Worldviews: How We See the World, Part 3

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. 00-bent-tree

The Center for Global Awareness is pleased to announce a forthcoming conversation program to enhance global awareness for adult learners called GRASP (Global Awareness Adult Study Program). GRASP’s mission is to enhance adult learners’ global awareness by offering conversation materials that present significant global topics using a unique four dimensional approach: see, know, evolve, and engage (SEEK). Participants will be able to see different perspectives and views, know more about significant global topics, evolve attitudes and shift behaviors, and engage more actively in helping to solve pressing global concerns through interacting more deeply with others.

We at CGA think it is as important to see different perspectives and views of global topics as it is to know about the topics. Therefore, we are developing new materials to enhance this “see” skill for adult learners. One of the ways to help us see different perspectives is to understand different worldviews. One of our forthcoming books, Worldviews: How We See the World, addresses the see dimension. I would like to share with you a condensed version of the first chapter of this book: An Introduction to Worldviews. Please follow our 4-part blog series on worldviews.

Within the Global Wave there is not one all-pervasive, homogenous way of thinking and seeing reality. Instead I have identified five often contentious and conflicting worldviews, with contradictory ways of knowing and understanding the world, each promoting dissimilar visions for the present and future. In the United States and throughout the world, most people identify with one or another of these worldviews or hold a combination of ideas from these five worldviews. The following is a brief summary of the five major worldviews: indigenous, modern, fundamentalist, globalized, and transformative.

1. An Indigenous Worldview
Very few people today hold an indigenous worldview. Indigenous peoples share a similar ethnic identity and usually inhabit a geographic region with which they have had an early historical connection. “Indigenous” means “from” or “of the original origin.” 07-kung-huntersOther terms used to describe indigenous peoples are aborigines, first people, native people, or aboriginal but the United Nations prefers the term, “indigenous peoples.” The world population of indigenous peoples is hard to estimate, but recent counts range from 300 million to 350 million. This would be just under 5 percent of the total world population. This number includes at least 5,000 distinct peoples in over 72 countries.

Indigenous peoples today live in groups ranging from only a few dozen to hundreds of thousands or more. Many groups have declined in numbers and some no longer exist, while others are threatened. Modern populations have assimilated some indigenous groups, while in other cases they are recovering or expanding their numbers. Some indigenous societies no longer live on their ancestral land because of migration, relocation, forced resettlement or having their land taken by others. In many cases, indigenous groups are losing or have lost their language and lands, and have experienced intrusion and pollution of their lands and disruption of their traditional ways.

2. A Modern Worldview
The modern worldview traces its history back more than 500 years to the expansion of Western European power and influence 08-industrial-machinesaround the world. The modern worldview has been especially powerful over the last two centuries and has today expanded to the farthest reaches of the world.

A modern worldview continues today as a way of understanding the world and solving problems. It has ushered in a host of astonishing achievements such as the equality of women, medical breakthroughs, technological successes, educational progress, a high material standard of living for some, and the advancement of human rights. But it has also promoted terrible failures, such as values of rampant consumerism, cut-throat competition, unlimited economic growth, the use of punishment as a way to correct behaviors, military force to resolve conflict, and individualism over community.

3. A Fundamentalist Worldview
Fundamentalism is a strict belief in a set of principles that are often religious. Many who hold to these ideas wish to defend what they see as traditional religious beliefs of the past. Although fundamentalists believe they are following the exact traditions of the past, this would be impossible in a modern society. 09-iranian-womenInstead their beliefs have grown out of a rejection of modern ideas along with a response to the unsettling effects of globalization. They see their religion as true and others as false. There are fundamentalist sects in almost all of the world’s major religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. Across cultures, fundamentalists share several common characteristics including a factual reading of scripture, a mistrust of outsiders, a sense of separation from modern culture, and a belief in the historical correctness of their religion. Some religious fundamentalists are politically active, trying to shape the political and social order in line with their beliefs. Many feel that the state should be run according to religious principles. Fundamentalists see the choices for organizing their nation as limited to a Western/modern society or a traditional society. Since they reject a modern society, the only other choice they see is the continuation of their traditional ways. Also many people in modern nations find that their traditional values give comfort and security in a rapidly changing and complex world.

4. A Globalized Worldview
A fourth worldview, a globalized worldview, is sweeping the world today. It has grown out of the modern worldview and has many of its characteristics. But one of the differences is that in the globalized worldview “time has speeded up” 10-mcdonalds-mega-mac-in-malaysiaand the pace of growth and development has spread to the farthest reaches of the earth. A globalized worldview affects all aspects of society and individuals’ daily lives.

In a globalized worldview, global capitalism is the dominant economic system. One global economic system governed by capitalist principles has enveloped national and local economies that governments have regulated and protected in the past. A global economic marketplace conducts business, currency exchanges, and trade policies that ignore national boundaries. Global multinational corporations make many of the economic rules and conduct the business of the world marketplace. They promote a consumer-focused economy and support a powerful financial sector. As we will find out, the globalization process, and in particular economic globalization has both negative and beneficial aspects.

5. A Transformative Worldview
At this point in time, diverse people are actively challenging the negative parts of the four other worldviews. These people say a different worldview or a different story is needed to make sure our human species and life as we know it on earth continues. 11-mexican-organic-farmersLeaders from diverse fields – religious leaders, students, entrepreneurs, international political leaders, indigenous farmers, political activists, environmentalists, entertainers, scientists, working people, artists, writers, academics, educators, economists, concerned citizens, and others – are contributing to the creation of what I call a transformative worldview.

Critics say that none of the other worldviews are able to meet the challenges of the 21st century. For example, some think that fundamentalist beliefs will not help build a more culturally tolerant atmosphere in an increasingly interracial world. Yet, they admire the sense of community fundamentalists support. Some people advancing a transformative worldview admire the sense of local place and the importance of the environment that many indigenous people have connected with for millennia but don’t want to lose a shared awareness as global citizens. Some people say that we need to move beyond the modern worldview without losing the value of scientific inquiry and rational, logical thought. Many people supporting a transformative worldview admire the advances in technology, transportation and communication, while rejecting the despoiling of our planet. They draw upon the globalized worldview idea that we are all global citizens yet want to limit the dominance of the world’s economy by giant, multinational corporations.


  1. What worldview do you most closely identify with? Least identify with?


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