Francis-Trump meeting: Time to move from globalisation to planetisation

So US President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet Francis, the Bishop of Rome, in Vatican on May 24!

May 12, 2017

By Anil Netto
So US President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet Francis, the Bishop of Rome, in Vatican on May 24!

Many wish they could “be a fly on the wall” during the meeting to find out what these two world figures will be saying in private.

By now, the differences between Trump and Francis are well known. They hold divergent opinions on a range of issues including immigration and refugees, their approach towards Islam, climate change, economic development and arms control.

Trump is inward looking. He wants to “Make America Great” again. That means looking after America’s interest first. This kind of insular thinking would prefer a wall being put up along the US-Mexico border.

This wall proposal prompted Francis to respond: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Francis’ words provoked an angry response from Trump.

In this exchange, we witnessed a hint of the underlying philosophical difference between Trump’s view of America and Francis’ vision of an interconnected world

Francis’ vision is one of a world in harmony, creation in unity, of the sort that St Francis of Assisi celebrated in the early 13th Century with his composition Canticle of the Sun:

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

It reflected Francis’ love of all creatures, everything that is on this planet and beyond in the Universe.

Since then, rapid advances in technology, travel, and communications have brought us closer to one another so that the world has now shrunk into a “global village”.

But the forces of globalisation have also had their negative effects. Environmental concerns are no longer limited by national borders; so too the potential for nuclear devastation.

Similarly corporate-led neoliberal globalisation has widened income inequalities across the world, enriching the top 1 or top 5 per cent of the population. Multinational corporations have grown immensely powerful and are perceived to be “the new rulers of the world”. Workers, on the other hand, are struggling to make ends meet.

So the term globalisation has been tainted through its association with a certain kind of economic model.

The great Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) preferred instead to speak of “planetisation.”

Planetisation, he said, is “the profound ordering of things” that will enable “human collectivisation to pass beyond the enforced phase, where it now is, into the free phase.”

Under this free phase, de Chardin believed that people would at last understand that they are all “inseparably joined elements of a converging Whole”.

They would then have learned “to love the preordained forces that unite them”. This free phase would be “a natural union of affinity and sympathy”.

So planetisation is a more positive way of looking at our evolution. This is what the Bishop of Rome, also a Jesuit, is alluding to when he says we are all interconnected.

This process is irresistible, said de Chardin. “So many opposing forces (ideas, passions, institutions, peoples) meet and clash around us that to the thinking person it may well appear that the human ship is rudderless in the storm. Are we going ahead or astern, or are we simply hove-to? No means of telling while we remain at sea-level: the waves hide the horizon.

“I can see only one way of escape from this state of uncertainty which threatens to paralyse all positive action: we must rise above the storm, the chaos of surface detail, and from a higher vantage-point look for the outline of some great and significant phenomenon.”

After two world wars and so much upheaval, he felt that the human family is even more closely bound than ever before – and then there is a tangle of social and economic relationships as well.

For de Chardin, there is a major cosmic process at work, which he called “human planetisation” — a tide of ever-increasing unification, under a universal sense of evolution, no longer based on wealth but on genuine progress.

“What is really going on, under cover and in the form of human collectivisation, is the super-organisation of Matter upon itself, which as it continues to advance produces its habitual, specific effect, the further liberation of consciousness.”

“Let us look it in the face and see whether, using it as an unassailable foundation, we cannot erect upon it a hopeful edifice of joy and liberation.”

De Chardin says in this final phase of human freedom, “what finally divides the men of today into two camps is not class but an attitude of mind — the spirit of movement” forward towards real progress and unification.

In a sense, this attitude of mind is what divides the insular Trump from the “interconnected” Francis. Francis sees Creation including humanity as interconnected and wants us to reach out to all those in need who need our care.

Theologian Leonardo Boff noted that the United Nations made the term Mother Earth official in 2008 to give the connotation of a living thing that must be respected and revered. Francis, he wrote, uses the term “common house” to emphasise the deep bond of the people who inhabit this common place.

“We must now secure the positive and essential meaning of the concept of planetisation, a word better than ‘globalisation’ because of its economic connotations,” said Boff.

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