Inside USD

Finding the Virtues for Global Flourishing

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Increased interconnection between individuals around the globe. The compression of space and time. A sharing of ideas at unprecedented levels and the incredible growth of trade and commerce among people and nations.

“Globalization” is the shorthand term for these phenomena but how does humanity work to ensure it moves in a positive direction? Leading Australian theologian Neil Ormerod addressed the religious response to the impact of globalization on vital social, cultural, personal and religious values in a talk Monday sponsored by USD’s Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture.

“Globalization presents us with a new moral context in which we must learn to act as moral agents,” facing issues such as threats to the world’s environment, the disparity between rich and poor and the exploitation of third-world labor, said Ormerod, a professor at Australian Catholic University and author of numerous articles and books including Globalization and the Mission of the Church and The Trinity: Retrieving the Western Tradition.

In a wide-ranging speech, he explored the notion of traditional social, personal, and cultural values in a global context. In particular, he suggested three that can play an important role: attentiveness to the real problems facing the world instead of being distracted by the culture of celebrity and entertainment; solidarity, as Pope John Paul II often emphasized, to find support and common ground with the poor and oppressed; and hope, to keep from being overwhelmed by the difficulties and challenges facing the world.

All of these can play a vital role, for example, in creating a more sustainable world. “Sustainability demands we do not view ourselves as some alien extremity tacked on to the natural world (but) as a living and intelligent extension of that world” which must conserve and use resources wisely, he said.

While globalization challenges Christianity and other faiths, traditional notions of “faith, hope and love” contribute to the healing needed for global flourishing, he said.

With the death of Osama bin Laden still fresh in people’s minds, Ormerod also touched on terrorism and its connection to globalization. It’s ironic that terrorism uses technology and other tools of globalization to try and destroy its institutions, he noted. At the same time, not everything done in the name of stopping terror can be justified and the jury is still out on the consequences of actions such as killing bin Laden, he argued.

Terrorists often point to excesses and damage from globalization, he said, adding, “the best way of countering that is to make globalization all that it could be if we were actually to be virtuous people and to create and operate through the virtues that could promote global flourishing rather than the truncated version we have at present.”

— Liz Harman

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