Glen T. Martin
Why is our world a place of endless war, massive global injustice, and apparently unstoppable ongoing environmental destruction? Why is human history an endless chronical of these evils with no apparent end in sight other than the self-induced extinction of the human species? Another way of addressing these questions is to ask “What is human liberation? What is moral maturity? Why do we seem unable to overcome these monstrous evils to live with peace, justice, freedom, and ecological harmony on our beautiful Earth?
The answer is not simply psychological. It is not simply that humankind is inherently self-centered and selfish. For we know that we can grow to become loving, selfless, compassionate persons. We know that transformative growth is possible. Nor is the answer simply the Christian one that humankind is “fallen” and invariably lives in sin because we have turned away from God. There can be great profundity in this view, but it is most often given in a simplistic formula that presupposes a fatalism of hopelessness and despair, along with an idolatrous conception of the divine dimension or God.
One aspect of this religious tradition has long been its eschatology. There is something in us (because we are a synthesis of mind, matter, and divine spirit) that will emerge from history as a culmination—as a coming of the Kingdom of God to Earth. But in its more profound versions this emergence depends on us, on something we should be doing that we are not now doing. It depends on a metanoia, a change or transformation that must come from us. It assumes, as liberation theologians and philosophers have long maintained, that we perform what Mahatma Gandhi called tapasya, a self-denial or self-sacrifice that allows the liberating dimension to be released in our lives. (My 2018 book Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendenc, investigates these possibilities at some length.)
This tapasya must include the whole of our being, that is, a metanoia or deep transformation. This means that it includes our conceptual lives. We must begin clinging to truth and truthfulness and stop the egocentric process of continually lying to ourselves. The idea that truth is merely a “social construction” and reducible to cultural fads (so prominent in the USA today) is a product of this refusal to cling to truth (see Wilber 2017). We create artificial boundaries and cling to conceptual fantasies that have little or nothing to do with reality and base our entire economies and social orders on these fantasies.
Two of these fantasies that I have long combatted in my books and writings going back 30 years are the idea of the sovereign nation-state and the idea that there is some truth in the economics of capitalism (see, e.g., Martin 2005). The militarized boundaries of these territorial power-centers dictate an economics and social organization based on these gigantic egocentric and ethnocentric falsehoods. We organize our entire lives and social orders around these falsehoods and then wonder why war, injustice, and environmental destruction seem impossible to stop.
If someone proposes something different, as those who support the ascent of human beings to planetary democracy and freedom under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth are proposing, we critique that idea by projecting our conceptual illusions and fantasies onto that idea. We are not able to see that constitutionally-bound democratic world law gives us a qualitatively different world than the present chaos under a world of militarized sovereign nation-states. The eschatological possibilities inherent within our human condition are prevented from emerging because we refuse truth, we refuse to question our egoistic fantasies and allow a deeper understanding to flourish. The tapasya of clinging to truth requires both cognitive and moral maturity.
We need to embrace the cognitive growth that has already taken place and ask ourselves how this can be complemented and empowered by a corresponding moral growth. Humankind is moving toward cognitive if not moral maturity in the 21st century. Cognitively we are beginning to understand that we are one human family, one planetary civilization, and one fragile species inhabiting the entire planet and heading, through continued selfishness and lack of self-awareness, toward self-induced extinction. Cognitive maturity means, in significant measure, the ability to separate fact from fantasy, truth from falsehood, reality from collective illusions, and to see what is truly universal in the particulars. It also requires moral maturity: a tapasya, a change of heart, a non-attachment from egoistic fantasies, a thoughtful willingness to distinguish reality from falsehood.
Our development toward moral maturity lags behind our cognitive development. Perhaps this is inevitably the case. We cognitively developed the knowledge to create nuclear weapons and followed through on that knowledge before we began to realize the utter immorality and criminal nature of having anything to do with nuclear weapons. Indeed, many today work within the nuclear weapons industry without the slightest moral insight into the meaning and significance what they are doing.
Today, cognitively, people study comparative religions. Others study the biological and cultural development of the species homo sapiens. Others investigate the cosmic development of the Earth and the evolution of the geosphere, biosphere, and noosphere. Still others study the origins and development of language and the structural interconnectivity of all languages (interconnected as these are with the origins and development of the human brain). The physiology of the human body is the same everywhere as are the dynamics of the human brain. All this oneness (inclusive of diversity) and all this universality is cognitively understood by many people.
Why are we so afraid to translate this cognitive understanding into a universal process for governing ourselves? We know (cognitively) that all people everywhere need an economic system to provide the goods and services necessary to life. And we know (cognitively) that all people everywhere require a legal system to regulate economics and other spheres of life for the common good of the community. Yet these cognitive understandings have yet to translate into the moral imperative to actualize a universal economic and political system for humanity and for future generations.
In a similar way, we know cognitively about the origins and evolution of the system of militarized, territorially bound, sovereign nation-states. We know cognitively about this system’s perpetual wars, subversions, colonialisms, propaganda lies, and endless imperialisms, but we have yet to adopt the moral maturity to transcend the territorially-bound state toward democratic planetary government. When we think of “global government” we attribute to it some of the characteristics of sovereign states, thereby distorting the idea beyond recognition. We project our present egocentric fantasies onto the proposed solution.
I submit that this misunderstanding of the proper role of government comes about because, in our moral immaturity, we confuse the characteristics of sovereign nation-states with those of a proposed world under universal democratic laws. People project their present fragmented condition onto the whole. But fragmented thinking is inappropriate to the whole, and, as many thinkers have pointed out, a genuine whole takes on emergent qualities not found in the parts separately. To bring humanity to wholeness under the unity in diversity of the Earth Constitution would inevitably lead us to abandon many of our current illusions and false concepts now encouraged and protected by the system of absolute sovereignty of militarized nation-states.
People ask questions like the following: Will the democratic world government support religion (like Iran) or atheism (like the former Soviet Union)? Or will it support religion in general? Will it become generally atheistic and support an oppressive technocracy and materialism? Will world government need a military force to keep order and put down rebellions? Will world government be torn apart by opposing political parties vying for power as we now see within sovereign nation-states? Will it retain the so-called “freedom” of private property, or will it promote some form of socialist unfreedom? I submit that all these questions involve a serious misunderstanding of the function of government at the global level, and they may also reflect the moral immaturity of the questioner.
For example, in his autobiography, philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev calls the idea that Russia should be an Orthodox State under Eastern Orthodox Christianity “an abomination” (2008, 257). This is because he understands that religion is about humankind’s inner life, about our “personal response” to life, the cosmos, and God. Religion organized externally within a “state” cannot but be hypocrisy and falsehood. Berdyaev’s older contemporary, Russian philosopher Leo Tolstoy, said much the same thing (1984, 281). Swami Agnivesh, Distinguished Advisor to the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), repeatedly made this same point (2015).
Article 12 of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth guarantees universal rights to all the people of Earth. Among these rights are “the right to freedom of religion or no religion.” The Constitution understands that it is the duty of government to embrace the freedom of all people everywhere, thereby making possible their self-actualization, which may include “religion or no religion.” For a “state” to embrace some form of religious expression, whether Buddhism in Thailand, Islam in Iran, or Christianity in the USA, is indicative of the fragmentation of humanity enforced by the system of sovereign nation-states.
This fragmentation confuses the nation-state with the system of “private property” that has also bedeviled the world for centuries, making people and nations think that they can “own” their portion of the globe and its resources, or that they can “own” ideas and concepts like those of some religion. The current U.N. document putting forth the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals for the Year 2030 states in paragraph 18 that: “We affirm that every State has, and shall freely exercise, full permanent sovereignty over all its wealth, natural resources and economic activity.” With this statement we have the moral immaturity of militarized sovereign nation-states raised to an exponential pitch. States “own” their wealth, just as they “own” their religion, their political ideology, even their citizens. Forget “all,” forget universality, the entire world is nothing more than the private property of its fragmented parts.
The Constitution for the Federation of Earth involves a moral paradigm-shift: a shift to moral maturity. As with religion, it guarantees each person “freedom to profess or promote political beliefs or no political beliefs.” Nation-states under the “my property” ideology of absolute sovereign statehood also believe they can own political concepts. If there are “true” concepts like socialism, then a state, like Cuba, can own and implement socialism within its own absolute borders, or the USA can “own” capitalism and promote this idea imperialistically from within the safety of its own borders, or Thailand can “own” Buddhism and prohibit disrespect to the image of Buddha within its own borders. Human freedom lies in ruins for the people of Cuba, of Thailand, of the USA, and for the many victims of US imperialism.
Similarly, the Earth Constitution does not address the question of political parties (it does not prohibit these, but neither does it provide for these) because it understands that the entire idea of what we now mean as “political party” will be transformed once we have ascended to the global level and to planetary maturity. A true democratic world system like that delineated by the Earth Constitution will have no need of conflicted, warring parties. There will be all kinds of associations of people, whether religious, humanistic, or service oriented, but these associations will no longer be in mortal combat with one another. In the fragmented world of absolutely sovereign nation-states, a party can take over a state and use its military and foreign policy to promote its ideology, whether that party be communist or capitalist, religious or humanist, militarist or dovish. The present chaos of the world system is the obvious consequence.
Proper government provides a legal framework for what philosopher of law Lon Fuller calls a minimum “morality of duty” that allows citizens to live peacefully and fruitfully together so that each citizen may actualize his or her freely chosen “morality of aspiration” (1969). Proper government is concerned with “service to humanity,” a pledge that all government officials must take throughout the Earth Constitution. It is concerned, in other words, with human dignity and freedom. Hence its concern must be for the equitable economic flourishing of all citizens and the guarantee of “life, liberty, and security of person” for all citizens.
“All” means everybody, not those who happen to be a particular sovereign nation’s property hiding behind its absolute borders. Philosopher Mortimer Adler observes that “all” is the “most radical word” in the political lexicon—because if we really meant “all” when we hypocritically say “all,” then everything would change and many of our most fundamental problems would instantly disappear (1991, 90). Life, liberty, and security of person can only be achieved if there is world peace, and universal disarmament, just as these rights can only be achieved if the planet’s biosphere is protected and restored. If we really meant “all” when we say “all,” then the system of militarized sovereign nation-states would disappear in the blink of an eye. Our eschatological potential for true human liberation can happen overnight. We simply need the moral maturity to mean “all” when we say “all.”
Authentic government can only be universal, because “all” persons require these things and “all” persons have a right to these things, namely life, liberty, and security of person. Authentic government cannot be fragmented into autonomous, nation-states, for this very fragmentation defeats these rights and fools governments into a “private property” mentality that ensures that “all” is never considered, that the freedom and dignity of “all” is never fully respected. The government of Sweden may treat is “own” citizens very well, but its claim to autonomous existence within absolute borders trashes the rights of the rest of humanity, whatever lip service its leaders may claim for this “ideal.”
The Earth Constitution does not define what a “nation” is even though one House in the tricameral World Parliament is called the “House of Nations.” This is because it understands that the very meaning of “nation” will change after the unity in diversity of constitutional world government is achieved. Nations will no longer think of themselves as inviolable territorially forces opposed to or allied to other such forces around the world and in need of deadly, military “self-defense” arrangements. Once nations are no longer absolute territorial power-centers but become simply governing units within the whole federation, they will be able to flourish culturally, economically, and politically without today’s structurally-induced conflict, animosity, and violence.
The constitutional world government will have no need of a military for this same reason. A united humanity will have transcended the war-system inherent in the system of absolute nation-state sovereignty and will be truly thinking in different ways, ways consistent with security provided by civilian, law-abiding policing authorities. There is no longer an “implacable” enemy to confront and engage in rivalry with, and therefore no longer a false, ideological justification for a military-industrial complex. There are only partners within the unity in diversity of the whole.
The concept of “security” will also change, just as the concept of the “political” will change, and the concept of “religion” will change. The current distorted definitions of all three of these concepts will no longer fragment humanity. Then real security in the form of world peace, real politics in the form of service of humanity, and real religion as the self-actualization of our relation to the divine dimension will rapidly emerge.
The civilian world police will not resemble today’s armed, quasi-military forces directed to repression of the poor. Under the nation-state system, the police (and to some extent the military) are tasked to protect the class-system of privilege of the rich over the poor, the haves over the have nots. That is why, in the USA for example, the police criminalize and oppress the poor for every tiny infraction but largely ignore the criminal activities of the rich who get away with the most outrageous crimes unscathed. Government under the Earth Constitution is predicated on the common good of the whole and all people equally, and once humanity sees this, policing will take on an entirely different significance. Social differences will be drastically diminished, and everyone equally will be subject to the embrace of the laws.
Constitutionally defined democratic world law will have no need to promote any form of sectarian religion or sectarian (regional) interests. All followers of religions who endorse peace with justice can be embraced impartially in their right to freely practice, just as all diverse secular humanist forces that affirm peace with justice can easily be protected by law. Religions today may gravitate toward protection by militarized sovereign states (like those who say Iran is an Islamic country or that the USA is a Christian country) because neither governments nor religions have yet embraced a mature moral wholeness of humanity that obviates the need for religions to defend themselves against attack or align themselves with power centers.
The anarchist movement from William Godwin and Pierre Joseph Proudhon in the 19th century to such thinkers as Howard Zinn (1990) or Noam Chomsky (1988) in the 20th century makes this same mistake. It has long maintained that government itself is the problem, that government is inherently repressive or imperialistic or corrupt. But these thinkers are conceptualizing “governments” within the system of sovereign nation-states first formulated in the West at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Indeed, they are correct that the state and its various forms of government under this system tend to be corrupt and repressive, but that is not due to the inherent nature of governing and government but rather to the fragmentation of humanity and its corresponding cognitive and moral immaturity.
At the global level, under the Earth Constitution, the concept of “government” itself is liberated from these corrupting influences and can now be understood as universal civil regulation and coordination premised on the inherent freedom and dignity of all people. When we move to the global level, a paradigm-shift takes place that we all must embrace if we expect to have a future for our planet and our children. Cognitive maturity is not enough. We must also ascend to moral maturity as represented by the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. The entire conceptual framework changes when we truly mean “all” when we say “all.”
Adler, Mortimer (1991). Haves Without Have Nots: Essays for the 21st Century. New York: Macmillan.
Agnivesh, Swami (2015). Applied Spirituality. New York: Harper-Collins.
Berdyaev, Nicholas (2008, first pub. 1950). Self-Knowledge: An Essay in Autobiography. San Rafael, CA: Semantron Press.
Chomsky, Noam (1988). The Culture of Terrorism. Boston: South End Press.
Fuller, Lon L. (1969). The Morality of Law. Revised Edition. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Martin, Glen T. (2005). Millennium Dawn: The Philosophy of Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.
Martin, Glen T. (2018). Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence. London: Cambridge Scholars.
Tolstoy, Leo (1984, orig.pub. 1894). The Kingdom of God is Within You. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press.
Wilber, Ken (2017). Trump and a Post-Truth World. Boulder CO: Shambala Publishers.
Zinn, Howard (1990). A People’s History of the United States. New York: Harper-Collins.