In the second half of Elliot’s Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction, I was drawn to the contemporary theories of Castell, Beck and Urry’s describing societies as ‘Network, Risk and Liquid’ Societies. Although these theories have received their fair share of criticism, particularly, for being exaggerated and confined to today’s ‘bourgeois’ in the Mega cities, they are, in fact, true enough to be generalized. However, as I reflected on these theories, it projected an ‘unnatural’ world for me.
It is unnatural in the sense that these network, risk and liquid societies of “high-speed infrastructures of communications and mobilities, of nodes clustered in specific cities or regions for the advanced processing of information and production, and of professional elites that make decisions and reproduce the culture of advanced network societies” (Elliot 2008), while dynamic and open are also highly automated, confining human existence to another sophisticated “iron cage” structure that is only different by being “decentered and flat” (Elliott 2008).
Moreover, by nature of being robust and innovative, the network societies give off an iridescence of perpetuity defying demise. Although these networks diffuse power, to me they seem to seriously undermine a man or a woman’s self-identity and dignity creating not a community of people but propagating isolation through ‘individualism’ where human beings are ‘connected but disconnected’ at the same time. Finally, it seems to me that such a society exists in a vacuum failing to factor in the ecological impact and ramifications thereof. In a nutshell, the network society seems unnatural for it is devoid of ‘humanness’. In my opinion, it is a society that has replaced the breadth and depth of the value of real relationships and human interactions with techno-mechanical transactions exchanged in a virtual world.
So the question is: what can bring a balance to this ‘automated’ and ‘individualized’ network society restoring humanness to humanity? I recently came across the concept in Indian sociology called ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (Sanskrit: from “vasudha”, the earth; “iva” = is as a; and “kutumbakam”, family;). It is a Sanskrit phrase, which means ‘all cosmos is one family’. It not only means that there is interconnectedness between humans of different race but brings humans, the earth and other living creatures into a relationship with the Creator. The Bible, too clearly establishes this ‘brotherhood/sisterhood’ of all creation. The Psalmist writes “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1 NIV). By virtue of God being the Creator, Head and the Father of all creation, all created life, then, exist in relation to each other.
Such relationships nurture a sense of ‘belongingness’ and instill within individuals a deeper identity leading to the formation an ‘Organic Society’ of ‘Global Citizens’ traversing national and geographical boundaries. The Global Citizen, for instance, is not one who short circuits through “organized irresponsibility” (Elliott 2008) but is one who “spends time each day thinking about his or her responsibility to maintain not only the health of their particular city, state, and country – but also about the civic and moral duties they owe the planet and its people” (McGill 2003). Global citizenship underscores the premise of ‘interdependence’ and ‘inclusiveness’; where a farmer’s role in a remote part of India is as important as a Fortune 500 CEO’s and imbalance of the other can cause serious repercussions for the larger society. This Organic Society of Global Citizens is both dynamic and fragile at the same time requiring humans to be primary players in maintaining the balance. Therefore, in an Organic Society every individual must consciously take his or her place and play his or her part in the great ‘Circle of Life’. Perhaps envisioning towards this kind of an Organic Society is an answer to the negative undertones of globalization.
So what then is the role of the Church?! A body of believers, that is commissioned to extend God’s reign and built on the foundation of ‘oneness’ (Jn. 17:21 NIV) is called yet again to rise to the occasion in a fragmented and ‘disconnected’ society. The church is called unite, harness and direct the energy and enthusiasm of people enabling them to be Global Citizens. The church must be the window to the world through which people see global and local issues from a Kingdom perspective. In doing so, the church will not only empower people to be Global Citizens, but in the process will fulfill its Mission and remain a vibrant and dynamic movement…becoming Organic itself.
Elliott, Anthony. Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction. Kindle. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2008.
McGill, Doug. Nine Paths to Global Citizenship. 12 25, 2003. http://www.mcgillreport.org/nine_paths.htm (accessed September 27, 2012).