Perhaps our most damaging limitation as humans is our inability to see past the tip of our collective nose. We constantly fail to fully consider the likely consequences of our actions, no matter how much past experience we have to draw on.
Instead, we -- which is to say those of us who think we have something to gain -- repeatedly drink the Kool-Aid in anticipation of the short-term gains promised by some elite pushing for our buy-in for whatever they're selling.
Such is the case with globalization. It has economically benefited many but left many more economically floundering, psychologically bewildered and emotionally irate in its wake. No wonder it's at the center of the American presidential campaign.
We hear a great deal from the presidential candidates about international trade deals and the loss of jobs to nations with cheaper labor or to advancing technology (witness the journalism trade). We hear about the pluses and minuses of the global migration of economic and political refugees. These are all hallmarks of the Age of Globalization.
What's missing from these pieces? As GetReligion readers, the answer I'm seeking should be obvious.
That's right. There's no mention of how globalization's implicit religious and social values have upended the traditional beliefs and cultural mores that have held together myriad societies over time. And what are globalization's implicit and social values?
Simply put, they are those of an unbridled free-market. Globalization promises salvation through just-affordable consumer products with wide appeal. It works by neutralizing through economic power and peer pressure most countering religious and social differences. Because, let's face it, conflict depresses sales, ignoring for now the armaments industry.
It values capital over people in contrast to the communitarian values taught by the world's major religions.
Unfortunately, we hear little about this from the leading candidates or the elite media. Why? Because they're part of the globalized society, too.
I'm not saying that traditional beliefs and values are indisputably preferable to change. (I'm thinking long entrenched racial, religious, gender, class and other displays of human callousness, often girded by theology or traditions long overdue for change.)
But traditional beliefs -- religious or social -- offer many, probably even a majority, of people worldwide a healthy measure of psychological and spiritual certainty and security, which is no small thing in a dangerously unpredictable world lacking lasting physical security.
Undermine those beliefs and you risk societal chaos and conflict.
That's the subtext in Laurie Goodstein's New York Times story last week on the presidential political and cultural struggles of white American evangelicals that my colleague Bobby Ross Jr. praised.
The change in America seemed to happen so quickly that it felt like whiplash, the Odgaards [an Iowa couple quoted in the story] said. One day, they felt comfortably situated in the American majority, as Christians with shared beliefs in God, family and the Bible. They had never even imagined that two people of the same sex could marry.
Overnight, it seemed, they discovered that even in small-town Iowa they were outnumbered, isolated and unpopular. Everyone they knew seemed to have a gay relative or friend. Mr. Odgaard’s daughter from his first marriage disavowed her father’s actions on Facebook, and his gay second cousin will not speak to him. Even their own Mennonite congregation put out a statement saying that while the denomination opposes gay marriage, “not every congregation” or Mennonite does. Mrs. Odgaard, 64, the daughter of a Mennonite minister, was devastated.
The Odgaards feel like outcasts because their world has changed too quickly to absorb. Unlike the past, sweeping change in the Age of Globalization seems to accompany every new iPhone release -- thanks to the speed with which cultural news now travels. That, plus the swiftness with which the global young -- whether in Iowa, India or even Iran -- adopt new ways of being as they establish their generational identity.
If the Odgaards, citizens of a nation build on demographic change, cultural pluralism, and (if sometimes grudgingly) democratic values feel adrift, how must those facing mercurial change in far more rigid societies -- say, the Muslim Middle East or Christian sub-Sahara Africa -- feel?
Hence, the political backlash this presidential year against globalization as expressed by the growing opposition to international trade deals and immigrants.
I often write about globalization's drawbacks here at Get Religion. It's one of my hobbyhorses.
I'm not alone in my criticism. Academics, social activists, journalists, religious progressives and conservatives alike, and some politicians have long warned that globalization is leading to greater economic and social inequality, the accelerated destruction of environments distant from the malls and supermarkets of Western consumers, and the decline of traditional societies and values at a rate humans have great difficulty internalizing.
So c'mon, religion scribes. Pick up the mantle.
Help explain how globalization's set of values has blown up the human apple cart. Explain how, in the process, globalization has ignited the impulses implicit in Brexit, Middle East chaos, and, even the fears of ordinary evangelical Christians such as the Odgaards. Go beyond the surface economic and political ripples.
The Age of Globalization is as big a civilizational game-changer as were the Age of Exploration and the Industrial Revolution. Dig into it, deeply.