Month: <span>August 2021</span>

Thomas Berry Rapprochement of Cultures.

Thomas Berry: A World Citizen’s Ecological Vision

Featured Image . Königssee, Schönau am Königssee, Germany. Photo by S Migaj on Unsplash.

“ As we enter the 21st century, we observe a wide-spread awakening to the wonder of the Earth.  This we can observe in the writing of naturalists and environmental organizations dedicated to preserving the integrity of the planet. The human venture depends absolutely on this quality of awe and reverence and joy in the Earth.  As soon as we isolate ourselves from these currents of life; and from the profound mood that these engender within us; then our basic life-satisfactions are diminished.” (1)

The Great Work.

                   The restoration of reverence and joy for life within Nature is what Thomas Berry; a cultural historian, calls “the Great Work.  “History is governed by those over-arching movements; that give shape and meaning to life by relating the human venture to the larger destinies of the universe. 

Creating such a movement might be called the Great Work of a people…The Great Work now; as we move into a new millennium, is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner… The deepest cause of the present devastation; is found in a mode of consciousness that has established a radical discontinuity between the human and other modes of being and the bestowal of all rights on the humans. 

Reverend Thomas Berry, American Catholic priest and “ecotheologian”. By Caroline Webb, http://caroline-webb.com/, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The other-than-human.

The other-than-human modes of being are seen as having no rights.  They have reality and value only through their use by the human.  In this context, the other-than-human becomes totally vulnerable to exploitation by the human, an attitude that is shared by all four of the fundamental establishments that control the human realm : governments, corporations, universities, and religions – the political, economic, intellectual, and religious establishments.  All four are committed consciously or unconsciously to a radical discontinuity between the human and the non-human.

                   In reality there is a single integral community of the Earth that includes all its component members whether human or other-than-human.  In this community each being has its own role to fulfil, its own dignity, its inner spontaneity.  Every being has its own voice. 

Every being declares itself to the entire universe;  and it’s enters into communion with other beings.  This capacity for relatedness, for presence to other beings, for spontaneity in action, is a capacity possessed by every mode of being throughout the entire universe.”

Community of Life on Earth.

         Today, humanity is challenged to discover – or rediscover – this single integrated community of life on Earth in terms of ideas, images, myths, rituals, and practices that are meaningful to people today. 

Berry, who has written on the religions of India and on Buddhism and Chinese culture, is well aware that in earlier times, there have been teachings which stressed the kinship of all life.  In The Great Work, he quotes many examples from the Native Americans who had a strong sense of living within Nature, a sense of place, and the need for sympathy toward animal and plant life. 

Berry’s book The Great Work.

However, he knows that the shift from a human-centered to an earth-centered norm of reality and value cannot be done just by a return to past teachings and insights.  As he writes “One of the most essential roles of the ecologist is to create the language in which a true sense of reality, of value, and of progress can be communicated to our society.”  One of the useful aspects of Berry’s book The Great Work is a well-annotated bibliography which gives a good overview of different writers and approaches on the subject – even those authors with whom Berry disagrees.

     Berry highlights greed and loss of sensitivity as reasons for ecological destruction.  “The profoundly degraded ecological situation of the present reveals a deadening or paralysis of some parts of human intelligence and also a suppression of human sensitivities.” 

However Berry is hopeful that concern for the environment must become the central organizing principle of civilization.  “There is now developing a profound mystique of the natural world; we now experience the deep mysteries of existence through the wonders of the world about us.”

                   Berry writes well and has a broad vision.  The Great Work; it is a book; that one shares with others to widen the circle of those; active to develop an ecologically-based world view such as that of the Association of World Citizens.

 Note

1) Thomas Berry. The Great Work. Our Way into the Future

                             (New York: Bell Tower, 1999)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

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Simone Weil Portraits of World Citizens.

Simone Weil : Roots in the Ideal.

Featured Image: Simone Weil (1909–1943) – a French philosopher, Christian mystic and political activist of Jewish origin. By Unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Rene Wadlow.

“In the day of Victory, the angel of justice strives with the demons of violence; the heart of the victor all too easily is hardened; moderation and far-seeing wisdom appear to him weakness; the excited passion of the people, often inflamed by the sacrifices and suffering they have borne, obscure the vision even of responsible persons and make them inattentive to the warning voices of humanity and equity.”  – J. Naughton

 

Simone Weil;  who died on 24 August 1943;  was one of those warning voices writing a memo in London for General Charles DeGaulle’s;  Free French on the problems that would face France;  after the victory over Nazi occupation. 

Her memo concerning the need for humanity, non-violence, and equity;  was published after the War;  as Enracinement in French and The Need for Roots in English.  The memo;  too philosophical for people;  who were primarily concerned with the upcoming D-Day;  and the need to coordinate the different resistance movements within France;  had little impact.

No one in the Free French leadership was sure;  where Simone Weil fit into the different groups;  which had assembled in London.  The Free French officials had quickly rejected her request to be sent back to France;  to partake in armed resistance or in helping the wounded.  Simone Weil had had a short experience with armed combat;  as part of an anarchist brigade in Spain in the Civil War against Franco;  but her poor eyesight and very fragile health;  had quickly put an end to her armed participation. 

Simone Weil

Simone Weil (1909–1943) – a French philosopher, Christian mystic and political activist of Jewish origin. By Unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

A Poem of Force.

She returned from Spain convinced of the need for non-violent action;  influenced by her philosophical interest in Indian thought and the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi.  She also returned from Spain as a convinced opponent of the death penalty;  having tried to stop her anarchist co-fighters;  from executing prisoners of war and Catholic priests. Her non-violence is expressed in a powerful prose-poem ‘L’Iliade: A Poem of Force;  published in both French and English;  first under her pen name, Emile Novis.

She had begun her intellectual life as a Marxist;  but an anti-Stalinist one. As a young philosophy teacher;  she had housed Leon Trotsky in her Paris apartment;  but found Trotsky dogmatic and too willing to justify the policies of the Soviet Union even as he opposed Stalin.  Simone Weil’s Marxism was embodied in no political formation;  and was more an ideal form based on compassion;  for the fate of workers than from an expression of class struggle.  Simone Weil was above all indebted to the writings of Plato;  and her teaching was largely related to Plato and classical Greek thought.  The cave from where one only sees shadows is her image of the world;  in which we live. 

Leon Trotsky

Headshot of Russian Revolutionary political leader and author Leon Trotsky (1879 – 1940), 1930s. By Лев Давидович Троцкий (1879-1940), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

She was interested in the spiritual dimensions of religion;  without ever becoming a member of an organized religion.  She came from an agnostic Jewish background.  Her brother;  André Weil;  who was able to leave France for the USA in 1941;  was a well-known mathematician;  whose career was largely spent at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton;  New Jersey.  The Institute had been created to house Albert Einstein;  and was home for a good number of theoretical mathematicians.

Joseph Stalin

 

Joseph Stalin, Secretary-general of the Communist party of Soviet Union (1942). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Osiris in Egypt and the Krishna of the Gita.

Simone Weil was interested in Taoism, Hinduism and in the person of Jesus.  As she wrote;  Osiris in Egypt and the Krishna of the Gita;  were also incarnations of the Divine.  Her views of Jesus as Prince of Peace kept her outside the Catholic Church;  but after her return from Spain;  she started meeting with Catholic intellectuals.

The most significant of these was Gustave Thibon (1903-2001);  who lived not far from where I live in Ardeche, south-central France;  but I never met him.  Simone Weil and her family had been able to leave Paris in 1940 for Marseille in what was then still “Unoccupied France” under the French government of Vichy. 

Gustave Thibon.

Simone Weil’s parents and brother left for the safety of the USA;  but she refused to leave those suffering behind.  Thus; through mutual friends in Catholic intellectual circles;  she went to live in Ardeche;  helped by Gustave Thibon. 

She left all her writings;  nearly all unpublished; with Thibon when she left Ardeche to join the Free French in London.  Thibon oversaw the publication of her writings and wrote perceptive introductions to many of them after her death.

 

Gustave Thibon was a self-taught philosopher and poet but also a wine producer;  wine being the economic base of our area. Thibon had left school at 16 at the death in the First World War of his father;  in order to help his grandfather tend the wine vines. 

Thibon remained a farmer all his life;  even after the Second World War;  when his philosophical writings became well known;  and he was often asked to give talks in different European countries.  Thibon understood the driving energy of Simone Weil;  her constant questioning of ideas and her desire to put her ideals into practice. 

Gustave Thibon

Gustave Thibon 1982. By Bohémond, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Network of Intellectual Catholics.

Gustave Thibon was part of a network of intellectual Catholics;  who were also concerned with the future of France after the war.  Along with Thibon;  the group included Louis-Joseph Lebret;  a Catholic priest;  who played a large role in creating the cooperative movement in France;  and who helped draw up the first development plans for Senegal after its independence in 1960. Francois Perroux;  whose economic ideas set the stage for the first post-war reconstruction;  and planning in France was also a member of the network.  

Although Thibon and the others were orthodox Roman Catholics;  they were united with Simone Weil in trying to build a synthesis between philosophical thought and economic conditions;  especially of the poorest and those ground down by repetitious factory work.

Simone Weil’s health, always poor, declined in London, and she died at age 34. It is only after her death that her writings in notebooks were structured into books.  Her life and writings are a prime example of the effort to establish a link between society and the direction of thought.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

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Afghanistan Appeals

Start of a New Round in Afghanistan?.

 Featured Image: Afghan pro-government forces (including militia and army troops) assemble in Jowzjan Province during 2021 Taliban offensive. By File:Afghan government forces in Jowzjan Province during 2021 Taliban offensive.png: Abdulbasir Ilgor (VOA)derivative work: Berrely, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

There are real dangers of increasing armed conflict and regression of civil society in Afghanistan as the Taliban advance and opposing forces organize. On 5 August 2021, the United Nations Security Council met under the presidency of the Ambassador of India, T.S. Tirumrti. The Council heard a report from the the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan who said that the country was at a dangerous turning point.

Regional States – Pakistan, Iran, China, India and the Central Asian republics – are all involved in different ways. The withdrawal of the U.S.A. and NATO forces is not complete, and private contractors will stay on. There is a flow of refugees. Persons who had worked for the U.S. or NATO troops are being given refuge abroad. Many other persons are also looking at the possibility of leaving, and few are considering returning from abroad.

Since its overthrow in 2001, the Taliban has regrouped, launched an insurgency and has assumed control of a significant portion of the country. In addition to the Taliban, there are an estimated 10,000 foreign fighters in some 20 Islamist groups who are also anti-governmental. Among these are fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS) who had been active in Iraq and Syria. Many of these foreign fighters operate independently from the Taliban.

There have been different efforts to facilitate meaningful negotiations among government representatives, the Taliban, representatives of civil society and other groups from within Afghanistan. These negotiations seem to be at a standstill and have produced no clear guidelines for a lasting settlement. It is impossible to know what discussions among more limited groups may be going on. There may be discussions with a low profile or under the cover of religious authorities. There may be locl initiatives for a local ceasefire. However, the results of earlier talks does not make one optimistic on an overall agreement.

Since the start of the Soviet intervention in January 1980, Afghanistan has become increasingly divided, and the population war weary. After 2001, a good number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) became active, often in cooperation with foreign NGOs. Education and health services were developed. At this stage, it is difficult to know what lasting impact these NGO efforts will have. To some extent foreign NGO workers depended on U.S. and NATO troops for protection. It is likely that the protection of foreign NGOs will not be a high priority for governmental troops and may be prime targets of the Taliban.

The current complexity of international relations, with only weak efforts of cooperation for peace processes with the United Nations system and shrinking space for civil society efforts are the dark background of the current Afghan situation. The growing dangers of violence and repression may creat a new energy for peacemaking or on the opposite, discouragement and fear. The situation merits close analysis to see if there are any opportunities for positive action.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

 

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

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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Velimir Khlebnikov Rapprochement of Cultures.

Velimir Khlebnikov: The Futurian (1895-1922).

Featured Image: Velimir Khlebnikov. Commentary on the photo from the publishing house: “The photograph of V. Khlebnikov dates back to 1916 during his stay in Ukraine. In the photograph he was taken together with G. N. Petnikov, who kindly provided it to the publishing house at our request.” By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

My soul is a seer
Who has seen in the skies
The constellations beginning to rise.
And the thunderstorm fly like a bird.

So wrote the Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov on the eve of his death in 1922. Khlebnikov was part of an active avant-garde circle of writers and painters known as the Cubo-Futurists, although Khlebnikov used the term “futurian” to separate himself from the urban-military-technological themes of Italian futurism represented by Marinettti. Khlebnikov had a strong sense of what Russia could bring to the modern world despite the hardships that the 1917 Revolution brought to the avant-garde. In 1920 he wrote:

Russia, I give you my divine
white brain. Be me. Be Khlebnikov.
I have sunk a foundation deep in the minds
of your people. I have laid down an axis,
I have built a house on a firm foundation.
We are Futurians.

The group produced most of its work from 1910 until the start of World War I and then was scattered by the War and the Revolution. The group which included the spiritually-inclined painter Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) who was inspired by the paintings of Henri Matisse which existed in private collections in Moscow, but basically the group found its inspiration in the native art of Russian folklore – folklore which had a wisdom beyond intellect. In his essay “On Poetry” Khlebnikov wrote:

“If we think of the soul as split between the government of intellect and a stormy population of feelings, then incantations and beyondsense language are appeals over the head of the government straight to the population of feelings, a direct cry to the predawn of the soul.”

Malevich standing most probably in the Museum of Artistic Culture, Petrograd (1924). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Yet Khlebnikov does not fit into any one school or trend. As Paul Schmidt, the translator of his collective works points out “Taken as a whole, his work explores a unique and much broader terrain. In addition to poems and plays, stories and essays, he wrote political and artistic manifestos, essays on history, architecture, and social problems, literary theory, and journalistic pieces on current events. His passion for internationalism in politics and the arts prompted him to envisage a world-wide brotherhood of creative scientists, writers, and thinkers dedicated to understanding nature and to counteracting all the social evils fostered by political leaders.”

Khlebnikov, who died when he was 36, is in many ways a short-lived Walt Whitman whom he much admired.

“Attentively I read the springtime thoughts of the Divinity in designs on the speckled feet of tree-toads, Homer shaken by the awful wagon of a great war, the way a glass shakes at the passing of a wagon. I have the same Neanderthal skull, the same curving forehead as you, old Walt.”

Khlebnikov’s “O Garden of Animals” is directly influenced by Whitman:

“O Garden of Animals,
Where iron bars seem like a father who stops a bloody fight to remind his sons they are brothers; Where a clean-shaven soldier throws dirt at a tiger, all because the tiger is greater.  Where a camel knows the essence of Buddhism, and suppresses a Chinese smile; Where I search for new rhythms, whose beats are animals and men.”

Like Whitman, Khlebnikov was an innovator of language and form. At first sight, his poetry was considered anarchic and destructive of accepted rules. Khlebnikov wanted a clear break with the past. As he wrote in 1916 as the war ground on “Old Ones, you are holding back the fast advance of humanity; you are preventing the boiling locomotive of youth from crossing the mountain that lies in its path. We have broken the locks and see what your freight cars contain: tombstones for the young.”

The Laughing Philosopher: American poet Walt Whitman (1819–92). By George C. Cox (1851–1902)[1], Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

He saw himself as a creator of new forms that would penetrate below the surface of phenomena and give a new art that might change the human condition. As we look more deeply at his writings, we see the metaphysical structure of order behind the innovative lines. His break with the past was to discover the true laws of nature. As Paul Schmidt writes:

“This passionate belief in the sovereignty of a lawful nature gave Khlebnikov a great intellectual freedom in the pursuit of its boundless variety, in poetry and in the various languages he devised for poetry. It removed the constraints of common forms and opened words to the wide prospects enjoyed by natural objects, while making them subject to the deep scrutiny of analytic dissection. Khlebnikov was thus able to proceed to the work of the poet with the methodological precision of the scientist and to partake of the passion of both. To unite mankind into harmony with the universe – that was Khlebnikov’s vocation. He wanted to make Planet Earth fit for the future, to free it from the deadly gravitational pull of everyday lying and pretence, from the tyranny of petty human instincts and the slow death of comfort and complacency. He wanted to transform the World through the Word.”

Khlebnikov’s metaphysics are largely Taoist, more likely a rediscovery of the workings of yin and yang than a conscious influence of Chinese philosophy although he had a wide knowledge of Slavic and Indian mythology and a general interest in Asia. In a wry little poem of 1914, he describes concisely the underlying principle of his view of history, the idea of an equilibrium produced by the shift from positive to negative states:


The law of the see-saw argues
That your shoes will be loose or tight
That the hours will be day or night,
And that the ruler of earth the rhinoceros
Or us.

We find the same sense of the working of equilibrium in a section of “The Song of One Comes to Confusion”:

These tenuous Japanese shadows,
These murmuring Indian maidens,
Nothing sounds so mournful
As words at this last supper.
Death – but first life flashes past
Again: unknown, unlike, immediate.
This rule is the only rhythm
For the dance of death and attainment.

Death came too soon. 1913 had been a high point of cooperation among the Cubo-Futurists when they staged the opera “Victory over the Sun”. The music was by Mikhail Matiushin (1861 -1934) with the sets and costumes by Kazimir Malevich and the prologue by Khlebnikov. War, revolution, civil war and exile broke up these creative groups. Although they were unable to create the future they had envisaged, the ideas are powerful beacons and can still reach a wider audience. To unite mankind into harmony with the universe is still central to the world citizens goals.

See: Raymond Cooke. Velimir Khlebnikov (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) and Paul Schmidt’s translations The King of Time (1985) and Collected Works (1987 and 1989) both published by Harvard University Press.

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

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South China Sea Appeals

Saber Rattling in the South China Sea.

Featured Image: The USS John S. McCain conducts a routine patrol in the South China Sea, Jan. 22, 2017. The guided-missile destroyer is supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Navy photo by Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez. By Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Six days of Chinese naval maneuvers have begun on 6 August 2021 near southeast Hainan province in the South China Sea at the same time as war ships of the U.S.A, the United Kingdom, Australian Defence Forces ships and those of the Japan Self-Defense Forces are also training in the area. The South China Sea is fast becoming a theatre of brinkmanship.

“We view with concern China’s unlawful claim to the entire South China Sea – directly and negatively impacting all the countries in the region from their livelihood, wheither it be with fishing or access to natural resources.” said John Aquilino, commander ot the US Indo-Pacific Command at the Aspen Security Forum on 4 August. The U.S. Commander added that he was concerned by China’s suppression in Hong Kong, human rights issues in Xinjiang, as well as China’s military actions on the border with India. “These are the tings that lead me to believe that our execution of integrated deterrence has to occur now with a sense of urgency.”

John C. Aquilino

Admiral John C. Aquilino, USN Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. (April 2021). By United States Department of Defense, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi quickly replied that “foreign powers” must stop extending “black hands” in the South China Sea and show “four respects – respect for historic truth, inernational law, the countries of the region and their agreements.

China’s Global Times published a harsh editorial on the same lines warning to:

follow the current international shipping lanes and stay at least 12 nautical miles away from the Chinese islands and reefs…Stopping such intrusive behavior that violates China’s territorial waters is a struggle China is destined to intensify… Under international law, warships, including those of the US and its allies have been able to pass through the South China Sea unimpeded. But if those shipes want to exert geopolitical pressure and build a wall to contain China along those shipping lines, those warships will face a confrontation from China. And the intensity of the confrontation is bound to increase constantly.”

Wang Yi

On November 25, 2019, Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China Wang Yi. By 首相官邸ホームページ, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

It is probable that the Cold War-like rhetoric in Washington has encouraged China’s siege mentality. While it is unlikely that there will be a deliberate use of violence by any party, there can be miscalculations and misinterpretations of actions. In addition to China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei all make claims to some of the islands in the South China Sea. Slowly but surely, Beijing has been expanding its strategic influence in the South China Sea. The South China Sea islands and surrounding waters are crucial as potential military platforms, plausible points of strategic surveillance as well as sites of energy reserve.

It is in the interest of the world society that the tensions concerning the delimitations in the South China Sea be reduced. The current tensions could slip out of control.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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The United Nations UN: Growth of World Law.

The United Nations: The Shift in Perspectives and Action

Featured Image: Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Unsplash.

Perspectives.

In the final analysis, the United Nations  is an ethical force. We must stand for the principles laid down in the UN Charter, in international and humanitarian law, and for that humanitarian imperative which is based on fundamental requirements of human decency. Thus, the effectiveness of international cooperation through the UN is fundamentally a question of the respect for its moral and ethical force.


Jan Eliasson, former Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department for Humanitarian Affairs.

The UN is at the center of a major shift in attitude, values, perspectives and organization. We need to understand the ways in which humanity is creating a new and different world so organized as to provide peace, to overcome want, and to extend individual choice and freedom. What are the new myths, the new values, the new philosophies, policies and structures in keeping with our highest aspirations at the heart of this shift? What are the steps necessary for the transition to a humane world order?

Abraham Maslow and Jan Tinbergen.

This more humane world order of which we already sense the basic framework requires that there be a basic shift in perspective, with a different, more inclusive awareness, capable of identifying with the entire human species and with all planetary life. This shift is to a quality of consciousness fundamentally different from the fragmented consciousness which has gone before – a shift toward “the farther reaches of human nature” to use the psychologist Abraham Maslow’s phrase.

Some of the value traits of this shift in world consciousness were set out in the Reshaping the International Order study coordinated by the world citizen economist Jan Tinbergen. He summarized these values as Equity:

The expression of the equal value of all human beings; Freedom: the maximum compatible with the rights of others; Democracy and Participation: an open society as the base for the other values; Solidarity: the feeling of common interest and brotherhood; Cultural Diversity; and Environmental integrity the ecosphere upon which all life depends must be respected, the assurance of continued viability of human settlements.

Jan Tinbergen

Jan Tinbergen at the conference “Views on Europa” in Amsterdam. By Jac. de Nijs/ Anefo, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Donald Keys.

As Donald Keys, UN Editor of Transnational Perspectives, stressed “The UN has become the repository and indeed the elaborator of the commonly-assumed norms and values considered to be appropriate for mankind as a whole. Such goals for human and planetary well-being are found in the declarations, conventions, covenants, treaties and other instruments adopted by the United Nations; they are also taken for granted in many of the institutional arrangements and activities associated with the UN.”

Robert Muller.

Robert Muller, Honorary President of the Association of World Citizens, elaborated in his Transnational Perspectives article “A Copernican View of World Co-operation” “The mere list of the United Nations specialized agencies and world programmes which compose the UN system illustrates the vastness of today’s international co-operation. No other living species has ever so equipped itself with global instruments designed to study, observe, monitor and preserve its habitat.

The Shift.

In innumerable organs, meetings and conferences, through thousands of experts and delegates, backed by world civil servants, mankind is today probing its entire biosphere and human condition, trying to augment peace, to reduce conflicts and tensions, to build bridges and to seek ways for a greater fulfilment of human life to an extent which no philosopher, prophet or social reformer would have ever dreamed possible.”

Today, the shift from a local-national to a planetary consciousness is a world-wide transition, going on in all parts of the world and integrating into a world awareness with the contribution of many different cultures.

The survival of human civilization.

The shift will not come overnight nor will old forms disappear, but rather the focus of concern will be different. In more and more cases, more people will take decisions based on their perception of the world interest rather than just national interest. As the English historian Hugh Seton-Watson has noted “The survival of human civilization depends on the recognition of both sets of truth: that neither absolute state sovereignty nor the abolition of national identities is possible.

There must be a balance between national cultures and interstate cooperation no less than a balance between class interests and interclass cooperation within nations, if destructive civil wars and nuclear holocausts are to be avoided.”

The Association of World Citizens works closely with the UN in the common goal of cooperation across all boundaries to restore the earth to health and abundance to life.

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

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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Albert Thomas Rapprochement of Cultures.

Albert Thomas: The ILO Centenary. by Rene Wadlow

Albert Thomas, By National Photo Company Collection, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Albert Thomas (1878 -1932); was a French socialist close to Jean Jaures; who was assassinated on the eve of the First World War by a French Nationalist; who thought Jaures was too active trying to prevent a war with Germany.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the New England philosopher wrote that

an institution is the lengthened shadow of a man.”  

This is certainly true of the International Labour Organization (ILO); whose centenary was celebrated in Geneva at the start of its annual conference in May, 2019.  

Albert Thomas, the first Director General, set in motion nearly all the elements that were developed later.

Director General of the ILO.

Thomas was brought into the French government as the war began; largely as a sign that not all socialists were pacifists.  He was quickly given a newly-created Ministry: the Ministry of Armaments.  In this position; he met many French industrialists; who were making arms and that he would see again as the representatives of French industry; when Thomas was Director General of the ILO.

Minister of Armaments.

Thomas was very aware of the socio-political situation in Russia.  He had widely traveled there as a university student, and returned in 1916 as Minister of Armaments.  He returned in 1917 after the April revolution which had made Alexandre Kerensky Prime Minister.

Soviet-Style Revolution

Thomas saw the possibility of similar revolutions in other countries; if labor conditions were not improved and if cooperation between workers and owners was not developed.

Thus, the background of labor unrest leading to a Soviet-style revolution; was in the minds of many of the 1919 negotiators that led to the Treaty of Versailles.  Without mentioning the Russian Revolution in public; the negotiators; especially the English and the French; saw the need for an organization that would bring together in a cooperative spirit the representatives of government, of industry and of labor.

Norwegian delegation to the 1919 International Labour Conference (Washington Conference).
By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The French and the British.

The French and English negotiators were the most active on these labor cooperation; issues and divided the structure of the administration of what was to become the ILO between the two States. 

The U.S.A. had already indicated that it would not join the League of Nations. Russia, become the Soviet Union, was not invited, and Germany, as the defeated power was also excluded.  Thus a Frenchman, Albert Thomas, became the founding Director General, and the British Harold Butler became his deputy.  In practice, all the important posts were divided among the French and the British.

Trade Union Federations and Employers’ associations.

The ILO has a three-part structure of equality among the representatives of governments, trade union federations and employers’ associations.  The ILO has a philosophy of dialogue and compromise.  However, Thomas began a tradition of strong leadership and expert knowledge by the secretariat. 

Thomas stressed that “The governments must be told what they have to do; and told in terms so far as possible, of their own constitution and methods”.

Letters of Principle.

He insisted on what he called “letters of principle”; in which the duties of governments were carefully set out and a method for their performances suggested.

This approach has led to the widely used ILO practice of setting out “Recommendations”; which creates standards but need not be ratified by national parliaments as must be ILO Conventions; which are treaties which need to be ratified in the manner of other international treaties.  Thus there are many more ILO Recommendations than ILO Conventions.

Rural Workers and The Unpaid Labor.

From his early days in French politics; Thomas had developed an interest in cooperatives and in rural workers; both of which were usually outside the interests of trade unions and employers’ association which focused on industry.

Under Thomas’ leadership, the ILO took on a fairly broad view of what is “labor”.  He was also concerned with the role of women; though it was only a good bit later that the ILO became concerned with “unpaid labor” and the informal sector.  In many countries the work of wives  as “unpaid labor” is still outside employment statistics.

The International Labour Conference.

On 21 June 2019, a new Convention and accompanying; recommendation to combat violence and harassment in the world of work was adopted by the ILO Conference.  

Manuela Tonei; Director of the ILO’s Work Quality Department said; “Without respect, there is no dignity at work, and without dignity there is no social justice.” 

This is the first new Convention agreed by the International Labour Conference; since 2011 when the Domestic Workers Convention (Convention 184) was adopted.  Conventions are legally binding international conventions while Recommendations provide advice and guidance.

An Intensive Worker.

Also linked to his political background, Thomas knew the importance of personal contacts.  Thus, he traveled a good deal to meet officials and explain the role of the ILO.  He traveled a good bit in Asia; especially China and Japan, two countries outside of colonial control, as well as to North and South America.

Thomas was an intensive worker, often traveling in difficult conditions.  He did not take into consideration his own health needs – suffering from diabetes.  He died suddenly in 1932; as the ILO was facing the consequences of the world-wide depression.  He was only 53.  He left a strong legacy on which the ILO has been able to build.

Note

For a biography and analysis of the start of the ILO; written by a close co-worker and high official in the ILO Secretariat see: E.J. Phelan. Albert Thomas et la Création du B.I.T. (Paris: Grasset, 1936) translated into English as Edward J. Phelan. Yes and Albert Thomas (1936).

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

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Pitirim Sorokin Rapprochement of Cultures.

Pitirim Sorokin: The Renewal of Humanity

Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968) was concerned; especially in the period after the Second World War; with the relation between the values and attitudes of the individual and their impact on the wider society.  His key study Society; Culture and Personality: Their Structure and Dynamics (1947); traced the relations between the development of the personality, the wider cultural values in which the personality was formed, and the structures of the society.

Reconstruction of Humanity (1948)

The two World Wars convinced him that humanity was in a period of transition; that the guideline of earlier times had broken down; and had not yet been replaced by a new set of values and motivations.  To bring about real renewal; one had to work at the same time on the individual personality; on cultural values as created by art, literature, education, and on the social framework.

One had to work on all three at once; not one after the other as some who hope that inner peace will produce outer peace. In his Reconstruction of Humanity (1948); he stressed the fact that:

if we want to raise the moral standards of large populations, we must change correspondingly the mind and behaviour of the individuals making up these populations, and their social institutions and their cultures.”

The First Department of Sociology.

Pitirim Sorokin was born in a rural area in the north of Russia.  Both his parents died when he was young. He had to work in handicraft trades in order to go to the University of St. Petersburg; where his intelligence was noted, and he received scholarships to carry out his studies in law ; and in the then new academic discipline of sociology.  After obtaining his doctorate; he was asked to create the first Department of Sociology at the University of St. Petersburg.  However; the study of the nature of society was a dangerous undertaking; and he was put in prison three times by the Tsarist regime.

A Long Journey (1963).

He was among the social reformers that led to the first phase of the Russian Revolution in 1917.  He served as private secretary to Alexandre Kerensky; head of the Provisional Government and Sorokin was the editor of the government newspaper. 

When Kerensky was overthrown by Lenin; Sorokin became part of a highly vocal anti-Bolshevik faction; leading to his arrest and condemnation to death in 1923.  At the last moment; after a number of his cell mates had been executed; Lenin modified the penalty to exile, and Sorokin left the USSR, never to return.  His revolutionary activities are well-described in his autobiography A Long Journey (1963).

 Alexander Kerensky. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

University of Minnesota and Harvard University.

Pitirim Sorokin went to the United States and taught at the University of Minnesota (1924-1930); where he carried out important empirical studies on social mobility; especially rural to urban migration.  These studies were undertaken at a time when sociology was becoming increasingly recognized as a specific discipline. 

Pitirim Sorokin was invited to teach at Harvard University; where the Department of Social Ethics was transformed into the Department of Sociology with Sorokin as its head.  He continued teaching sociology at Harvard until his retirement in 1955; when the Harvard Research Center in Creative Altruism was created; so that he could continue his research and writing.

Pitirim Sorokin By неизв., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Three Pillars That Make up Society.

Of the three pillars that make up society − personality, culture, and social structure − personality may be the easiest to modify.  Therefore; he turned his attention to how a loving or altruistic personality could be developed.  He noted that in slightly different terms: love, compassion, sympathy, mercy, benevolence, reverence, Eros, Agape and mutual aid − all affirm supreme love as the highest moral value; and its imperatives as the universal and perennial moral commandments. 

Pitirim Sorokin stressed the fact that an ego-transcending altruistic transformation; is not possible without a corresponding change in the structure of one’s ego, values and norms of conduct. Such changes have to be brought about by the individual himself; by his own effort, thinking, meditation, volition and self-analysis. He was strongly attracted to yoga; which acted on the body, mind, and spirit.

Societies Change Cultural Orientations.

 Sorokin was especially interested in the processes by which societies change cultural orientations; particularly the violent societies he knew; the USSR and the USA.  As he wrote renewal:

“demands a complete change of contemporary mentality, a fundamental transformation of our system of values and the profoundest modification of our conduct towards other men, cultural values and the world at large.  All this cannot be achieved without the incessant, strenuous active efforts on the part of every individual.”

Love or Compassion must be Universal.

Pitirim Sorokin believed that love or compassion must be universal; if it were to provide a basis for social reconstruction.  Partial love; he said, can be worse than indifference. 

If unselfish love does not extend over the whole of mankind, if it is confined within one group − a given family, tribe, nation, race, religious denomination, political party, trade union, caste, social class or any part of humanity − in such an in-group altruism tends to generate an out-group antagonism.  And the more intense and exclusive the in-group solidarity of its members, the more unavoidable are the clashes between the group and the rest of humanity.”

Notes.

For a biography see: B.V. Johnston. Pitirim A.
Sorokin: An Intellectual Biography
(University Press of Kansas, 1995)

For an overview of his writings see: Frank Cowell.History,
Civilization and Culture: An Introduction to the Historical and Social
Philosophy of Pitirim A. Sorokin
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1952)

For Sorokin’s late work on the role of altruism see:
P.A. Sorokin. The Ways and Power of Love (Boston, Beacon Press, 1954) A
new reprint is published by Templeton Press, 2002

By Rene Wadlow. President, Association of World Citizens.

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