined phrases like the “global casino” to powerfully illustrate that economics is very much a human science in which things sometimes can go wrong. Hazel’s ability to synthesize extremely complex concepts into succinct expressions is one of her distinguishing gifts.

Hazel says “No” to the nay-sayers who would have us believe that there aren’t enough resources to eradicate poverty or that no one can change the patterns or pace of the globalization process. Instead, she proposes alternative paradigms. She makes it evident that so many decisions presented as technical are truly political options that favor some people over others.

Courage, even daring, is an image that comes to mind when I think of Hazel. She has led a frontal assault to question the way that contemporary economics is taught and practiced, laying bare our underlying assumptions and seeking to frame new models of analysis and strategies for the practice of economics which are more efficient and equitable in human terms. As a masterful speaker and an equally compelling teacher, she has ardently advocated for a bottom-up review and reform of the way we teach economics and the way we understand society. She directs us to think about the values which are built into our frameworks for economic and social governance to ensure that resources are well stewarded.

If her propositions sometimes seem a bit radical to some, it is largely because Hazel is not afraid to question why we should regard the status quo as immovable. Nor is she satisfied to assume the disenfranchised are but victims of circumstance.

The most forceful image that comes to mind in thinking of Hazel is what I would call in Spanish luminosidad — in English, “luminosity.” Why? Because she illuminates the spaces she enters. She illuminates the issues she addresses. She illuminates the people she touches. It is a luminosity born out of the inner conviction that individual human beings can make a difference. Of this, she is an outstanding example. She has chosen to swim against the current of prevailing wisdom. She engages both her mind and her heart in ways that fertilize our own spirit and kindle the hope that a better society is not a dream but a possibility we can mold and fashion with our own existence.

Like many others in the burgeoning global civil society movement, Hazel has embraced multilateralism as a rubric for organizing critical priority-setting for the twenty-first century community. She cofounded the Global Commission to Fund the United Nations and has since skillfully drawn together key stakeholders from business, NGOs, academia and beyond, all of whom feel passionately that a reinvigorated and effective UN, which puts the security of people at the heart of its endeavors, is worth all the efforts and resources necessary to ensure sustainable reform. Indeed, Hazel’s writing, speaking, and wit leave UN bashers sharpening their pencils in response. Her warmth and dedication enable her to move far ahead of them, building the kinds of alliances with friends and colleagues, so evident in this gathering tonight, that ensure a firm foundation for the necessary changes of the United Nations to promote peace and development for people into the UN’s next half century.

Hazel’s luminosity transforms her into a guiding light, a beacon, a truly empowering symbol. She has sought to rework the theoretical framework and practical expression of empowerment. She, more than most people, embraces and seeks to enhance this process for others. Talking as the ambassador of Chile, I have to say that Hazel is the true ambassador of the global civil society movement. I cannot imagine a person more suited to be called and thought of and respected as a Global Citizen than Hazel Henderson.

I am glad to be here, to share in the celebration, to join Hazel’s many admirers. May all of us together give her the friendship, the love, and the energy to continue illuminating us all well into the twenty-first century.

Hazel Henderson: Globalization: A Summon to Social Renewal in the 21st Century

We all have much to do as we approach the new millennium. Today, our powerful technological and conceptual tools have escaped our grasp. From nuclear proliferation and toxic chemicals to our malfunctioning political systems and obsolete economics textbooks and the charters which empower our corporations globally, many of our tools are out of control. Their often unanticipated consequences now challenge us to match our over-developed skills at technological and product innovation with a matching focus on new efforts and reward systems to call forth the needed social innovations to tame and steer these technologies.

Let us encourage ourselves by remembering that the very concept of global citizenship is a rather new phenomenon. As the late Jonas Salk told me a few weeks before he died, “Global citizens, who take responsibility beyond themselves and their communities for the whole human family and this planet, are cultural mutants,” a sort of feedback system to course-correct directions for our human family. A state senator I met two days ago used a similar metaphor. She confided to me that she and I (and so many activists like us here today) are functioning in the body of politic as “antibodies.” We somehow sense the sickness in our societies and simply rush to repair and heal as Nature designed antibodies do.

I also believe that this impulse to be a global citizen is intuitive, driven by concern for the future. Whatever our faith and wisdom traditions, we swim upstream as “contrarians” in today’s globalization of industrialism, materialism, and technological expansionism. We share the old visions of the Golden Rule and our place within the divine creation. We search for new ways to reinvent ourselves and redesign our social architecture. I seek to understand my role as a human being at this stage in our social and cultural evolution and, as the Budda taught, to be fully awake — to all the beauty and opportunities for learning and service.

Today’s challenges lie in the often unintended consequences of the great forces we have unleashed which are globalizing: 1) our technologies of industrialization and those of today’s Information Age; 2) our financial systems and today’s unregulated “global casino”; 3) work and the great migrations it engenders as corporations seek cheaper labor and people cross borders looking for jobs and better lives; 4) the post-Cold War arms trade; 5) the human effects on the biosphere; and 6) human cultures.

There is good news and bad news in all of these great globalizations. They have eroded the sovereignty of every nation and restructured every city and community all over the planet. We cannot go back. Civil society groups, many of whom oppose globalization, must abandon simple theories of “restoring equilibrium.” Too much evidence now exists that all life forms, including the human species and our technological tools, have evolved over millions of years on this planet through processes of rapid change and continual disequilibrium. Agrarian rural life, to which many yearn to return, was in itself a revolution which disenfranchised and displaced millions of nomadic peoples.

Today, we must ask ourselves which kinds of globalization are life-threatening? Clearly they include nuclear proliferation, the global arms trade, destruction of the planet’s ozone shield, and pollution of our atmosphere and oceans. All of these require regulation and redirection toward civilian priorities. Which global trends can help evolve human cultures in positive directions? For example, the globalization of information and culture holds much promise. Yet to serve human development, media must be redirected from corporate conglomerations and “government by mediocracy” based on spreading wasteful, unsustainable, Western-style commercial consumerism and its many addictions.

We can remind ourselves that it is small businesses which create most the world’s jobs – rather than the global corporations which are automating, downsizing, and moving offshore into that global fast lane. For example, in the USA, 8 million women-owned businesses employ one out of every four Americans — more than all of the Fortune 500 companies put together. Both socially responsible businesses and investors, together with these business owners, turn out not to be primarily profit maximizers. They confound those nineteenth century economics textbooks by putting first their hopes to contribute positively to society, to make the world a better place, and for self-expression and economic self-reliance before that of micro-enterprises are an essential part of healthy development and that the poorest entrepreneurs pay back their small loans more faithfully than do the rich. We also know that most of the world’s livelihoods are still made outside the money economy by careful stewardship and traditional uses of natural resources.

My vision of a healthy world trade system is one shifting from hardware (goods) to software, services, and “exchanging our cultural DNA.” Most countries are capable of meeting many of their basic production needs and growing their domestic industries, which at full-cost prices will finally be revealed as most efficient. When economic and thermodynamic efficiencies are aligned, the British economist John Maynard Keynes’s observation will be proved correct: that it is better to transport recipes than cakes. But we must see that we can all win if we also share these recipes. Countries can make cooperative agreements to share greener and innovative technologies, not hoard them, as in current trade agreements. Information is not scarce, yet economics is still about scarcity. Information is also cracking the old global money monopolies as high-tech barter and all kinds of direct exchanges are proliferating. A healthy world trade system will celebrate and reward cultural and biological diversity as we learn to savor each other’s music, art, dance, cuisine, and biodiversity.

The United Nations is revitalizing itself for the new century. It is capitalizing on its considerable strengths and reshaping itself for the Information Age. The UN continues to be the world’s best convener, broker, networker, standard setter, and fosterer of new norms for our global human family. Some nations have resisted the UN’s inclusion of grassroots civil organizations in its activities and conferences. Many countries believe that the UN should remain exclusively an association of national governments. Some nations have used the UN as a “fig leaf” and others as a scapegoat — whichever best justifies their national interests and policies. Unfortunately, in my own country, the UN has become a “political football.” This, and withholding our $1.5 billion in back dues, has caused the unnecessary financial crisis which the UN is currently undergoing.

I am glad that think tanks and organizations such as the Boston Research Center and its founder, Mr. Ikeda, and all the other leaders here exist to focus attention and further research on the growing power of civil society and the emergence of global citizenship around the world. Meanwhile, we must remember some 2 billion of our brothers and sisters in other countries still suffer the deprivations and lack of basic food, clean water, health care, education, and human rights. We hope that civil society organizations, such as Amnesty International, and others, together with the world’s media will keep their searchlights on all these oppressed members of the human family as well as all abuses of power.

Let me close with a quotation from one of my heroes, the courageous Bella Abzug, former Congresswoman from New York and founder of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO):

Our struggle is about reversing the trends of social, economic, and ecological crisis … about creating sustainable livelihoods and attainable dreams … about creating violence-free families. And then violence-free streets. Then violence-free borders … To realize our dreams, we must keep our heads in the clouds and our feet on the ground.

And Nelson Mandela reminds us that we need not be afraid to be great — each of us is a child of God. Let us keep that spark of divinity we all carry within us shining brightly as we continue working to shape wiser, more just, and loving societies.