Us-Them Dichotomous Feeling/Thinking
Globalization in its current incarnation is a sign that humanity might actually be able to jump this hurdle in principle. That is, as long as resources, in particular energy, were increasing and to the degree they were being shared, there was evidence that people from different cultures could actually find ways to get along.
But that was then (five years ago) and this is now. As the world experiences the financial meltdown due to diminishing energy supplies it will potentially become a world of increasing fragmentation and a return to us versus them mentality. Resource wars have already been witnessed and will possibly become the norm. Except possibly due to the fact that it takes massive amounts of energy to fight wars (today) maybe the carnage will be minimized. Who knows?
The reality of the human condition is that we are hard wired to want to be part of a group. We need to identify with a clan or tribe in order to feel supported as an individual. We are a social animal and at the same time can only deal effectively, mentally and emotionally, with at most a few hundred other individuals. This is in our genes (see reading list below for references).
We will apply our positive moral sentiments, care for, sharing, etc. to members of our own perceived tribe. We will be kind and cooperative with other tribes that are not perceived as competitors. But as soon as there is a sense that the others are potential threats we will apply our negative moral sentiments. That means believing ourselves and our tribe as having the moral high ground and thus justifying any form of belligerence toward the others.
Complicating the situation for humans is the fact that each of us can perceive ourselves as members of numerous kinds of groups. We identify with huge groupings like religions, or nations, or with small groupings like knitting clubs. Again, as long as things are going smoothly on the scale of whatever group we identify with we have little problem being Christian-Republican-soccer-moms who come from a little town in Alaska or an atheist-independent-intellectual who comes from New York City. But as soon as trouble arises (as in the situation with the American Episcopal Church's decision to allow ordination of gay and lesbian priests) fractionalization and destabilization of identity follow due to the psychological need to have solidarity with a smaller group.
Ethnic differences have overcome national or regional identities. See this article on ethnic cleansing as a response.
How are people going to respond to a contracting economic system? Contraction will mean fewer resources per person and competition between people and especially groups. This may very well be the most important hurdle to surmount in any attempt to transition to a sapient governance on a global level. This is so fundamental to Homo sapiens' nature that it may be the key element in human responses to diminishing energy supplies. People will tend to gather around them those with whom they finally identify. And they may increasingly see any other group as being the threatening 'them'.
Sapient governance is very much about cooperation and coordination with the strategic purpose of creating balance between the human-built world and the rest of the Ecos. If ordinary humans are experiencing strong Us-Them competitive feelings can there be anything approaching such an ideal? Sapient governance is not about forcing people to get along and share wealth. It has to come from below naturally. It cannot work as a dictatorial process.
Once again it seems that the fact of our nature as Us-Them dichotomous thinkers argues that our global problems are unsolvable as long as we stand on the premise that we have to solve all of this for Homo sapiens (and especially if it has to be solved for a population of 9+ billion and living a standard of material wealth similar to Western Europe). Humans need to become more strongly sapient, somehow. We need to evolve.
Some important books on the subject of moral evolution and us-them psychology. For a much expanded list of readings pertaining to evolution of consciousness, wisdom, and moral sentiment see my bibliography.
Berreby, David (2005). Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind, Little, Brown, and Company, New York.
Donald, Merlin, (1991). Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
Gazzaniga, Michael S., (2005). The Ethical Brain, Dana Press, New York.
Hauser, Marc D. (2006). Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong, HarperCollins, New York.
Sober, Elliott & Wilson, David Sloan (1998). Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA.