Glen T. Martin
27 March 2022
The authors of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth were clearly interested in human liberation. I knew some of these authors personally and can testify to their passion to “serve humanity” in this way. The focus on human liberation is quite obviously the conceptual energy behind the Earth Constitution for the entire document presents a systematic design for achieving the objectives outlined in its opening article: ending war and securing disarmament, protecting universal human rights, diminishing social disparities, and protecting our planetary ecosystem.
In my books and articles to date I have often argued that the twin dominant institutions of today’s world—global capitalism and the system of militarized sovereign nation-states—systematically block and derail all efforts at human liberation, including those embodied within the Earth Constitution. The Constitution transcends both these institutions, the first by placing global economics in the hands of the democratically elected representatives of the people of Earth in the World Parliament who are constitutionally required to frame economics to serve the common good. It also transcends the second—militarized sovereign nation-states—by placing them all under a federated government with a democratic World Parliament dedicated to actualizing all the fundamental ideals summarized in Article 1 of the Constitution. The Earth Federation government emerges in charge of establishing and maintaining a liberated regime that is beyond the reach of any and all sovereign nations: peace, planetary prosperity, universal human rights, and a protected planetary environment.
One of the greatest contemporary philosophers, Jürgen Habermas, in his inaugural address of 1965, published in his seminal book Knowledge and Human Interests (1971), shows that the human quest for knowledge presupposes a human quest for liberation. One of our inescapable human interests in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding is transformation of our problematic condition of ignorance, violence, hate, fear, fragmentation, injustice, and systematic distortion to a condition of happiness, goodness, truth, and deep mutual understanding. Habermas writes:
Society is not only a system of self-preservation. An enticing natural force, present in the individual as libido, has detached itself from the behavioral system of self-preservation and urges toward utopian fulfillment…. Only in an emancipated society, whose members’ autonomy and responsibility had been realized, would communication have developed into the non-authoritarian and universally practiced dialogue from which both our model of reciprocally constituted ego identity and our idea of true consensus are always directly derived. (1971, 313-14)
Any theory of the evolution of civilization or of the emergent evolution of human consciousness is likely to be a theory of human liberation. What components or our human situation need liberation? What components of our situation need to change if we are to achieve planetary peace, disarmament, human rights protection, diminished social differences and global ecological preservation? Habermas traces the analysis back to language. It is language that constitutes our human ego (our individual self-conscious awareness) and it is also language that joins us to others in the human community, ideally making possible “true consensus” and mutual understanding. Our highest human interest in the pursuit of knowledge is simultaneously an interest in human liberation. A true liberation would necessarily entail worldwide “non-authoritarian and universally practiced dialogue.”
The persons who have achieved this capacity for “dialogue directed toward mutual understanding” have substantially realized the “idealized speech situation” that functions as the a priori presupposition of all possible language. Habermas reveals this ideal condition as presupposing “truth, truthfulness, and normative rightness” (1998). Without going into the details of this trinity, suffice it to say that language would not be possible unless the basic presupposition of every linguistic utterance were not “truth, truthfulness, and normative rightness.” Hence, Habermas shows that the capacity for truth and goodness are built into our human situation from very beginning.
What are the impediments to actualizing the ideal speech situation among human beings? What are the impediments to a world civilization animated by mutual understanding among the majority of human beings from every culture, nation, and religion? Those who think in terms of so-called “spiritual liberation,” such as Ken Wiber, speak of the emergence in human beings of higher levels of spiritual resonance with the ground of Being, with Buddha-nature, God, or the Tao. And it may be that just as there is an a priori dimension in language that “urges toward utopian fulfillment” so there is an emergent evolutionary nisis or impulse that urges toward spiritual growth. Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo are both famous for their conceptualizations of this nisis.
In either case we can ask what are the impediments to such growth in our ability for dialogue directed toward mutual understanding, on the one hand, and our meditative processes leading to spiritual awakening, on the other? The impediments are at least threefold: structural, psychological, and cultural. On the psychological level, human beings, as Habermas notes, have ego-identities formed by linguistic interaction with their environment, beginning with the family and extending to the regional culture and its institutions, and eventually to the world.
Human egos can grow and move toward “autonomy and responsibility.” This process has been described by many prominent psychologists and thinkers such as Lawrence Kohlberg (1984), Carol Gilligan (1982), and Habermas himself (1979). At mature levels persons develop what Habermas calls a “universal ethical-principle orientation” in which “there are universal principles of justice, of reciprocity and equality of human rights, and of respect for the dignity of human beings as individual persons” (1979, 77).
At more immature levels, human beings tend to promote their own self-images in their interactions, promoting their own prejudices, hopes, fears, loves and hatreds, into their immediate relations with others as well as their culture at large. However, dialogue directed toward mutual understanding requires a self-transcendence of this egoism to the point where one can begin to fully “hear” what the other is saying and one can deeply understand the point of view of the other, something the egoistic-orientation makes progressively impossible. Marshall Rosenberg has written a very good book about such communication (2015). Genuine respect for the equality and dignity of human beings as individual persons requires cognitive, moral, and spiritual maturity.
Similarly, a fundamental distortion of proper ego development toward autonomy and rationality is affected by the capitalist system in which the making of money and the possession of money is considered of central importance. This system premises society and human relationships on what Habermas calls “strategic action” rather than on “communicative action” directed toward mutual understanding (1979, 117-19). Children brought up in such a system, whether they are rich or poor, link their ego-orientation and their social status to money (as well as with the power that goes with the possession of money). The extent to which they internalize this link is the extent to which they become incapable of dialogue directed toward mutual understanding and the empathic identification with the other that this entails. Hence, the capitalist system encourages a culture and psychology of egoism, competition, striving to be on top economically, and egoistic arrogance (often very refined and courteous at superficial levels).
Something similar is true of the sovereign nation-state system. Each nation demands loyalty from its citizens and treats disloyalty as “treason.” Each nation cultivates a “team spirit” among its citizens vis-à-vis other nations. (Often religions do something similar and religious identification is frequently connected with nationalism.) So nations create more than mere territorial boundaries between themselves. They cultivate collective, national egoism in their populations. “My country is special. My country has such and such ideals. My country has such and such unique features that no other country has.” This leads not only to nationalist propaganda on the part of governments but nationalist propaganda by the dominant media outlets in each nation and nationalist spirit among the citizens. But collective egoism, like personal egoism, inhibits dialogue directed toward mutual understanding, just as it inhibits spiritual growth toward ego-transcendence, that is, oneness with humanity, oneness with the Cosmos, or oneness with the divine ground of Being.
Like the capitalist system, which cultivates an egoism based on money and economic status, the nation-state system cultivates an egoism based on the competition between territorial states with respect to economics, militarism, cultural mores, natural resources, and international status. Nations engage in vast propaganda undertakings promoting themselves on the international stage and disparaging official “enemies.” The ruling classes of smaller nations emphasize their loyalty and cultural identification with their imperial masters; they form what Alfred W. McCoy calls “loyal subordinate elites” (2017, 225). The result makes growth toward dialogue directed toward mutual understanding nearly impossible just as it makes spiritual growth toward holistic harmony with the cosmos or God also nearly impossible.
Any time there is violence or the threat of violence behind the communicative process (which would include ostracism or shamming within any group), we have what Habermas terms “systematically distorted communication” (1979, xii, 168). As mentioned above, entire institutionalized communications systems can be distorted as well. And I submit that the capitalist system along with the sovereign nation-state system together create a world order based on systematically distorted communication that blocks our ascent to undistorted communicative dialogue directed toward mutual understanding.
The Constitution for the Federation of Earth helps fulfill both the “urge toward utopian fulfillment” that serves as the a priori dimension of the very possibility of language and the “divine nisis” toward holistic unity articulated by thinkers such as Teilhard de Chardin, Ken Wilber, and Sri Aurobindo. Human liberation will necessarily require not only structural transformation away from capitalism and the militarized nation-state system to a market-system that gives reasonable economic equity to all and to a nation-state system that protects the good of the whole while taking the fulcrum of world affairs out of the hands of the ruling oligarchies of the great imperial powers. It will also require psychological and cultural transformations.
It should be clear, however, that the structural movement away from egoistic, competitive capitalism and away from competitive nation-state egoisms will also facilitate transformation in both the psychological and cultural dimensions. More than this, I have long argued (e.g., 2021) that this structural transformation (ratification of the Earth Constitution) is a necessary prerequisite for the other two transformative movements. Because the present institutionalized structure of the world (as a private wealth-system and a competitive war-system), with its systematically distorted communication regime, actively defeats growth in the other two dimensions.
By uniting all the nations into a Federation of Earth, the Constitution ends the war-system and makes possible a sense of global community in which the nations can, for the first time, work together to solve the global problems that threaten human extinction and the destruction of our planetary biosphere. By eliminating the competitive war-system not only are trillions of dollars saved that could be used for the common good, but the felt need to cultivate nationalism and thoughtless loyalty are dramatically reduced. Similarly, by putting the Earth Financial Administration (under supervision of the World Parliament) in charge of creating a global economy that works for everyone in a roughly equitable way, the egoism of money and its concomitant power are dramatically reduced.
These structural changes do not constitute human liberation. But they go a long way toward making it possible, that is, toward making possible a planetary population in which egoism is reduced sufficiently to make real dialogue directed toward mutual understanding possible. Human growth toward spiritual awareness that transcends egoism for a more universal or cosmic awareness would surely be rapidly enhanced by this structural transformation. And human growth toward the capacity for genuine dialogue directed toward mutual understanding would be similarly enhanced. The 1500 or so persons in the World Parliament may be dialoging with one another with a degree of mutual understanding virtually unknown by all previous international forums.
Human beings can only solve their fundamental problems through achieving human liberation. And human liberation necessarily involves transformation in the structural, psychological, and cultural spheres of planetary civilization. The structural transformation involves a practical expansion of democratic decision-making so that it embraces our planet as a whole. Ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth is a necessary practical step required for a fuller and more complete transformation that is likely to follow. This needs to be the basis of our immediate, practical action. Ratifying this Constitution is, therefore, transformative praxis for human liberation par excellence.
Gilligan, Carol (1982). In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Habermas, Jürgen (1971). Knowledge and Human Interests. Trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro. Boston: Beacon Press.
Habermas, Jürgen (1979). Communication and the Evolution of Society. Trans. Thomas McCarthy. Boston: Beacon Press.
Habermas, Jürgen (1988). On the Pragmatics of Communication. Ed. Maeve Cooke. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Kohlberg, Lawrence (1984). The Psychology of Moral Development: Volume Two, The Nature and Validity of Moral Stages. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
Martin, Glen T. (2021). The Earth Constitution Solution: Design for a Living Planet. Independence, VA: Peace Pentagon Press.
McCoy, Alfred W. (2017). In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power. Chicago: Haymarket Books.
Rosenberg, Marshall (2015). Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Encinitas, CA: Puddle Dancer Press.
Wilber, Ken (2007). Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Post-Modern World. Boston: Integral Books.