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Premises for an Inter-Cultural Gathering

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Part of Towards Transformative Conferencing and Dialogue: Collection of papers and notes, problems and possibilities on the new frontier of high-risk gatherings concerning social development (1991). Prepared in the process of envisaging the group dynamics of the World Parliament of Relgions


1. Meaning of "the way forward": There is a need to articulate understanding of what could be meant by "the way forward" in an inter-cultural context.

2. Seeing things whole: There is a need to explore new ways of seeing things as a whole -- without losing sight of the parts for which each culture is responsible.

3. Inter-cultural maps: There is a need to come to an understanding of where each cultural concern is located on a map of the functions essential to sustainability -- functions which, when pursued to excess, result in unsustainability.

4. Overall pattern: The complex of issues under discussion should preferably be viewed as forming some meaningful overall pattern. Individual issues can usefully be seen as pieces of a systemic "jig-saw puzzle" that we do not as yet fully understand how to put together -- or what the completed "picture" might look like.

5. Beyond isolated bargains: There is a need to move beyond isolated bargains -- often only achieved at the price of unsustainable compromise in other areas. In this sense "local" (namely cultur-specific) agreements tend to be achieved at the price of "global" disagreement.

6. Function of differences: There is a need to acknowledge the function of differences between cultures. This contrasts with the hope that the differences can be rendered insignificant within a global consensus -- thus making any such consensus a competitive exercise in tokenism.

7. New patterns of communication: There is a need to struggle with the challenge of understanding and articulating new patterns of inter-cultural activity, namely new patterns of communication to sustain sustainability -- conceptual "ley lines". These need to enhance understanding of the whole rather then focusing exclusively on links between selected and privileged parts.

8. Necessary cultural constraints: Unless each culture recognizes the conditions under which its action should be constrained, a culture of cultural self-righteousness prevails. This imperils the emergence of any sustainable global pattern of new significance.

9. Challenge to comprehension: Unless a culture can recognize how it is part of the problem, it must necessarily be unable to understand the nature of the sustainable solution required.

10. Collective learning: The inter-cultural challenge may be seen as a challenge of designing a collective learning process.

Think functionally, act strategically

Configure globally, challenge locally

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