GLOBALIZATION MYTH AND TRADITIONAL CULTURE IN GEORGIA AND THE CAUCASUS

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  • It is thought that a dialog of civilizations will make it possible to draw up a common foundationfor protecting human dignity on which the system of human rights protection can rely. Recognizingcultural diversity should not cast aspersions on the universal nature of human rights. On the otherhand, there is an interrelationship between cultural values and universal human rights in differentsocieties. In this sense, the thought expressed at one time by Secretary General of the Council ofEurope Catherine Lalumire is interesting: Universality is not uniformity, and it can entirely tolera-bly be related to the fact that, depending on societies and cultures, special accents are placed more onsome rights than on others. I would even say that if human rights want to be truly universal, theyshould be rooted in different cultures. Only under this condition will people, no matter where theylive, be able to know and understand human rights, for they are capable of carrying this out only pro-ceeding from their own culture.16

    For example, freedom of speech guarantees each person the right to freely express his/her ownopinion. But whereas one culture believes that caricature is a form of freedom of speech, another doesnot accept that way of expressing ones thoughts. Some accept single-sex marriages to be a compo-nent of personal life, others are against such marriages.

    The experience of drawing up international covenants on human rights shows that consent canbe reached regarding principles that are common for different cultures and religions, in so doingreaching a consensus on the contents of human rights. So it is not necessary for cultures to be opposedto each other, for in todays world they are not self-contained in a specific space, but touch upon andinfluence each other.

    The different problems of human rights can be resolved on the basis of human unity, whichmeans on the principle of universality, while preserving national and cultural diversity.

    / :=.9/'/9/

    D.Sc. (Philos.), professor at the Academy of Arts of Tbilisi,head of the Caucasian Institute of Social Strategies Foundation

    (Tbilisi, Georgia).

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    16 C. Lalumire, Confrence mondiale sur les droits de lhomme, discurs de Secrtaire Gnral du Conseil deLEurope, Vienne, 14-25 juin, 1993, p. 3.

    the age of globalization. This process hasalready offered Caucasian geoculture newpossibilities; the Caucasus has been given

    he geocultural orientation of the Cau-casus, and Georgia as its part, isgrowing more and more important in

  • Until recently the traditions of culturological studies never put the Caucasian region in the con-text of a topos with a competitive geocultural identity in relation to other cultures.

    If a post-culture and its epoch lend themselves to any description, it can be put in a nutshell inthe following way:

    1. Transpolitical (territorial integration).

    2. Transeconomic (common economic expanse; common equivalent of money).

    3. Transaesthetic (relieved of national forms).

    4. Transreligious (ecumenism).

    5. Trans-scholarly (integrated information field and information age).

    6. Transpersonal (here we can mention Stanislav Grof and his Beyond the Brain).

    7. Transethical (cloning).

    8. Transsexual.

    This can hardly be described as a new paradigm of culture: it looks more like an antichronoto-pic description of cultures proto-state (Epsteins term).1 What terms can be used to describe Geor-gias contemporary culture in the context of the Caucasus and the global processes now underwayin the world?

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    Culturological tradition, on the whole, never looked at the Caucasian region as a specific andself-identified geocultural topos in relation to other cultural regions. Its specific, eclectic, and farfrom uniform nature has not permitted it to fit, so far, into the scientifically determined limits of East-ern or Western civilizations. The following questions have not yet been answered:

    What cultural orientation is typical of the Caucasus?

    Can we speak of its unification into a single cultural field in the presence of its highly non-uniform fabric?

    What are the prospects of the conserved Caucasian cultures in the planetary strategy of cur-rent global integration?

    the chance of becoming the only culturaltransit region where many different cul-tures meet. Cultural diffusion will not beits only function: it stands a good chanceof becoming a topos of the dialogue ofcultures.

    As part of the topos of the Georgiangeoculture, each of the cultures becomesopen and transparent. This global tenden-cy has shifted the Georgian culture to con-

    flict conditions: on the one hand, it is con-served, on the other, it is transit. This isthe new reality of our culture. Indeed, allcultures operate under conflict conditions;this should alleviate our fears that our cul-ture might lose its self-identity. Today theprocess of mastering globalization in theinformation sphere is underway. This is theculturological concept of the last decade ofGeorgian culture.

    1 See: M. Epstein, Debut de scicle, ili Ot post- k proto-. Manifest novogo veka, Aleteya, St. Petersburg, 2001.

  • Against the background of the social, political, economic, and cultural processes, the Caucasus,and Georgia as its part, will have to choose between the real prospects of integration and marginali-zation. It is highly important to compare the entire range of cultural information and to rely on ourcultural experience to choose the least painless road toward integration and adaptation.

    Potential subjects can be formulated in the following way within the framework of the formulat-ed tasks:

    1. Historical identity of Caucasian cultures and subcultures (the degree to which they are inte-grated into their own history).

    2. Temporal and spatial orientations in Caucasian cultures.

    3. Religious identity and the temporal-spatial continuum.

    4. Ethnic identity and ethnic tolerance.

    5. Traditional forms of gender stereotypes in Caucasian cultures.

    6. Adaptation of the traditional forms of religious, ethnic, and gender identity in the Caucasus.

    7. Peoples diplomacy and identification of potential vectors of conflicts.

    8. New forms and types of descriptions of the subjects of ethnos and culture in the culturolog-ical paradigm.

    9. The regime of cultural and economic functionality and the degree of their determination inthe general cultural context.

    In view of the extreme complexity of these tasks, I have selected three basic key paradigms inwhich I shall discuss Georgian culture as part of the Caucasian cultures and subcultures:

    classical proto-state of culture;

    cultures dynamics and its historical chronotop;

    post-cultural state and the mechanisms of cultural adaptation.

    The classical proto-state of culture is a divine taboo, its violation being the first ever culturallycreative act. The proto-state of culture is verbalized according to the cosmogonic and cosmologicalprinciples of narration.

    Description of the temporal-spatial continuum replaces the violation of the taboo and the cos-mogonic narrative; this is enough to transfer us into a new paradigm of culture. This is the epoch ofcultures historical dynamics, in which ethnos comes forward as a subject of aesthetic transcendence;in this capacity it begins to identify and realize unified ritual forms. This makes possible the followingforms of Caucasian cosmogony and cosmology:

    1. Uniformity of everyday life of the Caucasian population.

    2. Poly-religious and polyethnic dimensions of the Caucasus and a system of uniform values.

    3. Uniform aesthetic structure of the Caucasian population.

    4. Uniform ethnic and axiological structure of the Caucasian population.

    The irrational axis that inevitably pulls the Caucasian geographic expanse into a uniform cultur-al paradigm is not a recent phenomenon. The Caucasus, which looks uniform is, in fact, a kaleido-scope of ethnic and religious patterns. Throughout its history, however, the Caucasus looked unifiedwithin the key axiological system shared by the highland and lowland populations. I do not intend toput the problem into a historical discoursethis task belongs to historians. I have posed myself thetask of providing a systemic interpretation of some of the basic issues enumerated above and, as far aspossible, outlining the prospects for the Caucasian culture in the post-historic epoch.

  • This adds importance to the fact that the Caucasian expanse will in a very natural way becomethe unified topos of the four cosmogonic elements (the earth, water, air and fire). There are severalsuch places on the planet; however in the Caucasian region the archaic cosmogonic scheme is stillalive. In fact, the Caucasian culture owes its high degree of conservation to this archetypical model ofthe aboriginal population. The mythological cultural figures well conserved in Caucasian cosmogonyare responsible for the unified ritual rule and rely on the non-topological principle of transfer fromcosmogony to cosmology.

    In the Caucasus, the universal mysterious, ritualistic, and symbolic schemes, the backbone ofworld mythology, function as the sum-total of uniform graphic and ritualistic symbols. The entirerange and panorama of the identity of the images of deities, which look like symbolic graphic signs,allow us to say that the universal nature of the cosmogonic schemes in this specific topos is realizedthrough a system of unique images. This means that the Caucasian cosmogonic expanse can be repre-sented as a uniform Caucasian cosmology only through a formal uniformity of images. Cosmogonycannot be described as an autonomous culture, while culture per se presupposes a certain expanse ofpower. This means that cosmogony develops into cosmology and is transformed into morals, habits,and traditions. This is a space of creation in which creative forms come to the fore and are shaped intomorals. Morals are, in fact, a creative form.

    At first, cultural expansion, as a civilizational element indispensable to geoculture, had no he-gemon in the Caucasus; its conventional comprehension was possible only through an economic ele-ment. This role belonged to the so-called Great Silk Caravan Road that crossed Georgia, among othercountries. It should be said, however, that from this point of view the territory of Tbilisi and its envi-rons functioned as a Caucasian regional center. This explains the importance of the fact that Svetit-skhoveli, the main symbol of new Christian cosmology, was placed next to Tbilisi. By the same token,Christianity acquired a centric and centripetal intention in relation to the rest of the Caucasus.

    The general picture of cosmological ideas is best reflected in architecture, the earliest art of thenomadic, and sometimes not nomadic, ethnic groups living on the southern and northern slopes of theCaucasian mountains. The tower, in itself an architectural scheme of ritual importance, is based on thecosmological principle. A typical Caucasian tower (in Tusheti, for example) that has five stories pro-vides an idea of the cosmological model of the Caucasian world.

    The gender schemethe tower expresses the specific functional role of the woman and man inthe cosmosis significant. The first floor was occupied by cattle; and the second by women engagedin everyday female tasks. It should be said here that sheep (sacral animals) were shepherded only bymen, while cows were entrusted to the womens care. Men and women met on the third floor. Menoccupied the fourth floor, while gods were believed to live on the fifth floor. Women were bannedfrom the fifth floor and were not supposed even to see it.

    There was also a horizontal topological system that resembled a similar or nearly similarscheme of sacral-ritual behavior in the horizontal expanse. The abode of the Mother of the place orother deities was similarly structured. The deities sacral place was isolated: women were bannedfrom it. This suggests that the expanses of the deities were similarly structuralized.

    In the traditional Caucasian society, the family was the central topos, which has preserved its axio-logical meaning. According to recent sociological studies, the family remains one of the central values.

    The archaic family model is still one of the priorities, even though the Caucasian cultural regionhas covered a long historical road and its religious identity is varied; it has survived the hardships ofthe industrial age and has entered the period of informational adaptation. This family model mightpossibly retreat from its leading position in the globalization process.

    This uniform archetypical model can be used to describe uniform and formally acceptable fromthe moral point of view norms of behavior; at the same time, it offers those general forms and princi-ples of aesthetics that build up culture. This, and this alone, shapes the uniform axiological systemthat, despite the poly-ethnic and late poly-confessional system, is responsible for the regions com-mon kindred self-awareness.

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    The geocultural orientation of the Caucasus is coming to the fore in the age of globalization. Isthe Caucasus a vehicle of uniform cultural orientation? The question is suggested by the fact that itscultural fabric cannot be described as ethnically, anthropologically, or religiously homogenous. In thecontext of a morphologically highly complicated culture, Georgia has immense economic and polit-ical advantages. This is confirmed not only by the transnational economic projects, but also by thetranspolitical revolution of November 2003 that can be described as virtual because of its widely tel-evised events.

    Georgia is a meeting place of numerous cultures: Asian, European, Christian, and Muslim, aswell as traditional and post-cultural values. We should admit, however, that Georgia is a country ofconserved (not conservative) culture.

    We all know that conservation of culture is a mechanism of self-protection (or even the onlyone) against historical cataclysms the country has experienced throughout its millennia-long history.It seems that conservation was the only way to protect the national cultural forms.

    National and state identity allows one to ponder on ones own personal cultural identity. Clearlya citizen of a free country does not need any ensured return to traditional forms as the only means ofprotection against alien cultural expansion. For this reason he is more concerned with his social iden-tity, which destroys the traditional social stereotypes.

    Globalization offers new horizons to Caucasian geoculture: the region stands the chance of be-coming the only cultural transit center as a meeting place among many different cultures. Culturaldiffusion will not be its only functionit may become a real topos in the dialog of civilizations andcultures.

    In the topos of the Georgian geoculture, each culture becomes open and transparent. This globaltrend transfers Caucasian culture to conflict conditions. On the one hand, it is conserved, on the other,transit. This creates our cultures new reality.

    Since all cultures operate under conflict conditions, there is no reason to fear for the Georgiancultures self-identity. The task is different:

    Our ideas about the Caucasus cultural strategy should be revised and a new strategic orien-tation of cultural policy should be established;

    The role of Georgia as a trans-expanse between the East and the West and between the North-ern and Southern Caucasus should be clearly identified;

    The new relations between ethnic, religious, and everyday cultures and subcultures of thenorth and the south of the Caucasus under globalization conditions should be established.

    The above suggests that we should describe Georgian culture as mythologically-ritual and be-longing to the European cultural paradigm.

    Contemporary Georgian culture, and Caucasian culture as a whole, can be described as a mosa-ic. This means that, on the one hand, it can be studied as an urban culture with its center in Tbilisi and,on the other, as a pseudo-ritual one reflected in concentrated form in the traditions and mentality.

    Urbanization creates great problems for a mind unfamiliar with the realities of industrializa-tion. This is even more correct in the event of information flows that permeate the social organismof the Caucasian ethnic groups. The Georgian social milieu has passed through two difficult adap-tation periods:

    industrialization of the early 1920s;

    incorporation into the current global processes through total informational support.

  • The restored statehood that spurred on the reshuffling of the social structures contributed to thesecond adaptation stage. So far, the traditional social roles are not being discussed in relation to thenew social and economic policies.

    Public conscience, which had barely adjusted itself to industrialization, was presented with anew dilemma. The state-building going on against the background of widespread globalizationbrought new sociopolitical and cultural conflicts to the surface. The economic crisis, industrial stag-nation, and highly negative social climate brought about radical re-assessments of the traditional val-ues and provoked destruction of traditional roles and the structure of personal values.

    Those traditional values that in the past formed a ritual or even pagan paradigmatic axis (thiswas especially true of the countrys mountainous regions) shed their mystical and religious content tobe preserved in the form of traditions. In fact, orientation toward traditional values in the context ofgeneral globalization is the main cause of the social and political crisis. This explains the fact thatstate-building in Georgia turned out to be an extremely painful process. The ruling elite and the peo-ple, the regions and the center found themselves on the opposite sides of an abyss. The intelligentsia,the nations creative potential, is being pushed to the social margins; the popular, that is easily recog-nizable, actors of the nongovernmental sector perceived as carriers of imported ideologies lost muchof former public confidence. On the one hand, while the circles oriented toward Western values arebusy promoting democratic ideology and liberal values are accepted, to some extent, by the urbanizedpart of the Georgian population, most rural residents find this ideology absolutely alien to them. It isimposed on them contrary to their will in the same way as the communist ideology was imposed onthem in the past. This explains why today, as in the past, they are living in conflict with their ownidentity.

    The cultural identity and representation of Georgia and the Caucasus, for that matter, bring us backto the sphere of mythology, philosophy, literature, and art, where non-traditional and institutionalizedsystems coexist in very clear form; this coexistence is painful and harmonious at one and the same time.

    An analysis of the processes that have taken place in Georgia in the last decade demonstrated theextent of globalizations real threat in the virtual information expanse. The high degree of culturalconservation in Georgia did not permit it either in the 1990s or in the 2000s to sift through the infor-mation flow that caught the country unprepared.

    At the same time, cultures self-protection mechanism that recently started functioning indi-cates that the country is rapidly mastering informational globalization. The processes that recentlytook place in Georgia and the fact that several TV channels were closed during the latest politicalcrisis and earlier (the opposition 202 TV channel) indicate that when mastering informational globali-zation the state structures trailed behind the population and the nongovernmental sector. There areover 10 TV channels in Tbilisi alone, there are also regional TV channels and press. Democracy wasreplaced with TV-cracy; what we see can be described as an information conflict.

    The information concepts that describe globalization as a cultural rather than economic or polit-ical paradigm suggest that culture is a specific universal by means of which we can adapt to the newmyth of globalization.

    The new myth of informational globalization needs a new system of signs in which, strange asit may seem, in the system of traditional culture the main role will belong to the female gender role.The archetypical model of the classical myth explains why women have more chance of succeeding inthe contemporary social sphere and why they are moving to the leading positions in politics. Twoimportant circumstances deserve our attention in this connection.

    1. Since new mythology brings us back to the proto-state, the future will inevitably restore theimage of a female archetype saved by the conserved culture. The stronger role of women associal leaders will be predetermined by the patriarchal patterns based on the cultural con-serves of societies currently described as traditional. The Caucasian peoples belong to thiscategory.

  • 2. The current process of informational globalization is another important factor. It looksstrange at first glance that the future image of female power is created by irrational mecha-nisms (information images).

    These two circumstances provide the coming female power in the irrational scheme with a so-called meta-basis to allow it to gain primacy over men.

    It should be pointed out that since the contemporary image of a politician or a leader corre-sponds, on the whole, to the male image, woman has to build up her image according to the dominat-ing image. In its development informational globalization will open up new horizons of forms ofconduct and external visual signs. Woman as an image of the leader of the future will reject malebehavioral strategies, which will inevitably predetermine the new trends of political adventurism cre-ated by the new (female) image of power. Today, this is amply demonstrated by the female power ofpolitical adventurism of female anchors on Georgian TV.

    The information concepts that describe globalization as a cultural (non-political and non-eco-nomic) paradigm suggest that culture is its main universal. Continued conservation of the traditional(local) cultural types against the wider background of growing globalization trends testify that theCaucasian peoples have concentrated their cultural efforts on ethnic-cultural self-preservation and aquest for uniform cultural morphology.

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    Ph.D. (Philos.), senior researcher at the Department ofEthnology of the Kabardino-Balkarian Institute of Humanitarian Studies

    (Russia, Nalchik).

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    culture of Kabardino-Balkaria into the gen-eral context of integration relations. Accord-ing to the author, the practical, moral, and

    his article looks at the key aspects ofthe evolution of todays global culturebased on incorporation of the ethnic

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