Paper presented at the Fourth Annual Kent State University Symposium on Democracy
At Kent State University, shortly before noon on May 4, 1970, soldiers from the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of students, killing four—Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder—and wounding nine—Alan Canfora, John Cleary, Thomas Grace, Dean Kahler, Joseph Lewis, Donald MacKenzie, James Russell, Robert Stamps, and Douglas Wrentmore. Some of the victims were part of a gathering student protest against a recent escalation in the Vietnam War; others were simply passing by.
The shootings shocked the nation. The impact was profound and widespread as many struggled to understand how something like this could have happened on an American campus and how to better exercise and express democratic freedoms.
In many ways, this struggle
continues, broadened and complicated by global perspectives and dynamics. And
The Fourth Annual Symposium on
Democracy, held on April 28 and 29, 2003, at
The fourth symposium’s theme, Democracy and Globalization, was daunting; yet, it was also quite reflective of an increasingly complex, interconnected, and interdependent world. Indeed, the turbulent global events of the past two years have had enormous and far-reaching impacts, significantly changing lives and altering the relations among nations, ethnic groups, and neighbors. In this unstable environment, fundamental concepts, like those of democracy, freedom, human rights, and social responsibility, are questioned, not so much in their ideals, but very much in their practice. Culture, geography, history, language, and so many other variables combine in almost endless ways to present local contexts in which these fundamental concepts have widely diverging understanding and expression. Simply stated, democracy in one country may look and operate quite differently from democracy in another and any resulting judgments need to be appropriately tempered.
Confronted with such diversity and in an effort to organize the presentations and focus the discussions, the call for papers listed four major content areas that would later form program panels: Definitions and Dynamics; Voices and Choices; Culture and Geography; and Institutions and Infrastructures. In each of these content areas, guiding questions were presented and alternative perspectives were welcomed. The call resulted in over one hundred proposals, out of which only fourteen were chosen. In addition, four senior scholars were asked to serve as discussants for each of the panels, offering critical responses and summarizing concepts to stimulate further dialogue. The discussant’s comments appear first in the corresponding chapter for each content area.
The first content area, Definitions and Dynamics, framed the broad issues of the symposium. Mary Landry’s introduction begins by noting the difficulty in defining “democracy” and “globalization” and then proceeds to explore five dynamics: religion and spirituality, the notion of corporate supremacy, the relentless deluge of data and information, the inherent tension between individual rights and the common good in liberal democracies, and voter apathy. Don Conway-Long’s paper argues for a broader, non–exclusively Western understanding of democracy and offers the work of three Muslim activists who advocate creating democracy in Islam (a theo-democracy). Christopher Framarin’s paper on expanded property rights of NAFTA challenges global corporate supremacy when exercised over the sovereign rights of citizens and the common good. And Mark Laffey and Jutta Weldes’s paper briefly traces the historical perspective of the “antiglobalization movement,” concluding that it is neither new, nor against globalization, nor a single movement at all, but rather it reflects a debate over neoliberalism, in which the fundamental concepts of globalization and democracy are highly contested. They compare and contrast the major positions in the debate, examine the implications of coercive policing of protest activity, and argue that the growing limitations on civil rights do not bode well for the future of democracy.
The second content area, Culture and Geography, explored how geographic factors and cultural differences influence and contend with democracy in the context of globalization. Katherine Meyer notes that culture and geography are viewed in basically three ways in scholarly work on the processes of democratization and globalization: as constraints, as variables, and as conceptual backgrounds. She then indicates that the papers in this chapter fall into the third view. Chen-Pao Chou’s paper strongly challenges existing frameworks that offer oversimplified explanations of political development and the rise and fall of democratic regimes. He concludes by proposing a multidimensional model of regime transformation. Bei Cai, in her paper on democratic developments in pretransfer Hong Kong, illustrates how the media can simplify and shape complex and contentious issues for broadcast to a specific target public in a way that can misrepresent the actual situation and facts, thereby culturally skewing the message. Since democracy depends on an informed public, such deliberate misrepresentation is quite disturbing. Polycarp Ikuenobe discusses ethnicity, colonialism, and democracy as agents of globalization, emphasizing the difficulties and destabilization that imported forms of government (for example, Western liberal democracy) can have when superimposed on indigenous foundations with culturally different values (for example, the African communal ethos). And Apollos Nwauwa’s paper, which revisits the concepts of democracy and democratization in Africa, strongly and convincingly argues for political structures that are rooted in African traditions.
The third content area, Voices and Choices, examined the role of the citizen, small group, and local community as democracy responds to globalization. Included in these roles and responses are the different forms of political action, such as politics of the streets, representative politics, and public deliberation. In the introductory paper, Angela Mae Kupenda frames these issues in a larger context as she poignantly discusses each paper against the backdrop of globalization, marginalization, forgotten roles, and lost voices. Camilo Perez-Bustillo’s paper argues that poverty is fundamentally a deprivation of rights of full and equal citizenship, which precludes the benefits touted by proponents of globalization. He urges that this “poverty of rights” be acknowledged in a broader notion of a global moral economy and addressed formally in international law. Noah Hibbard, writing on popular public resistance, explores hip-hop culture as a form of international resistance and challenge to the forces of globalization. Huey-Li Li’s paper is from an educational perspective, reexamining the connections between global education and bioregion-based education. Although on the surface these two appear to be incompatible, she concludes that each can support the other in a “space” in which the global intersects with the local. And Gamaliel Perruci’s paper on citizen-leadership and community action explores the global dimension of local politics in a Latin American context. For examples, he looks at the Chiapas uprising in Mexico and the Movimento Sem Terra (MST) in Brazil.
The fourth and final content area, Institutions and Infrastructures, focused on how those entities influence the development of democracy and globalization. The three papers in this chapter are optimistic, seeking to entice the reader with new and exciting possibilities and potential futures in global business, information and communication technologies, and education. In his introductory paper, David Ellerman offers thoughtful commentary on each of the three papers and invites the reader into dialogue. Andreas Blüthner’s paper on the Global Compact describes a new and exciting paradigm shift at the interface between the United Nations and business, particularly regarding transnational corporations. John Hochheimer’s paper fittingly closed the panel by elevating our thoughts and discussing education, communication, and the human spirit as challenges for a democratizing world. Finally, Guobin Yang’s paper discusses the role of new communication technologies in strengthening democratic processes and increasing grassroots participation. His paper reports some of the findings from a larger study on the relationship between technological change and institutional transformation in China.
Each of the four content areas above could easily have stood alone and provided sufficient stimulation and discussion, and so the challenge before the planning committee was how to integrate all of them into a richer exploration of the general theme for the symposium. This challenge was met by soliciting three speakers, each of whom was able to address bridging or overarching aspects of the general theme, “Democracy and Globalization.” The three speakers were Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, an independent filmmaker; Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International; and William Greider, a prominent political journalist and author.
Dai Sil Kim-Gibson is widely known for championing the voiceless and the oppressed, and her films allow ordinary people to tell their particular human stories and to reflect on the stories’ impact and connection within a larger context. In her speech, “The Unrealized Hope, America,” Kim-Gibson passionately spoke about socioeconomic and ethnic tensions that exist in America today, despite the vision and ideals of freedom, democracy, and the prospects of a good life that America represents to so many of its citizens and other people around the world. The pictures her words painted and the emotions she described came vividly to life as she showed her newest film, Wet Sand: Voices from LA Ten Years Later. Fear, anger, grief, disillusionment, disbelief, and hopelessness still haunt the community, even though ten years have passed since the tragedy of the Los Angeles riots. Yet, the message for us is that there is much in the broken lives and voices in and from this community, as well as in and from similar communities throughout America and the world, that demands a response that offers real reasons to hope. Her remarks encourage the reader to view her film.
Fareed Zakaria, editor, author, journalist, and foreign policy commentator, spoke about “The future of freedom” and echoed the call for a balance between democracy and liberty that he wrote about in his new book, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. This balance allows a “liberal” democracy to function; an imbalance (for example, too much liberty) is dysfunctional and is characterized by abuse by elected autocrats, tyrannies by “majorities,” hypernationalism, and warmongering. The challenge is to effect less democracy and to act and operate in the common good. Zakaria provided numerous examples from around the world to illustrate his points, with particular attention to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Middle East. Unfortunately, he has declined to have his remarks transcribed for this book, so in their place is a summarization by Nawal Ammar, a faculty member in justice studies at Kent State University. The reader is invited to examine Zakaria’s book.
William Greider, prominent author and journalist, has persistently challenged mainstream thinking on economics. His remarks in the closing plenary, “Can Democracy Live with Capitalism?” were principally directed to young American students and were deliberately chosen to “disturb” their thoughts, to have them seriously consider how America really operates and how distant this may be from what it tells itself and broadcasts to the world, and to inspire and encourage a certain activism to regain a more representative democracy in which Americans could truly have a voice on big decisions that shape their lives, their communities, and their countries.
It is always difficult to appropriately recognize the many people who contributed to both the symposium and this book—at times, their efforts were simply superhuman. The members of the planning committee freely gave of their expertise, talents, energy, and time, in so doing, making a difficult task fun, uplifting, and very memorable. Accomplished leaders and true professionals all, they have my deepest respect and appreciation: Nawal Ammar, Shawn Banasick, Joe Harper, Dennis Hart, Carole Harwood, Thomas Hensley, Elaine Huskins, Ron Kirksey, Jerry M. Lewis, John Logue, Steve Michael, David Odell-Scott, O. Felix Offodile, Jacqueline Parsons, Margaret Ralston Payne, Scott Rainone, Linda Robertson, Kim Sebaly, and Gregory Shreve.
In addition to the planning committee, I would like to thank the members of the Retired Faculty Association and the May 4 Task Force for serving as guides in the May 4 Resource Room in the library during the symposium. Their willingness to share perspectives, memories, and resources was a fitting complement to the symposium’s program.
Four people deserve very special recognition: Carol Cartwright, Jerry M. Lewis, Thomas Hensley, and Elaine Huskins. Dr. Cartwright, as the president of Kent State University, continually demonstrates her deep personal commitment to and strong support for the symposium. Indeed, it was her vision to establish a symposium series focusing on the challenges of living in an increasingly complex and diverse democratic society, and it has been very stimulating and gratifying for us to expand this vision to a global society.
At the core of the symposium series is a sincere desire to honor the memories of the four dead and nine wounded students from May 4, 1970, and to do so in a way that helps us all learn how to resolve differences in a nonviolent and peaceful manner. We are very grateful to two distinguished scholars, Thomas Hensley and Jerry M. Lewis, for their personalized tours of the historical sites associated with that tragic day and for their abilities to help us understand.
My deepest personal gratitude goes to Elaine Huskins for her skill and care in the myriad of clerical details that preceded publication and for her warm smile throughout the entire symposium cycle, despite the tediousness and long hours.
From the very beginning, the intent for this symposium was to assemble a group of bright thinkers from diverse age groups and backgrounds who would engage with the public in a serious scholarly discussion about the opportunities and challenges that arise when the powerful forces of democracy and globalization interact. Although this Web document is one product of that intent, it is hoped that it is not viewed as simply another posting of academic papers; rather, we hope that the reader will discern a higher objective to acknowledge and build on the past; to inquire, to reflect, and to learn; and to do so all in an effort to improve the world we live in.