Category: <span>Book Reviews</span>

Populism Book Reviews

Transformation of Populism in Europe and the Americas: History…

Featured Image: 1896 Judge cartoon shows William Jennings Bryan/Populism as a snake swallowing up the mule representing the Democratic party. By US “Judge” magazine, 1896., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John Abromeit, Bridget M. Chesterton, Gary Marotta, York Norman (Eds).

Transformation of Populism in Europe and the Americas: History and Recent Tendencies (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016, 354pp.)

On 12 December 2015, Benedict Anderson;  the British historian, author of the widely cited 1983 book:  Imagined Communities died. In this influential study of nationalism;  he saw nationalism as a possible imaginative process that allows to feel solidarity for strangers.

He wrote: 

“In an age when it is so common for progressives, cosmopolitan intellectuals (particularly in Europe?) to insist on the near-pathological character of nationalism;  its roots in fear and hatred of the Other, of its affinities with racism;  it is useful to remind ourselves that nations inspire love and often profoundly self-sacrificing love…The cultural products of nationalism − poetry, prose fiction, music, plastic arts − show this love very clearly in thousands of different forms and styles.”

The rise of Hitler and the Nazis.

However, as a cosmopolitan intellectual, looking at the reactions to the flow of migrants and refugees to Europe,  and to the results of some recent elections with a sharp rise in populist nationalism;  I am among those who stress the near-pathological character of nationalism. 

The editors share my fears. The longest section of the book is devoted to the way scholars analyze the rise of Hitler and the Nazis during the Weimar Republic. While nationalist sentiments and the Staklhelm predated Hitler;  Hitler and the small group around him were able to mobilize the periphery against the center;  even the conservative center;  and thus to give voice to those who found themselves excluded from a meaningful role in German political life.

Yet as Larry Jones notes,  in his contribution-one must not lose sight of the fact that:

the Nazi assault against the Weimar Republic was not a movement that somehow arose spontaneously out of the frustration, hardship, and suffering  of those in German society;  who had been marginalized by the course of German political and economic;  development since the beginning of the First World War;  but a highly centralized and carefully controlled campaign that relied upon a party organization”… with an iron discipline that left little autonomy or capacity for spontaneity.

Larry Jones

At Institute for Humanist Studies dinner honoring Larry Jones’s Humanism, Aug. 24, 2013. By Roy Speckhardt, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

“Populism as an Identity: Four Propositions on Peronism”.

Only Juan Peron;  who came to power in a military coup in 1943 in Argentina;  consciously incorporated many of the Nazi techniques and symbols. However, as Mathew Karush stresses in his chapter “Populism as an Identity: Four Propositions on Peronism”;  Peron drew support from a fairly wide group of people,  which made his populism lack a specific and consistent ideology.  While Peron and similar Latin American leaders were not democrats;  they did not have the ability to kill those with different ideas on the scale of the Nazi.

Juan Domingo Perón

 

General Juan Domingo Perón has a coffee. By Pinélides A. Fusco, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

“Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe Today”.

Therefore, as Cas Mudde in his analysis of “Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe Today” notes “Today populist radical right parties share a core ideology ; that combines (at least) three features: nativism, authoritarianism, and populism”.  Nativism entails a combination of nationalism and xenophobia − an ideology that holds that a State should be inhabited exclusively by members of “the nation” and that “alien” elements, whether persons or ideas, are fundamentally threatening to the homogeneous “nation-state”.

Populist radical-right parties are experiencing their biggest electoral and political success in post-war Europe,  but fortunately, neither Marine Le Pen, nor Geert Wilders is Adolf Hitler. Therefore, there is a crucial role for us “cosmopolitan intellectuals”

Cas Mudde

Cas Mudde at Forum / Debate in KulturhusetStadsteatern in Stockholm on March 5, 2018 in a conversation about how liberal democracies can defend themselves against extremism without giving up basic values. By Frankie Fouganthin, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Non-Governmental Organization and The “National Heros”.

The populist right parties play on a loss of confidence in the major political parties, as well as in the civil servants of the European Union. We have little influence on the ways the major political parties operate and even less influence on the European Union secretariat. 

Thus, our role is to develop strong civil society – non-governmental organization walls by protecting human rights;  and by dealing creatively with migrants and refugees. Our role is not only to defend but also to counter-attack. We need to develop more strongly our cosmopolitan ethos.

We need to develop counter-myth figures to the “national heros”. We need to stress the unity of humanity as opposed to national-ethnic identities. We must take the current  populist-nationalist efforts seriously and to develop an organized response.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

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Danilo Dolci Book Reviews

Danilo Dolci: Development and Opposition to the Oppression of…

Featured Image: Portrait of Danilo Dolci. Conference in Geneva, Mai 25, 1992. By MHM55, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

“The Gandhi of Sicily”.

Danilo Dolci (1925-1997),  was active in the movement for world citizenship and deeply influenced by the non-violent methods of Mahatma Gandhi. He was often called “The Gandhi of Sicily”.

In 1952;  Danilo Dolci went to live in a small, very poor town of western Sicily. The towns-people watched him and wondered why an intelligent and well-educated man should come to live in an area where murder was commonplace;  and the poor stole from the poor. The people had tolerated Fascism for 21 years and the oppression of the Mafia even longer.

Danilo Dolci;  born near Trieste in the north of Italy;  was the son of a railroad official who had worked in Sicily in this youth;  and told his family of the poverty and suffering there – a place to be avoided if possible. When the Second World War began;  Danilo Dolci was conscripted but refused combatant training and was imprisoned. After the war;  he worked with a dynamic priest, Zeno Saltini who had built a community for abandoned children.

The Connections with the Mafia.

However;  Danilo Dolci went on to study architecture and town planning in Milan and Rome;  and wrote articles on the use of reinforced concrete. He had a spiritual awakening experience ; which led him to ask if his life goal was to build luxury apartments;  for those who were already well-off. He replied “no” and recalled his father’s accounts of poverty in Sicily.

Dolci moved to western Sicily;  and following the example of Gandhi; first set out to listen to the life experiences of the people around him. He later published these accounts in a series of books;  based on what the poor said of themselves and their lives. (1) Unemployment and under-employment were constant themes.

A job could be had only through the connections with the Mafia;  which controlled what little formal economy existed in the area. The Mafia had ties to the political structures as well as to the higher Roman Catholic clergy.

Mahatma Gandhi

You might to be interesting read Simone Panter-Brick Gandhi and Nationalism.

“Reverse Strike”

Dolci worked simultaneously on two fronts. On one;  he tried to give immediate help;  on the other;  he tried to address the causes of misery. In 1956;  Dolci and his local friends launched a “reverse strike” by repairing a long neglected road. Their justification for this was Article 4 of the Italian Constitution which affirms that:

“all citizens have the right to work and to promote conditions which render this right effective.”

The day before this “strike-in-reverse” the 700 participants fasted in preparation. Dolci and 22 others were arrested and sentenced to four months in prison. The trial, however;  drew international attention to Dolci and his ideas and efforts.

Dolci established a Centro Studie Insitiative; a sort of village university, close in spirit to the Danish Folk High Schools. The aim was to disperse the despair and hopelessness that the Mafia and poverty had brought to Sicily.

His work was of small, patient steps. The path is not easy but is being continued by others for whom he set out the way.

Danilo Dolci

Trappeto, Sicily 1952. Social activist Danilo Dolci in a hunger strike for eight days (October 14 to 21), in the home of Mimmo and Giustina, whose child died of hunger. [1], Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Note.

1) For two books of Danilo Dolci in English of Sicilians telling of their life experience see: Danilo Dolci. Sicilian Lives (New York: Pantheon Books, 1981, 304pp) and Danilo Dolci. To Feed the Hungry (London: Macgibbon and Kee, 1959, 327pp).

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Torture Education of World Citizenships.

26 June: International Day Against Torture.

Featured Image: Painting in museum DPRK. By AgainErick, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Torture has a bad name among the police and security agencies of most countries. Thus torture is usually called by other names.  Even violent husbands do not admit to torturing their wives.  Thus;  when NGO representatives started to raise the issue of torture in the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in the early 1980s;  the government representatives replied that it was a very rare practice;  limited to a small number of countries and sometimes a “rogue” policeman or prison guard. 

However;  NGO representatives insisted that, in fact; it was widely used by a large number of countries; including those that had democratic forms of government.

Sean MacBride (1904-1988).

Getting torture to be recognized as a real problem;  and then having the Commission on Human Rights create the post of Special Rapporeteur on Torture; owes much to the persistent efforts of Sean MacBride (1904-1988); at the time the former chairman of the Amnesty International Executive Committee (1961-1974) and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1974). MacBride had been the Foreign Minister of Ireland (1948-1951);  and knew how governments work.

However; He had earlier been a long-time leader of the Irish Republican Army (IRA); being the son of John MacBride; an executed leader of the 1916 Easter Rising – an attack on the Dublin Post Office. With his death; John MacBride became an Irish hero of resistance.  Later Sean had spent time in prison accused of murder. He told me that he had never killed anyone;  but as the IRA Director of Intelligence; he was held responsible for the murders carried out by men under his command.  Later, he also worked against the death penalty.

Torture

Seán MacBride. By Bogaerts, Rob / Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

26 June as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

As examples of the current use of torture kept being presented by NGO representatives and as some victims of torture came to Geneva to testify; the Commission on Human Rights named a Special Rapporteur and also started to work on what became the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel  Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Treaty came into effect on 26 June 1987; and in 1997 the UN General Assembly designated 26 June as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Independent Experts.

Human Rights treaties negotiated within the UN create what are known as “Treaty Bodies”; ­ a group of persons who are considered to be “independent experts”. As the saying around Geneva goes; “some are more ‘expert’ than others, and some are more ‘independent’ than others.  Countries which have ratified a human rights convention should make a report every four or five years to the specific Treaty Body. For the Torture Treaty;  it is every four years to the 10-person expert group.

Many States are late, some very late, in meeting this obligation. There are 158 States which have ratified the Torture Convention;  but some 28 States have never bothered to file a report. States which have not ratified the treaty do not make reports.

Concluding Observations.

NGO representatives provide the experts with information in advance and suggest questions that could usefully be asked. The State usually sends representatives to Geneva for the Treaty Body discussions; as the permanent Ambassador  is rarely able to answer specific questions on police and prison conditions. At the end of the discussion between the representative of a State and the experts; the experts write “concluding observations” and make recommendations.

Unfortunately; the Convention is binding only on States.  However; increasingly non-governmental armed militias;  such as ISIS in Syria and Iraq carry out torture in a systematic way. The militia’s actions can be mentioned but not examined by the Treaty Body.

While there is no sure approach to limiting the use of torture; much depends on the observations and actions of non-governmental organizations.  We need to increase our efforts; to strengthen the values which  prohibit torture; and watch closely how persons are treated by the police, prison guards and armed militias.

 

Rene Wadlow, President and a Representative to the United Nations, Geneva, of the Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

Parwana Amiri Book Reviews

Parwana Amiri. We Will Fly Higher.

Featured Image: Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash.

(London: Palewell Press. 2022, £9.99)

    Parwana Amiri is from Afghanistan.  In September 2019, she and part of her family reached Moria Refugee Camp on Lesvos, Greece. These poems are created from her experiences and insights. As she writes

     “I’m feeling these pains so deep

      In my bones, in my skin, in my soul

     The pains that wound my heart –

      Uncertainty, inequality, injustice,

      repression, suppression, humiliation.”

     Life in the refugee camp is very difficult.

     “In the summer, it is like hell

      In the winter, we live on mud

      We are exposed to cold, to wind

      Without even warm clothes…

      Protest is banned

      But tear gas allowed

      And we must just absorb it

      Where can we find freedom?”

     In addition to the difficulties of life in the overcrowded refugee camp, right-wing Greeks, whose battle cry was “reclaiming the islands” set fire to the camp which burned the tents in which most of the refugees were living.  The fire also burned what few belongings and souvenirs the refugees had.  As Parwana writes

     “In this fire

      We lost our hopes

      We lost our tents, our new homes

      Here in this host country, in its camps

      As we did in our country that we fled.”

     Nevertheless, Parwana speaks for many of the refugees who continue to struggle:

     “To survive, to breath

       To achieve our goals

       Not to stay in darkness “

     For Parwana, hope comes as more than just to survive.  There is a need  to start rebuilding with resilience and strength.  In lines which give the title to this strong collection of poems she writes:

     “So stay strong and be proud of your wings

      They are still open and need help

      You can help and we can be

      Free in the sky, not crushed upon the earth.”

  René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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women Appeals

Citizens of the World: U.S. Women and Global Government.

Citizens of the World: U.S. Women and Global Government. (Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022, 238 pp.)

     As Lucia Ames Mead, one of the nine women highlighted in this study, wrote in 1904:

“The decade is not far distant when we shall find that the largest organism to which we owe allegiance is not the United States, but the great World – we are first of all citizens of the World, first of all members of humanity.”

     Between 1900 and 1950, many politically active women in the United States advocated for greater geopolitical integration in order to end war.  They argued that increasing global interdependence demanded both governmental cooperation and a broader commitment to the international community.
 
     All these women supported and worked for various measures to advance women’s political, legal and economic status.  They all believed that women had a right and a responsibility to participate on the world stage equally with men.  They felt a  responsibility to the people of the world and to future generations to inaugurate mechanisms that would end war.
 

 
 
 

Megan Threlkeld.

     As Megan Threlheld stresses these nine women were not simply promoting an abstract sense of unity among all humankind.  They were demanding to participate in shaping a real, tangible global polity. 
 
A structured international body with authority and power was a prerequisite, they believed, for lasting peace among nations and greater equality among human beings.  Many supported the League of Nations and then the United Nations as necessary first steps toward a genuine world government.
 
 
     As Conor Cruise O’Brian wrote in The U.N. Sacred Drama:
 

” The General Assembly is the main focus of such power as does reside in the U.N. – moral, imaginative, religious power.  Not that the Assembly is, in itself, especially moral, imaginative or religious,  but that the corresponding human qualities act and through it, in surprising and unpredictable ways.”

     The nine women all believed that the foremost purpose of any international institution was to end war and as world citizens they were responsible for furthering that goal.  They wanted a global system in which world politics is not conducted by force and coercion but through negotiation and compromise.   
 
All placed an emphasis on education for world citizenship.  Fannie Fern Andrews developed a grade-school curriculum for world citizenship based on educating children about their responsibilities in the home, the city, the nation, and the world.
 
     Megan Threlheld’s fine study is a strong reminder that  world citizenship has retained its tremendous power to inspire people to develop just and peaceful practices.
 
 
  René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.
 

Credits: 

Image Featured: On Tuesday, November 14, 2017, Ambassador Robert P. Jackson hosted a reception for alumnae of the Fortune-U.S. Department of State Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership. By U.S. Embassy Ghana, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

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Women as Peacemakers Appeals

Women as Peacemakers.

Featured Image: Cynthia Cockburn. The strength of Critique: Trajectories of Marxism – Feminism Internationaler Kongress Berlin 2015. By Rosa Luxemburg-Stiftung, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Seeing with eyes that are gender aware, women tend to make connections between the oppression that is the ostensible cause of conflict (ethnic or national oppression) in the light of another cross-cutting one : that of gender regime.  Feminist work tends to represent war as a continuum of violence from the bedroom to the battlefield, traversing our bodies and our sense of self.  

We glimpse this more readily because as women we have seen that ‘the home’ itself is not the haven it is cracked up to be.  Why, if it is a refuge, do so many women have to escape it to ‘refuges’?  And we recognize, with Virginia Woolf, that ‘the public and private worlds are inseparably connected: that the tyrannies and servilities of one are the tyrannies and servilities of the other.


Cynthia Cockburn. Negotiating Gender and National Identities.

The U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325.

October 31 is the anniversary of  the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 which calls for full and equal participation of women in conflict prevention, peace processes, and peace-building, thus creating opportunities for women to become fully involved in governance and leadership. 

This historic Security Council resolution 1325 of 31 October 2000 provides a mandate to incorporate gender perspectives in all areas of peace support.  Its adoption is part of a process within the UN system through its World Conferences on Women in Mexico City (1975), in Copenhagen (1980), in Nairobi (1985), in Beijing (1995), and at a special session of the U.N. General Assembly to study progress five years after Beijing (2000).

UN-General-Asembly

 Image by Basil D Soufi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

U.N. General Assembly: Can It Provide the Needed Global Leadership?.

Lysistrata.

Since  2000, there have been no radical changes as a result of Resolution 1325, but the goal has been articulated and accepted. Now women must learn to take hold of and generate political power if they are to gain an equal role in peace-making. They must be willing to try new avenues and new approaches as symbolized by the actions of Lysistrata.

Lysistrata, immortalized by Aristophanes, mobilized women on both sides of the Athenian-Spartan War for a sexual strike in order to force men to end hostilities and avert mutual annihilation.  In this, Lysistrata and her co-strikers were forerunners of the American humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow who proposed a hierarchy of needs: water, food, shelter, and sexual relations being the foundation. (See Abraham Maslow The Farther Reaches of Human Nature)  Maslow is important for conflict resolution work because he stresses dealing directly with identifiable needs in ways that are clearly understood by all parties and with which they are willing to deal at the same time.

Lysistrata

Aubrey Beardsley: Aristophanes Lysistrata, 1896. By Ignatius,, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

“The Time is Ripe” to deal with the issue.

Addressing each person’s underlying needs means that one moves toward solutions that acknowledge and value those needs rather than denying them.  To probe below the surface requires redirecting the energy towards asking ‘what are your real needs here? What interests need to be serviced in this situation?’ The answers to such questions significantly alter the agenda and provide a real point of entry into the negotiation process.

It is always difficult to find a point of entry into a conflict. An entry point is a subject on which people are willing to discuss because they sense the importance of the subject and all sides feel that ‘the time is ripe’ to deal with the issue.

The Art of Conflict Resolution.

The art of conflict resolution is highly dependent on the ability to get to the right depth of understanding and intervention into the conflict.  All conflicts have many layers.  If one starts off too deeply, one can get bogged down in philosophical discussions about the meaning of life.

However, one can also get thrown off track by focusing on too superficial an issue on which there is relatively quick agreement.  When such relatively quick agreement is followed by blockage on more essential questions, there can be a feeling of betrayal.

How do these conflicts affect people in the society?.

Since Lysistrata, women, individually and in groups, have played a critical role in the struggle for justice and peace in all societies.  However, when real negotiations begin, women are often relegated to the sidelines.  However a gender perspective on peace, disarmament, and conflict resolution entails a conscious and open process of examining how women and men participate in and are affected by conflict differently.

It requires ensuring that the perspectives, experiences and needs of both women and men are addressed and met in peace-building activities.  Today, conflicts reach everywhere.  How do these conflicts affect people in the society — women and men, girls and boys, the elderly and the young, the rich and poor, the urban and the rural?.

Conflict Transformation Efforts:

There has been a growing awareness that women and children are not just victims of violent conflict and wars −’collateral damage’ − but they are chosen targets.  Conflicts such as those in Rwanda,  the former Yugoslavia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have served to bring the issue of rape and other sexual atrocities as deliberate tools of war to the forefront of international attention.  Such violations must be properly documented, the perpetrators brought to justice, and victims provided with criminal and civil redress.

I would stress three elements which seem to me to be the ‘gender’ contribution to conflict transformation efforts:

The Domain of Analysis.

  • The first is in the domain of analysis, the contribution of the knowledge of gender relations as indicators of power. Uncovering gender differences in a given society will lead to an understanding of power relations in general in that society, and to the illumination of contradictions and injustices inherent in those relations.

The role of women in specific conflict situations.

  • The second contribution is to make us more fully aware of the role of women in specific conflict situations.  Women should not only be seen as victims of war: they are often significantly involved in taking initiatives to promote peace. Some writers have stressed that there is an essential link between women, motherhood and non-violence, arguing that those engaged in mothering work have distinct motives for rejecting war which run in tandem with their ability to resolve conflicts non-violently. Others reject this position of a gender bias toward peace and stress rather that the same continuum of non-violence to violence is found among women as among men.  In practice, it is never all women nor all men who are involved in peace-making efforts.  Sometimes, it is only a few, especially at the start of peace-making efforts.  The basic question is how best to use the talents, energies, and networks of both women and men for efforts at conflict resolution.

Detailed analysis of the socialization process in a given society.

  •  The third contribution of a gender approach with its emphasis on the social construction of roles is to draw our attention to a detailed analysis of the socialization process in a given society.  Transforming gender relations requires an understanding of the socialization process of boys and girls, of the constraints and motivations which create gender relations. Thus, there is a need to look at patterns of socialization, potential incitements to violence in childhood training patterns, and socially-approved ways of dealing with violence.

The Association of World Citizens has stressed that it is important to have women directly involved in peace-making processes. The strategies women have adapted to get to the negotiating table are testimony to their ingenuity, patience and determination.  Solidarity and organization are crucial elements.   The path may yet be long but the direction is set.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

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Piaget's Project Appeals

Completing Piaget’s Project. Transpersonal Philosophy and the Future of…

Featured Image Jean Piaget By Roland Zumbühl of Picswiss as part of a cooperation project. Wikimedia Commons.

Edward J. Dale. Completing Piaget’s Project. Transpersonal Philosophy and the Future of Psychology.

(St.Paul, MN: Paragon House Publishers, 2014)

Edward J. Dale has written a very useful overview of the intellectual currents in trans-personal psychology;  a broad field in which different practitioners use different terms for roughly the same approach:  Robert Assagioli – psychosynthesis, Ken Wilber – integral consciousness, Abraham Maslow – the farther reaches of human nature, Marilyn Ferguson – the Aquarian conspiracy. Dale provides an extensive bibliography of authors.

Therefore; there are at least two journals which specialize in trans-personal research:  Journal of Humanistic Psychology, founded in 1961 and the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology founded in 1969.

Roberto Assagioli

 Photo of Roberto Assaglioli, M.D. – Taken from the book ‘ Psychosynthesis (1965) By U3195247, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Roberto Assagioli: The Will as a Road to the Higher Self.

Psychoactive Substances.

All the trans-personal authors hold that it is very likely that the ability to develop trans-personal capacities is universal;  under the right developmental conditions. However, these trans-personal characteristics have been developed in many societies and are found in shamanism, in induced trance states, in contemplative prayer-meditation, in the use of natural psychoactive substances; and in more recent times in the use of LSD in psychedelic research.

Nevertheless; there is a possibility of a rapid and widespread emergence of trans-personal consciousness in the near future;  as an increasing number of people undertake spiritual practices of meditation, tantra, Zen, kundalini and other self-development techniques.

Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber. By Kanzeon Zen Center, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Trans-Personal Psychology.

There are basically three avenues leading to current trans-personal psychology. 

The first is a development growing out of therapeutic work. Assagioli began in the Freudian mode;  being the first translator of Freud’s writings into Italian. His work with clients showed that there were deeper aspects of the personality than Freud had stressed;  and thus a need to find therapeutic techniques,  which reached these deeper layers.  Much the same holds true for Abraham Maslow.

A second avenue has been from that of academic research and experimentation;  such as the work of Stanislav Grof, author of The stormy search for the self.

The third avenue  has been the presence of Asian teachers of meditation;  who came to Europe and the USA: the Tibetans after the 1959 flight from Tibet;  and the voluntary departure from India of yoga teachers and from Japan for Zen.

Stanislav Grof

 Stanislav Grof, psychologist and psychiatrist. By Anton Nosik, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Completing Piaget’s Project.

The value of Dale’s book is in its subtitle Transpersonal Philosophy and the Future of Psychology.  What can be confusing to readers is the title of the book Completing Piaget’s Project. Dale draws on an extended poem La mission de l’Idee;  written when Piaget was 19 and published in the French-speaking Swiss Protestant youth journal;  and his only novel Recherche;  written when he was 20 and trying to organize ideas from his college studies; his wide reading and his personal experiences of psychic events and their impact on his body. 

The poem and the novel do have trans-personal elements;  as well as reflecting debates going on at the time in the Swiss Protestant churches;  between more liberal and conservative currents. However; Piaget’s “project” linked to the creation of the League of Nations; and carried out from the 1920s in Geneva is not analyzed.

 

The League of Nations.

Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was born and educated in the French-speaking canton of Neuchatel.  He was a brilliant student;  and at an early age started writing articles for nature and wildlife journals.  He became active in the Young Socialists League and a militant for peace. He was influenced by the destructive violence of the 1914-1918 war.  Many children from France were sent to Neuchatel to take them out of harms way.

At the end of his university studies in Neuchatel;  he went to Paris to work with Alfred Binet on the early IQ tests to measure intelligence. After a couple of years;  he returned to Geneva to teach and do research in an institute devoted to education: l’Institut Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Piaget came to Geneva just as the League of Nations was starting at the end of 1922. Piaget hoped as did many others;  that the League would establish a peaceful world society. Piaget’s project was born in the intellectual currents stimulated by the League of Nations.

League of Nations

 Image: Stanley Bruce chairing the League of Nations Council in 1936. Joachim von Ribbentrop is addressing the council. By Commonwealth of Australia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The League of Nations and its unused Peace Army.

A Peaceful World Society.

His project was to build a peaceful world society;  by developing education for peace that aimed at the full development of the person.  This had to begin with the very start of education in primary school;  and strengthened through education in secondary school.

In order to create primary education that would fulfill this aim;  one had to understand how children learn.  Thus,  began his life-long investigation of the sequences of learning – when does awareness of shapes, colors, numbers, relations to others and a moral sense arise.

However; a world at peace could not be created only by having good education in the primary schools of Geneva.  There had to be a world-wide improvement of primary education;  by bringing advanced child-development knowledge to the attention of educators the world over;  in particular to the Ministries of Education;  which had the responsibility for educational policy  and content.

Alfred Binet

Alfredo Benet Junior (July 11, 1857 – October 18, 1911). By Unidentified photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Rockefeller Foundation.

Thus, in the spirit of the League of Nations; Piaget and some of his Geneva colleagues created the International Bureau of Education in 1924;  which Piaget headed for nearly 40 years.  Intellectually, it was related to the League of Nations and brought together;  usually once every two years, the Ministers of Education of the League members to discuss curriculum and teaching methods influenced by research being undertaken. 

The Bureau was largely financed by the Rockefeller Foundation. Since the USA had refused League membership and so did not contribute to the League’s budget;  much of the intellectual efforts of the League were financed by the Rockefeller Foundation including the impressive Library;  which is part of the League’s Palais des Nations.

After the Second World War;  the Bureau continued its work of conferences for Ministers of Education as an independent organization, always with Piaget as director.  In 1964, the Bureau was administratively incorporated into UNESCO but remained in Geneva.

The Same Learning Sequences.

The International Bureau of Education, housed in the Palais Wilson; the original League Secretariat offices, Piaget’s separate office building and the experimental primary school;  that served for observations were just across the street from my office as professor and Director of Research of the Graduate Institute of Development Studies. 

We would often eat or have coffee in the same places. Of course, I knew who Piaget was and would say “hello”, but I interacted with his team of researchers,  who were more my age. They were working on observations in Africa and Asia to see if the same learning sequences that Piaget had observed for Geneva children were true in other cultures as well. Their findings were that the sequences were the same; but the ages at which they took place differed due to child-raising patterns in Africa and Asia.

Institute International_Bureau_of_Education_-_UNESCO

International Bureau of Education – UNESCO @ Le Grand-Saconnex. By Guilhem Vellut from Annecy, France, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Contribution of Education to World Peace.

Piaget’s project of peace through improved primary and secondary school education has not yet been fulfilled.  UNESCO has a major program “Education for Global Citizenship“. The teachers’ manuals for the UNESCO program owe much to Piaget’s research.

While Dale’s book has many interesting elements and is a useful overview of trans-personal efforts. I think that it is a mistake to try to transform Piaget into a forerunner of trans-personal approaches;  and to neglect the heart of Piaget’s project: the contribution of education to world peace.

Transformation of Education

 Image: Image by Ian Ingalula from Pixabay.

Peacebuilding and the Transformation of Education.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

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Vaclav Havel Book Reviews

Vaclav Havel: Resistance and Vision.

Vaclav Havel on Wenceslas Square on November 17, 2009. By Ben Skála, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons.

He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game.  He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity.  He gives his freedom a concrete significance.  His revolt is an attempt tolive within the truth”

Vaclav Havel.

The Czechoslovak Government.

Vaclav Havel, whose birth anniversary we note on 5 October, he was first noted for his resistance to  a repressive government; as one of the writers; and first signers of Charter 77; demanding that the Czechoslovak Government; implement the human rights; it claimed to uphold in signing; the 1975 Helsinki Accord

The Charter 77 was openly signed; eventually by hundreds.  The regime’s response to the publication of what it called an “anti-State” document was harsh.  Most of the early signatories were arrested and spent years in prison.  Jan Patoeka; a philosophy professor  and chief inspiration of the Charter; died as a result of the police interrogation.

Vaclav Havel started his long career by writing plays.  His political essays followed later.  Both his plays and essays; contained detailed analyses of the working of the totalitarian system; and the way it could be resisted. This type of regime creates a situation; that forces all its citizens to live a lie.  He wrote:

Because the regime is captive to its own lies; it must falsify everything.  It falsifies the past, it falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future.  It falsifies statistics.  It pretends not to possess an omnipotent; and unprincipled police.  It pretends to respect human rights.  It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to prevent nothing.”

Jan Patočka By Jindřich Přibík, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Living in Truth.

In such a situation; a revolt is first of all an effort to live within the truth.

When I speak of living within the truth; I naturally do not have in mind only products of conceptual thought such as a protest; or a letter written by a group of intellectuals.  It can be any means; by which a person or group revolts against manipulation; anything from a letter by intellectuals to a workers’ strike; from a rock concert to a student demonstration; from refusing to vote in a farcical election to making an open speech at some official congress or even a hunger strike.”  (1)

His aim was to create immediate changes; in the daily lives of people.  As soon as people set out to discover their own truth; and to live in accordance with it; they provide others with an option to discover; their own individuality in return.  Living in truth can be an act of obstruction; disrupting the workings of a monolithic  system; but it can also be an act of construction; part of the creation of new structures.  Constructive action requires active ways to create new institutions “building the new society in the shell of the old.”

Havel’s writings had an influence on the emergence of a civil society in public life.  However; the embryonic spirit of a civil society “living in truth” was not fully developed. Vaclav Havel as President of Czechoslovakia; was not able to prevent the rise of narrow nationalism; which led in 1993 to the split creating the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Helsinki, KSZE-Konferenz, DDR-Delegation. By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-P0730-019 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Post-Havel Generation.

I had first heard Vaclav Havel speak in Prague in October 1990. However; when he addressed the founding meeting of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly.  The Assembly had brought together; some 800 people from peace, human rights, ecology, feminist, and world citizen movements; many of whom had been active in efforts to bridge the East-West Europe divide of the Cold War. 

This was the first chance for such; a large group of activists to meet after the radical changes in Eastern Europe.  Havel was both a key actor and a symbol of these changes.  Yet his remarks were not turned toward the past; but toward the challenges that faced us.  He echoed what the Polish writer; and activist Adam Michnik, also there; had said:

The greatest threat to democracy today is no longer communism.  The threat grows instead from a combination of chauvinism, xenophobia, populism and authoritarianism; all of them connected with the sense of frustration typical of great social upheavals.”

Seven months later; war broke out in what had been Yugoslavia.  The new civic structures that Havel hoped would be forces for peace and creativity; were not able to break the hold of aggressive; narrow nationalism.  In fact, since 1990; after a first fire of hope; civil society throughout Central and Eastern Europe has grown progressively weaker.  There are few of the post-Havel generation with as broad a vision or a willingness to act.

I met with Havel again; when he came to the United Nations in Geneva to speak at the celebration of the 50th anniversary; of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  He was open to representatives of NGOs. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

His role as President; had not changed his basic nature – a creative intellectual open to the ideas of others.  In his talk to the Commission on Human Rights; he stressed that there are many treaties; and declarations that use the term international;   but the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the only one that uses the term universal – a sign that the writers of the Declaration; wanted to include all countries and all individuals.  It is its universal character; which makes it a base for relations among peoples across national and cultural frontiers; a basis for the healing of nations.

I had been active in unsuccessful efforts of mediation in the Yugoslav conflicts; and I was worried; at the growing national-ethnic tensions in Europe.  In our discussion; I think that he shared my concerns; but knew that mobilizing trans-frontier civil society was difficult. 

Civil society groups were not up to the challenges; that history presented.  Yet; he stressed that even in dark periods; which he had experienced much more than I had; we must also see the growth of new institutions; preparing for the future – institutions which are open; which break down social divisions; which are sensitive to all voices.  Today; it is our task to be aware of the growth of these new entities; to participate in them; to add our energy to theirs; and thus to speed the manifestation of the new age.

Eleanor Roosevelt holding poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in English), Lake Success, New York. November 1949. By FDR Presidential Library & Museum, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Notes.

1) The fullest presentation of Havel’s views on the ways to resist oppression are in his long essay, The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-eastern Europe. John Keane Editor (London: Routledge, 2009)

See also Delia Popescu. Political Action in Vaclav Havel’s Thought: The Responsibility of Resistance (Latham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Leo Tolstoy Book Reviews

Leo Tolstoy: The Law of Love.

Featured Image: Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (1887). By Ilya Repin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

We possess a single infallible guide, the Universal Spirit that lives in men as a whole, and in each one of us, which makes us aspire to what we should aspire: It is the Spirit that commands the tree to grow toward the sun, the flower to throw off its seed in Autumn, us to reach out towards God, and by so doing, become united to each other.”
                          Leo Tolstoy.

9 September marks the birth of the multi-dimensional Count Leo Tolstoy, an aristocratic land owner, a young military officer, a distinguished author of War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Hedji Mirad, a spiritual-moral philosopher deeply influenced by the Semon on the Mount of Jesus, and a champion of non-violent action. It is this last aspect and the link with Mahatma Gandhi that I would like to stress.

The final two yeas of Tolstoy’s life (1909-1910) were enlightened by his written contacts with Mohandas Gandhi (not yet called Mahatma) Gandhi had read Tolstoy’s fundamental spiritual-political work, The Kingdom of God is Within You shortly after it was published in England in 1893 and had been much moved by it. Gandhi had his friends translate the book into his native language, Gujarati.

To render good for evil.

Gandhi had read earlier in London Helena Blavatsky‘s The Voice of Silence, published in 1889, which elaborated the doctrine of liberation through service to others with the Buddhist concept of bodhisatva − the enlightened being who postpones indefinitely entry into nirvana in order to serve others. The voice of silence is the inner voice of the Higher Self or the soul. There is also developed the idea ‘to render good for evil’.

Thus Gandhi was well prepared to react positively to Tolstoy’s vision even if the vocabulary was largely Christian. Christ’s teaching, writes Tolstoy, differs from other teachings in that it guides humans not by eternal rules but by an inward consciousness of the possibility of reaching divine perfection. Tolstoy stresses the Middle Way, which led the French writer E.M. De Vogue to write that Tolstoy had the soul of an Indian Buddhist. Tolstoy had discovered that non-violence must have a spiritual foundation, most clearly expressed for him in the Gospels. Tolstoy wrote:

“the truth that for our life one law is valid, the law of love which brings the highest happiness to every individual as well as to all mankind.”

Leo Tolstoy and Gandhi never met, but they corresponded with each other during the final two years of Tolstoy’s life. Tolstoy had read Hind Swaraj (1909) where Gandhi set out his vision of a liberated India, the means to reach liberation, and what an independent India could mean for the world. It was Gandhi’s plan of action before he set out to put it in practice. Gandhi had listed some of Tolstoy’s books in a list of supplementary readings to Hind Swaraj in particular The Kingdom of God is Within You and Letter to a Hindoo, Tolstoy’s reply to an Indian revolutionary who had proposed a violent uprising.

Tolstoy wrote to Gandhi:

“I read your book with great interest because I think that the questin you treat in it − the passive resistance − is a question of the greatest importance not only for India but for the whole humanity.”

Tolstoy had also read Joseph Doha’s 1909 biography of Gandhi An Indian Patriot in South Africa ,the first biography of Gandhi to be written. In August 1910, Gandhi wrote to Tolstoy to announce the creation of his ashram in South Africa called Tolstoy Farm.

Gandhi’s efforts in South Africa were signs to Tolstoy that non-violence based on the importance of personal virtue could be put into practice. Much of the last years of Tolstoy’s life was a harsh struggle against darkness as represented by the State, its war-making power, its ideologies, and the social thinking that structured the State. Colonialism, imperialism and the oppression of the indigenous peoples were the hallmark of the State.

He saw the forces at work that would lead to the First World War and the Russian Revolution. By 1901 he had been excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church − not that he expected much light to come from Church-State relations. The Church did insist that no prayers be said at Tolstoy’s funeral.

For Tolstoy as for Gandhi, nonviolence was an expression of ‘soul force’ −the outward expression of the Inner Kingdom.

René Wadlow, president and a U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens.

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Alfred de Zayas Book Reviews

Alfred de Zayas. Building A Just World Order.

Featured Image: Prof. Dr. Alfred de Zayas. By Anonym (ein Gefälligkeitsfoto für Prof. Alfred de Zayas), CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
Alfred de Zayas, a long-time member of the U.N. human rights secretariat having started in 1980; was elected by the U.N. Human Rights Council as an Independent Expert on the Promotion  of a Democratic and Equitable International Order in September 2011.  This book brings together elements of his 14 thematic reports during his six years as as a Special Rapporteur. (Clarity Press, Atlanta GA: 2021, 466pp.)
 
    Special Rapporteurs are elected by the Human Rights Council as human rights specialists. They can undertake country visits and engage in discussions with a wide range of groups and U.N. secretariat members to raise sensitive issues. Some  Special Rapporteurs are country specific; usually named after long debates in the Council on these countries.  Other Special Rapporteurs deal with broad themes such as the Right to Food, the Right to Housing, the Right to Water and Sanitation, Indigenous Peoples.
 
Alfred de Zayas draws on the work of other Special Rapporteurs to underline that developing a world order is a holistic process linking armed conflict resolution, human rights promotion, political participation and peacebuilding.
 
    Special Rapporteurs are not U.N. staff and do not receive a salary for their work; but their work is facilitated by secretaries of the U.N. human rights staff.  As de Zayas writes:
 

“I am  convinced that the function of a rapporteur is to give impulses and concrete recommendations to governments and civil society, speak clear language, tear down pretences and double standards.  One thing the rapporteur must not be: a guardian for the status quo, a fig leaf for the international community, so that everybody can pretend to have a good conscience and continue business as usual.”

 
   As de Zayas stresses: 
 

“A democratic and equitable international order necessarily functions on the basis of multilateralism and international solidarity.  It aims at promoting a culture of peace and dialogue among nations and peoples, fully respecting the sovereignty of States and ensuring that members of civil society in all countries have ample space to express themselves and to enjoy their individual and collective rights and to pursue their traditions, culture and identity.”

    Obviously; as we look at the current world society; there are many obsticles to a culture of peace and dialogue.  De Zayas sets out some of the ways to deal with these obsticles. 
 

“Honest dealing and the pursuit of peaceful relations is a better strategy if humanity is to reap cooperation and progress in human rights terms.  What is most needed today is mature diplomacy, result-oriented negotiations, a culture of dialogue and mediation.”

 
    Many of the specific recommendations made have also been made by the Association of World Citizens.  However; de Zayas gives much more background and references to U.N. documents and discussions.  He highlights the important role that non-governmental organizations; (increasingly called civil society) can play.  However; he warns of the backlash against NGOs by governments and business corporations.
 

    “Greater efforts are needed to limit current attempts to shrink the space of civil society at the international and domestic levels. Arbitrary and undue restrictions on the effective enjoyment of fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, seriously obstruct the realization of a more democratic international order.”

 
    This is an important book for those working on the development of world law; a rules-based order in the spirit of the U.N. Charter.
 
 
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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