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Report on the International Sharing
"ROOTS AND WINGS"

When Social Activists Share Their Life Story

4. TOWARDS ANOTHER SOCIAL ACTIVISM?

5. THE VITAL NEED FOR CULTURAL CHANGE BEYOND MODERNITY



4. TOWARDS ANOTHER SOCIAL ACTIVISM?

It should be clear from the previous pages that spirituality-based social action leads to a different type of activism. In an attempt to streamline the differences between old and new activism, one would suggest the following chart:

 

TRADITIONAL ACTIVISM ALTERNATIVE ACTIVISM
1. Secularized and materialist approach
Little room for spirituality, nor much care for interpersonal relations
1. Spiritual approach
Focus on the invisible,the psychological and spiritual dimensions; care for interpersonal relations (but no neglect for the material side and for power relations either)
2. Result-oriented
Focus on what is visible, measurable, on size, growth, strength; ends justify the means (result-oriented) e.g. Leninism (also capitalism of course!)
2. Process-oriented
Means coherent with ends (process-oriented)
Non-violent (A.N.V.)
Smallness and mutuality; connectivity
3. Specialised, one-issue oriented
Compartmentalised approach to knowledge and action; "expertise"based on a single discipline
3. Multifunctional, holistic approach
Dealing with complexity; inter-cultural and Inter/trans - disciplinary; focus on connectivity
4. Rational and voluntaristic
Rational (cold) analysis (from a distance) and decision making to lead to control of reality; planning of action and remaining in control; pre-set convictions (ideology)
4. Holistic and synergizing
Both rational and mystic idioms to understand reality and plan action; social action as a spiritual task; let-go
5. Dominating (top-down)
"Vanguard" mentality: knowing (what is good) "for the people"; dominating; paternalism (also "leftist paternalism"); people as objects of analysis and planning; patriarchal
5. Participative (bottom-up)
Participatory Action Research: intellectual modesty; psychological ability to listen and be patient; people as active subjects of analysis and of action
6. Preoccupation with State power
Seizing power and exercising power
6. Preoccupation with civil society
Empowering people and enabling participative communities
7. Culture blind
No attention to local cultural dynamics; Counter-cultural projects; cultural imperialism
7.Culture-oriented
Local cultures as starting point (and consequently intense peoples' participation); culture as meaning-giving

5. THE VITAL NEED FOR CULTURAL CHANGE BEYOND MODERNITY

We are threatened by the great sameness which descends from above. The sweeping homogenisation of culture and ecosystems is taking place at an ever accelerating pace, enhanced by globalisation. The Italian participant was adamant: "Since the encounter of traditional societies with modernity in both South (think of most of the "third world") and North (think of Scotland and generally speaking of rural Europe...) is normally "of a terminal nature", our generation and that of our children may well be the last to be able to devise effective means to resist the universalisation of this tendency and the completion of the environmental and social destruction through the systematic elimination of diversity."

"Modernity leads to devastation. There is a construction fault deep down inside modernity. Its compulsive need for "more" is a half-conscious suicide", said the French anthropologist in our group. "That is why the "cultures of survival" of indigenous people and aboriginal or tribal communities teach us essential lessons," said one Anglo/Italian participant.

Network Cultures would agree but would add, on the basis of last year's research on "the embeddedness of economic life in local cultural dynamics" that hopeful lessons can also be drawn from today's new, hybrid cultures of people in South and North. They combine aspects of modernity with their own traditional values, skills and aspirations. These are not traditional cultures anymore. They are new (some call them neo-traditional) and one would hope that from them will grow cultures with characteristics which enable them to cope with the present challenges.(...)

 

These are extracts from our special issue "Roots and Wings"on the Spirituality of Social Commitment. To have the full text, please subscribe or order the issues

   
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