Popular belief is that globalizing forces are building a newly integrated world order. However, some suggest that while we may be closer together, in this globalized world, we have never been further apart. This prospective globalized world would have significant implications for culture and communication. I consider, in this paper, what cultural and civilizational arenas may appear in this looming globalized world (or conversely in an increasingly fractured world along civilizational fault lines), and whether intercultural communication may be largely replaced by supracultural communication, in a new-world overarching supraculture, all working towards what may be mankind’s ultimate feat or failure.
In this paper we look at processes working for and against globalization, and what the implications are for intercultural and supracultural communication in a new integrated globalized world of converging civilizations, or alternatively, in a fragmented new world disorder of competing civilizations.
The ancient history of Babylon is pertinent as a starting point to understand what is happening in the present world concerning globalization. This history is documented in the “Books of Moses” for three of the world’s religions, which underpin vast present-day civilizations. These “Books of Moses” are referred to as the Torah by both Jews and Moslems, and the Pentateuch by Christians.
That great city Babylon, of the ancient world, nestled on the plains in Shinar, is a classical example of the process of globalization in reverse or reflected in a mirror. Babylon, as the accounts of Moses (Genesis 11), Josephus (2002, 1:4:3) and Sibyl inform us, went from a united to a shattered “world” when its only language was fragmented into many different tongues.
Josephus records that the multitude, in Babylon, built a tower and it grew very high. It was such a great feat, so huge and so strongly built, that its great height seemed to be less than it really was. God then caused a tumult by producing, in the multitude, a diverse array of languages, so that they should not understand one another. This chaos thwarted them in their civilization’s endeavours. The place is now called Babylon, because of the confusion of languages.
Josephus also notes that Sibyl mentions this by recording that when all men were of one language, some of them built a high tower to ascend up to heaven, but the gods overthrew the tower, and gave every one his peculiar language. The city was called Babylon.
Many would argue that we see the reflected mirror image of these events in the contemporary world, as the many nations, with different languages and cultures, become globalized into one supranational culture, and eventually one would therefore suspect, into one supranational language, creole or pidgin.
Calvocoressi (2001, pp. xix, xx) introduces globalization with the following comment:
[Globalization] is a term coined to describe a revolution of Copernican magnitude. This revolution stems from the impact of technology on space and time as experienced by human beings; it affects what men and women know and think about each other, how they do business with one another and what institutions they need to regulate their affairs. … [It] has reached a critical phase. What was begun by the electric telegraph and the internal combustion engine [now] assumes a new significance, different not [only] in degree but in kind, when modern technology enabled people and ideas and knowledge, material and money to move from one place to another with astonishing speed, in unprecedented volume …
These forces and systems of globalization create one of the most formidable challenges confronting the contemporary world. Kluver (2000) attempts to define globalization as follows:
Globalization has been defined in various ways, but is most typically defined in reference to the interconnectedness of political entities, economic relationships, or even computer networks. Globalization refers primarily to the ways in which economic and industrial institutions (such as industries or corporations) interact in various locations throughout the world …
A globalized world may be termed a worldwide web of interdependence in which markets inexorably bind people and peoples together economically, to facilitate environmental, political, military, social and cultural interdependence.
At present the prime mover for this globalization process is economic activity, under a political agenda of democracy and free market forces, in a level playing field of private enterprise. However, close on the heels of this movement are the implications from a ripple effect for culture and communication.
That is, the increasing homogenization and interconnectedness of peoples and places through converging behaviors, ideas, values, beliefs, language and all they add up to – culture. This convergence is made possible, it is thought, through virtual proximity from communication and travel technologies which facilitate convergence of economies, politics, values, and social and cultural behaviors of various peoples.
The idea of proximity is made a reality by increasing levels of global-spatial connectivity which Marx (1973) called “annihilation of space by time” and Harvey (1989) referred to as “time-space compression”.
Although few would dispute the ubiquity, to a greater or lesser extent, of globalization, there is profound disagreement on the implications of whether these changes, on balance, are beneficial or deleterious for mankind at the individual, local and universal levels.
Three terms appear as prefixes in this paper and it would be good to clarify their meaning at the outset. The first prefix “inter” is taken to mean between two entities, or acting across the boundaries of two entities. For example, intercultural or international would mean acting from one culture or country to another culture or country respectively.
Further to this, the prefix “multi” as used in this paper, means a system or structure which incorporates various components or units, and each of these parts has characteristics that arise out of its own context, circumstances and environs. For example, a multinational corporation would be made up of various idiosyncratic units in different nations, and each unit would, in part, take its characteristics from the local surroundings. Of course, through some interactive connection, each unit would be integrated into the grander multinational corporation.
Finally, the prefix “supra” is used to mean that which transcends, is above or arching over various discrete units or components, and yet influences or determines, and at least in part, the nature and function of each of these units. This prefix may be used with supranational or supracultural.
A fundamental notion or concept of the modern political world has been that of nation states, with a lingua franca and pervasive culture existing, within each state, from a dominant ethnic group with its filtering-down cultural ethos. Based on this notion of peoples and their languages and cultures, the concept of intercultural communication became well established. That is, individuals from different nations, peoples and cultures, and of course therefore languages, could through empathy and an understanding of the other’s culture, communicate effectively across these man made barriers, by using a selection of effective principles and techniques.
However, internationalism, leading to supranationalism or globalization, rivals the concept of the nation state. The European Union is a purpose-built political creation based on a notion of globalization, at least on a micro or regional scale. We now know this emerging pan-European supranational combine, diminishing the role of the nation state, includes economic, political, social and military integration. The question must be asked in all honesty, could it eventually include a high level of cultural and linguistic integration as an inevitability?
Some purpose-built experiments in the supranational have failed because they have not welded peoples together. For example, Esperanto has largely failed as it has not taken hold to mushroom into anything significant beyond a scale of what is largely only of intellectual or academic interest.
Non-purpose-built items (as far as supranationalism is concerned) like Latin and Greek, which acted as dual lingua franca, in the Roman Empire welded many peoples together. In the contemporary world, such non-purpose items like English language and Internet have had a powerful impact on welding peoples together, and therefore made supranationalism possible. However, the supranational success of these was not predicted or even expected at their outset.
Could it be that as David Crystal suggests, with substantial supportive evidence, that English, for various reasons, may have reached a critical mass level in global spread and depth, and therefore, “It may be that English in some shape or form, will find itself in the service of the world community forever” (2001, p. 140).
Globalization, to viably weld people and their institutions together, requires a semblance of the following, to be held in common: language and culture, and all that is therefore implied, like values, beliefs and customs. History shows us that this will require an integration at various vital levels, to at least some minimum degree, for economic, social, and cultural convergence, which surely will need to be governed through supranational institutions (like police and military) for government and enforcement of rules and law. Could it be that institutions like Interpol, UN, ASEAN, NATO, Europol and Euroforce are forerunners of such prospective institutions?
In the world today, advocates of globalization argue that it is a logical and inevitable culmination of contemporary international democratic capitalism, leading to an improved world for all mankind as universal wealth and freedom will abound. These optimists would imagine a more uniform and homogeneous world, with a global culture uniting all mankind into a single universal community, unfettered by war, ethnic conflict and inequality (economic, political and social) – a virtual utopia.
In opposition, critics of globalization argue that such a world is not a panacea, a forgone conclusion or a natural culmination of forces. Even if it were attainable, they argue, such a world would be blandly homogeneous anyway and possibly pave the way for autocratic governance. These critics would also argue that local or parochial forces will hinder or halt the forces of globalization, and so foil the emergence of a globalized world. Such forces would be associated with conflicts in vested interests, or with perceived differences between peoples, no matter how large or small, and exploitation of the baser or beastlier elements of human nature like opportunism, jealousy, and greed.
Actually the reality of contemporary divides or schisms, at the civilizational level, are still manifestly stark as the following suggests:
The terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11, 2001, followed by the US-led war on Iraq in April 2003, crystallise the ideological, religious and cultural clashes that divide our world [and even its civilizations]. Hopes for world harmony contend with terrorist threats and inter-ethnic conflicts in the Balkans, parts of Asia, the Middle-East and the African continent. Peace negotiation and reconciliation collapse with each side claiming their respective rights to territorial sovereignty, economic parity and cultural autonomy (Leigh and Loo, 2004).
Samuel Huntington (1996), of Harvard University, argues that there is a great possibility for intercultural and inter-religious conflict between future world powers, each united from within through culture and religion, in a multi-polar world. As a critic he rejects the idea that the world will easily succumb to Western globalizing forces which have been mounted to displace the interests of both Eastern and Islamic peoples. However, these non-Western peoples may aggressively pursue their interests through their newly emerging international power blocs.
Swartz (2003) comments in relation to Huntington’s book:
The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. … [T]he principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.
Marshall McLuhan (1962, 1964), in the early sixties, used the term “global village” to refer to the power of mass media to bring events into our own lounge rooms from around the world. He argued that time and space had shrunk, to an extent that transformed human relationships, so that economic, political, social and cultural relationships could now operate on a global level. The globe had thus been reduced to a village – a worldwide interconnected and interdependent community. He asserted that in the new homogenized world, in which nation-states would be decreasingly relevant, standardized global commodities, like Coca Cola and McDonalds, symbolized the rise in the relevance and importance of global corporations.
Concurrent with the tentacles of mass media, the spokes of transport by road, rail, sea and air, had already begun, by that decade, to ferry people and goods to just about anywhere, in the world, within a few weeks. This global-village concept has now been extended to globalization in which time-space shrinkage means that intercultural contact is ubiquitous and at times dynamic in real time, as often occurring through electronic communication media, when not in person through international travel. Obviously boundaries are being torn down (Thomas, 2001) at an increasing rate now with the addition of mass international travel and incredible advances, of late, in communication technology.
Obviously there are vast differences between the global village and globalization. The global village related largely to non-interactive mass media and trade and commerce with implications for national economies to specialize in what they were good at doing more efficiently than others. However, globalization takes us a quantum leap to the possibility of an integrated world, to a higher degree than say a province could have been in previous decades. This degree of integration may now be strategically possible, at economic, political, social and cultural levels, through travel and transport of people and goods respectively, and real-time interactive communication. As an extension of the global village into globalization, for many of us, it could be said that “today we are living in globally designed and locally shaped villages” (Altan, 2003).
In addition to travel and communication, a newly emerging phenomenon termed “informatization” must now be taken into account. The new information technology supports informatization which makes possible, not only various real-time video and phonic communication, but also the handling of massive amounts of information (Kluver, 2000). In this technology vast amounts of information can be stored, retrieved and communicated around the world in an instant.
There are now even virtual libraries and full degree programs – all available online. As a result of these innovations, already there is for example, the University of the Web™, fully accredited, and up and running in the United Sates, with several programs for Bachelors and Masters degrees (Jones International University). And this is just one example of many as a host of other universities are now innovating to offer Bachelors and Masters degrees and even research doctoral (Ph.D.) programs online.
By using the informatization technology, reports can be made and circulated instantly around the world, from a sudden production-line pileup in a sister company abroad, to a riot in Rome, or a slump in stocks on the Tokyo stock exchange. And the overwhelming amount of this information is available to just about everyone who has an online computer.
We could term culture as the mental, social and linguistic activity that welds or binds a parochial people together, whether they share the same locale, or are geographically distant to one another like the British and Americans are. And culture is not just out there, existing apart and external from each one of us, but it is inside us, as we have internalized it to literally become an intimate or integral part of what we are mentally and behaviorally (Leigh, 2000). To put it absolutely succinctly, each specific “culture is … in every mind” of those who belong to it (Williams, 1989, p. 4).
Culture refers to the overall way of life and thinking of a people. Therefore, culture involves values, norms, institutions and modes of thinking to which each generation attaches prime importance. Culture, in its most eclectic way, incorporates and tends to set its people apart according to the following: blood, language, religion and way of life (Huntington, 1996, pp. 41-42).
Western Anglo Saxon culture and its various trappings have been purveyed around the world for well over two centuries. The colonizing activities, economic strength and trade of the two main English speaking countries took this Western culture, and its language, to the world at large. Crystal (2001, p. 8) suggests the following:
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Britain had become the world’s leading industrial and trading country. By the end of the century, the population of the USA (then approaching 100 million) was larger than that of any of the countries of western Europe, and its economy was the most productive and the fastest growing in the world. British political imperialism had sent English around the globe during the nineteenth century, so that it was a language ‘on which the sun never set’. During the twentieth century, this world presence was maintained and promoted, almost single-handedly, through the economic supremacy of the new American superpower. And the language behind the US dollar was English.
Further Crystal (2001, p. 53) says:
The present-day world status of English is primarily the result of two factors: the expansion of British colonial power, which peaked towards the end of the nineteenth century, and the emergence of the United States as the leading economic power of the twentieth century. It is the latter factor which continues to explain the world position of the English language today …
Not only were these historic colonizing and economic successes, along with the language of English, very effective in taking this Anglo Saxon brand of Western culture to the whole world, but in addition, with the more recent advent of mass travel technology and the mushrooming of communication technology, Western culture has spread at a rapid pace, through tourism, business travel, ex-patriot employment, TV, movies, music and the Internet.
Many may welcome this cultural visitor, of the West, into their lives and lounge room (and even bedroom), but there is a vocal and growing minority that rebels against it. The growth in fundamentalist organizations and groups, and even terrorism, is an expression of this rejection, for whatever motives.
Barnet and Cavanagh (1995, p. 12), in the following quote, suggest that there is an explosive paradox in the new world order of increasing globalization:
Today more and more people are in touch with one another than ever before. Billions more, without even knowing it, are becoming entangled across great distances in global webs [for example as consumers of Western style music and entrainment, or as purveyors and consumers in world-wide markets that affect us all] that are transforming their lives.
The world is getting smaller, as people like to say, but it is not coming together. Indeed as economies are drawn closer, nations, cities, and neighborhoods are being pulled apart. The processes of global economic integration are stimulating political and social disintegration.
Notwithstanding the alienation of some against worldwide convergence, modern media corporations continue to be an integral component in the globalization process. While in size they are dwarfs in revenue as compared to the industrial giants, their influence on the minds, values, morals and behavior of world populations is arguably titanic. Three of the largest six media giants are domiciled in the USA and amount to 55% of the top six’s share of revenues.
Every one of these corporations are products of Anglo Saxon or European capitalist, wealthy cultures, which promulgate lifestyles and values of a wealthy, democratic, secular, liberal, individualistic, consumer based society. Williams (2001) documents the world’s six largest media corporations along with their revenues for 2000, and some of their major activities. These form an impressive array for the corporations in the table below:
In response to this homogenized supranationalizing culture, many are revisiting or cultivating their ethnic, folk or religious roots. Others are incubating ideas and strategies which are expedient to confront and rebel against liberal western capitalist globalizing activities and cultural items. This often leads to overt conflict as we witness from the “anarchic” or other rejectionist groups that gather huge crowds in protest against various world forums for economic development and globalization. Tied up with these events is the inherent cultural conflict between tradition and change, conservatism and liberalism, or as Friedman (2000) puts it the “Lexus” (that which is modern, technological and global) and the “olive tree” (that which is traditional and parochial) conflict.
Friedman (2000, pp. 31-33) further elaborates on the Lexus and olive tree dichotomy. The Lexus and the olive tree are pretty good symbols for this post-Cold War era in which half the world seems to be emerging from the Cold War intent on building a better Lexus, dedicated to modernizing, streamlining and privatizing their economies in order to thrive in the system of globalization. The other half of the world – sometimes half the same country, sometimes half the same person may still be caught up in the fight over who owns which olive tree.
Olive trees are important. They represent everything that anchors us, identifies us and locates us in this world – whether it be belonging to a family, a community, a tribe, a nation, a religion or, most of all, a place called home. Olive trees give us warmth of family, the joy of individuality, the intimacy of personal rituals, the depth of private relationships, as well as the confidence and security to reach out and encounter others. We fight intensely at times for our olive trees because, at their best, they provide the feeling of self esteem and belonging that are as essential for human survival as food in the belly. This all tends to sustain the nation state because it is the ultimate olive tree – the ultimate expression of who we belong to – linguistically, geographically and historically. You can not be a complete person alone. You must be a part of, and rooted in, an olive grove.
The Lexus, on the other hand, represents an equally fundamental, age-old human drive for sustenance, improvement, prosperity and modernization as it is played out in today’s globalization system. The Lexus represents all the burgeoning global markets, financial institutions and computer technologies with which we pursue higher living standards today. The Lexus and the olive tree are a symbol of the age-old struggle between the old and the new, tradition and change, status quo and revolution, and global or universal against local or parochial.
The following recent events in Nigeria are a salient example of the Lexus/olive tree conflict, as expressed when the culture and religion of one people, violently meets the culture and religion of another people (associated with the globalizing culture) head on:
Kaduna, Nigeria, November 24, 2002: Eighty Miss World contestants left Nigeria for London early Sunday following rioting in the country that left 100 people dead and 500 injured. ... The violence was sparked by an article published in a national newspaper last week, which backed the contest and claimed that had the Prophet Mohammed been alive, he would have wanted to marry one of these beauty queens. It offended many. Trouble flared when Muslims gathered after prayers outside the national mosque in the capital before marching through the city chanting “Allahu Akhbar (God is Great),” burning cars, churches and houses. … Police firing tear gas restored calm in Abuja within hours. But the melee in Kaduna, a religiously mixed city of several million people, continued in defiance of a round-the-clock police curfew. … The article had been insulting to Muslims. … Christians then retaliated against Muslims. The newspaper’s offices in Kaduna were burned down and there were reports of churches and mosques being torched (CNN, 2002).
In addition to the Lexus/olive tree conflict shown in such cultural clash, Dor (2003) suggests that the same Lexus/olive tree conflict may be seen in the spread of English as a lingua franca:
Most writers view today’s linguistic world as a site of contestation between the global and the local. the spread of English as the lingua franca of the information age is viewed as the linguistic counterpart to the process of economic globalization; the causal factors working against the process of Englishization are thought of as locally bound and are equated with patterns of local resistance to economic (and cultural) globalization.
Notwithstanding cultural and linguistic conflicts like the above, there is a growing level of cultural syncretism, as cultures interact more, and so borrow and lend from each other.
Most would agree that the highest level of cultural infiltration, into other cultures, stems from the Western European culture, and specifically from North American culture. This influential role of North American culture is largely associated with the dominance of the USA in the business and entertainment world, along with forefront position in the hardware and software industries (including its research and development) associated with the new communication technologies like the Internet.
We can begin to see that the globalization process is carried along by, or on behalf of (that is by governments) private enterprise multinational corporations wielding huge political and economic influence through political and business contacts. Many of these corporations have corporate cash flows far in excess of the GDP of many nations in the world. For example, Barnet and Cavaanagh (1995, p. 14) note the following by the early 1990’s:
The emerging global order [was] spearheaded by a few hundred corporate giants, many of them bigger than most sovereign nations. Ford’s economy [was] larger than Saudi Arabia’s and Norway’s. Philip Morris’s annual sales [exceeded] New Zealand’s gross domestic product.
Further, by the turn of the century, the 25 largest companies in the world had a combined cash flow in the year 2001 of almost US$3 trillion (i.e. three thousand billion) as compared to China’s GDP of about $US5 trillion. Just the top six companies (five of which are of the USA), in 2001, Wal-Mart Stores, ExxonMobil, General Motors, BP, Ford and Enron had a combined revenue of over US$1 trillion, amounting to almost the GDP of India. Alone Wal-Mart Stores and ExxonMobil (both of the USA), the top two corporations, have a combined revenue of over US$412 billion (Fortune, 2002).
An impressive twenty nine of the worlds 100 largest economic entities (countries or corporations), in the year 2000, were multinational corporations. When these corporations are listed with countries, on the basis of revenue and GDP respectively, the following appears (Uni Commerce, 2002):
In the same paper it was reported that the 100 largest multinationals had grown at a faster rate than countries in recent years, accounting for 4.3% of world GDP in 2000, as compared with 3.5% in 1990. This may suggest that the relative importance of these companies in the global economy is on the rise.
These corporations in media, retail, industrial or production sectors, seem to generally thrive better in consumer-based, liberal, modern, democratic, well-off cultures. It would be within the corporations’ interests to encourage the development of, and present attractively, such cultures in advertising and promotion and any other influential activities. This will enable the corporations to offer their products in the context of such lifestyles, to make their proffered items more enticing. Obviously, this has cultural and social implications for the type of culture that is conducive to maximizing the sales of their products. An obvious agenda, even if unspoken or unwritten, therefore, for many of these corporations, would be to encourage the development of such cultures where they are absent, or replace these cultures altogether with their globalizing culture.
Based on the foregoing, one may ask what would this new globalized world have in store for our cultures and languages, and especially for intercultural communication. Let us therefore take stock of what the implications from a globalizing world could be in the arena of culture and language:
All of these foregoing incredible developments, real and potential, could bring about three tiers of communication. The three tiers would be:
Firstly at the parochial level peoples would live and function around ideas and events that specifically relate to their localized lives. Much of this would probably relate to the subsistence of these groups. For example, Inuit fishers on Baffin Island would have a very different subsistence and localized culture, at the pragmatic survival level, than say a stockbroker would have in Tokyo. At this level a local language, with its specific or even unique characteristics, may remain to support this idiosyncratic localized life style and its linguistic needs (Leigh, 2004, pp. 7-8). Alternatively, these peoples could dispense with their local languages, and in the new supracultural language, they could incorporate words for their specific surrounds and its required survival skills and ideas.
Further, when a people would need to communicate, about their peculiar life and ideas from the local level to an exotic people (and if the peculiar words and concepts were not available in the supracultural language), this would be a kind of intercultural communication in which a shared language would be used. These circumstances may also encourage the incorporation of such localized words, from various peoples, into the new supracultural language.
Two levels of linguistic function may be seen as complementary (in the new world) as these levels would respond to different needs. It is because the functions at the universal and local levels are so different, that a world of linguistic diversity under the supracultural language could coexist. This new world type of bilingualism would make it possible for one of the languages within a speaker to be the global language providing access to the world community, and the other to be a regional or more parochial national language, providing access to the more immediate community (Crystal, 2001, p. 19).
However, the supracultural level of communication would exist for much of the interaction between peoples when communicating about all of the myriad common things and ideas that they mutually share in their lives. And these things would be more numerous by the day, as the supraculture mushrooms to be all inclusive. So we see that the three levels of communication, would function within, and between, localized cultures and the supracultural.
History, strangely enough does repeat itself as King Solomon said, “The thing that has been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
However, when history repeats itself, this time, concerning the rise of the supracultural, we see reflections of Babylon in a mirror. Internationalism and multicultural empires have existed throughout the past thousands of years, with various empires and superpowers appearing, like Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome and the Holy Roman Empire. But now we are looking at supranational and not international, at supracultural and not intercultural, at a level which could not even have been dreamed of before the contemporary advances in travel, communication and information technology.
In the centuries of recent history, we have seen the British worldwide Empire come and go, and then the United States loom large as a superpower, with a commercial and cultural empire, and now the pan-European, German led, supranational combine, as a Phoenix, may arise to assume superpower status, rivaling others. All this may culminate in a supranational and supracultural system rooted in Anglo Saxon and European, liberal and consumer based culture. Great power and authority in the hands of a future few, politicians or titan entrepreneurs, could brandish worldwide influence.
However, Huntington (1996) does not discount the emergence of future political cleavages, along cultural and religious fault lines, to bring about both Eastern and Islamic international political conglomerates which may become new supranational power blocs in a new world order. He does not completely discount the role of sovereignty in these blocs. However, it could be that national sovereignty could be largely overwhelmed toward the formation of supranational political blocs, each of which would be built on its civilization by the integrating forces from within.
Swartz (2003) notes from Huntington’s book that:
“Rather than being brought closer by economic globalisation or modernisation, the civilizations will clash over cultural differences,” [Huntington] writes. .... Mostly, Huntington is concerned with the way in which Islamic, Western, and Asian cultures may be expected to interrelate with one another. …. He sees friction growing as America’s efforts to promote Western culture grate against religious identities in other civilizations. He says that the wars of the future are likely to arise out of “Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance and Sinic assertiveness.”
In similar vein, Bernard Lewis, of Princeton University, says that Christendom and Islam are struggling for world dominance, or as they would put it world enlightenment. He further highlights that: “Christendom and Islam are two religiously defined civilizations that were brought into conflict” (2004, pp. 36-37). It may be that radical Islam will eventually bolster and embolden the power of the Islamic civilization in jihad, or (armed) struggle, against the rival West, largely the Anglo Saxon world and Europe.
Further, fundamentalist Islamists regard the decadent West as a source of the evil values and lifestyle that is corroding Muslim society (Lewis, 2004, p. 21), hence the name “Great Satan” for the contemptible United States of America, and what these Islamists view as the American cadre in the Middle East, Israel. It is also pertinent to note here that: “Globalization has become a major theme in the Arab media, and it is almost always raised in connection with American economic penetration” (Lewis, 2004, p. 97).
In an extension of the foregoing, there are two other possible supranational superpowers, in addition to those of the West, in this emerging global status quo. A newly formed pan-Islamic, largely Arab, supranational superpower, under Iranian hegemony, would add destabilizing ballast to any new global balance. Further, the potential Asian masses, forming a supranational superpower from China, Russia, Japan and India (making up a massive half the world’s population), would also rival the Western cultural and economic brand of influence and globalization, and therefore complicate the global state of affairs even more.
Coming developments will be excitingly interesting, and yet dramatically precarious, and could be even insidious or malignant, with far reaching implications for how we live and work together, in a fledgling new world order, with all the science and technology to support the supranational and supracultural.
Should we question or consider, that in spite of all the human progress and technological advance, we are yet well capable of the most heinous crimes, given the proper conditions, and can be accomplices in dastardly collaborations?
The inimitable General Douglas MacArthur spoke eloquently on this, when he reiterated to Congress, in 1951, his comments made at the conclusion of World War II in 1945, from the decks of the Missouri battleship:
We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, our Armageddon will be at our door. The problem … involves a spiritual recrudescence, an improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh (MacArthur, 1951).
We would all be well reminded to not forget the past, so we don’t repeat its misfortunes and tragedies, in the building of our unique future. Many forces are now working towards a globalized world with a supraculture. Many forces are working against this. How they clash, and who wins, will determine much in how we live and communicate together.
Contemporary humanity needs to make the last chance work, as the alternative of intercontinental conflicts of clashing civilizations, with weapons of mass destruction, in cosmocide, is unthinkable. Are we about to see Babylon reflected in a mirror as the world moves toward the integration of globalization? Alternatively, will this new venture in globalization collapse in the way of past empires, their philosophies and systems, as the world tends to increasing disintegration, under changes at intercontinental levels, which will inevitably lead to increasing conflict between conglomerate superpowers in a new multipolar world? In such a fragmentedly fractured world, it would be impossible for an overarching supraculture to be built, and so without this basis, supracultural communication would not take root and blossom.
In uncertain anticipation the world is poised as it confronts the crossroads or a roundabout; one way leading to increasing integration, in a new globalized world order, probably with its Western supraculture and global English lingua franca supporting supracultural communication.
Any alternative route may be one of increasing disintegration which could facilitate the rise of rival conglomerate supranational superpowers in an increasingly fragmented world of ongoing strife and division. In this scenario, various cultures and languages would compete for worldwide influence and primary status. In this schismatic world order, intercultural communication would continue to be used when peoples from more than one culture communicate.
If this is our last chance, whatever route we take will have profound effects on human activity, and survival, at the dawn of this third millennium with the greatest challenges and opportunities ever at all levels, and particularly in the arena of communication between different peoples.
Altan, M. The Power of English as a Bridge for Creating Cultural Understanding, accessed 3rd December, 2003 <http://www.thrace-net.gr/bridges/b8/7o%20teyxos%20The%20power%20of%20english.htm>
Barnet, R. and Cavanagh, J. (1995), Global Dreams: Imperial Corporations and the New World Order, New York, Touchstone.
Calvocoressi, P. (2001), World Politics 1945 – 2000, Eighth Edition, Harlow, Longman.
CNN. (24th November, 2002), World Beauty Queens Bound for London, accessed 25th November, 2002 <http://europe.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/africa/11/23/nigeria.world/>
Crystal, D. (2001), English as a Global Language, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Dor, D. From Englishization to Imposed Multilingualism: Globalization, the Internet, and the Political Economy of the Linguistic Code, extracted from Dor, D. Public Culture, Volume 16, Number 1, forthcoming Winter 2004, accessed 3rd December, 2003, <http://www.uchicago.edu/research/jnl-pub-cult/current/dor.html>
Fortune, (2002), The 2002 Global 500, The World’s Largest Corporations, accessed 10th November, 2002 <http://www.fortune.com/lists/G500/>
Friedman. T. (2000), The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, London, HarperCollins.
Harvey, D. (1989), The Condition of Postmodernity, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, cited in Tomlinson, J. (1999), Globalization and Culture, Cambridge, Polity, p. 3.
Huntington, S. (1996), The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York, Simon and Schuster.
Jones International University, University of the Web, accessed 4th October, 2002 <http://jiu-web-a.jonesinternational.edu/eprise/main/JIU/home.html>
Josephus, F. (2002), Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 4, Paragraph 3, accessed 10th November, 2002 <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/josephus/ant-1.htm>
Kluver, R. (2000), Globalization, Informatization, and Intercultural Communication, American Communication Journal, Volume 3, Issue 3, accessed 25th December, 2003 <http://acjournal.org/holdings/vol3/Iss3/spec1/kluver.htm>
Leigh, J. (2000), Humans in Culture and Culture in Humans: Origins of Human Behaviour, Language, Society and Culture, University of Tasmania at Launceston, Issue 6, accessed 20 December, 2002 <http://www.educ.utas.edu.au/~Thao.Le/JOURNAL/Journal.html>
Leigh, J. (2004), Understanding Intercultural Language and Behavior Interaction through Case Studies, in Leigh, J. and Loo, E. (editors), Outer Limits: A Reader in Communication and Behaviour Across Cultures, Melbourne, Language Australia.
Leigh, J. and Loo, E. (2004), Preface in Leigh, J. and Loo, E. (editors), Outer Limits: A Reader in Communication and Behaviour Across Cultures, Melbourne, Language Australia.
Lewis, B. (2004), The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror, London, Phoenix.
MacArthur, D. (1951), General Douglas MacArthur Defends His Conduct of the War in Korea [to Congress], accessed 20 December, 2002 <http://www.geocities.com/cabvoltaire.geo/MacArthur.html>
Marx, K. (1973), Grundrisse, Harmondsworth, Penguin, cited in Tomlinson, J. (1999), Globalization and Culture, Cambridge, Polity, p. 3.
McLuhan, M. (1962), The Gutenberg Galaxy, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul.
McLuhan, M. (1964), Understanding Media, New York, Mentor.
Swartz, S. Book Review of Huntington, S. (1996), The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York, Simon and Schuster, accessed 3rd December, 2003 <http://www.centerforyouth.org/global.htm>
Thomas, S. (2001), The Future Shock Phenomenon – Symptoms, “Cures” and Implications, Language, Society and Culture, University of Tasmania at Launceston, Issue 9, accessed 20th December, 2002 <http://www.educ.utas.edu.au/users/tle/JOURNAL/Journal.html>
Uni Commerce, (20th August, 2002), Leading Multinationals Compete with Countries on World List of Largest Entities, accessed 15th November, 2002 <www.union-network.org/UNIsite/Sectors/Commerce/Multinationals/Mnc_larger_than_countries.htm>
Williams, G. (10th January, 2001), Ultra Concentrated Media Top Selling Brands, Media Channel, accessed 15th November, 2002 <http://www.mediachannel.org/ownership/chart.shtml>
Williams, R. (1989), Resources of Hope, London, Verso, cited in Tomlinson, J. (1999), Globalization and Culture, Cambridge, Polity, p. 19.
Copyright remains exclusively with the author.