Thursday, August 28, 2014

Globalization and Its Effects on the Youth

Forthcoming in Revive

GLOBALIZATION has no easy definition. The term has been used variously and has come to mean various things to various people. Consequently, what it means in politics may differ from what it means in economics, and what it means in literature may differ from what it means in culture. Simply described, globalization is the easing of interconnectivity between communities, cultures, countries, currencies, commodities, concepts, cuisines, and civilizations. However, the process of easing is not so easy as well; because, the easing also gives rise to more walls raised by those who are afraid of losing individual identity and value under the crashing waves of globalization. Therefore, while there is internet and information explosion on one side, there is also cyber terrorism and terrorist explosions on the other side; and while there is the rise of liberalism on one side, there is also the strengthening of fundamentalism on the other. But, what kind of impact has all this on the youth?

Socialization
Globalization revolutionizes socialization, at least wherever its effects are felt. One of the most revolutionizing tools has been the mobile phone, and social platforms and apps such as Watsapp and Facebook. About a year ago, The Hindu reported that India was now the world’s third largest internet user after USA and China. The report stated that men and women under 35 were the heavier users and a quarter of their time spent online was on social media. Internet globalization has revolutionized the culture of making friends, writing mails, viewing picture albums, and even courtship and dating. It has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, social media has the ability of abetting the teenager to dodge the surveillance of elders; at the same time, it also puts him/her at the risk of overt-expressionism and vulnerability. Communication misses the face-to-face personal touch that cannot be substituted with smileys and stickers.

Of course, social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have given every user a platform to express one’s thoughts and feeling. Sometimes opportunity to express does help to do good; like when people join a cause and respond by spreading awareness, praying, or even financially supporting a work. However, sometimes, it also does damage when the platforms are misused by tale bearing fools, slanderers, propagandists, and gossips.

The Biblical practice of meeting at the gates (Prov.31:23) and assembling together (Heb.10:25) were considered vital in previous times. These personal meetings cannot be usurped by social media time. Many churches now prohibit the use of mobile phones during services. Of course, we need to be cautious not to raise fundamentalist walls against the instruments of globalization. However, we must also remember that a “neighbor nearby is better than a brother far away” (Prov.27:10). It is very callous to not attend to the preacher in the service or to the friend who is visiting, just because there is the temptation to chat some unimportant topic with an electronic friend far away.

Family
Live-in relationships are beginning to grow in number in India. Premarital and extra-marital sex was already a problem. Pointers are towards growing licentiousness in literature, arts, and entertainment media. There is high growth rate of divorces and premarital sexual relationships. To a great extent now, globalization has become a carrier of Westernization. There are both good and bad aspects to it. While there is the stress on the liberation of women and highlighting of child rights, there is also a departure from the traditional sense of social ethics, honor and shame. It is not a healthy sight to see parents and children glued to an indecent comedy show, program, or movie. Such things were not heard of in early days. But, globalization has created such a noisy and loud background that the still small voice of conscience evades notice, sadly.

Christian counselors advise families to use parental controls on computers and television in order to keep garbage out. At the same time, it is important for parents to know that their role in their family precedes their role in the church or community (1Tim.3:4,5; Eph.6:1).

Education
In the globalization era, especially when the focus zooms into technology and commerce, education has become too materialistic and mammon-serving. Someone has rightly described postmodern education aiming at producing “fodder for the industrial machine”. Education itself has become commercialized. Theoretical and philosophical disciplines are not very popular anymore. Children are educated not in order that they get educated but in order that they get a place to survive in the market of globalization. Therefore, the ability for abstract reasoning diminishes. As Malcolm Muggeridge observed, “We have educated ourselves into imbecility”.  Education doesn’t aim to make a person refined but only aims to make one a better money-amasser; not qualitatively different from the beasts whose knowledge is only proportionate to the food they must obtain in order to survive, perhaps even more degrading. A recent India Today (August 7) article bemoaned that the average Indian mind doesn’t even consider scientific theory as valuable and mistakes technology for science.

But, the Biblical concept of education is the search for wisdom that is more precious than money, gold, silver, or rubies (Prov.8:11).

THE POSITIVE ASPECTS
Globalization has its pros and cons, depending on how one uses it. In fact, scholars have a term to identify the ideologies that attempt to give direction to globalization. They call them globalisms. There are some globalisms that are purely materialistic and market oriented while there are others that are cultural, political, and even religious (for instance, when a particular religion attempts to globalize itself by the use of tools that help to hasten its self-propagation). These give rise to both fear and hope.

As always, the youth become the first that are easily sucked into the phenomenon. Technological globalization has altered the way the modern youth looks at the universe. It has also impacted what comes to mind first when one hears words like mouse, windows, tablet, and notebook. In fact, globalization has powerfully altered language, and that is not just limited to English. But, there are also positive blessings.

Access to Christian Resources at Fingertips
The modern youth has access to the largest library in the world (the internet) with his search aided by powerful search engines that flash a menu of available information in the flip of seconds before his eyes. The youth has access to both medicine and poison, and also the possibility of being invisible while feeding on them.

More and more youth turn to the internet for research, for finding answers to questions, and for information tools. The blessing: any youth now has free access to a plethora of Christian resources available online. Sites such as biblegateway.com, ccel.org and gotquestions.org have heavy in-traffic. Young people heavily access Christian information on media websites, blogs, and encyclopedias. Also, Bibles are available online in several languages, in both PC and mobile formats.

Christian Music and Literature that Leap Across Denominational Boundaries
Christian music, practically speaking, doesn’t respect denominational boundaries so much. Denomination is abomination to it. In modern times, there has been a surge of Christian artists, bands, and music genres with emphasis on youth culture. Modern Christian music has leaped across linguistic and national boundaries with songs from one culture becoming popular in another, and even getting translated in several languages of the world.

Similarly, literature leaps across boundaries and assists in the spread of Christian information. Thus, music and literature help to further the sense of unity in the worldwide Christian community as each sings each others songs (without any labels attached) and each benefits from what each other has discovered about the Christian faith.

Christian Social Networking Worldwide
Also, social networking sites and communication tools have helped the worldwide Christian community to get closer, with the ability to convey information (including photos and video streams) at the speed of light.

Gospelization of the Globe
Globalization also facilitates gospelization by making the Christian presence felt in the global arena. Christian presence is felt through internet, multi-lingual churches, television, and Christian impact on governmental law-making. Education and employment opportunities are drawing an increasing number of youth out and giving them freedom of opportunity to rethink values and beliefs. A great number are exposed to the light of the Gospel and are influenced by Christian values.

In an age of globalization, Babel is being re-erected with linguistic barriers crumbling down. English is becoming more and more embraced as a global media of communication. But, even if not, tools such as Google Translate and onsite translation tools assist in breaking, to a great extent, the linguistic barrier. Perhaps, globalization is more intensive and penetrating in effect than the Hellenization of Early Christian era and the Anglicization and Westernization of the modern era. Those processes did ease boundaries and assist interflow of information and products, for sure; however, they didn’t have what globalization today has: information technology and speed. Speed extends not just to communication but also to transfer of money and personnel. Speed also extends to the intensification of travel in the globalized era, when it is practically possible to have your breakfast in Asia, your lunch in Europe, and your dinner elsewhere, provided you can pay for it.

Again, there are pros and cons to all these; but, without doubt, the appeal of globalization is this-generation-oriented. Even as advertising agencies and entertainment industries are turning to children (or childishness in adults, as in some ads, movies, and programs), churches and mission boards are beginning to realize that the youth cannot be neglected. In modern times, movements such as the 4/14 Window and Empowered21 specially concentrate on reaching the youth and turning resources towards the young ones. Empowered21 movement especially aims at a Spirit-empowered generation with churches speaking in a language that the youth can understand and developing fathers and mentors for the youth. Certainly, the young ones are in focus, and intensely so in the era of globalization.

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