The Glocal Planet
Effective leadership takes contextual thinking, but which context are we supposed pick or at least prioritize?
For community developers, contextual analysis--what urban missiologists Randy White and Ray Bakke refer to as "urban exegesis"--is the backbone of effective, dignifying justice work. But this world is complex and intimately interconnected, so though stringent attention must be paid to the particular place and people whose shalom we are seeking, we will wind up with misunderstandings and missed opportunities if our focus becomes too narrow.
Every cultural context is a system with its own players, rules, goals, and "flows" (which can be anything from information to power...more on the leadership/shalom insights from systems theory in future posts!). And every system is embedded within larger systems, and usually contains smaller systems within itself.
The classic example comes from people: a cell is a system inside an organ, which is a system embedded within an organ system, embedded inside a human being who is a system functioning inside an environmental systems of with other living and nonliving things.
Cultures function the same way--now more than ever.
“We are rapidly becoming one global world in which events in one part of the world immediately affect the rest of the world” (The Gospel in Human Contexts). This process is called “glocalization,” and its effects are everywhere: from the seemingly spontaneous and distributed protests described in my second post, to the fact that even an introvert like me has Facebook friends on every continent, to the cup of coffee I'm drinking made from beans from the other side of the planet.
Glocalization is the reason why when I was staying with Mongolian nomads in a valley they claimed no American had ever visited the teenagers were listening to Lady Gaga on Mp3 players. Its also the reason why I can walk a couple blocks from my apartment in Fresno and eat at a South East Asian fusion place where I'm the only one who doesn't speak Hmong.
The stories in the "Global" section of the newspaper have a direct impact on my neighbors. And that makes leadership complex.
We must be aware of events on global, national, local, personal and even situational scales and formulate our theology and methodologies against their backdrops. The phrase: "Think global, act local" is at least three fourths right. Local particularities take precedence in our choice of initiative and strategic approach, but we must always do so against the broader glocal backdrop.
What do you say? How would you challenge or nuance these comments?
This is a loosely connected rabbit trail, but it's fun for me to think about. I hold to the perspective that historical shifts such as the rise of "glocalization" are primarily driven by technological advances and economic interests. Globalization began with colonization for economic expansion, and was accelerated by advances in transportation and communications technology. The experience of global warfare and the advent of nuclear weaponry created a shared global consciousness, an integration of human fate to which Dr. King was particularly attuned (see Strength to Love and Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?). The introduction of the internet continues to radically accelerated these trends. Contextual transformations occur first and are only then followed by reflection which produces fresh philosophical and theological thinking, and eventually, worldview shifts.