Globalism has exacerbated the competition between populations internally engaged in the competitive struggle for survival. The excessive competition nations and communities experience today goes beyond a survival-motivated grab for essential resources that has resulted in concentrating over 50% of the world's wealth in the hands of 2% of its inhabitants. This massive material imbalance provides convincing evidence that we live in a world out of spiritual balance. A grossly skewed distribution of wealth (and power) is not the only evidence, but perhaps it is the most obvious testimony of today's spiritual poverty.
Admittedly, human civilization in any cultural expression has always fallen short of the ideal, but modern Globalism's impact excessively distorts every aspect of life it touches. The shape and form of today's societal ills have much to do with the world's political, economic and spiritual policies, which are driven by widespread greed and the elite's particular lust for power and status through a phenomenon of equal opportunity corruption at the expense of the average person.
Globalism corrupts the few who are winners and crushes the billions at the bottom levels of the worldwide human pyramid of power, wealth and status. Only at the limited and illusive midpoints of success may one find a balance particular to each person's identity. As I will discuss later, any balance in life leading to a creative identity formation is a spiritual process. Healthy spirituality demands each of us to exercise a freely chosen, determining role in its development and practice.
A Short Spiritual History of Globalism
The globalist dream goes back into the dimmest recesses of human history. It is clothed in the myths of beginnings, which shroud probable cores of truth with powerful spiritual symbols. Even in today's political and economic rebirth of the European Union, we find mythic imagery that hearkens back to Zeus' rape of Europa and the erection of the Tower of Babel. Even before that famous first ziggurat, the Bible discusses the spiritual beginnings of urbanism, which cannot be separated from the transformation of historical western civilization into modern Globalism.
Globalism emanates from the great cities of the globe. The sociocultural systems that came together to create the first cities out of agriculturally based villages and towns now drive the juggernaut I refer to as Globalism. Its ultimate expression would be a massive urban system of continuously connected megalopolises. Just as the "miracle" of compound interest (so simply and memorably illustrated in the classic book, The Richest Man in Babylon, by George Samuel Clason) can make a mountain of money out of modest savings given enough time, so the first urban centers have compounded their growth in wealth, influence and power to become today's Globalism.
Since most of us live in cities and all of us suffer exposure to Globalism's impact, wisdom demands a little historical journey in order to better recognize and understand global materialism's hazardous influence on healthy spiritual growth. We cannot ignore the Judeo-Christian traditions and scriptures as a primary spiritual resource of western civilization. The powerful truths of its stories and symbols have inspired sacrificial altruism and intolerant inquisition both. Despite the fact that considerable incongruity exists between the values promoted by the words of Scripture in broad context and what the history of western sociopolitical structures demonstrates was actually practiced, the Bible's moral and ethical authority remains as a potential counterbalance to the spiritual distortions promoted in the name of God and/or the church.
Its first book of Genesis reveals where, when and by whom human civilization began to oppress its citizens in a way that inspired and rewarded evil. My definition of evil is:
That which steals life from another is evil. It is evil whether the theft is one of property or of the life force. It is true if the theft is total or partial, because partial theft or damage may contribute to the inability to provide for necessary biological needs, promote moral weakness, result in physical sickness or contribute to psychological depression. If the theft of life is complete, it obviously results in the death of the victim. It is this spiritually predatory activity of depleting the life force of human and beast that exacerbates evil thoughts and deeds... ( In Search of Spirituality, Chapter 1)
Cain invented the city to get around God's punishment for killing his brother Abel. A farmer by trade, Cain could not make anything grow. This curse followed him wherever he wandered as punishment for murdering his brother. (Genesis 4:12) Because the ground was cursed for him but not for others, Cain decided to settle down at the crossroads of trade routes and built the first city, called Enoch after his son. He made himself its king so that he could collect (income) taxes off of others' produce and labor. (Genesis 4:9-17) From the creation of his city-state kingdom, the way of Cain meanders its way through time to become the road to Babylon and later, to Rome.
If Cain is the eponymous great grandfather of Globalism, then Nimrod is the mythical grandfather. Mythical and biblical sources cite the construction of the first Tower of Babel by Nimrod as the first major public works effort after the Flood. Most archaeologists equate this tower with the Mesopotamian ziggurat. Here is the biblical account:
Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.
It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly." And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."
The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech."
So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-9)
Most people remember the Tower of Babel as the time when human languages became diversified from the original Hebrew. They do not think about why God did it, and the lesson is valid whether one believes in a literal or symbolic interpretation of that collection of religious writings. When the rest of the Bible is read, the answer is plain. God divided human languages to diversify human culture so as to delay the political and spiritual purposes behind the tower's building. Nimrod sought to unify the world into one kingdom, as one mass of humans in one name. This is the first time politics was used to enforce a spiritual ideology, and we find political power in operation against the Creator. Genesis 10:25 and 32 reveal that God had wanted the families of humanity to move apart from one another and scattered across the face of the earth in order to fill it with families grown large as tribes and nations.
God's spiritual plan was to create unique persons living in families and tribes distinct from each other. Nimrod's plan was to accumulate power based on the number of people controlled and have them build a tower (uniting the population in a massive public works program) so that they could survive another Flood if need be. If the Creator may be called the King of the Earth, logic and tradition both identify Nimrod's motives as putting himself up as the anti-king in opposition to God. Today, we would call him an antichrist.
The ancient tales all agree that Nimrod, and most all of the ancient kings, did not tolerate the existence of another equal in political or spiritual power within their reach. These city-state kings used the social dynamics of urbanism to consolidate their power. By forcefully bringing the people under the control of the city-state, a king would break down tribal and family loyalties that might create a power base to oppose him. Ancient kings figuratively or literally headed the state's religious system, too. The citizens were taught to look to the king as their "father" representing God's forceful will and judgment on earth. Historically, this concept continued down through the ages in slightly different formats. Philosophically, this concept evolved to become known as the "divine right" of kings. With the institution of kingship always came a form of nobility or elites, whose power base was always military, religious and/or economic.
With city-states also came the first wars for wealth waged in the name of various gods. Terrible political instability characterized ancient Mesopotamia until Sargon the Great of Akkad. He was the first person in secular history to create a kingdom consisting of more than one city-state through a controlled policy of religious tolerance. The worship of more than one deity was permitted. As long as Sargon's power was acknowledged as primary, conquered cities could continue to practice their local religious customs in honor of their cities' gods.
This pattern of kings consolidating power over many cities and gods continued for centuries with more or less notable success. The Assyrian kings and Nebuchadnezzar are notable examples of success with some applied improvements to the original concepts of empire building. After the New Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar and his descendants, the Persians actually took a step in the direction of centralizing their authority through a judicious use of autonomy in bureaucratic organization and religious freedom. For example, Cyrus introduced the Persian era by letting the Jewish exiles return to their homeland from their scattered captivity throughout Babylonia and other regions under Persian control. They had their own governor and priesthood and were permitted to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. This freedom permitted the Jews to create a society and culture more based on the Bible than any other era of Israel's history.
Classic Greek civilization was built upon a Babylonian foundation with unique advances in artistic expression, politics and philosophy. Greek history and culture has had contributed to the foundation of modern western civilization due to its enthusiastic adoption and promulgation by Alexander the Great. Alexander was a major innovator in the development of spiritual, political and economic Globalism. Because he believed that Greek culture, politics, sports, language and philosophy was universally superior to anything else, Alexander imposed it upon the peoples and empires he conquered. His enforced enlightenment intrinsically possessed great appeal to the conquered peoples as well. Everywhere he went, the urban elites embraced Alexander's program of Hellenization in much the same way that modern nations readily import and adapt many features and values of modern American culture as spread by global technology and trade.
I consider Alexander the Great the spiritual father of modern Globalism. Remember the inherently organic bond between urbanism and Globalism. Alexander's city building accelerated the human trend toward planned urbanization worldwide. As a part of his program of Hellenization, he encouraged and at times commanded miscegenation or the purposed mixing of the many nations of humanity to create one genetic and cultural new world order under his reign. His program promoted syncretism of culture, religion and race.
Alexander consciously encouraged enculturation of all of his conquered peoples to the Greek ways of speaking, thinking and doing. He did this by building cities modeled after the Greek plan. As the founder of cities, Alexander made himself a god-king on par or superior to the great cities of ancient Greece, which were each founded by an eponymous Greek god or goddess according to the mythical and real history of the city. Greek city-states were mostly ruled by an elite club of oligarchs, often using democratic tools to commit the populace to their programs. More than just a symbol of civic identity and pride, the temple of the city's god or goddess served as the city's treasury and last point of defense.
Alexander was the most successful conqueror of all time. I think that God struck him down while young knowing that his empire would divide, and thus delay once again the rebellious trend of Globalism. The Jewish revolt against Hellenism under the Maccabees is celebrated annually at Hanukkah. If the miracle of eight days of light from one day's worth of oil is true, then it would seem that God approved of their intentions and blessed their relative liberty from the Globalism of that time even if He would not have commanded their resort to armed revolution. Despite the intrigues at the top of the theocratic Hasmonean Kingdom of the Jews, the result was a free practice of traditional Jewish customs by those who wanted to do so without being forcefully dominated by Hellenism.
Julius Caesar and others since sought to match Alexander's great record and failed. Through the Caesars, Alexander's legacy inspired the creation of the Roman Empire, which to this day epitomizes western civilization. Augustus Caesar and his immediate heirs established firm central control over the empire through the maintenance of republican institutions like the Senate and state political celebrations. The deification of Roman Emperors simply strengthened the centralized authority of the state.
Against Roman dominion, the Jewish Zealots revolted in the late AD 60s, which resulted in the termination of Jewish religious autonomy and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70. Another revolt began brewing in the 90s and erupted around 132 under the leadership of Rabbi Akiva and Simon Bar Kochba. They attempted to rebuild the Temple, and when Rome defeated their armies, the Jewish zealots retreated to the Judean Desert to hide in remote caves until they were hunted out. Emperor Hadrian sowed Jerusalem with salt, expelled all of the Jewish inhabitants and forbade any practice of Judaism. He also violently persecuted the Christians.
Diocletian (circa AD 300) separated the Roman Empire into Latin and Greek halves. He eliminated all semblance of republican government and declared himself Lord and God (Dominus et deus) combining into his person the roles of political and spiritual leader. Being divine in person, Diocletian established a number of protocols that removed himself from public view, which added divine mystery and authority to his person and office.
The Emperor Constantine reconsolidated the Empire under his rule and co-opted the Christian Church that became known as Roman Catholicism and the various Eastern Orthodox Churches (Greek, Coptic, Syrian, Armenian, etc.). His objective was to get control of a universal (that is, catholic) religion in order to unite the diverse peoples found within the boundaries of the Roman Empire under his own authority. Thus, Constantine called the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 to eliminate doctrinal differences between what had been a loose association of local churches of varying traditions. The Emperor eliminated those who opposed his plan to structure the church after the imperial bureaucracy and rewarded those who cooperated with his goals with money, church buildings and lands.
Constantine's innovation was to globalize religion to the service of the Empire. He eliminated potential competition by combining the Roman religion of political and military power with the mysterious power of the church named after a man who had lived 300 years before. Throughout human experience, it has always been more effective to control the masses through fear of bad eternal consequences (fear/reward religion) than to hire enough police to make the threat of mortal death an imminent reality.
Besides entering a debate as to how much biblical truth and practice was lost (Jesus' teachings in favor of non-violence and against war, for example.), the major consequence of Constantine's Romanization of Christian churches was the repression of dissention or divergent individual opinion on spiritual matters. The institution of Christmas is a good example of his syncretistic practice of separating the Christian church from its Jewish roots and welding it to Roman-pagan ones.
While Hanukkah created a cultural environment in which a Jewish baby could be born and grow up sinless, Christmas observance was purposefully designed to teach a biblically accurate doctrinal conclusion but link it to the Roman calendar, culture and authority. Besides the fact that the Bible nowhere commands the observance of Jesus' birth and only mentions observing His death at Passover, Christmas separated Jesus from both His Jewish context and the date of His birth from its probable placement in the fall. Religious observance of Christmas is a symbolic submission to and acceptance of the primacy and power of the Roman Church. Since its social and religious observance is rooted in a syncretistic and materialistic spirituality, it is not surprising that the Christmas season focuses on the commercialized fulfillment of excessive consumerism to the detriment of its originally intended religious message. Thus, the degree of commercialized focus in one's observance of Christmas is a good measure of Globalism's impact on his or her life.
The Roman system of combined and/or mutually supportive political and spiritual governance was reinvented and applied to medieval Europe by Charlemagne around 800, who combined his empire with control over the Roman Church to create the Holy Roman Empire. Through much of its history since then, the Roman Catholic Church has used its power to uphold the rule of political monarchs and despots and generally did not tolerate other Christian traditions. Through many inquisitions over the centuries, the Church brought political power to bear against competing faiths in exchange for opposing her champion's competing politicians. One hand helped the other as established by Charlemagne.
A thousand years after Charlemagne, Napoleon renewed and improved upon the Roman Empire model in extending France's dominion over the European continent. No only did he modernize the governing bureaucracy along with the army, Napoleon managed to get himself "elected" Emperor. He introduced the practice of giving the people the illusion that they had a hand in determining who ruled them and what their fates would be.
Since Napoleon, the world has lurched through one imperious nation-state empire to another. After two named World Wars, Globalism now clothes itself with international organizations. Some of them are multi-national corporations, and others are non-government organizations usually non-profit charities initially funded and controlled by elite families. Finally, we have experience the rapid growth of international committees or councils of nation states. Some examples are the regional trade and tariff zones such as the European Union, NAFTA, the World Trade Organization and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). A number of organizations also work towards religious unity in conjunction with various global organizations such as the United Nations.
Looking ahead in time, the trend of Globalism is towards increased central control of power over the entire planet. If it follows the historical pattern, there will be an impression of democratic input, but the actual governance will emerge from public and private competition between the wealthy and powerful elite of this age. There will be an illusion of great peace and prosperity that mandate political stability. We can expect official encouragement for a unified religious organization to enforce support of global institutions in the name of tolerance. As I will next discuss, it will actually be a materialistic form of spirituality that presents the image of truth and liberty, even as it suppresses the creative development of a genuinely balanced and healthy spirituality.