Integrating the United Nations toward Our Common Human Future
Glen T. Martin
World Philosophy Day, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 18 November 2022
Here we are in Kuala Lumpur, in the year 2022, 13.7 billion years from the beginning, products of a 13.7-billion-year evolutionary upsurge become conscious of itself in us. World philosophy day celebrates the immense collective wisdom of humankind. Our bodies are made of energy from the sun, our sun was born at the heart of our Milky Way Galaxy, and our galaxy emerged from the cosmic ground of being that exploded into existence 13.7 billion years ago. Our lives, our planet, our sun, our galaxy, and the cosmos are all gifts of God. In World Philosophy Day we celebrate these gifts of God. We look forward to the realization of our divine-human destiny in a world of peace, freedom, justice, and sustainability.
Yet our present moment in history teeters on possible apocalypse. China, Russia, and the USA struggle as lawless nuclear weapons-wielding nation-states over economic, political, and territorial power in a world system that brokenly believes it can accommodate endless economic growth in concert with endless sovereign-state military expansion. The result is the nightmare we are living within at this minute—at any second the entire human project and all human civilization could go down the drain, never to arise again.
An anthropomorphically conceived God remains silent at this immense sin of high-tech war and militarism, and at the corresponding global sin of the community of nation-states together remaining silent in the face of this apocalyptic absurdity. Smaller nations do not want to cross the great imperial powers. These powers have the capacity to do real damage to smaller states, both economically and militarily. Some states, like Iran and North Korea, aspire to become nuclear powers themselves, understanding that this may be the only way to preserve their autonomy against the gigantic forces of superpower imperialism.
Nations may call themselves “non-aligned,” that is, they want to keep their heads down, deal with their internal issues, and hope that the big powers leave them alone. But in a globalized world economy there are no more strictly “internal issues.” We are all in this mess together and keeping one’s head down will not prevent nuclear apocalypse or other weapons of mass destruction from being used. Nor will it prevent the on-going destruction of our planetary climate, which, according to many environmental experts, is rapidly heading toward an uninhabitable planet and possible human species extinction (cf. Martin 2021).
Many claim that the United Nations is meant to address this situation, and that a strengthened United Nations may be able to steer humanity beyond this apocalyptic crisis. But the UN is a very complex reality, itself not a unity but a multiplex of conflicting forces, some pointing forward to a new civilization, others pointing backward and leading to the demise of our common human project. Some scholars have distinguished three UNs, not just one (Weiss, et al. 2017).
The First UN includes the system of so-called sovereign nation-states involving the General Assembly with the Security Council and operating under the UN Charter. The Second UN includes the Secretariat and the many agencies working worldwide for ending poverty, promoting transition to sustainability, or protecting human rights. The Third UN includes thousands of NGOs worldwide that work with the UN or are registered has having “consultant status” with the UN. The Second and Third UNs often look forward to a global civilization of peace, justice, and sustainability, which is also the vision behind the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.
Of course, politics and conflicting interests play a part in the paralysis of all three UNs in attempting to deal with the descent of our world into ever-greater chaos, misery, and possible human extinction. Nevertheless, the lion’s share of the problems of superpower conflict, possible apocalyptic war, and environmental destruction lies with the First UN that slavishly adheres to the outdated UN Charter. This Charter takes its stand on “nation-state sovereignty.”
The First UN is premised on a Charter whose roots go back to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 when the concept of “sovereign” nation was outlined at the end of the 30-years war in Europe. A nation was defined as having absolute territorial boundaries and autonomy over both its internal affairs and in its foreign affairs. This structural model for “nation-states” is nearly four centuries old and comes from a paradigm long ago transcended by all contemporary sciences. In the face of the current threat of apocalyptic death, to slavishly cling to these absolute boundaries appears as madness.
The metaphysical assumptions behind 17th century thinking are often called “Newtonian” as these were synthesized in the Principia Mathematica of Sir Isaac Newton, published in 1687. The universe at that time was believed to be atomistic, mechanistic, and deterministic, so it only made sense that human beings should organize themselves into atomistic “sovereign” social entities called independent nations. Today, this paradigm has been entirely supplanted by the Einsteinian-Quantum Physics Paradigm (see Harris, 2000). Yet the thinking of most of us in the 21st century remains solidly Newtonian, unable to move forward into the new integral holism at the foundation of the cosmos and human existence.
The new paradigm emerging out of 20th century physics is 100% holistic. There are no independent atomic parts to anything. Neither is the new paradigm mechanistic or deterministic. The new paradigm provides a holistic vision in which everything is interrelated and interdependent with everything else. All parts are necessarily part of greater wholes. There are no wholes without parts and no parts without wholes (cf. Laszlo 2007). Human beings have evolved within this astonishing cosmic evolutionary process, 13.7 billion years in the making, as a single species, a single human community, as a vast, sacred holism of unity in diversity. As evolutionary scientist Brian Swimme declares: “Our human destiny is to become the heart of the universe that embraces the whole of the Earth community” (2011, 115).
The concept of “sovereign nation-states” is not only anachronistic. It is a monstrous assumption destroying our planet and its future, whether through climate collapse or nuclear holocaust. What is real under the new paradigm includes persons within communities. A person is always part of community. Persons are not an atomistic reality, and neither are communities. The Islamic religion is strong on this point. And as Islamic scholars like Rashid Shaz (2021) have pointed out. For the Blessed Prophet Mohammed, the ultimate community is the entire human community before God.
Under the holistic paradigm, my local community within which I am embedded is in turn embedded in a regional and national community which is in turn embedded within the human community, just as the human community itself is not autonomous on planet Earth but is embedded in a planetary biosphere that sustains human and all life on this planet. Ultimately, we are embedded within the 13.7 billion years of cosmic evolutionary upsurge. It is the attitude that we are autonomous and separate, both from one another in sovereign nation-states, and from our environment in our greed for economic expansion and exploitation of nature, that is leading us rapidly toward human extinction.
Many well-meaning people within the Second UN and the Third UN believe that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will save us if only we can motivate the nations to adhere to their promised goals. However, the conceptual framework of the SDG Document is seriously flawed and cannot lead to success. The SDG document frames these goals without challenging the capitalist assumption of the “right” to unlimited accumulation of private wealth, nor does it challenge the assumption of nation-state atomism. Item 18 of the SDG Introduction declares: “We affirm that every State has, and shall freely exercise, full permanent sovereignty over all its wealth, natural resources and economic activity” (cf. Martin 2021, Chap.6).
With this foundational assumption we have assured the failure of the SDGs and the accelerating destruction of our planetary ecosystem. Take, for example, the “Lungs of the Earth.” Everyone knows that the lungs of the Earth exist in the vast Amazon rain-forest basin that produces much of the oxygen needed by living creatures, adsorbs vast amounts of carbon dioxide, and, in a multiplicity of ways, moderates the moisture in the atmosphere and the climate of our planet. Under this SDG principle, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, or other nations hosting the lungs of the Earth have the legal right to cut down and destroy the lungs of the Earth, which the present government of Brazil is busy doing as we speak.
Similarly, everyone knows that the lion’s share of the billions of tons of carbon dioxide poured into the Earth’s atmosphere every year come about almost equally from the United States and China. Everyone knows that the atmosphere over the US and China is the same atmosphere that circulates around the globe that we all need to get under control in order to mitigate global warming. Yet under the UN system, China and the US have the legal right to pour as much CO2 as they want into our planetary atmosphere because they are “sovereign nations” and somehow “own” the atmosphere over their territories. And the so-called First UN, the one slavishly following the UN Charter, is going to cling to this notion even as it leads us to the brink of human extinction.
The Constitution for the Federation of Earth is premised on the holistic paradigm of unity in diversity arising from the scientific revolutions of the 20th century (cf. Martin 2016). It recognizes the people of Earth as sovereign, and the nations are communities within the holism of human civilization, not autonomous parts capable of egotistically bringing down the whole as a consequence of their ethnocentric greed and power struggles. The UN needs to replace the outdated UN Charter with the Earth Constitution, which brings the Second and Third UNs into its embrace, along with all the nations of the world as members of a legally encompassing human community.
Under the Earth Constitution, our global commons—that is, the atmosphere, the oceans, and the great rainforests of Earth—belong to the people of Earth (Article 4). They are not the “private property” of corporations, nation-states, nor individual persons. As the 2015 Encyclical Letter from Pope Francis declared, “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all” (Laudato Si’, 23). Hence, according to Pope Frances and the Earth Constitution, the climate belongs to the people of Earth, a truth that we can only actualize through ratification of the Constitution. According to the UN SDG document, our planetary climate is fragmented into some 193 parts, each belonging to some “sovereign” nation.
Secondly, under the Constitution, the nations will be fairly and systematically disarmed in a cooperatively planned program over a reasonable period of time (cf. PWP’s World Legislative Act 53). Civilian police, armed only with weapons necessary to apprehend individuals, are all that is necessary under a system of democratically legislated world laws, enforceable not over nations but over all individual persons. The SDG document is glaringly silent on militarism. It never mentions the 1.5 trillion US dollars poured by the “sovereign” nations of Earth annually down the toilet of militarism. No militaries are necessary if we really aspire to be civilized human beings with democratic input into the planetary laws that govern us.
Third, global public banking is instituted by the Constitution in order to assure a universal sustainable development that ends extreme poverty without growth beyond the carrying capacity of our planet. No longer would the supply of money created as debt (whether debt for nations, businesses, or individual persons) demand unending growth in order to service that debt and retain solvency (Article 8.7, cf. Heinberg 2011). So-called “free enterprise” becomes truly free when it is no longer enslaved by the debt-system predicated on the unlimited accumulation of private wealth by the 1% of humanity who today own 50% of the wealth on this planet. Finally, through global public banking and debt-free money creation, the synergistically united people of Earth will be able to address climate crisis in effective ways impossible under today’s UN system.
How do we devote ourselves to the well-being of the larger human community, thereby fulfilling our divine-human destiny? The Constitution for the Federation of Earth does not abolish the nations or their borders. But it takes its stand on the unity in diversity of the entire human community, for the first time making it truly possible to dialogue with one another as human beings, as children of the divine ground of Being, and not as mere mouthpieces of this or that nation, race, or religious dogma. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 assumes and embodies this very principle.
Its Preamble states correctly the basis for all government. It reads: “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” All legitimate government derives from this foundation of human dignity. Article 2 of the Declaration states that “everyone is entitled to the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.” “Nations” are excluded as a source of our rights and freedoms. Our common human dignity is the source. Individual dignity and our common humanity are inseparable (cf. Martin 2018, Chap. 2).
If the dignity of human beings in community is truly the source of all legitimate governing, then we know why the world since the Second World War suffered more than 150 wars, with many millions dead or displaced, and with on-going human rights violations for hundreds of millions of the Earth’s citizens (cf. Glover 1999). The answer is implicit in the UN Universal Declaration’s recognition that respect for human dignity (and not sovereign-nation statehood) is the foundation for freedom, justice, and peace in the world. Clearly, this inference is recognized in Article 28, which states: “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”
The world lacks this order. The world defeats the rights and freedoms listed in the UN Declaration. What could be more obvious? Democracy is a universal. Human rights are universal. The human community needs to be universal. Yet the world is divided into apparently incommensurable fragments that constitute a war-system, an immorality and corruption system, and ultimately an omnicidal system. Nation-states as such have no rights. The idea of nation-state sovereignty is an abomination; it religious terms, it is idolatry.
The Earth Constitution integrates and enhances the United Nations system by drawing together the three UNs into a truly universal federation of planetary unity in diversity. The entire universe as we know it is an evolving dynamic integration of individuals within wholes on multiple levels having (necessarily) internal relations to all other such wholes (see, e.g., Currivan 2017). The actions I take always affect others in the system and beyond. There are no purely external relations.
A system of independent national units with the right to militarize (autonomy over internal affairs) in external relations to other such units (including the so-called right to go to war) is a conceptual and moral absurdity (cf. Reves 1946). No wonder the world has been in chaos since this system was invented in 1648. A true federation must be based on a principle of unity in diversity such that the unity bears on all the doings of the groups and individuals within that diversity.
Human beings can never solve our most fundamental problems unless we base our planetary organizations on realities, not fantasies. Human persons are a primary reality, and our common humanity (embracing universal dignity and human rights) is the other dimension of that primary reality. These two poles or dimensions are inseparable—individual human beings and the entire human community. Human beings create groupings and all kinds of “boundaries” between themselves, including all so-called “sovereign nation-states.” These are all strictly secondary realities, none of which are or can be legitimately sovereign (cf. Harris 2008, Chap. 7). In the Earth Constitution, sovereignty belongs to the whole, to the people of Earth (Article 2).
The Federation of Earth, therefore, does not make nations primary in government. It recognizes their historical existence (there is no whole without parts) without falling into the fallacy that we have to build the future on that radically flawed and incoherent past. There will be about 1500 votes in the World Parliament (and only about 300 for the nation-states) for the Earth Federation is primarily a federation of people directly from 1000 World Electoral Districts, that is, it is primarily a democracy, not a compromise with the undemocratic notion of false territorial sovereignty.
Under the Earth Constitution, “federation” means that the parts recognize that they only have their reality as parts of a whole and therefore unite as a whole that protects the limited autonomy of each of the parts, creating an indivisible coherence for humanity as constituted through an enforceable democratic legal authority. This recognition constitutes the paradigm-shift away from the illusory Newtonian atomism to the holism of a truly new age, precisely because it is based on the reality of our human, planetary, and cosmic situation as revealed by all post-Einsteinian sciences. The concept of a “sovereign nation-state” is a false-god, an idol that is holding humankind back from right relationship among ourselves and with the blessed groundless-ground of Being.
Our divine-human-cosmic adventure takes its next step through the emergent unity of humankind via ratification of the Earth Constitution. The telos behind our cosmic adventure is surely such a world community characterized by peace, freedom, justice, and sustainability. True democracy, true self-government for humanity, can only happen at the global level, when all are embraced and all invited to participate. The Earth Constitution allows us to realize our “ontological vocation” to become ever more fully human and ever more fully expressive of the creative source of all Existence.
Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Online at www.earthconstitution.world. In print from the Institute for Economic Democracy Press, Appomattox, VA, 2010 and 2014.
Currivan, Jude (2017). The Cosmic Hologram: In-formation at the Center of Creation. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.
Francis, Pope (2015). Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of Holy Father Francis: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
Glover, Jonathan (1999). Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Harris, Errol E. (2000). Apocalypse and Paradigm: Science and Everyday Thinking. Westport, CT: Prager Publishers.
Harris, Errol E. (2008). Twenty-First Century Democratic Renaissance: From Plato to Neoliberalism to Planetary Democracy. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.
Heinberg, Richard (2011). The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.
Laszlo, Ervin (2007). Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.
Martin, Glen T. (2016). One World Renaissance: Holistic Planetary Transformation through a Global Social Contract. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press. See Martin’s website at www.oneworldrenaissance.com.
Martin, Glen T. (2018). Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: The Power of the Future for Planetary Transformation. London: Cambridge Scholars Publishers.
Martin, Glen T. (2021). The Earth Constitution Solution: Design for a Living Planet. Independence, VA: Peace Pentagon Press.
Provisional World Parliament (PWP): passing World Legislative Acts (WLAs). The Parliament has met 15 times between 1982 and 2021). See https://oneworldrenaissance.com/2022/07/27/overview-and-history-of-the-provisional-world-parliament/
Reves, Emery (1946). The Anatomy of Peace. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.
Schuon, Frithjof (1976). Understanding Islam. London: Unwin Paperbacks.
Shaz, Rashid (2021). Islam: Another Chance? A Rashid Shaz Reader. New Delhi: Milli Publications.
Swimme, Brian Thomas (2011). Journey of the Universe. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Weiss, Thomas G., David P. Forsythe, Roger A. Coate, and Kelly-Kate Pease (2017). The United Nations and Changing World Politics. Eighth Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.