A conceptual framework

The central dilemma of our age is how we live together. Peaceful coexistence is the goal of civilization and avoiding the 'clash of civi-lizations'2 should be the overarching intent of politics. But in trying to achieve these goals we are to a lesser or greater extent prisoners of circumstance - of old habits, assumptions, battles and animosities, struggling with the physical and mental worlds. History circumscribes possible future trajectories. However, we can at least partially transcend this imprisonment through understanding and analysing the world, and, crucially, acting on our reflections. Self-reflection should focus us on considering boundaries, barriers and borders within cities, such as ghettoes, voluntary or imposed, and between cities and countries. This draws attention to our tribal tendencies and our insider/outsider instincts, as well as how we claim territory, as when gangs physically occupy an area or when we distinguish ourselves from others through lifestyle choices or making people like the homeless feel like outsiders. These are questions of identity and belonging. It challenges us to ask how porous we are while still feeling confident about who we are.

As the world comes closer together virtually and in real time and space, how we gather, communicate and understand each other rises in importance. Then it becomes crucial to assess more what we share as common citizens of the world rather than what divides us. This is not to claim that some cosy togetherness should occur, but rather to stress how we negotiate conflicts and be together in difference. If being global in every sense is the tenor of the age, then the notion of the intercultural moves centre-stage. This means the ability to look at the world through an intercultural lens, which implies a cultural literacy, an understanding of how different cultures think and see the world.

From this premise of the aim of civilization I propose a conceptual framework. Think of faultlines, battlegrounds, paradoxes, drivers and strategic dilemmas and navigate your mind around them. It may help decipher what is happening and what might be done. You will find gaps that you can fill in. To do this adequately requires a kind of thinking that is holistic and sees the connection between things rather than the fragmented parts. Indeed, the battle between these two ways of thinking may be the biggest faultline of all.

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