Politicians and intellectuals have produced numerous versions of the world politics as well as proposals to resolve the problems we have been facing in the globe since the 1990s—the beginning of a new phase of international relations with the ending of the Cold War. The participants of the Toda Institute’s Conference on UN Transformation in Los Angeles, February 3-5, 2006, presented enlightening and stimulating insights in addressing the three fundamental issues of global governance facing the 21stcentury; the problems of human dignity, regional conflict, and global governance were considered at the heart of the daunting challenges of a post-Westphalian world. Beyond piecemeal UN administrative reforms, the conference recommended that the international community devise appropriate institutional arrangements to meet the challenges.
Promote Mutual Cultural Understanding and Respect
It is my proposal that the UN needs to set up necessary mechanisms for promoting mutual cultural understanding and mutual respect among all the peoples of the world, in order to address, among others, the issues of human dignity, regional conflict, and global governance, due to the fact that the underlying source of these challenges of this new world is cultural. This means that it is imperative for peoples of differences in culture and civilization to learn how to coexist with each other.
Take what happened in Rwanda ten years ago as an example,
“Some 800,000 women, children and men were killed there within the space of just 100 days. Most victims belonged to the minority Tutsi ethnic group, but many from the Hutu majority who opposed the government's repressive policies also were killed.”
As Ernest Harsch reports, “the underlying causes of conflict” “include hatred, racism, the dehumanization of minorities, tyranny, poverty, inequality, youth unemployment and competition for scarce resources.” However, a further analysis tells that the deeper fundamental source beneath these underlying causes of conflict is cultural-ethnic. In Rwanda, Poverty, inequality, youth unemployment, and competition for scare resources may not be purely due to cultural-ethnic differences. In addition, many countries in other parts of the world also have these problem, they do not necessarily become the causes of ethnic genocides. Nevertheless in Rwanda, tyranny did employ cultural-ethnic differences as its base and political means, and the horror of genocides did have cultural-ethnic differences either combine or become a source of hatred, racism, the dehumanization of minorities, tyranny, poverty, inequality, youth unemployment and competition for scarce resources.
Indeed not only the genocides in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sudan but also other regional and worldwide conflicts such asthe US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the worldwide anti-terrorist campaign have amply demonstrated that differences in culture and civilization of the peoples of the world have more and more impact on the world 60 years from now. As Huntington observes,
The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural……the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.
Although Huntington may have blurred the definitions of culture and civilization, his view that clash of cultures and civilizations may become more conspicuous deserves our attention. The United Nations was by-passed in the Rwandan conflict; and even when the commemorative meetings were held across the globe ten years later, there was still little confidence that the world is yet able to thwart a similar horror.The challenges of this post-Westphalian world, with differences between cultures and civilizations more as a fundamental source of conflict, demonstrate that human species are unable to appropriately deal with differences, particularly those of culture and civilization, and coexist with each other. Peoples tend to take differences, particularly different cultures and civilizations as something alien and therefore a threat.
Nevertheless, human species must learn that differences of culture and civilization are not problematic by themselves; it is our psychic that has had something wrong. It is the psychological divide of “we” vs. “they” based upon varieties of differences embedding our thinking modalities that have failed us in appropriately dealing with our relations due to our differences, and in peacefully living together. Perhaps we may say that we have not been mentally civilized as much as in terms of material and technology.
Here I would like to argue that many traditional concepts and old modalities of thinking are inadequate and inefficient in addressing conflict caused due to the fact that we are different, particularly in culture and civilization. The concept of “civilization” itself deserves questioning. When people are too self-centered, ignorant of others, taking peoples of different cultures and civilizations as threat, handling relations with other peoples negatively, and thus incapable of coexisting with peoples, the concepts and ideas such as human rights, security, protecting civilians in armed conflict, ending impunity, and responsibility to protect are simply and fundamentally inadequate and ineffective.
The discourse of human rights alone is inadequate in dealing with the issues of human dignity, regional or global conflict, and global governance since it does not address the issues and take care of them before they happen and can be formulated as human rights problems, and the terminology can be used; the discourse would necessarily fail in preventing the problem from happening. The discourse touches only the surface level but leaves the issue’s cultural roots yet addressed. While there are many other causes of human rights violations, more and more cases of today have been related to cultural and civilizational differences.
Cultural and civilizational disrespect and discrimination, as can be seen articularly in Euro-centrism of the West and self-colonizing discourses in some developing countries, has become a perennial feature of the world system. In this situation, a people may discriminate, humiliate, repress, invade, and even massacre another people based on, among other reasons, differences in culture and between civilizations. This is indeed not an issue of human rights in a final analysis, but a matter that the survival and prosperity of the human species require mutual respect for each other among nations and groups. The discourse of human rights has often found itself an ideology of delayed solution; merely as a denouncement or ending impunity; it does not come before there is a human rights violation case. What the discourse does not take care is, fundamentally, the situation in which nations or groups fail to show cultural respectfor each other. People lack the consciousness that, in order to prevent all people from becoming a victim of human rights violation, it is necessary for everyone to first be cautious of and show respect for the rights of others, for violation of human rights may often occur as a result of a nation’s or group’s discrimination, humiliation, repression, and even massacre of another because of the latter’s cultural and civilizational “alienation.”
Some developing countries express concern about the concept “humanitarian intervention” or “the responsibility to protect,” and view it as a justification for advancing Northern interests. This is because the concept developed in a tradition whose ideology and practice tend to neglect the interests of others and therefore raises cultural suspicion in peoples of different cultural traditions. Indeed, the dominant concepts and ideas were embedded in the liberalistic presupposition—or “individualism”—of the Enlightenment in the West, which, by taking the loose and scattered individual’s interest as the final goal, often leaves aside or even deny communitarian interests, common goals, and collective wills. The underlying conception of the presupposition was formulated not in that people are interdependent and correlative individuals, regardless this misconception has been popularly considered true for centuries.
the reality of a post-Westphalian world teaches us again and again. We have too
many problems. What we need to face the problems with is nothing but
cooperation, or working together, in order to deal with them. No single
super-power alone can manage the problems of the entire world. With this being
said, effective measures should be directed to their underlying cultural level;
this is a common sense, and a simple logic. Following this logic, cooperation
requires us to understand each other, not only in terms of particular issues
but also cultural and civilizational issues. We need to mutually understand
each other on equal base, considering the other as the same humankind, rather
than thinking in dualistic terms, that is, a dichotomy of “we,” the good and
superior vs. “they,” as the bad and inferior, due to a judgment on difference
of cultures and civilizations. And yet, we have had perennial conflicts due to
lack of understanding of peoples’ cultural differences. For example, Robert
McNamara who served as Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy administration
once claimed in the programConversations on International Affairs, that
with respect to Southeast Asia he was certain we exaggerated the threat. As he
stated repeatedly, “We didn’t understand the Chinese”; “We don’t understand the
Chinese today”; He doubted we understand the Serbs, or Croats, or Muslims
We understand differences in terms of duality rather than correlativity. This rigid way of thinking tends to foster psychological reluctance to learn about the other, and therefore promotes misconception and misunderstanding. Indeed, both cooperation and preventing conflict out of cultural and civilizational bias require that nations and groups of the world understand, respect, and trust each other culturally.
Mutual cultural understanding helps reduce misunderstanding and therefore the possibility of conflict, making necessary conditions for cooperative actions to cope with global issues. Understanding starts with an acknowledgement of common interests, communitarian good, and collective wills, and results in mutual respect and peaceful coexistence. The survival and prosperity of human species relies on human mutual understanding, mutual respect, and close cooperation between nations and groups of different cultures and civilizations. It is mutual cultural understanding and respect, more than anything else that will be the most efficient and fundamental way to prevent conflict. For this purpose, we need to work on our psychological problems, get to know how to positively deal with differences among peoples; we should develop desires to gain knowledge of other peoples, understand their cultural differences, overcome the fear of differences as threat, learn how to mutually respect each other, and peacefully coexist with each other.
Promote East and West Cultural Understanding
Conflict between cultures and civilizations will be the newest phase in this post-Westphalian world. As Huntington contests,
With the end of the Cold War, international politics moves out of its Western phase, and its center- piece becomes the interaction between the West and non-Western civilizations and among non-Western civilizations. In the politics of civilizations, the peoples and governments of non-Western civilizations no longer remain the objects of history as targets of Western colonialism but join the West as movers and shapers of history.
The double-edge feature of the new politics of civilizations lies in the fact that the joining of non-Western cultures and civilizations as historical movers and shapers may seem to the West a challenge to its dominating position; on the other hand, however, it may also be an opportunity for cultural meeting between the East and West and for an even newer phase of more peaceful coexisting between them. Whichever edge will becomea more critical dynamics at play, the East and West cultural understanding would be necessary and desirable, therefore worthwhile promoting.
The history of Western civilizations demonstrated that the West had not been successful in dealing with cultural differences among themselves until perhaps the time of the Peace of Westphalia, or, more exactly, the Enlightenment. However, indeed conflict between civilizations never disappeared, leaving politics over economic interest the single dynamic at play. Politics has never been purely cultural or non-cultural but the intermingling of both. It might be an appropriate conclusion to say that Western civilizations have done okay in handling domestic differences—cultural or non-cultural—, and among peoples by adopting democracy in both ideology and government structures. But the West has accomplished little and poorly in dealing with differences of cultures and civilizations in a global scope.
Hegemonic foreign policies of the West have strong cultural and civilizational implications. The West, now being led by the U.S., conceives its own cultures and civilizations advanced, developed, and superior, and has kept imposing its ideas and values on non-Western civilizations, often even by coercion and force. The practice has created the situation in which the West (now particularly the U.S.) discriminates and humiliates the peoples of the non-Western civilizations. The behavior has been apparently dictated by the belief that “democracy,” “human rights,” and other Western values are universal principles. The belief supports the psychology that Western civilizations and races are superior. As Huntington observes,
Differences in culture, that is basic values and beliefs, are a second source of conflict. V. S. Naipaul has argued that Western civilization is the "universal civilization" that "fits all men." At a superficial level much of Western culture has indeed permeated the rest of the world. At a more basic level, however, Western concepts differ fundamentally from those prevalent in other civilizations. Western ideas of individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, free markets, the separation of church and state, often have little resonance in Islamic, Confucian, Japanese, Hindu, Buddhist or Orthodox cultures. Western efforts to propagate such ideas produce instead a reaction against "human rights imperialism" and a reaffirmation of indigenous values, as can be seen in the support for religious fundamentalism by the younger generation in non-Western cultures. The very notion that there could be a "universal civilization" is a Western idea, directly at odds with the particularism of most Asian societies and their emphasis on what distinguishes one people from another. Indeed, the author of a review of 100 comparative studies of values in different societies concluded that "the values that are most important in the West are least important worldwide." In the political realm, of course, these differences are most manifest in the efforts of the United States and other Western powers to induce other peoples to adopt Western ideas concerning democracy and human rights. Modern democratic government originated in the West. When it has developed in non-Western societies it has usually been the product of Western colonialism or imposition.
Differences of cultures and civilizations necessarily lead to conflict; this had been a unique Western way of thinking. Hence logically, different non-Western cultures and civilizations would necessarily make a threat to the West. What is at play beneath this type of thinking is a dualistic conception of “we” vs. “they,” in which “we” is of the same or similar history, language, culture, tradition, and more important, religion, for sure “good,” “civilized,” “advanced,” and “democratic”; “they,” since it is of all the differences from the Western “us”, can be only categorized as “the alien,” “backward,” “barbaric,” “totalitarian,” and of course often “evil.” This dualistic, lineal, single-ordered and one-way thinking dominating the West was a unique product of itsintellectual tradition. It is worthwhile learning that the thinking modality is profoundly and structurally different from many non-Western traditions.
Taking Chinese tradition as an example,the thinking modality of China developed entirely independent of Europe, and its worldview developed with enormous disparity, which differentiates itself from the Western metaphysical, ontological and cosmological assumptions. In the Chinese cosmos all things are interdependent without transcendent principles, and there is nota priori—the static unchanged truth, which the people in the West have tried by all means to comprehend. Everything is interdependent with anything else; there is no separation, no looseness in the strict sense between any paired elements, or boundaries between the dominant and the dominated, the governing and the governed, the causing and the caused, and self and other. In addition, there is no superordinante—“One” standing independent of the world ordered as its efficient cause. For the Chinese, the world is a harmony but not without differences and there is a recognition that each and every unique phenomenon is continuous with every other phenomenon within one’s own field of experience. The Chinese view of history is not a teleology, no final goal, no ending, but an advancing spiral.
It is not necessary for the West to claim “universal principles” to the Chinese since they are merely a belief peculiar to the Western tradition. Democracy and human rights with Western characteristics may have been taken care of in other manners in Chinese tradition. In China, government is not necessarily negative and bad; human nature not necessarily evil; and the individual, not the final end. In a word, the absence of ontological assertions places the Chinese tradition in sharp contrast with those claims by Western civilization and thus has made it incapable of being fully comprehensible in Western terms.
In the absence of the Western-styled dualisms that establish an ontological separation between some determinative principle and that which it determines, the recognition of interconnectedness among all things promotes a correlative mode of philosophizing and of explaining order in the world. This tradition plays a facilitating role in one’s effort to understand politics in China. The following are fundamental Chinese concepts of politics and the typical way in which the Chinese read Western ideas.
(1) Rationality:lixing. Rationality is often translatedlixingin Chinese. However, appeals toli(often translated “reason,” but referring to correlation and continuity) in the Chinese correlative modality always presuppose a communal context. It is expected that the Chinese context is not so congenial to the strict logos style of accounting.In the lack of an ontological mode of thinking, the act of understanding and articulating thedao(ways of correlation) of things cannot have an ontological reference. Perhaps the Chinese reading of rationality can better be understood asheli, “to be in accord withli.” Regardinglixing,The Book of Later Han Dynastysays, “Being too mindful may become willful, being too accommodating may become will-less. Therefore, the sage teaches being in accord withli, to restrain from being reckless, be prudent and appropriate, and curb inappropriateness.” In Chinese, rationality (li) does not have the same meaning as in the West; it is performed with continuity between things, as time changes and as circumstance varies, and takes into account the appropriateness of both means and end.
(2) Politics:zhengzhi. InChina, politics, or “zhengzhi,” a classical word, means appropriateness (also uprightness, righteousness), flow,or “thedaoextends appropriately to all parts of the land, enriching populace’s lives."There are no dualistic woes of the ruling and the ruled, since propriety and harmony is nurtured between them.It lacks a sense of acquiring power, referring more to handling the affairs of the people. The ruler has always been and continues to be defined by his personal character, so to object to the policies that articulate the existing order is to condemn the ruler’s person. Good rulers take care of the people and promulgate good policies.
(3) Rule of Law:fazhi. In the West, the "rule of law" means the law of nature or God, and the contracted law in the form of the constitution serves the law of God, and the rule of man refers to tyranny or violation of the contracted law. But in China, “law” (fa) is rather a specification of administrative guidelines. Those who govern are not understood separated from the ruling guidelines, which are supposed to reflect thedaoof society and nature and help maintain harmony. Whereas people in the West fear that the government will infringe on their private rights and so it should be checked, in China, people believe that every government has as its goal taking care of the people’s livelihood. As a result, repudiating existing ruling guidelines suggests the ruler has failed in fulfilling his tasks. Whereas Westerners tend to think they obey laws but not bureaucratic officials, the Chinese sense is that the official cannot be separated from particular personality and conduct. In reality, law (fa) plays a secondary role; it assists in situations in which an individual fails in maintaining a moral and ethical performance. Law is resorted to only to correct by punishment. Invokingfaindicates failure to maintain harmony; and appeals tofain Chinese society have little in common with Western appeals to the rule of law.
(4) Rule of Man:renzhi.In Chinese political thoughtrule of man suggests more exactly the rule ofren(appropriate relationship or humaneness) and the rule ofde(virtuous rule). Chinese thought gives preference for the rule of the most virtuously capable; in a social environment, everyone wants to acquire appropriate relationships in all aspects of society for better living. It is common understanding that all rules are conducted by men, and hence, that the critical issue is to get those men who are the most capable of comprehending continuity and correlations, and acquiring and maintaining the harmony of humans and society. The form of politics must not be independent of ethics, orrenzheng(rule of humane correlations) anddezheng(rule of moral virtue).
Lunli(ethics) anddaode(virtue)literally mean having acquired the way, or in a full sense, having obtained a thorough comprehension of the appropriate and harmonious relationships of society and nurtured sophistication in pursuing, maintaining, and shaping them productively. As it suggests, appropriate and harmonious relationships can never be acquired by competition but requireliandrang(ritual or propriety and receptiveness) as “an enduring yet always malleable syntax through which the human being can pursue refined and appropriate relationships.”The rule of man precludes the psychological fear of tyranny.
(5) Rights:quanli.In atongbiancontext,“right,” orquanli, means propriety and harmony, or the righteous and appropriate location one should find for oneself in the context of community, or say, in the focused locale of relationships. It is not the providence of God or contractarianism; it is a natural tendency or effort through human experience. Such an effort entails realizing one’s own freedom through one’s equality to other individuals who share continuity and correlations within a context. In this case, equality is not defined in terms of property but a full range of conditions and obligations related to the individual as regards his/her appropriate position.
One finds there is no need to separate governmental powers when, inthe Chinese correlative thinking,are absent all the structurally preconditioned conceptions in the Western tradition, particularly the rule of man as necessarily tyrannical. In this respect, if seen from the perspective oftongbian, the separation of powers would not work if the rule were indeed tyrannical, since it is operable in reality through powers separated merely in form.
(6) Democracy:minzhu. One can see how different the Chinese read the Western political concept of democracy, by examining the ideas of the relationship between the ruler and the people as correlative and continuous. Some expressions reverberate the Chinese ancient idea of democracy. As Xunzi states, “Nature does not nurture the masses of human beings for the sake of the ruler, but rather in reverse, selects the ruler for the sake of the masses.”As Confucius claims,
“The people regard the ruler as their heart; the ruler takes the people as his body … The holiness of the body determines that of the heart; the damage of the heart happens when there is harm to the body. The existence of the ruler is determined by that of the people; the perishing of the ruler is due to that of the people.”
Zuozhuansays, “The people are the master of spiritual beings, so the sage-king primarily devotes himself to the people, and secondly takes care of the spiritual beings.”As far aszheng(or politics) is concerned, "there is none in which the people are not taken as the paramount end."These phrases all suggest that fundamental Chinese political concepts do not separate leaders from the people, placing them in opposition. Atongbianview of “democracy” (minzhu) preferences content and its harmony with form, over mere form; any form of democracy has to take into account the interest of the great majority of the population in society, particularly the weak and poor, since a state of suffering indicates the failure ofzhengzhi.A democracy,minzhu(“the people’s governance”), is more a concept and practice of the government for the people, of the people, and by the people, which encourages the idea of equality based upon the communal sources of individuality rather than atomistic individualism. It might be said that the Chinese worldview and modality of thinking promote a sort of communitarian form of politics that is seriously at odds with the liberal democratic model.
The Chinese worldview does not necessarily have the kind of psychological worry about the unsolvable problem of evil human nature, the emergence of tyranny, and hence, establishment of a checking mechanism as solution. Why? This is because the ruler has to be by a morally distinguished person through self-cultivation in the social environment wherein all people pursuit ethic self-cultivation. Apparently,in Chinese correlative thinking“authority” entailing indispensable moral and aesthetic content has somehow left little room for growth of tyranny. As Hall and Ames maintain,
From its inception, Confucianism has been concerned with the self-cultivation of individuals – preeminently that of rulers and ministers. The Confucian sensibility enjoins the ruler to rule by virtuous example. This can only be possible if rulers are themselves products rather than producers of culture … One cannot rule effectively without presenting himself as a moral leader.
Is mutual cultural respect and trust possible? What we can know is that it would never be possible if we do not have good wills. We need to become aware that the view of others only via looking at ourselves can never be appropriate. For the future of human species, there would be no choice but mutual understanding. Human species must learn how to coexist with each other peacefully and to make a harmonious society but not without differences. Disagreement will always exist but what matters is conversation and negotiation. It may not be plausible to state that cultural conflict is more fundamental than that in economy and politics; and the West has developed democracy as a solution to the wars resulting in the individual’s struggle for political power and economic interests. However, the conflicts and wars between nations and groups in the global level in the past and present indicate that the global governance seriously lacks democracy. In this situation, understanding between cultures and civilizations and respect for different cultures are extremely necessary in addressing theissues of human dignity, regional as well as global conflict, and global governance.
The UN has not been as much culturally as a place for the world’s nations to meet on political disputes. At a time when most of the world was destroyed, the UN Chapter was drawn to rescue the world from war disasters as a result of global economic and political conflict.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) founded on November 16, 1945. As a specialized UN agency, it pursues international intellectual cooperation in education, scientific, culture and communications and promotes development by means of social, cultural, and economics projects. For this purpose, education, science, culture and communications are the means to a far more ambitious goal: to build peace in the minds of men. Today, UNESCO works as a laboratory of ideas and a standard-setter to forge universal agreements on emerging ethical issues. It promotes international cooperation among its 139 member states and six Associate Members in the fields of education, science, culture and communications and also works to create the conditions for true dialogue, based upon respect for commonly shared values and the dignity of each civilization and culture. UNESCO adopts the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, and the Director-General discredits and dismisses the pseudo-scientific foundations of racism. In 2001 the UNESCO’s General Conference adopted “UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity” In order to help people learn to live together, it promotes new educational approaches for human rights and sustainable development and revised textbooks to reflect socio-cultural needs and to promote a culture of peace. Its activities underpinned its mandate to lead the UN Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World. With the Declaration its member states reaffirmed the conviction that cultural diversity is one of the roots of development “as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature” and categorically rejected the idea that conflicts between cultures and civilizations are inevitable. UNESCO works on diverse fronts to implement the principles and action plan of the Declaration and promote Dialogue among cultures and civilizations. It fosters debate on the political, ethical and societal challenges of the emerging global knowledge society and strives to make human rights and the struggle against discrimination and intolerance vital components of research and policy-making. The Organization encourages research into neglected areas of human rights, related to cultural and social issues, such as gender equality and the right to education. It emphasizes the importance of prospective studies and plays a major role as an ethical, philosophical and scientific forum on issues ranging from human security and conflict prevention to inter-cultural dialogue and other subjects. The Organization held The 21stCentury Talks regularly in different parts of the world, which bring together scientists, philosophers, researchers, etc. to address critical questions shaping societies.
A new global covenant is needed to ensure the survival and prosperity of the human species. The situation has been more and more reflected in the turmoil with an underlying source of the conflict between cultures and civilizations. Perhaps an improved UN Chapter, new institutional arrangements, new mechanisms, and new programs to UNESCO are necessary to address the issues of different cultures and civilizations, and for all nations and groups of the world, in terms of the East and the West in particular, to meet with each other and discuss about possible UN Mutual Cultural Understanding Programs (UNMCUP) in order to eliminate misunderstanding (and also hatred) by means of learning about differences of each other’s culture and about what in a culture has been understood by the other, and foster mutual respect and trust, and desires on both sides for peaceful coexistence. The UNMCUP may target the following areas of work:
1) Cultural Issues Study Projects—the UN’s new device aiming at mutual cultural understanding and respect needs to engage in the study of differences in cultures and civilizations of the peoples of the world in order to address the issue and help foster tolerance and respectful intention in all nations and groups of people;
2) Cultural Conversations Engagement—the peoples from different cultural and civilizational backgrounds engage in conversations in order to foster understanding;
3) Educational Programs of Cultural Understanding—the achievement in learning different cultures from Cultural Issues Study Projects will constitute the content of education targeting the UN members, very often regarding to specific and existing culturally-related disputes.
4) Cultural Difference Briefing and Mediation—mediating agencies briefing on cultural differences play a role of mediators in clarifying misunderstanding and therefore alleviation of tensions.
5) Negotiation and Compromise Programs—Special programs need to be created for both parties in tension and with a source of conflict between different cultures and civilizations to engage in a conversation and negotiation with willingness to compromise in friendly manners.
In this way, “East meets West at the UN” means that the international community, with special reference to the role of the UN, has to devise appropriate institutional arrangements for promoting mutual cultural understanding and mutual cultural respect between Western and non-western peoples and other peoples in conflict due to different cultures and civilizations, so that the nations and groups East and West can deal with cultural and civilizational conflict, even political and economic conflict, without resorting coercions and force but only by democratic means. With these programs, the international community makes the UN a place to learn practical and feasible mechanisms as regards how to handle humankind’s differences, to peacefully live together while maintain each other’s particularities, instead of to confront each other with advantage of strong violent means, or conquering. We should give up the old heroic values of conquering or massacre of other peoples.
As more conflicts in international levels have an implication of differences in culture and between civilizations, we have to admit that the problem is that it seems often unfortunately easier for a collective ideology in the West to misunderstand the non-Western others because Western ways of thinking are often imbedded in dualisms. We often heard the claim of the black-and-white assumptions: “We are No I!” “We are superior!” “If you are not firm against our enemy, your are not on our side,” “democracy and human rights are universal truth and universal principles,” so far and so forth. However, no superpower or the West alone can deal with world issues unilaterally. Understanding others and cooperation are important; there is no exception but for both East and West to need to cultivate the intention to understand others, and learn how to live with the others peacefully. Any intention to claim that one party’s cultural norm be universal principle will easily remove the necessary conditions for mutual cultural understanding and thus will not be favored by the new UN institutional arrangements. As Huntington states,
To develop a more profound understanding of the basic religious and philosophical assumptions underlying other civilizations and the ways in which people in those civilizations see their interests. It will require an effort to identify elements of commonality between Western and other civilizations. For the relevant future, there will be no universal civilization, but instead a world of different civilizations, each of which will have to learn to coexist with the others.
Mutual cultural understanding helps reduce our fears of difference in culture and between civilizations. Let the East meets the West at the UN on our road to a future of more mutual understanding, more harmony, and less conflict!