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Kirill (Gundyaev), patr. Problems of today’s world (From the speech at the meeting with the members of the Global Leadership Group of the Davos World Economic Forum in Davos, Moscow, March 12, 2011)
PROBLEMS OF TODAY’S WORLD
From the speech at the meeting with members of the Global Leadership Group of the Davos World Economic Forum, Moscow, March 12, 2011
I am glad to see the young members of this forum.24 Let me talk to you heart to heart, very simply, about the problems of the world that affect people, young and old, regardless of nationality or belief.
Some of these problems arise independently of us. The earthquake in Japan did not depend on anyone, but of course our consciousness is affected by the depth of human grief. When you see such pictures, the question arises: What does all this mean against in the background of seemingly cloudless happiness, particularly in rich countries? Japan, like other wealthy countries, had cheerful young people, great wealth and comfort. Suddenly, however, people come face to face with suffering. What was the suffering? In this case it did not depend on the will of people, but they indeed faced a huge challenge.What should a man be like in order to cope with it? What should be in his soul and his mind? Can modern civilization form such a viable personality? These are the questions that I, and many others, must endeavour to answer. In doing so, I try also to answer the following question: Does a man become happier because of increased consumption, more opportunities, greater comfort and more domestic well-being?
I think that now we all face fundamentally new challenges compared to those we faced not so long ago. I belong to the generation
24The meeting was also attended by the students of the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management.
of people who remember 1973. I do not know what is written about this period in history or economics textbooks, but I remember very well what happened that year. I lived in Geneva, where I represented our Church to international organizations. It was the year of the first energy crisis, when suddenly long lines appeared at the gas stations. Sometimes people, waiting in those queues, lacked patience and started fist- fights. People fought to be the first to take the pistol and fill the car. It was precisely at that time that people began to discuss the limits of economic growth. I read a book by the well-known economist Rostow,25 who wrote about these limits.
The consciousness of the people living in the 1960s - particularly those in the Soviet Union—was far from any such restrictions. We had our own ideals and goals. We were told that the Soviet people must transcend all and exceed all; that we must build the highest houses and most powerful factories. No one mentioned any problem of limited resources or of environmental pollution. No one said it was impossible constantly to raise the level of consumption, regardless of pollution and the limited resources of the planet. 1973 shocked society for the first time, and people began to see constantly increasing consumption as a false developmental paradigm.
Nearly 40 years have passed since then, but if we go out onto the street in Moscow, New York or any other city and ask an average person what he wants, his answer is likely to reflect the philosophy of unlimited consumption. Perhaps he will say, ‘I need this, this, this and this.’ However, a person who already has everything required by your first respondent will give you a list of other values he would like to have. One wants an apartment or a country house, another to travel by private jet.
Are there any reasonable criteria for assessing what a person needs for fullness of life? No economic theory will provide such criteria. Moreover, if economists talk about the need to limit growth in consumption, they will provoke an economic collapse:
25Walt Whitman Rostow (1916—2003), American economist and political theorist.
The less people consume, the weaker economic expansion and the slower development will be. Can our planet exist, however, under the conditions of constant economic expansion, with constantly increasing population and ever-greater environmental load? I am deeply convinced that it cannot, and I know that many people share this opinion.
We now have the most important question: How can a person control his level of consumption? Here I would like to tell you that today in the Russian Church we are in a period of fasting - as is the West, at least formally.We, in the Russian Orthodox Church, keep a very strict fast. When I say ‘we,’ I am glad I am taking not just about those who constantly go to church but instead about a very large percentage of the residents of modern Russia. For example, meat consumption decreases dramatically. One can easily determine that by going to the market and asking what happens with the purchase of meat during a period of fasting. We have a strict discipline of fasting, which goes back to ancient times. It is based on the realization that a person should educate himself, including in abstinence and the limitation of needs. After all, a person who can limit his own consumption is able to solve the problems that will never be solved by those who cannot place limits on themselves.
Self-restraint, however, is not the value offered by modern civilization. Consider advertising and glossy magazines, which impose a completely different way of life. What does all this mean, projecting this strategically into the future? Are we living rightly or wrongly? Have we built our lives correctly? My modest answer is this: We live the wrong way and are punished by God for this wrongness. Everything that happens today with the climate and everything that happens today with people testifies that our development is not taking a completely right path.
I understand that what I have said somehow contradicts with what you are talking about in Davos. There you gather experts from different countries, including the developing ones, and listen to clever economists from developed countries who have studied management, banking and modern management techniques, all this
so that all or at least most of the world’s population can live like those in the rich countries do. Now I would like to ask a very tricky question: If nine billion people live like people in the developed countries, will they be able to exist for a long time? Will there be enough resources on the planet for everyone to live as people do in America, or the way as dreamed about at the Davos forum, including our Russian economists, whose eyes light up at the thought of how well it is possible to live? Can the entire human race live like this or not? The answer is very simple: It cannot. The earth is not adapted for such a purpose. God did not create the earth in order for us to infinitely increase our level of consumption for the sake of happiness.
I believe it would be very useful to include in all discussions about economic growth and the means to overcome economic crises - in themselves correct and intelligent discussions - the dimensions relating to human personality, human happiness and abundant life.We must try to understand the extent to which this happiness is dependent on consumption.
I would like to indicate two more issues that, it seems to me, are very important for answering the question of who we are and where we are going as a human race.
First, there is the issue of inter-religious, inter-cultural and inter-civilizational relations. The fact is that in a globalised world we all live cheek to jowl and there are several models of how to organise a multinational, multicultural, multi-religious community. Thus, according to the concept of multiculturalism, people of different cultures living together should be included in the process of constant convergence.There should be mutual exchange so as to defuse potential conflicts, reconcile contradictions and form a mixture of different cultures and thereby ensure peaceful coexistence. Societies that adhere to the model thus described are guided by an idea that boils down to: People can have different religious beliefs and different cultures, but in the public space they must live and act beyond any reference to the religious basis for their actions. Given this perspective, no religion should be in the public space:The public space
should be secular. Religion is a private matter - a family one - and, outside the framework of private life, a person has no right to use religious argumentation to motivate his actions.
What happens in the world today demonstrates that the concept of multiculturalism does not justify itself. Peace is not achieved, as is clearly demonstrated by the situation in Western Europe. As you know, even government officials talk, and rightly so, of the failure of multiculturalism. The model does not work, so no mixture is achieved. The glass is filled with different ingredients to make a cocktail, but it will not shake together. There are the components but no cocktail. Or, perhaps there was no real need to pour it. It is impossible to turn a Turk or an Arab into an Anglo-Saxon, even if you really try.
Thus we come to the idea that there can be another model of inter-civilization relations in which everyone lives according to his beliefs. We do not propose to people models that are culturally or philosophically alien to them, but everyone who lives in a multicultural society is required to be open to other people, to live and work with others, while remaining himself.
We in Russia also live in a multicultural society. Fortunately, for a thousand years we have never had religious wars. People never fought because of religion.They always lived together but according to their customs and maintaining their traditions. As long as people did not try to impose their religious beliefs, there was no conflict. We still live in the inertia of this tradition, which, unfortunately, is now exposed to great danger from radical fundamentalist Islamic groups coming to Russia and teaching their followers another style of relations with non-Muslims.
I thank God that today the vast majority of Muslims in Russia continue the tradition of coexistence, which has been followed for centuries. We make every effort to preserve this tradition. We consider it very important, in the present conditions, to improve the level of dialogue between religious communities and discuss common problems together.With that in mind, we have created the Interreligious Council of Russia, in which are discussed the prob-
lems common to the representatives of different religions. Such discussion involves legislation, social problems and many other themes.
It is very important to prevent radicalization of religious thinking, because if this happens, inter-religious relations explode. That is why religious leaders and secular authorities have a very huge task. I do not want to say the model we have is ideal. That would not be accurate. As you know, in recent years the Russian territory has suffered from terrorist acts. Nevertheless, we gratefully perceive what was believed and confessed by our fathers and grandfathers in regard to the building of inter-faith relations, and we would like to continue this tradition because it has proved its viability. In accordance with this tradition, people live the way they want to, preserving their religious and cultural values.They simply respect each other and help each other.
I must again state that, today, the issue of interreligious relations is extremely radicalised by the evil will of people. I am deeply convinced that we are dealing precisely with bad will, particularly the use of the religious factor to achieve political goals. Of course, this is a topic for religious leaders and government authorities.
The last question I shall touch on very briefly because, in recent years, the Russian Church has discussed it a lot, and there are texts, many of which have been translated. The question is about the balance between freedom and human responsibility.
Freedom is part of human nature, which is why any restriction of freedom causes internal protest, a feeling of discomfort and a desire to change the situation for the better. However, moral sense also belongs to human nature. No matter how hard some philosophers try to convince us that there are no universal moral values, it is not true, because no matter where a person was born, regardless of his culture or religion, he recognises a set of certain moral values, which are collectively called good. At the same time there is a set of thoughts and actions that people consider evil.
It is really surprising. In cinema there is the concept of the ‘happy ending.’ Have you ever thought about the philosophical meaning of this concept? What does it mean to have a ‘happy ending’?
It means goodness has triumphed and there will be a happy ending for everyone. Take as an example the most common American action movie. If goodness triumphs, it is clear to everyone, whether in Papua New Guinea, Russia or America. There is such a concept in literature as a ‘goodie.’ If you look at this goodie, he is the same in India, China, Africa and Europe. There will be certain nuances, but the moral basis will be the same. Moral values are universal, and therefore we must bring to a harmonious relationship the two values that belong to the nature of a man: freedom and morality. If we associate freedom with moral responsibility, we ensure the responsible behaviour of the individual for himself, for his family, for others, for society and for all of God’s creation.
I believe the current crisis affecting different areas of life, including the economy, is, when all is said and done, a crisis of identity. If we do not overcome this crisis of human identity, we shall face not only an economic crisis, but also crises in the fields of scientific progress and new discoveries. I am deeply convinced that this crisis can be overcome only through a combination of freedom and moral responsibility. Thank you for your attention.
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