Month: <span>July 2023</span>

Tiananmen Square Appeals

4 June: Memories of Tiananmen Square.

4 June makes the security forces in China somewhat uneasy, especially in Hong Kong where, in the past, there were large memorial meetings tp remind people of 4 June 1989 when the military and police moved against those who had been protesting publicly for over a month.  Students from colleges and universities in China’s capital initiated protests after the death of the former General Secretary of the Communist Party, Hu Yaobang on 15 April 1989 who was considered a liberal reformer. 

The movement then spread over a number of weeks to most of the major cities.  Students made numerous demands, among them were calls for an end to government corruption, increased funding for education, and freedom of the press.  As the movement went on, students were increasingly joined by industrial workers.

Hu Yaobang (1986). By dati.camera.it, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

There were differences of opinion within the ruling government circle as to how to deal with the protests.  As the protests continued, there was more and more international media attention, especially as there were an increasing number of journalists in Beijing in advance of the visit of the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev with a large delegation of Soviet officials.

Mikhail Gorbachev in The White House Library, 12/8/1987. By Unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Goddess of Democracy.

Students and intellectuals started writing petitions setting out demands that were signed by more and more people.  The decentralized structure of power and decisionmaking among groups in Tienanmen Square allowed for tactical innovation as each group was free to act as it desired and stress the symbols it wanted.  Thus art school students created the Goddess of Democracy, largely based on the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.  The growth in support for the student-led protests led the more anti-reformist faction in the government to order a crackdown by the military and the police.  The tanks started to move into Tiananmen Square.

Replica of the statue “Goddess of Democracy” from the Tiananmen square protests in 1989. Photo taken in Victoria Park, Hong Kong, during the commemoration event for the 21st anniversary of the massacre. Photo by MarsmanRom & Isa Ng, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Goddess of Democracy: 4 June 1989.

Democratization from Below.

Since June 1989 there have been reforms within China – what we might call “democratization from below” but without large scale, highly visible public protests.  ‘Stability’ and ‘harmony’ have been the stated government policy aims, coloured by the breakup of the Soviet Union and fundamental changes in Eastern Europe.  So democratization needs to proceed quietly and gradually.  Such democratization requires long-term vision and skilful leadership.  Democratization is basically linked to individualization, to an ever-larger number of people thinking for themselves, creating their own life styles and ‘thinking outside the box’.  It can be a slow process and repressive forces within the government watch events closely. 

However, it is likely that the direction of individualism is set and cannot be reversed.

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Day of the Oceans Appeals

International Day of the Oceans.

Featured Image: Photo by Marek OkonUnsplash.

Progress on Asian Maritime Delimitations Needed.

8 June has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Day of the Oceans to highlight the important role that the U.N. played in the creation of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention. (UNCLOS).

Photo by Alice Mourou on Unsplash.

Our Common Oceans and Seas.

Heating Up.

However, there are maritime delimitation disputes that are currently dangerous and require good-faith negotiations to prevent increased tensions.  The maritime delimitations within the South China Sea are particularly sensitive. Maritime delimitations can be heated up by governments and cooled off at will when other political issues require attention.  Currently, we are in a “heating up” stage between China and Taiwan, China and Vietnam, China and Japan, and China and the Philippines.  The China – U.S.A. tensions also color the South China Sea issues. (1)

There are both economic and geostrategic aspects to these tensions, and both need to be addressed if good- faith negotiations are to lead to cooperation for the benefit of all.   Progress in maritime geology and predictions of metal shortages in the decades ahead have made seabed mining a concern for governments such as China, Japan, and South Korea.  Minerals such as copper, gold and other industrial minerals as well as oil-natural gas are thought to be available through seabed mining in this Pacific area.

The International Day of the Oceans can serve as the start of a strong mobilization of voices calling for good-faith negotiations and for a vision of cooperation among the States of the South China Sea. (2)

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.

Saber Rattling in the South China Sea.

Notes:

  • (1) For a good overview of the history with maps of the disputed areas, see Douglas Johnston and Mark Valencia: Pacific Ocean Boundary Problems (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1991).
  • (2) For a useful approach to adjudication of delimitation issues, see A.O. Adede: The System for Settlement of Disputes Under the UNCLOS  (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987).

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politics without borders Appeals

Politics Beyond National Frontiers.

Featured Image: Photo by  Markus Spiske,  Unsplash.

In our current globalized world society, there is an increased role for politics without borders.  Politics no longer stops at the water’s edge but must play an active role on the world stage. 

However, unlike politics at the national level which usually has a parliament at which the actors can recite their lines, the world has no world parliament as such.  Thus new and inventive ways must be found so that world public opinion can be heard and acted upon.

Beyond The Borders of Individual Countries. 

The United Nations General Assembly is as close to a world parliament that we have today.  However, all the official participants are diplomats appointed by their respective States – 195 members.  U.N. secretariat members, the secretariat members of U.N. Specialized Agencies such as UNESCO and the ILO are in the hall ways or coffee shops to give advice.  Secretariat members of the financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF are also there to give advice on costs and the limits of available funds.  The representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGO) in consultative status with the U.N. who can speak at sessions of the Economic and Social Council and the Human Rights Council cannot address the General Assembly directly. However, they are also in the coffee shops and may send documents to the U.N. Missions of governments.

Politics without borders requires finding ways to express views for action beyond the borders of individual countries. 

Today, most vital issues that touch the lives of many people go beyond the individual State:

  • The consequences of climate change.
  • The protection of biodiversity.
  • The resolution of armed conflicts.
  • The violations of human rights.
  • More just world trade pattern. 

Thus we need to find ways of looking at the world with a global mind and an open heart.  This perspective is an aim of world citizenship.

However, world citizens are not yet so organized as to be able to impact political decisions at the United Nations and in enough individual States so as to have real influence.  The policy papers and Appeals of the Association of World Citizens are often read with interest by the government representatives to whom they are sent.  However, the Association of World Citizens is an NGO among many and does not have the number of staff as such international NGOs as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Greenpeace.

We still need to find effective ways so that humanity can come together to solve global problems – that is – politics without borders.

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Protecting Cultural Heritage. Appeals

Protecting Cultural Heritage in Time of War.

Featured Image: World Heritage flag, Stortorget, Karlskrona. By Henrik Sendelbach, CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons.

War and armed violence are highly destructive of the lives of persons, but also of works of art and elements of cultural heritage. The war in Ukraine has highlighted the destructive power of war in a dramatic way. Thus, this May 18, “International Museum Day”, we outline some of the ways in which UNESCO is working to protect the cultural heritage in Ukraine in time of war.

International Museum Day.

May 18 has been designated by UNESCO as the International Day of Museums to highlight the role that museums play in preserving beauty, culture, and history. Museums come in all sizes and are often related to institutions of learning and libraries. Increasingly, churches and centers of worship have taken on the character of museums as people visit them for their artistic value, even they do not share the faith of those who built them.

Knowledge and understanding of a people’s past can help current inhabitants to develop and sustain identity and to appreciate the value of their own culture and heritage. This knowledge and understanding enriches their lives. It enables them to manage contemporary problems more successfully.

Graphic identity for International Museum Day 2020. By Justine Navarro, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

It is widely believed in Ukraine that one of the chief aims of the Russian armed intervention is to eliminate all traces of a separate Ukrainian culture, to highlight a common Russian motherland. In order to do this, there is a deliberate destruction of cultural heritage and a looting of museums, churches, and libraries in areas when under Russian military control. Museums, libraries, and churches elsewhere in Ukraine have been targeted by Russian artillery attacks.

After the Second World War, UNESCO had developed international conventions on the protection of cultural and educational bodies in times of conflict. The most important of these is the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The Hague Convention has been signed by a large number of States including the USSR to which both the Russian Federation and Ukraine are bound.

UNESCO has designed a Blue Shield as a symbol of a protected site. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, has brought a number of these Blue Shields herself to Ukraine to highlight UNESCO’s vital efforts.

Audrey Azoulay, Director General, UNESCO at the Global Conference for Media Freedom in London (2019).Foreign and Commonwealth Office, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Roerich Peace Pact.

The 1954 Hague Convention builds on the efforts of the Roerich Peace Pact signed on April 15, 1935 by 21 States in a Pan-American Union ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C. In addition to the Latin American States of the Pan American Union, the following States also signed: Kingdom of Albania, Kingdom of Belgium, Republic of China, Republic of Czechoslovakia, Republic of Greece, Irish Free State, Empire of Japan, Republic of Lithuania, Kingdom of Persia, Republic of Poland, Republic of Portugal, Republic of Spain, Confederation of Switzerland, Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

At the signing, Henry A. Wallace, then U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice-President, said:

“At no time has such an ideal been more needed. It is high time for the idealists who make the reality of tomorrow, to rally around such a symbol of international cultural unity. It is time that we appeal to that appreciation of beauty, science, education which runs across all national boundaries to strengthen all that we hold dear in our particular governments and customs. Its acceptance signifies the approach of a time when those who truly love their own nation will appreciate in addition the unique contributions of other nations and also do reverence to that common spiritual enterprise which draws together in one fellowship all artists, scientists, educators and truly religious of whatever faith. Thus we build a world civilization which places that which is fine in humanity above that which is low, sordid and mean, that which is hateful and grabbing.”

We still have efforts to make so that what is fine in humanity is above what is hateful and grabbing. However, the road signs set out the direction clearly.

Globally-used UNESCO World Heritage logo. By UNESCO; Designer: Michel Olyff.Uploaded by Siyuwj, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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Frank Baum Portraits of World Citizens.

Frank Baum: The Father of the Wizard of Oz.

Featured Image: Danielle Bowen, Kevin Cahoon, PJ Benjamin, Nicholas Rodriguez and Stephen Wallem in The Wizard of Oz at The Muny in 2016. By Meetmeatthemuny, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

L. Frank Baum (1856 –  1916) whose birth anniversary we mark on 15 May is largely forgotten as a writer while his 1899 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz lives on through the 1939 film with Judy Garland as Dorothy and references in essays to the Tin Woodman without a heart or Toto, Dorothy’s faithful dog.

The story begins as Dorothy and Toto are picked up from their farm in Kansas by a cyclone and carried into another world − the land of Oz.  Dorothy wants to return to Kansas and is advised to consult the Wizard who lives in the Emerald City at the center of the Land of Oz.  Dorothy and Toto set out on the Yellow Brick Road for the Emerald City.  On the way they meet three companions, each of whom joins her in the  hope that the Wizard of Oz will be able to give him what he lacks.

The first is the Scarecrow whose head is of straw and wants some brains so he can think.  The second is the Tin Woodman who wants a heart so he can love.  The third is the Cowardly Lion, who should be the king of the forest, but this lion is afraid of everything.  He wants courage so that he can act.

When they finally meet the Wizard of Oz, he turns out to be a human like Dorothy.  He was a balloonist in Nebraska who worked in a circus, going up in the balloon to attract a crowd. One day a strong wind blew him all the way to Oz where the inhabitants took him to be a great wizard.

 Portrait of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. By University of California, Los Angeles Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Wizard of Oz has all the essentials of a myth.  

It is set in a perilous, enchanted land where the human protagonist is engaged in a quest.  She faces great difficulties but is helped by extraordinary friends who are also on a quest.  The three friendly helpers represent what they think they lack: intelligence, love, courage.

At the end, each finds within himself the qualities they are seeking.  We each have within ourselves the qualities we seek.  The myth is a metaphor for balancing energies  at all levels.  Just as the spiritual transformation of a person must be initiated from within, so too collective bodies such as the Emerald City must discover the inner power to balance their energies and transform themselves into more humane systems.

The Adventures and Crises of the Oz myth.

Both individuals and organizations can become whole only if they can balance intellect, emotions, and courage. Through this balance, individuals and organizations develop a sense of purpose, a direction for their quest.  Many spiritual traditions emphasize the importance of balancing one’s energies as a means for spiritual growth, such as the Taoist Yin and Yang, thought of as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ energies. The balance must occur within each person who has both masculine and feminine qualities within.  The balance must be initiated from within the person, but this inner response comes from contact with external forces − thus the adventures and crises of the Oz myth.

Dorothy as the central character of the story.

Frank Baum as a newspaper editor was a strong advocate of the rights of women, and his wife was very active in efforts for the right of women to vote.  Thus, it is not surprising to find Dorothy as the central character of the story.  She symbolizes all the various energies and forces of the story.  She finds her personal balance  resulting in her spiritual transformation and her ability to achieve her quest − to return ‘home’.

As with all myths, the story can be read at different levels.  However, Frank Baum had a strong interest in Asian thought, and a spiritual reading of the myth is not adding something that was not consciously there.

Notes:

The MGM film with its songs sung by Judy Garland is out as a CD and merits seeing or re-seeing.

For a biography see: Katharine M. Rogers L. Frank Baum. Creator of Oz. A Biography (New York: St Martins Press, 2002)

To place Oz in the broader context of US myth making see Brian Attebery The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1980)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

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