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Monday, March 14, 2011

The Climate for Cultural Democracy

There are many obstacles to seeing the goals of cultural democracy realized. What's most important for advocates of cultural democracy is to keep the big picture in mind.
The writer Carlos Fuentes has characterized ours as an era of "cultures as the protagonists of history." Around the globe, everywhere we look, we see evidence of cultures refusing to buckle under to the homogenizing influence of the imperial powers, be they political or corporate. The century now ending has seen the appearance of an ever-growing number of independent states, increasing visibility of ethnic and cultural groups within states, and a global revolt against the technocratic and anti-humane values of western-style development. This big picture -- both global and historical -- is essential to keeping one's hopes up for cultural democracy in this last depressing decade of the 20th Century.

There is plenty of evidence to justify discouragement, however. "Ethnic cleansing" and genocide, racism and oppression, are as much a part of our cultural legacy as our abilities to love and nurture one another, embracing and celebrating our many differences.

Clearly, cultural democracy is a vital theme of our epoch. The question is whether we will be able to recognize and engage with it in our own lives and work, whether it will be a good idea that didn"t get over or a way to make positive change.

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