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Engaged Practice

The Paradox of Globalization: An Engaged Buddhist Analysis

From an engaged Buddhist perspective, globalization involves a seeming paradox. The growth of global telecommunications systems and cheap long distance travel means that we have more opportunities than ever to learn about people distant from us. Geographers such as David Harvey speaks of globalization involving “space-time compression”—that, in practical terms, the world is becoming a smaller place as we communicate and travel more and more quickly over longer and longer physical distances. This potential to learn more about others means we should be able to deepen our understanding of them and therefore strengthen our compassion for other members of our global society. There is plenty of evidence of this at work—there are a lot of people involved in global humanitarian work and social justice activism, motivated by compassion for those physically distant from them, people they will often likely never meet.

But this does not seem to be the dominant social trend. Instead, the current manner in which society is globally integrating seems to be promoting social dynamics characterized by a lack of compassion, such as the exploitation of workers in sweatshops and xenophobia towards migrants. Even many people who don’t actively support such injustices react with indifference, pleading compassion fatigue.