The world is more integrated than ever. Consider how far we have come. A hundred years ago Europe was at war, colonial power still existed, racism was legal, and women were not allowed to vote.
Progress is never guaranteed. There are danger signs, as trade wars develop and old alliances are threatened. But it is difficult to imagine a return to the bad old days of colonialism, militarism, and legal discrimination.
I’m writing this from Lima, Peru, where I am participating in the biannual congress of the International Society for Universal Dialogue. This conference includes scholars from a variety of countries, who come together to talk about the prospect for developing a more just and humane world.
This organization began at the end of the Cold War to bring scholars together from East and West. It has evolved to become a global conference that includes speakers from all continents, religions, genders, and races.
The World Cup has been playing in the background as we meet. Throughout the city of Lima, football fans congregate in small cafes and bars to watch the games. Peru lost its opportunity in the qualifying rounds. But World Cup fever predominates. Sport is a unifying force.
The semifinals were an all-European affair featuring Belgium, Croatia, England, and France. Europeans invented this game. But South America teams also excel, while Asia and Africa are catching up.
The French team includes a number of players with African heritage. Our small world is mixed and integrated in ways that would have been unimaginable 100 years ago. Old-school ethnic nationalism has become absurd.
Europeans and Americans still dominate the globe as a result of prior colonial power. Economic globalization often means domination by European and American corporations. Coca-Cola and Budweiser are World Cup sponsors. But so, too, are Qatar Airways and Hyundai.
This economic mixing is apparent in Peru. Lima has McDonald’s, Starbucks and KFC. But there are also Chinese restaurants, French patisseries and Sushi bars alongside the local cuisine.
On the drive from the Lima airport, huge signs welcome Pope Francis who visited Peru in January. Francis is from Argentina, which is another sign of the times. He is the first Latin American pontiff.
When the Pope was in Peru he pointed out that there was much work to be done to build a just and humane world. There are slums in Lima and poverty in Peru. Political corruption is a problem. As is violence, racism and intolerance.
But we are making progress. And the way forward must include a continued commitment to those universal values that unite us. Science and scholarship are already global. Scholars are united around shared principles of reason and evidence.
After long decades of outright discrimination against women in the academy, women are now invited to the table. So too are scholars and scientists from the developing world. We can build upon that spirit of inclusion.
We can also build upon the values found in sport. These include ideas about fair play and sportsmanship. Athletic excellence is recognized as a value that transcends race, nationality and gender.
Not everyone is happy with globalization. President Trump’s “America First” agenda points in a different direction. So too does the British “Brexit.”
But the American tariff war and the difficulty of pulling off a clean Brexit show us how integrated the world has become. It is not possible to build a wall, flood the moat, and pull up the bridges.
Our world is too interrelated to disentangle the forces of progress. The French soccer team is not going to purge itself of its African players. Women are not going to give up their place in the voting booth or in the academy. And Sushi is here to stay in Peru.
The political news is often grim. But tune in to the World Cup – or visit another country – and you’ll see a common and hopeful humanity. There are kind, generous and hard-working people everywhere. Most of us understand that the present is better than the past. We do not want to return to racism, sexism and militarism. And we understand that there is much work to be done to build a more just and equitable future.
Andrew Fiala is a professor of philosophy and director of The Ethics Center at Fresno State: @PhilosophyFiala