• Bruce Rich
  • Tricycle
  • Summer 2011
  • pp. 54-57, 110

The Catholic theologian Hans Küng observed that “a global market economy requires a global ethic.” Yet at the very moment when the need for just such an ethic is more urgent than ever, our national and global systems of governance seem effectively paralyzed in moving toward it. To reimagine the future, and to describe the elements of a global ethic of care, we can look to what precedents there are for a government that has tried to put such an ethic into practice. Perhaps the most wondrous example takes us to Kandahar, of all places, in southeastern Afghanistan. Following September 11, 2001, Kandahar, capital of the Taliban and Al Qaeda’s terrorist network, symbolized the intolerance, chaos, and violence that threaten to erupt anywhere, with repercussions everywhere, in a tightly interconnected world. After many years of U.S. military intervention, the Taliban reigned in Kandahar stronger than ever. Yet Kandahar’s history also has something different to tell us. In 1957, Italian archaeologists uncovered an ancient series of rock inscriptions in Greek and Aramaic (Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Persian Empire). In the inscriptions, a great and ancient Indian king, Ashoka, declares state policies built on fundamental values of tolerance, nonviolence, and respect for life. Ashoka’s empire was the greatest empire of its day, stretching from present-day Afghanistan deep into southern India and, in the east, to modern-day Bangladesh. It was a multiethnic, multicultural state and was, for its time and in certain ways, a microcosm of our own globalized world.


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