Blair, 2006 (What Is A Nation?): “But when it comes to our essential values – belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage – then that is where we come together, it is what we hold in common; it is what gives us the right to call ourselves British. At that point no distinctive culture or religion supercedes our duty to be part of an integrated United Kingdom.”
Comment at end
15th December, 2008
[The Previous = Tony Blair]
TONY BLAIR and THE ZERO-SUM GAME
ALLIANCES + VALUES (RELIGIOUS + ECONOMIC + SOCIAL) = (SUCCESSFUL) GLOBALISATION
The above linkages more or less describe the Blair philosophy, as I see it. Since globalisation is a given, he suggests we need to shape it to serve us to the betterment of all, or at least most of us.
Bur if you think his message is aimed only at isolating religious fundamentalists by extricating a kind of “Human Rights Religious Charter” from all religions, you underestimate Mr Blair.
In a world being “pushed closer together” where religious differences are often used to pull people apart, he said, “if religious faith can, at least, not be a hindrance of coming together, that would be a great thing.”
This is about POLITICS, as well as religion’s role in politics. His is a zero-sum game designed to leave the balance of power where it presently is, or at the very least stable.
He has analysed the issues well, though he has not yet used the word “successful” in the context of globalisation. But the underlying, unmentionable message is that without inclusion of the three elements of religious, economic & social values globalisation may not be successful.
Missing from this mix is any specific mention of another of the world’s pressing issues – climate change. Arguably that is contained within “economic” or “social” but it is a noteworthy omission, nonetheless, touching the entire world as it does.
UNSUCCESSFUL GLOBALISATION = DROUGHT, FAMINE, WAR & CONFLICT
What kind of world would result from “unsuccessful globalisation”. If this sounds oxymoronic, it probably is. Unsuccessful globalisation means conflict. And this call, with a plea to get back to basics on “values” may be Blair’s counter to this possibility.
Language is important, as Tony Blair knows well from his time mastering it. For instance, “globalisation” is a good buzzword. It implies a coming together, an understanding and a new inter-dependency. It inspires confidence in our generation’s way of doing things. It suggests progress, understanding, empathy, tolerance and respect through shared … er … values. But in that it may hide a multitude of sins.
WHO INVENTED “GLOBALISATION”?
Globalisation wasn’t invented as a concept from our wish to get it together economically and socially. Rather, it was discovered and recognised, like animals and plants in distant rainforests or penicillin. Inventions like the electric lightbulb or the telephone fall into a whole different category of wants rather than needs.
But there is a third category.
That is – the discovery which leads to development/invention.
Many discoveries have led to great advancements for humanity, as well as, arguably, great set-backs. The discovery of the neutron and the nuclear chain reaction which led to the invention of the atom bomb falls into this category, regardless of the arguments for and against countries’ wishes to continue to possess such a weapon. (That’s a whole different issue, which scientists handed to politicians.)
So globalisation may be described as a discovery or at least a development of a discovery awaiting its time. It is the discovery of how we communicate and work together in our times. Now we need to develop its use.
Whether we like it or not it’s here to stay, and its development may only be tempered for good effect by looking at the areas of our daily lives it will touch and the wellspring from which we aid or hinder its progress. From the values we espouse, share and follow.
Globalisation developed organically as communications became easier and mobile phones became as ‘essential’ as a fast broadband internet connection. It’s hard to imagine NOT having a mobile phone or an internet connection today, and yet even 15 years ago few people had either. Globalisation is not a word we’d have heard in common use in the 19th century.
THE ‘OPPORTUNITY/THREAT’ FROM GLOBALISATION
So what do we do about the globalisation opportunity OR threat? To help to ensure it is a force for good, the World’s First modern-day International-stage Politician has decided to make at least one element of this his own: the ‘Faith’ element. It is a huge task, and one for which he may receive few thanks, especially from some in secular Britain who blame religion for many of the world’s political problems.
Why has he taken this on? Because at a personal level faith is important to him, as it is to millions worldwide, and thus also to the secular and atheists amongst us. Also, because he genuinely feels empathy for those of ALL genuine faiths. The fly in the ointment is that religious faith is NOT the same shared faith in our globalised planet and the values not always the same shared values.
There is a danger that taking on such an onerous task might even lead to the complete opposite of that which he seeks – consensus on political and religious values. He is attempting to counter this possibility, which is happening already with or without his articulation of the issues. But without agreed values, with or without the religious dimension, we could be heading to hell in a handcart.
In most modern societies we have legislated to keep religion out of politics. But in many parts of the world it is impossible to keep politics out of religion.
As a force for good globalisation needs to be harnessed and given a bedrock foundation from which to work, else its inherent strength is its weakness, and its weakness is its disparate competing parts and self-interests. In his linkage of this to values, Mr Blair is perhaps the first politician to publicly declare this as globalisation’s essence.
And our values have taken an economic knock recently with all the repercussions for society. The kickback has even affected countries where there is not full-blown western capitalism, such as Russia and China; globalisation in action.
Is the time ripe for considering shared values-based foreign policies, especially as regards trade? The economic downturn and the resultant scuttling for a safe haven and new values (rather than old) on which to base our future economic prosperity knows no bars.
For instance, many now cry out for a whole new values-based system of finance based on Sharia Finance. This is a frightening notion for many who study the under-pinning values of this economic/financial/religious state of affairs. Sharia Finance is linked intrinsically to a law which subordinates more than half the world’s people (females). This is a non-starter for western developed lands and MUST remain so.
A NEW ECONOMIC MODEL OR DROUGHT & FAMINE?
Trade and economic might will prevail, have no doubt, whichever economic model emerges. The world has not (yet) divided up into a clearly marked China/India/Russia/Mid-East(?) blok versus the West (USA/EU, with others as yet unaligned or undecided), but there is a worrying possibility before us.
The risk that half the world may become dependent on the other half for such basics as food and water, as it already is on oil and gas.
Far-fetched? Perhaps, but I’m not so sure.
Pravda today says: “Globalisation is now Regionalisation.” Regionalisation? Really? If so, this is the embodiment of the aforementioned threat: the extent, political alliances and power of such “regions”
CLIMATE ON THE BACK-BURNER?
Now to look at the omission in Blair’s speech. Almost five years ago Mr Blair’s adviser on global warming, David King helped raise the climate change issue worldwide, despite America’s then ejection of the science. David King insisted again this week that proportionately the threat from global warming is far more serious than that from terrorism. He believes that the main reason politicians do not deal with global warming in a joined-up way is that it is a long-term problem. Politicians, with eyes on the 4/5 year electoral cycle, are more focussed on dealing with short term problems. Mr Blair now has no domestic political timetable and that is to the advantage of all of us.
Guardian: 17 August 2006: Cost of water shortage: civil unrest, mass migration and economic collapse. Excerpt:
Analysts see widespread conflicts by 2015 but pin hopes on technology and better management
Cholera may return to London, the mass migration of Africans could cause civil unrest in Europe and China’s economy could crash by 2015 as the supply of fresh water becomes critical to the global economy. That was the bleak assessment yesterday by forecasters from some of the world’s leading corporate users of fresh water, 200 of the largest food, oil, water and chemical companies.
Analysts working for Shell, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Cargill and other companies which depend heavily on secure water supplies, yesterday suggested the next 20 years would be critical as countries became richer, making heavier demands on scarce water supplies.
In three future scenarios, the businesses foresee growing civil unrest, boom and bust economic cycles in Asia and mass migrations to Europe. But they also say scarcity will encourage the development of new water-saving technologies and better management of water by business.
The study of future water availability, which the corporations have taken three years to compile, suggests water conflicts are likely to become common in many countries, according to the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, which brought the industrial groups together.
Lloyd Timberlake, spokesman for the council, said: “The growing demand for water in China can potentially lead to over-exploitation and a decline in availability for domestic, agricultural, industry and energy production use. This inevitably leads to loss of production, both industrial and agricultural, and can also affect public health – all of which in turn will ultimately lead to an economic downturn. The question is how can business address these challenges and still make a profit.”
SO ARE CLIMATE ISSUES ABOUT TO BE DUMPED BY ‘BROKE’ COUNTRIES?
Mr Blair has spent much time and effort in recent months and years on such issues as climate change. Ahead of all other international leaders he started the ball rolling in 2005 at Gleneagles, leaving President Bush in his wake.
Despite some reminders that this is still a ‘priority’, I anticipate an easing back on the issue due to the worsening economic climate. No point saving the planet, some argue, if half of us have died of starvation in the meantime, or more likely, thirst.
Lord Digby Jones, former CBI chief and former Trade Minister under Gordon Brown seemed to confirm business’s intent in this direction in a recent Straight Talk interview with Andrew Neil (13th December 2008.)
But is this an inevitable conclusion?
Do we have time for further delay considering that we are already late starters in the climate change control business?
In these times of flux, Mr Blair is warning developed countries that they must ‘re-order the world around us, before the kaleidoscope settles.’ More or less.
He continues to extol the virtues of countries backing climate change arrangements already made and agreed. But will the new Obama administration in the USA be so keen to do so as its auto industry is on the verge of wipe-out? Will jobs or the environment come first? A hard choice for a Democrat government.
IS BLAIR, THE VALUES MAN, THE FIRST 21ST CENTURY WORLD POLITICIAN?
I propose that he is. Other former leaders and high profile politicians have taken on certain issues, true, but I cannot think of any who have grasped so firmly what may be the root-cause of a threat to the world from national/cultural differences – a debate on values. Not a debate on science, such as Al Gore’s climate concerns, nor one on ‘peace’ as with former US president Jimmy Carter. But a debate on a facet of our humanity - values.
This is surely one of the bravest and most far-reaching political debates ever launched, attempting as it is, to get us all to start from a basic common understanding. From achieving that basic understanding, the world’s powers start from the same place on human rights. All other policy decisions will then be better informed and supported or not, as the case may be. And opposition to these values can be easier spotted and isolated. Some will see a New World Order behind this. That does not worry me … TOO much. Certainly the world needs some SOME sort of order.
IRAQ, THE UN & ULTERIOR MOTIVES?
Some argue that Blair is only working on values in order to scrub up his own personal legacy post-Iraq. The anti-Iraq, anti-Bush/Blair press will always argue this, while ignoring other facts which don’t suit their cause.
But we need to look at the UN’s place in all of this. Mr Blair may be on a mission to flush out those in the world who do not share this common cause in order, for instance, to force more effective UN agreement in future decisions. Russia, historically, and in recent years China have sought to stymie international UN action on erring leaders or nations.
Since 1945, when the United Nations was founded, the Soviet Union and Russia have used their veto at the Security Council 120 times, the United States 76 times, Britain 32, France 18 and China only five. (BBC September 2003) Recently China has vetoed more regularly.
There is little doubt that from the Russia viewpoint the Cold War is still warm as it seeks to counter the west’s strength. Meanwhile China looks both ways, in attempts to secure its own political agenda. So, nothing new there then. See pro/con arguments on the legality/illegality of the Iraq invasion (updated 17th June 2008)
The United Nations itself may even be in the process of being faced down by the gentle Blair-steps on self-examination. It has been clear recently that the lack of shared values in such as the aforementioned countries has effectively emasculated the powers of the majority over the minority; has effectively emasculated the UN. That cannot continue indefinitely. A statement of agreed values will add weight to the arguments of those who insist that the veto should not be such a strong card in the hands of a few.
As for the UN’s own responsiblities – the UN is just as complicit in its overseeing and execution of sanctions and workable follow-up plans as was Bush in his Iraq invasion lack of planning. Without an after-plan, it was inevitable that one day a country like the US would go it alone (more or less). The United Nations permitted Saddam 13 years of sanction-busting whilst he thumbed his nose at the rest of the world. Their only post-sanctions plan was more sanctions.
Following the 9/11 invasion President Bush was badly let down by the weakness of the Security Council. He and Blair and other coalition partners in Iraq were actually standing up for the inevitable repercussions of the initial UN sanctions and their intended aim. America stood on the UN’s ground and for that got little support from this august body, from some long-time allies or from the international press.
Bush (and Blair’s) Iraq invasion and its repercussions on the international political stage may have brought this to a head. After more than a decade of being ignored by Saddam, the UN seemed content to continue to be ignored rather than to ’cause trouble’ in the region.
POUND SINKS TO (almost) EURO PARITY
So will climate issues simmer on the back-burner, so to speak? While we watch the British pound slip to the value of the euro for the first time ever, will we worry about rising water levels? ( The pound has lost 13% of its value in the last two months.)
Mr Brown goes on believing, wishing and hoping that he can save the world. (All right – to be fair – he didn’t TRY to do the pregnant pause like his predecessor. He paused and Tory laughter echoed before he could finish the sentence – “save the world’s banking system“.)
BRITISH ELECTION ON THE BACK-BURNER?
Perhaps Brown can actually do it. But Tories today believe that Brown has taken Blairless Labour back to Old Socialism and that he knows he is on the way out and will delay an election until summer 2010. Sans their election winner, (the Previous) they are more or less resigned to defeat (resulting in a hung parliament) and are struggling with the timetable for proving it. This “train-wreck of an economy”, as described by Blair’s predecessor as PM John Major, will hang around Brown’s neck as does Iraq around Blair’s. On the other hand some are suggesting he may call a snap election, unannounced until the last moment of course, before things get even worse for the economy and Brown’s Labour government.
If his lack of decision on such matters delays the election it is highly likely Mr Brown and his government will be with us for, at least another 18 months.
That will certainly give us time to see if his … our funding of the banks et al will work.
FOOD & WATER ON THE BACK-BURNER?
But what has this to do with the food on your table and the water to wash it down?
And here it gets complicated. The shortage of water mentioned here and timetabled to says it is due to climate change.
Excerpt: The United Nations is currently campaigning to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol _ which regulates the emissions of 37 industrial countries _ with another accord at a meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009.
The Kyoto Protocol was signed by 183 nations in 1997. But the United States _ long the world’s biggest emitter, though it is now rivaled by China _ rejected the plan over concerns it would harm the American economy.
Developing countries such as China and India also refused to accept a binding arrangement that they said would limit their development.
BLAIR’S SPEECH AT YALE
In a speech at Yale on Thursday, 11th December Tony Blair re-iterated his oft-repeated call for international “values”.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair holds a conversation with Yale University President Richard C. Levin at the end of a speech by Blair on the Yale University campus in New Haven, Conn., Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008. (AP Photo/Bob Child)
Here in Britain this is not a new Blair word. He often mentioned “values” in speeches in his time at the helm of British politics. A little like motherhood and apple-pie it’s the kind of word that has most people nodding in agreement, as we consider the values that others don’t seem to have these days … from holding a door open for others or saying “please” and “thank-you” to blowing up oneself and others over a “religious” cause. Tch…tch … what IS the world coming to?
Without a full transcript we are at the mercy of the editor of any report. So, I am not sure if the emphasis here in The Christian Post would chime with everyone’s highlights from the Blair talk.
But he has repeated it sufficiently for me to get the gist. And the gist is not how rude people are these days.
Tony Blair is on a quest to make people, primarily people of faith through his foundation, but others too, to work out common values and how (such) values can be fitted into the global jigsaw of trust, dependability, empathy and non-threatening trade and economic agreements.
At the same time he realises that not ALL people have a religious faith. That does not preclude their having “values”. China, for a start, the oft-mentioned upcoming superpower has few religious people to its name. And yet, their values too are uppermost in his mind.
No-one should feel that by lack of religious faith their values preclude them from taking a leading role in the new values-based system.
ANOTHER REPORT ON HIS YALE SPEECH:
Globalization needs a “solid basis of values” to succeed, contended former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a major address this past week.
Faith is one way to provide a values system for globalization, but not the only way, he told hundreds of students and professors at Yale University after completing his first semester as a visiting professor.
Blair’s hour-long speech on Thursday was focused on whether or not a value system could be introduced to globalization and how, according to the Yale Daily News.
“The problems we face today cannot be solved without alliances,” he said. “And alliances won’t work without common values.”
Blair says his experience at Yale has strengthen his belief that religious, economic, and social globalization are linked.
Multicultural and multi-religious societies are the result of “pushing people together,” and now “spiritual capital” and “human capital” need to be linked, he argued.
“Unless we find a way of reconciling faith and globalization, the world will be a more dangerous place,” Blair said, according to The Associated Press.
The former British leader called on the United States, Britain and its allies to emphasize the importance of social values in the fight against terrorism.
“It’s the force of argument, and not of arms, that will cause us to succeed,” Blair said, according to Ecumenical News International.
During his time as a visiting professor at Yale, Blair co-taught a seminar on faith and globalization with Professor Miroslav Volf, a theologian and the director of Yale’s Center for Faith and Culture.
Blair, who was an Anglican Christian, converted to Catholicism in 2007 after stepping down as prime minister of Britain. In an interview with BBC, Blair said that his belief in God played a “hugely important” role during his 10 years as prime minister.
The former British prime minister will continue to teach at Yale for the next two years as part of a three year partnership between the university and his London-based Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Blair said Yale will be the headquarters for the U.S. operations of his foundation, according to the Yale Daily News.
AND THE ECUMENICAL NEWS INTERNATIONAL says:
New Haven, Connecticut (ENI). Former British prime minister Tony Blair has completed his first semester as a visiting lecturer at Yale University, an experience he says has strengthened his belief that religious faith and economic and social globalisation are partners.
In his final appearance on 11 December with students at a seminar he co-taught, and addressing the Yale community, Blair said his time as a part-time academic has convinced him that “globalisation requires values to succeed”.
Arguing that the process of “pushing people together” has made multicultural and multi-religious societies, Blair argued that “spiritual capital” and “human capital” now need to link.
That, combined with an increased need for multi-faith dialogue, he told reporters after he spoke, “will in time be seen as a defining question, and perhaps the leading question of the 21st century”.
Blair also touted the need for the United States, Britain and its allies to emphasise the efficacy of social values in the fight against terrorism.
“It’s the force of argument, and not of arms, that will cause us to succeed,” the former British prime minister said in an address at Yale’s Battell Chapel.
Blair was an Anglican but in 2007, after stepping down as prime minister, he converted to Roman Catholicism. In a BBC television document after he left office, Blair acknowledged that his belief in God played a “hugely important” role during his 10 years as prime minister.
As a Howland Distinguished Fellow at Yale, Blair has co-taught a seminar on the theme of faith and globalisation with Professor Miroslav Volf, a Croatian-born theologian and the director of Yale’s Center for Faith and Culture.
The final session of the seminar, seen by video hook-up, indicated that while Blair did not mind students asking probing questions about the war in Iraq, he held his ground, saying he accepts responsibility for the decision that British forces go to war.
And while acknowledging many things have wrong in Iraq since the 2003 invasion by U.S., British and allied forces, Blair told students he believes the Middle East is still better off without Saddam Hussein at the helm in the country, particularly in a region where, Blair said, some positive effects of globalisation are being felt.
“Do I think today, that looking at the region, it would be better off with Saddam? No I don’t,” Blair said.
The seminar has been a joint offering of Yale Divinity School and the Yale School of Management. Blair has said he expects to return to Yale for an additional two years of teaching.
Blair has formed his own London-based foundation (www.tonyblairfaithfoundation.org), to promote interfaith dialogue. He and Yale officials are working on a joint initiative to address issues of religious faith and globalisation. Blair said the current faith and globalisation course might be “spun off” and taught elsewhere in the world.
Though Blair said the emphasis he has made on global respect for religions and that President George W. Bush has made about respecting human dignity are linked, when asked by reporters to comment further on Bush’s views of religion and politics, he said, “That’s not for me to say.”
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INTERNATIONAL VALUES IN AN “IRRELIGIOUS” SUPERPOWER
These numbers show how political/non-religious Blair’s drive for values needs to be. Religion, though, seems as good a place as any to start. Even in China, Muslims, allegedly, outnumber Christians. Religion in China – over 67% “Irreligious/Atheist”
According to the old Chinese government estimate, there were “over 100 million followers of various faiths” in China. Other estimates put about 100 million or about 8% Chinese who follow Buddhism, with the second largest religion as Taoism (no data), Islam (19 million or 1.5%) and Christianity (14 million or 1%; 4 million Roman Catholics and 10 million Protestants). According to the 1993 edition of The Atlas of Religion, the number of atheists in China is between 10 and 14 percent.
The minority religions are Christianity (between 40 million, 3%, and 54 million, 4%), Islam (20 million, 1.5%), Hinduism, Dongbaism, Bon and a number of new religions and sects (particularly Xiantianism and Falun Gong).
According to the surveys of Phil Zuckerman on Adherents.com in 1993; there was 59% (over 700 million) of the Chinese population was irreligious and 8% – 14% was atheist (from over 100 to 180 million) as of 2005.