World Order and the Rule of Law: From Disorder, No Order Can Emerge

Glen T. Martin

(Copyright, March 2014)

If the ‘I’ negates disorder, that very I, which is separate, will create another

form of disorder….that is, I see disorder in myself: anger,

jealousy, brutality, violence, suspicion, guilt….

The mind is totally aware of all this disorder.

Can it completely negate it, put it away?

Jiddu Krishnamurti

You Are The World, 1972, pp. 106-7

This statement by one of the world’s great spiritual teachers also applies at the level of human political affairs. If you see disorder in the world, and you see that it derives from false premises, you cannot reform the disorder. You must simply negate it, put it away. One cannot create a civilized and humane social order from false premises, which imply disorder. The false premises of the present world logically imply disorder and empirically result in the massive planetary disorder that we see all around us.

Planetary political affairs must begin with true premises, which imply order. By “political affairs,” I mean the principles by which we govern ourselves and organize our social, economic and civilizational relationships. The principles of political life are the first principles from which all order and civilized human relationships derive. Order derives from true premises. Disorder cannot be reformed.  It must simply be negated so that a founded global society can take its place.

The principles of human political affairs (civilization) are quite simple and function as a ”natural law” for human life. Every rational, clearly thinking person recognizes them in one form or another. These principles can be expressed and enumerated in different ways. In this essay I will discuss them as five most basic principles for human civilizational and political affairs. They are (1) universality, (2) unity in diversity, (3) individual flourishing, (4) reason and love, and (5) a community of dialogue directed toward mutual understanding.

Before we enter upon our discussion of these principles of order, I want to say that we should not assume that the solution to our problems will be easy or without sacrifice. We long for a world community based on universal recognition of human dignity and the other self-evident principles that we will be examining. But our agony and our motivation must be our grief at the immense suffering of people worldwide: their immense suffering in wars and wanton violence; their immense suffering in cruel systems of economic exploitation and dehumanization; their immense suffering due to many forms of social, political, economic, or sadistic humiliation. We must think, write, and act out of our unspeakable grief at the holocausts going on everywhere on our precious planet. There are no facile answers. There is no easy route to a world founded and sustained on human dignity.

There are several prominent philosophers of law who have articulated something of what I mean by a world order based on human dignity in their analyses of the fundamental nature of law and lawmaking. The first thinker that I want to mention is Lon Fuller in his 1969 book The Morality of Law. Fuller distinguishes the “morality of duty” from the “morality of aspiration.” He says that the lawmakers cannot require the morality of aspiration from a population because this pursues human excellence beyond what is required for social harmony and good order, and this morality of aspiration separates into a great diversity of personal aspirations that cannot be generalized over through consistent laws.

The morality of duty, however, links with the most fundamental requirements of social harmony, a harmony based on the reciprocity of contracts, kept promises, and exchange of goods and services. Here is the proper sphere of enforceable law and the sphere of sanctions and punishments, whereas the morality of aspiration is the proper sphere of rewards and honors. The notion of reciprocity, he says, is “implicit in the very notion of duty” (1969: 21). Hence, there is a sphere or dimension of morality that is fundamental to all law, which establishes the social harmony that is essential for the morality of aspiration to operate successfully at all. That is the proper sphere of law enforceable by sanctions over individual persons.

Philosopher of law David Luban quotes Fuller as asserting that the function of the lawgiver is to “reduce the relations of men to a reasoned harmony” (2007: 103). Without law based on the morality of duty, therefore, the relations of men will be based on violence or chaos. Enforceable law introduces morality into human relationships, aimed at establishing a “reasoned harmony.” In addition, law-makers themselves are under the obligations to make excellent law, laws that serve this “reasoned harmony.” They are, therefore, under the morality of aspiration to make excellent laws as those in authority entrusted to govern others. As Luban puts this, “the rule of law establishes a moral relationship between those who govern and those whom they govern” (Ibid.: 99).

The obverse of Fuller’s “morality of law” is a condition when there are no laws or no effectively functioning laws. The implication is that human beings are left in chaos or fundamental disharmony. The implication, as Immanuel Kant (1957) put it, is that they relate to one another merely with “senseless freedom,” in “savage and barbaric” ways, not with the “rational freedom” of a reasoned harmony that not only establishes order but makes possible life-opportunities to fulfill the morality of aspiration.

The second philosopher of law I wish to cite as a framework for this essay is Ronald Dworkin in his 1977 book, Taking Rights Seriously. Dworkin argues that behind all legitimate law there are moral principles embedded in the very “logic of the law.” There are principles such as fairness, equality, and due process of law that function behind the actual positive laws and judicial decisions on the books that every lawmaker and judge worthy of the name attempts to honestly consult.

The Constitution of the United States, for example, presupposes human dignity and assumes “moral rights which individuals possess against the majority,” as well as against the state (1977: 133). “The logic of the text demands” that lawmakers and judges face the “moral issues” embodied in the text (Ibid. 136). Hence, part of the purpose of enforceable law is to protect human dignity by protecting individual rights against the majority and the state. Human rights are not some abstract ideal residing inside people in some ghostly manner, Dworkin states, but are embodied in the very nature of legitimate law and judicial decision-making.

If human rights, which Dworkin calls “trumps,” arise from the internal logic of democratically legislated enforceable law itself, and if moral principles like equality, fairness, and due process similarly form the “interpretative principles” in the background of law, then what of situations when there is no law – like the condition that obtains between sovereign nation-states that, by definition, recognize no enforceable law above themselves? For nation-states, so-called international laws are mere treaties entered into by each signatory state to voluntarily agree to abide by certain (largely unenforceable) rules. Failure to abide by these rules does not, in the nature of the case, result in sanctions against individuals, because it is a representative of the nation as a kind of fictitious entity, as a quasi-legal territorially bound collective personality, that signs the voluntary agreement. Unlike the rules of contract within genuine legal systems, the violator of the contract does not face arrest, sanctions, or jail-time.

The regime of presupposed rights and implicit moral principles that Dworkin associates with genuine law and reasoned human order does not exist between nations. The system of so-called sovereign nations (interfaced with their multinational corporations) is really a fragmented system of disorder. Moral relations among nations or among individuals at the international level do not arise from any legal system in which they function as presuppositions or implicit principles. Rather the relation is largely ungoverned; it is a relationship of power in which multinational corporations can exploit the poor in dehumanized conditions or nations can send assassination teams to kill suspected enemies without due process of law.

The third philosopher of law I wish to cite as a framework for this essay is John Finnis in his 1980 book, Natural Law and Natural Rights. Finnis begins the book by identifying seven objectively real goods of human life that are self-evident to practical reason. He identifies these as life, knowledge, friendship (sociality), aesthetic experience, play, practical reason itself, and religion. These are the primary goods of human moral life for every individual, and his book makes a powerful argument for this conclusion. The purpose of the law, he says, depends on its ability to secure justice (1980: 260), and justice means social arrangements based on the common good: laws that maximize the ability of individual citizens to successfully pursue any or all of these self-evident goods for their own lives.

There appear to be obvious similarities here with the thought of Fuller and Dworkin. The morality of duty involves the creation of laws that foster the common good of the society. This dimension of law creates a reasoned harmony making possible the pursuit of life, knowledge, friendship, etc., goods that may well be governed by the morality of aspiration. In the language of Dworkin, implicit in law and lawmaking for Finnis are background moral principles that constitute justice in a legal system, a justice that makes possible the human flourishing that pursues the goods discerned by practical reason. Because there is no democratically legislated enforceable law for our planet itself (divided as it is into some 193 sovereign entities recognizing no effective law above themselves and little individual accountability for agreements and treaties) there is also no moral dimension of reasoned order that obtains at the global level, only chaos, fragmentation, and naked power relationships.

There is, therefore, a broad sphere of overlap among these three philosophers of law. First, law includes the morality of duty which creates a reasoned harmony among human beings through its enforceable rules and their sanctions. Second, the logic of law presupposes fundamental moral principles, human rights, and human dignity that are not there in some ethereal “ghostly” way prior to the law itself. Third, law protects the common good (or the justice of equality) in order for people to be able to actualize real and concrete goods that apply to every human life and within every culture on our planet. I will argue below that the five fundamental principles of legitimate law and order can be derived from the broad vision about the meaning and purpose of law that can be derived from these prominent philosophers of law. All five of these principles, fundamental to human civilization and the rule of law, are lacking at the planetary level. They cannot be established at that level without negating the very disorder that blocks their actualization.

The first of these principles is universality. Human dignity, rights, and responsibilities belong to all human beings without exception. Such universality has never been realized in human affairs even though it has been recognized by the most ancient texts and philosophical schools such as the Stoics of ancient Greece and Rome. It is a principle that became central to 20th century thought as expressed, for example, in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in Articles 12 and 13 of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth (see Martin, 2010b). In the early 21st century, we are long past the time when this universality has become an absolute necessity for the survival of humanity. Human dignity, rights, and responsibilities must become foundational in human affairs. Yet without universally enforceable world law these rights remain abstract and disembodied. It is the rule of enforceable law that makes rights and dignity actual, since rights and dignity are implicit in the very nature of law. Abstract ideals, like those embodied in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, cannot create a decent world order. These moral principles must be embodied concretely within enforceable world law.

Our primary planetary institutions operate in direct violation of these principles. Both the global economic system and the system of sovereign nation-states violate the universality of human rights and dignity. The economic system operates as if economics were a set of inviolable quasi-scientific laws (supply and demand, free market, etc.), with the result that two billion of the Earth’s population live on less than two US dollars per day. Their human rights and dignity are violated by this system of division and fragmentation that ignores their humanity by making possible economic theft, systemic exploitation, commodification (turning human beings into market commodities), and consequent dehumanization.

Similarly, the system of sovereign nation-states divides the planet into approximately 193 independent territories recognizing no constitution and no enforceable laws above themselves. All so-called “international laws” are merely voluntary treaties on the part of these sovereign nations. Since they are voluntary, nations can withdraw, ignore, or withhold assent to any particular international agreement. In practice, under such a system the stronger dominate and exploit the weaker. Small or weaker nations are coerced into accepting so-called laws, including trade and monetary rules, imposed by the powerful nations and their financial institutions. Universality, the principle that human rights and dignity be applied systematically throughout civilization, is institutionally violated by this system of fragmentation.

These truths have been pointed out ever since Immanuel Kant’s 1795 essay on “Perpetual Peace,” yet little has changed in this system of world disorder since that time. National sovereignty contradicts the moral universality of human dignity and human rights. Scholars commonly identify the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 as first recognizing this concept of national sovereignty. Under this historically constructed ideology (which is neither natural nor moral) each state is autonomous over its internal affairs and independent in its foreign relationships. The moral universality of human dignity and human rights is systematically and institutionally ignored. As G.W.F. Hegel put it, “Each state is consequently a sovereign and independent entity in relation to others. There is no Praetor to adjucate between States…. Consequently, if no agreement can be reached between the particular wills, conflicts between states can only be settled by war” (1991, pars 331, 333-34).

There can be no true civilizational universality to human rights and dignity without a Constitution for the Federation of Earth that embodies this universality and translates it into enforceable world law. If there ever is to be a “reasoned harmony” in human affairs, it can only come through the rule of enforceable law, universal over all people. The principle of national sovereignty fragments the world into incommensurable territorial units, most of them militarized, in response this condition of a lawless international world disorder.

From the principle that nations recognize no law above themselves (disorder) you cannot derive the recognition of human rights and dignity through the universal rule of law (order). You can only derive more disorder. But seeing the horror and destructive nature of disorder (perpetual wars, destruction, dehumanization, deception, and exploitation), one can simply negate that disorder, put it aside. No “evolution” of the present system is going to change false premises into true premises. Our obligation is to found planetary systems of universal validity, for example, by recognizing the authority of the Earth Constitution from which civilization can derive all valid universal laws protecting the rights and dignity of every person on Earth.

The second principle of order is the principle of unity in diversity. For all phenomena within the universe, science has shown that the diverse parts of reality cohere with one another within systems that unite them into unities. Unity in diversity constitutes the structure of the universe and operates on a multiplicity of levels composed of parts within wholes that are in turn parts within ever-greater wholes. Human beings form one level of unity in diversity within this vast scheme. Our unity is that we are all human. Our diversity is that each person is a unique individual. Our humanity and individuality form an inseparable whole. In his book, The Tao of Physics (1975),physicist Fritjof Capra summarizes the insight of 20th century science in the following way:

Thus modern physics shows us once again – and this time at the macroscopic level – that material objects are not distinct entities, but are inseparably linked to their environment; that their properties can only be understood in terms of their interaction with the rest of the world. According to Mach’s principle, this interaction reaches out to the universe at large, to the distant stars and galaxies. The basic unity of the cosmos manifests itself, therefore, not only in the world of the very small but also in the world of the very large; a fact which is increasingly acknowledged in modern astrophysics and cosmology. In the words of the astronomer Fred Hoyle:

       “Present-day developments in cosmology are coming to suggest rather insistently that everyday conditions could not persist but for the distant parts of the Universe, that all our ideas of space and geometry would become entirely invalid if the distant parts of the Universe were taken away. Our everyday experience even down to the smallest details seems to be so closely integrated to the grand-scale features of the Universe that it is well-nigh impossible to contemplate the two being separated.” (209-210)

As I argued in my book Triumph of Civilization: Democracy, Nonviolence, and the Piloting of Spaceship Earth (2010a), sound political principles are founded on unity in diversity. These principles must be universal to all human beings since the unity that unites us is precisely our common humanity. Under global capitalism this unity is broken through vast mechanisms of exploitation where people are dehumanized and alienated from their common humanity. The profits for a few are extracted from the cheap and dehumanized labor of the many who are being used as tools for production or services for the few. The present world provides no universal order of law that can regulate the effects of capitalism.  Entire nations that are poor have little choice but to be victimized by a system that does not generate universal human rights to be respected by enforceable laws requiring companies to treat employees humanly.

Under the disorder of sovereign nation-states, the world is fragmented into competing territories violating the fundamental principle of political order that all be united by a common constitution that recognizes and protects the great diversity of persons and groups. Persons outside of each nation have no rights or freedoms according to the laws of the nation, for laws only apply internally. From the disorder of capitalism and sovereign nations, order can never follow. Only by ratification of the Earth Constitution can we negate the disorder and affirm the orderly starting point of universal unity in diversity.

Recognition of the diversity of people is implicit within the “logic” of genuine enforceable law. The logic of law generates common duties for everyone, enforceable through sanctions, and hence social harmony, but it also generates human rights as rights against the majority, the state, and, we now see, the global economic system. Human rights apply to each individual person. They are the principle of diversity that allows each person to pursue some or all of the objective goods identified by John Finnis, or to pursue the morality of aspiration identified by Lon Fuller. The Earth Constitution, in its Preamble, explicitly asserts the principle of unity in diversity. This common universal law and common constitution constitutes the unity, the global social contract, for all peoples. Both the explicit and implicit logic of the Constitution (universal, democratically legislated enforceable laws) generates the idea of human rights protecting each person’s uniqueness and unique lifelong pursuit of objective goods.

The third fundamental principle of human and civilizational affairs is the principle of individual human flourishing. The purpose of law and the function of legitimate constitutional government is to promote individual human flourishing. The right to the conditions that make flourishing possible belongs to each human being, as, for example, philosopher Alan Gewirth has pointed out in his book, Human Rights: Justifications and Applications (1982). For Gewirth, human rights are the logical presuppositions of the free pursuit of human goods by each human being. Since each human being pursues what he or she conceives of as good, human rights protecting both freedom and well-being form the logically required and morally grounded conditions for human life to exist at all.

 Flourishing means that I have readily available opportunities for satisfying my physical needs for nourishing food, fresh water, sanitary conditions, shelter, clothing, social security in case of illness or old age, and other vital necessities. It means that I have easily available possibilities for education, and for availing myself of the fruits of human knowledge and culture, and for political participation. It also means that my flourishing in these respects takes place within a framework of peace, social justice, and a decent, healthy planetary environment. Human rights protecting my freedom and well-being are the necessary conditions for human flourishing.

Some scholars have identified an evolution in philosophical thinking about human rights through three generations – first-generation political rights (free speech, association, due process of law, etc.), second-generation economic and social rights (education, health-care, social security, etc.), and third-generation rights to planetary peace and a protected environment (e.g., Wacks 2008: 149-50). All three generations of rights are necessary features within a world that can protect individual human flourishing. Only the Earth Constitution is built on protection of all three generations of human rights as a whole. No constitution of sovereign nation-states can give citizens guarantees of planetary peace and a protected, life-friendly planetary environment. From the disorder of sovereign nations (no matter how enlightened their constitutions), the fundamental conditions of human flourishing cannot emerge.

Neither can the famous formula of utility cannot give us the principle of individual human flourishing for the citizens of our planet. The idea of promoting the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people fails in a number of ways, including regarding the issue of means and ends. The idea of utility does not give us universality. We are not speaking of the greatest happiness of the greatest number but of the right of each person to live within conditions that promote his or her flourishing. These rights, we have seen, are implicit in the idea of legitimate law itself. But the world has no common legitimate law. Even most international laws apply only to nations and not to individual persons, and, notoriously, none of these so-called laws are unenforceable.

Individual human flourishing needs to be the principle of both means and ends, for it is the individual human being alone that has dignity and universal rights. No human (as an end in himself or herself) may be used as a means for the happiness of others, whether this be workers exploited for the happiness of capitalists or presently living persons sacrificed for a greater happiness of future generations. As stated above, this does not mean that the path to the future will be easy given the horrors of our present world disorder. But that path must be premised on the truth of human dignity, and rationally correct principles of order, not on false principles of utility, “proportionalism,” or fragmentation.

Under capitalism individual human flourishing for vast numbers is destroyed by the process of supply and demand treating human beings as commodities to be used in the service of private profit. Under the nation-state system, the individual human flourishing of those outside the territorial boundaries is of no concern to national governments. Foreign policies conducted in national self-interest (inevitable within this system of fragmentation) invariably violate individual human flourishing for those outside these boundaries, and (because military expenditures deplete internal resources and destroy democratic openness) for citizens within nations as well. The only way to establish legitimate government directed toward providing the framework for individual human flourishing is to establish a world constitution that supersedes the global institutions that now impede universal individual flourishing for all persons on Earth.

The fourth principle of global political affairs includes the right and duty to develop our reason and our love. This is related to the above three principles and is an extension of them. Perhaps the very core of individual human flourishing involves the development of our reason and our love. As philosopher and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm has argued in Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My Encounters with Marx and Freud, and in other writings, reason and love, our two highest human qualities, should be holistically integrated within every human being. Each of us needs to recognize ourselves, Fromm writes, “as part of humanity, of living according to a set of values in which the full experience of love, justice, truth, is the dominant goal of life to which everything else is subordinated; it means a constant striving to develop one’s powers of love and reason to a point at which a new harmony with the world is attained; it means striving for humility, to see one’s identity with all beings, and to give up the illusion of a separate, indestructible ego” (1962: 156).

The a priori framework of legally articulated social and economic conditions provided by government at all levels, from local to planetary, must maximize the possibilities for the development of reason and love in the citizens. This principle that the function of good government is to make possible this development of “virtue” (human excellence) in citizens was first elaborated in western political thought by Aristotle, some 2400 years ago.

Aristotle saw that the defining characteristic of the human animal was rationality and that the development of excellence also included informing our emotions and desires with this rational principle. He focused on “friendship” as a highest form of love in human relationships. In this same period, Plato developed this inseparable complement of reason under the concept love as eros. A human being is a synthesis of these two principles, reason and love. His Symposium articulated the role of love as desire in terms of a redirecting and shaping of that desire to become the indispensable ally of reason, ascending the “ladder of love,” as he put it, to true virtue (arête).

Four centuries later, Jesus Christ expressed the fundamental role of love in terms of caring for others, compassion, and deep respect for all (agapé), even “for the least of these my brethren” (Matt.25:40). In truth, love is properly a combination of friendship, desire, compassion, and respect for human dignity and secures our right relationship to the world, its creatures, and other persons. Love is our solidarity with human beings and all of life. It binds people together in friendships, families, communities, and the human community.

Reason, the complement of love, sees the universality of the human community that love binds together. Reason sees the self-evident truth of the natural law principles articulated in this essay and acts to secure these principles in human political, economic, and social affairs. Reason, like its complement, love, is also at the heart of the very concept of legitimate law. A law for the world would be the very embodiment of reason and love for the world.

 Love not only embraces all people without discrimination and therefore itself is a manifestation of unity in diversity. Love also empowers reason in its task. Without love, reason can become heartless social engineering. Without reason, love can become self-indulgent and ineffective sentimentality. Love supplies energy and reason’s universally affirmative character. It lifts reason to its highest potentialities. Like universal law, it embraces all without discrimination.

Reason here is not merely instrumental or technical reason calculating how to achieve ends that arise from irrational, blind desires. In Communication and the Evolution of Society, Jürgen Habermas reconstructs Max Weber’s famous study of capitalism in which Weber pessimistically concluded that human beings had little hope in the face of the domination of our highly “rationalized” economic and nation-state institutions. Habermas’ critical analysis illuminates larger dimensions of reason (communicative and directed toward mutual understanding) that underline our potential for a higher synthesis of reason and love as articulated by thinkers like Fromm. The idea of reason as a mere instrumental servant to blind desires is a modern perversion of the profound tradition of synthetic reason in western thought. From Plato to Aquinas, reason was understood as cognitive awareness of the moral dimension and the primary ends of human life, ends that are also comprehended intuitively by the love that binds us together with the world, other creatures, and the human community.

Hence, the idea that reason only deals with the means and not the ends of human life is a modern perversion of the profound tradition of reason in western thought, as Jon Finnis (1980) so clearly points out. Reason, rather, understands the moral dimension and the primary ends of human life, ends that are also comprehended intuitively by the love that binds us together with the world, other creatures, and the human community. Reason establishes social harmony through the morality of duty at the heart of genuine enforceable law. It also discerns the ends that appear through the morality of aspiration, ends articulated as self-evident human goods by Finnis.

Love is a principle of order just as much as reason, for love is the foundation of the relationships that bind us into families, communities, and the human continuum. Love also binds us to our wonderful planetary home and the ultimate cosmic miracle of the universe within which we live our lives. The conception of blind, heartless economic “laws” promoted by global capitalism is not only untrue, but it is a principle of disorder than cannot be reformed or evolved into an order premised on love, which means a world of peace, justice, and human flourishing. This disorder must be negated by our reason and our love, and a global social democracy must be founded premised on the priority of human dignity and human rights within economic relationships.

The same is true of the system of sovereign nation-states. This “system” is no system, for it constitutes an institutionalized disorder dividing humankind into 193 incommensurate entities without any binding principles of law or justice above themselves. One cannot evolve this system while retaining the principle of national sovereignty which is the essential component of this disorder. One must negate the disorder and establish an order founded on genuine principles, summarized by the five basic concepts articulated in this essay. Sovereignty must be replaced by a global social contract founded on the human community itself.

This means the ratification of a Constitution for the Federation of Earth that establishes universal order, based on reason and love, in human political affairs for the first time in history. All of us are under a moral obligation to develop our reason and our live, but our ability to pursue this duality of human excellence is inhibited and blocked by both global capitalism and the system of sovereign nation-states. Our capacity to follow the morality of aspiration indicated by the nexus of reason and love is made possible by universal enforceable laws under the Earth Constitution. Reason and love, therefore, cannot be significantly followed or fulfilled apart from a global social contract both based on these principles and making possible their further development.

The final principle in universal human political affairs is a community of dialogue directed toward mutual understanding. Such a community of dialogue must be institutionalized within the universal laws under the Earth Constitution. The moral imperative for dialogue directed toward mutual understanding (as opposed to strategic or manipulative uses of speech) has been shown by Jürgen Habermas (1998) and others to be fundamental to language itself and hence to being human. Political life under laws characterized by universality, unity in diversity, human flourishing, and reason and love must also be structured to make communicative speech possible. The World Parliament created by the Earth Constitution transcends political struggle among self-interested parties through structuring speech to optimize the possibility for dialogue directed toward genuine understanding and communication.

Under the global capitalist system of disorder, speech is pressured to become commercial or manipulative speech directed toward maximizing self-interest. Under the nation-state system of international disorder, speech is institutionalized to become the speech of deceptive diplomacy, veiled threat, and strategic maneuvering on behalf of perceived national self-interests. Nowhere is communicative dialogue encouraged because the disorder of these global institutions leads to the disorder of dishonest speech. However, the principle of harmonious reason and order embedded within the very logic of legitimate, enforceable laws gives us, for the first time in history, the possibility of engaging with and between people invested with governmental authority, from all around our planet, in a reasoned dialogue concerning the future of our planet and its citizens and how to create laws that embody the common good, functioning to protect universal human rights and human flourishing.

Communicative dialogue directed toward mutual understanding among equals is a fundamental principle of order interrelated with the other four principles expressed in this essay. Communicative dialogue invites (and assumes) universality. It invites (and assumes) unity and diversity. It invites (and assumes) human flourishing, reasoning, and love, just as these principles in turn invite and assume communicative dialogue. Our world does not have a viable future under its present fragmented systems of disorder. It even lacks any mechanisms for an authoritative, meaningful dialogue concerning how to negotiate our gravely endangered future.

Only the rule of democratically legislated enforceable law can provide the possibility of dealing with our endangered future. The very logic of law embodies universal moral duties. It establishes a justice-oriented order making possible the universal pursuit of the most basic goods of human existence, and it establishes concrete legal principles of human dignity and inviolable human rights, providing both unity and diversity. The present lawless world must be superseded by a non-military, democratically founded, lawful world.

Global Institutional respect for human dignity in a world that protects human flourishing cannot evolve or emerge from disorder. True conclusions cannot derive from false premises. The false premises of global capitalism and so-called sovereign nation-states cannot provide the basis for an evolution of truth with regard to the human condition or human political and legal affairs. Dropping disorder does not mean failing to preserve what is valuable about the United Nations or other global institutions that have some features premised on human dignity, for example, the World Health Organization or the UN High Commission on Human Rights. Such institutions must be preserved when the false Charter of the UN (premised on sovereign nation-states) is replaced with a genuine Constitution for the Earth, premised on the truth of human dignity. In place of the disorder of the current world anti-system, we must make a paradigm-shift to the principles of order and truth.

We need a world that is institutionally structured (and founded through a founding ratification convention) on the five principles identified in this essay. In place of the disorder of the current world anti-system, we must make a paradigm-shift to the principles of order embodied within the legitimate, universal rule of law. We need a world that is rationally and lovingly organized on universality, unity in diversity, human flourishing, reason and love, and communicative dialogue. We need to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

(Glen T. Martin is Chair of the Program in Peace Studies and professor of Philosophy at Radford University in Virginia. He is President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) and a 2013 recipient of the GUSI Peace Prize International.)

                                                                     Works Cited

Pease note: An abbreviated version of this essay was first published in (un)civil – magazine of prose and poetry, Vol. 1, issue 1, winter 2013-2014, Boston, MA.

Capra, Fritjof (1975). The Tao of Physics – An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism. Berkeley: Shambhala.

Dworkin, Ronald (1977). Taking Rights Seriously. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Finnis, John (1980). Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fromm, Eric (1947). Man for Himself – An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics. New York: Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston.

___________ (1962). Beyond the Chains of Illusion. My Encounter with Marx and Freud. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Fuller, Lon L. (1964). The Morality of Law. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Gewirth, Alan (1982). Human Rights: Essays on Justification and Applications. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Habermas, Jürgen (1979). Communication and the Evolution of Society. Thomas McCarthy, trans. Boston: Beacon Press.

_____________ (1998). On the Pragmatics of Communication. Edited by Maeve Cooke. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Hegel, G.W.F. (1991). Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Alan Wood, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kant, Immanuel (1957). Perpetual Peace. Louis White Beck, trans. New York: Macmillan.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1972). You Are the World. New York: Harper & Row.

Luban, David (2007). Legal Ethics and Human Dignity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Martin, Glen T. (2010a). Triumph of Civilization: Democracy, Nonviolence, and the Piloting of Spaceship Earth. Pamplin, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

___________. (2010b). The Constitution for the Federation of Earth: With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Pamplin, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press. (The Constitution can also be found on-line at,, and a number of other websites.)

Wacks, Raymond (2008). Law: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Global Problems, Human Needs, and the Earth Constitution

   Glen T. Martin      

Secretary-general, World Constitution and Parliament Association       

Professor of Philosophy, Radford University, Radford, VA 24141  

Keynote Address in the “Challenges to Global Peace” program, Jaya College of Arts and Sciences, Chennai, India, June 21, 2011

The past several decades have been characterized by a planetary awakening, the emergence of a planetary consciousness, and the sense of living within a holistic planetary ecosystem and planetary human civilization. A significant factor in the emergence of this universal consciousness has been the increasing awareness that human beings face global problems on the Earth, problems that exist beyond the scope of national boundaries.  At the same time, awareness is growing worldwide of our common human needs.

Increasingly, people around the world, even in the remotest regions, are aware of the planetary problem of war and militarism, the problem of growing fresh water shortages, the problem of the disappearance of agricultural lands for growing food, the problem of global pollution, the planetary problem of ever-growing poverty and misery for the majority, and the terrible problems of global warming, climate disruption, and pending climate collapse.

To date the feeble attempts to address these problems through divisive UN conferences and the development of unenforceable UN treaties have resulted in complete failure. The excellent aspirations called “Agenda 21” that came out of the 1992 Rio conference on climate change were recognized as unfulfilled ten years later at the 2002 climate conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. The 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen was similarly a failure.  War and militarism continue to plague the people of Earth, fresh water and agricultural lands continue to disappear, pollution overwhelms ecosystems, forests, and oceans, poverty and misery continue to mount, and the consequences of climate disruption become ever more devastating.

The Earth Federation Movement (EFM) has understood the dynamics of these global problems for more than fifty years.  It alone, among all the citizen movements that have developed in response to our multifaceted global crises, has focused on the central holistic solution that must be actualized if we are to survive and flourish on our precious planet Earth.  The World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) was founded in 1958 with the understanding that global problems cannot be addressed by fragmented political and economic institutions more than three centuries old, institutions created when the conditions on the Earth were entirely different than they are today, when people living on the Earth never even dreamed that there could be such a thing as planetary crises. global problems, or a population of seven billion people.

The Earth Federation Movement was born out of the World Constitution and Parliament Association and today has spread worldwide.  Since 1958, our movement has drawn on the brightest and best international lawyers and thinkers from around the world to create the magnificently designed Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  The Constitution was completed in 1991 and today the Earth Federation Movement works night and day to promote the ratification of the Earth Constitution by the people and nations of the world.

Today, I want to suggest four fundamental principles that should be the basis of all our thought and action if we want to create a decent future for the Earth and humanity.  I will list the four principles first and then discuss each of them briefly.   The first principle is that we must recognize and keep in mind that all our global problems are interdependent and interconnected.  Second, we must recognize that the only possible solutions to these problems must also be holistic, integrated, and interconnected.  Third, we must keep our focus on our basic human needs that all people everywhere have in common and ask how these needs can best be addressed.  Finally, we must recognize that the Constitution for the Federation of Earth holistically addresses both our global crises and our human needs. 

First, therefore, we must understand deeply that our global problems are interconnected and interdependent. The problem of war and militarism is universal because it arises from a system of so-called sovereign nation-states more than three centuries old and from a global economic system that benefits from war and military competition among nations. Today, more than one trillion US dollars per year are poured down the toilet of militarism by the nations of Earth, while poverty and environmental collapse increase daily. 

The system itself (our planetary economic and political system) fosters war and militarism, and this is the same system that fosters poverty and misery and environmental destruction worldwide. The system of militarized sovereign nation-states is integrated with global corporate capitalism fostering economic and military rivalry and competition among peoples and nations. Big nations colonize trade privileges and concessions, backed up by neo-colonial influence and the threat of force just as they once colonized the world by direct military conquest.  Without the rule of non-military, democratically legislated, enforceable law for the Earth, neither peace, nor elimination of poverty, nor protection of the environment are ultimately possible.

Study after study have shown that poverty negatively impacts the environment as poor people search for wood for cooking fuel and cut down trees to grow food for survival. A major source of deforestation and environmental damage is poverty, planetary poverty caused by the same political and economic system that diverts resources toward war and militarism in order to protect the wealth and power of the few. Peace cannot be achieved through ever- more violence, and a war system that creates conflicts around the world, a world that needs more than anything else cooperation and dedication to protecting the environment, insuring adequate resources, and eliminating poverty.

 Corporate profits from the business of war amount to hundreds of billions of dollars annually, while there are few corporate economic incentives to eliminate poverty or protect the environment. War and militarism itself are among the most environmentally destructive of human activities, generating every year millions of tons of toxic wastes and millions of tons of destructive explosive chemicals and such poisons such as depleted uranium weapons. Poverty within nations of the global south supplies corporations with cheap labor and cheap resources in order to maximize their profits, profits at the same time protected by the global system of militarism and war.

We live within centuries old nation-state systems and a global economic system predicated on scarcity, a scarcity that causes greed and competition to dominate and control scarce resources.  Nation-state militarism (such as that to which the big imperial nations are dedicated) is directed toward controlling the world system and weaker nations in favor of their own interests for oil, water, cheap labor, and other natural resources.  The reason why our planetary problems are all interrelated and interdependent is because our global economic and political systems are at the root of them all. It is not bad leaders or a corrupt human nature that is the problem.  Human corruption is primarily a symptom of the deeper structural political and economic roots of our global system.

My second point today is that the interrelation of these global problems requires a solution that understands their interdependence and addresses the entire range of global crises together. These problems are caused by economic and political systems developed centuries ago that were never designed for a world of modern weapons with a global population of seven billion people. Similarly, you cannot solve the problem of militarism and war without also addressing the root causes of poverty and misery.  You cannot protect our planetary environment and our precious natural resources using economic and political structures directed toward control and exploitation of these resources within a system of competition leading to absolute winners and losers.

Since our crises are global, clearly any solution must be global. It is not enough for citizens to conserve water resources locally if these resources are not also conserved by communities around the planet.  It is not enough for citizens to reduce CO2 emissions that cause global warming if CO2 emissions are not also controlled on a planetary scale. Not only must the solution be global, it must also be systemic, that is, if the global economic and political system lies at the root of our interconnected crises, so that system must be altered in a holistic way to address simultaneously the systemic roots of these global problems. Preventing war and demilitarizing the planet must result from the same systemic changes that protect the environment and eliminate poverty.

Science has discovered the holism of our planetary ecosystem and human life on Earth. Our global problems are rooted in political and economic systems that are fragmented and foster fragmentation. The only possible solution will be conversion to economic and political systems premised on the holism of nature and human life.  Interdependent global crises can only be addressed through a holistic economic and political system that simultaneously eliminates war and militarism, protects the environment, preserves resources for the benefit of all, and eliminates poverty and misery from the Earth.

Similar conclusions follow if we examine basic human needs, which is the third point that I wish to make in this talk. Every person on Earth clearly has the following needs:

  1.  Nourishing food of a sufficient quantity for health.
  2.  A reasonable quantity of fresh water for washing, cooking, and drinking.
  3.  Decent housing with basic sanitation facilities.
  4.  An adequate infrastructure supplying sufficient energy, transportation, roads, hospitals, schools and other vital physical resources.
  5.  Opportunities for education and personal development.
  6.  Opportunities for family, friendship, and community.
  7.  Security of person within a framework supporting the liberty of political and economic  participation for all adults.
  8. All of the above within a social and legal framework protecting the natural environment and establishing world peace.

The last item on this list makes it clear that our basic human needs cannot be satisfied without a conversion of our world system to one which prevents war and protects the natural environment, since both peace and a protected environment constitute the framework and the condition for all the rest.  Article 28 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that the people of Earth have a right to an international order that protects and promotes the entire set of rights given in that declaration. It should be clear that the UN Charter does not and cannot give us such an international order. The UN Charter is premised on these same fragmented, centuries old, economic and political systems.

It should also be clear that none of these eight basic human needs can be satisfied under the present system of 192 militarized sovereign nation-states operating within the globalized economic framework of neo-liberal corporate capitalism. Today, the resources of the planet in the third world are largely becoming the private property of corporations centered in the first world. The natural wealth, as well as the created wealth produced by cheap labor in the third world, is syphoned from the poorer regions of the world to serve the exorbitant consumer desires (not the needs) of the 10% of the global population who benefit from this unworkable and immoral economic and political world system.

This entire system is protected and promoted by the military might of first world nations under the deceptive code-word of “promoting investment stability” around the globe on behalf of multinational corporations, the IMF, and the World Bank. The United States trains military personnel is some 80 countries worldwide in “counter-insurgency warfare,” that is, in the methods and techniques of repressing their own populations that are being hurt by this global system of exploitation.

The global economic system working in tandem with the system of sovereign, militarized nation-states has little interest in creating a holistic world system that establishes peace, protects the planetary environment, and satisfies the basic human needs of all persons. Indeed, NATO, under the leadership of the US, has become the new neo-colonial dominator, sending troops to destroy the lives and infrastructures of people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere in the service of the global empire.  The 2% of the world’s population who own 50% of its wealth must be protected from the vast majority of the world’s citizens who live in insecurity, poverty, and ever-increasing misery. The title of a recent book calls the Earth: “planet of slums.”

In sum, we have a series of interrelated global crises that the present global economic and political system cannot deal with, for you cannot create holistic solutions from fragmented and fractured economic and political systems.  Next, we have a list of eight very basic and fundamental human needs that cannot be addressed by the present global economic and political systems. Scholars have estimated that clean water and sanitation could be supplied to every person on Earth for merely US 400 billion per year, less than half of what the world spends annually on militarism.  The present fractured world disorder cannot effectively deal with either our problems or our needs.

Planet Earth is an ecological whole, and the human species is a biological and civilizational whole, merging ever-more closely as travel and communications unite the world.  Our global crises, and our inability to deal with the satisfaction of basic human needs are a direct result of fragmented economic and political institutions never designed to address our situation in its wholeness. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth is a holistic document designed to address both these fundamental aspects of our human situation – our global problems and our basic human needs.

My fourth and final point in this presentation, therefore, is that we need to ratify this Constitution, which is designed as a holistic peace system, a prosperity system, a justice system, a freedom system, and a sustainability system for the Earth.  Addressing our basic human needs requires the same holistically designed system as required to address our global crises.  The rule of democratically legislated law is the foundation of any possible peace system, just as within nations where there is democratic law a peace system has been established in which conflicts are resolved nonviolently through dialogue, mediation, courts, and due process of law. Under the present international war system, there is no rule of enforceable law over the nations or the leaders of nations as individuals, and hence no possibility of establishing peace for humankind.

Protection of the environment, careful assessment of technology and human productive activities, research designed to foster efficiency, development of renewable energy and resources, and the holistic rule of law governing the Earth in the service of sustainability and the ecological health of the planet are built into the Earth Constitution in a multiplicity of ways. Article one of the Earth Constitution lists the purposes of the Earth Federation as follows: (1) prevent war and secure disarmament, (2) protect human rights worldwide, (3) create the conditions for universal prosperity, (4) regulate and protect world resources, (5) protect the environment and the ecological fabric of life, and (6) devise solutions for all problems beyond the scope of national governments and plan for the future.

 The same is true with regard to basic human needs. The Constitution identifies the range of basic needs in a variety of its articles and institutionalizes their satisfaction within Articles 12 and 13 as fundamental human rights. It creates a democratic world system designed to holistically address these needs while the same system establishes peace and sustainability.  It recognizes that world peace and environmental sustainability provide the necessary framework for satisfying all other human needs. All these factors go together as products of a holistic political and economic system for the Earth: peace, sustainability, and the satisfaction of basic human needs.

Similarly, the opposite of these three factors is the manifest result of the current fragmented economic and political institutions of the planet: war, unsustainability, and the inability to meet basic human needs.  Modification or evolution of the present fragmented system, for example, through attempts to reform the United Nations, cannot address our human situation adequately.  It cannot produce a peace system, a sustainability system, or a prosperity system directed toward satisfying our basic human needs and can only lead to continuing disaster. Under the Earth Constitution the viable agencies of the United Nations are integrated into the ministries of the Federation of Earth, so what is valuable about the UN is not lost but empowered to really address our human situation.

In conclusion, then, the Constitution for the Federation of Earth offers our best hope for creating a holistic system for the Earth before it is too late.  Attempting to draft a new constitution or proposing some alternative would amount to trying to reinvent the wheel, since so much work has already been accomplished and disseminated throughout the world regarding the Earth Constitution. The Constitution can be ratified in three measured stages according to Article 17, and provisional world government can be initiated here and now at the same time that the process of ratification is moving forward. Ratification is doable, practical, and it is the compelling need of the hour.

We must act with determination and vision to end the institutional fragmentation that is the root of our planetary crises and to create the holistic solution that alone will make possible a decent future for humanity. Tomorrow is too late, and the time is now to organize and promote the ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

World Union, WCPA, and Human Liberation

Glen T. Martin

Secretary-General, World Constitution and Parliament Association.

President, Earth Constitution Institute

(Published in World Union, Vol. LIII Nos. – I, II, III, IV March, June, Sept, Dec. 2011, pp. 36-43)

World Union and the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) have a long history of cooperation on behalf of uniting humanity under the “ideal of human unity” as envisioned  by Sri Aurobindo and institutionally structured by the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. In this article I describe some of this history of cooperation in relation to our common goal of liberation for the people of Earth and the establishing of human unity as the foundation for a yet higher destiny for human life.

During the three decades following 1970, Samar Basu and A. B. Patel, both leaders in World Union, worked closely with leaders of the World Constitution and Parliament Association. A. B. Patel was General Secretary and Treasurer of World Union International Center, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry.  Like Basu, he participated in the first three Constituent Assemblies in 1968, 1977 and 1979 during which world citizens from many countries worked together to envision, write, and promote the Earth Constitution to all the governments of Earth. Patel presided over the signing of the Earth Constitution at the Second Constituent Assembly in Innsbruck, Austria in 1977 and was its very first signatory. From this time until his death, he was Co-President of WCPA with Dr. Reinhart Ruge. He was also elected as Parliamentary Speaker for the first session of the Provisional World Parliament held under the authority of the Constitution that took place in Brighton, England in 1982.

               Samar Basu was a noted Bengali author who first visited Pondicherry in 1967, joining World Union in 1973. He soon became Editor of World Union and lectured widely on Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy. Basu was also a signatory to the Earth Constitution during the Second Constituent Assembly. His book The UNO, The World Government and the Ideal of World Union as Envisioned by Sri Aurobindo chronicles many of these events.[i]  Dr. Terence Amerasinghe, as Co-President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association after Patel’s death, wrote the Preface for this 1999 book in which Amerasinghe quotes from the Mother’s Message to the Peoples of the World at the Birth Centenary of Sri Aurobindo in 1972: “A new world based on Truth and refusing the old slavery of falsehood, wants to take birth. In all countries there are people who know it, at least feel it. To them we call, will you collaborate?” (iv-v).

Basu saw the connection between World Union and WCPA in an almost mystical light. In this book he writes:

…The World Union as an international organization was set up in 1958 under the direct guidance of the Mother (of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry), to work for Human Unity and World Peace and harmony on spiritual foundation as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo, and that WCPA was also founded in 1958 as an international organization to achieve the same goal in its own way. The formation of these two organizations in the same year has a deep occult significance which has yet to be realized. (58-59)

For many years Terence Amerasinghe was Co-president of the World Constitution and Parliament Association with Dr. Reinhart Ruge from Mexico.  Both were regular visitors to Pondicherry and Auroville and collaborators with World Union in the work for democratic world government under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Amerasinghe and Ruge recognized the significance of the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and made the evident connections between the Earth Constitution and Aurobindo’s great vision of the evolution of human life toward Supermind and ever-greater unification of human life.

Ruge and Patel met in Delhi in 1975. Patel immediately invited Ruge to Pondicherry, after which time they became good friends. Ruge retired in 2003 to become WCPA Honorary President for Life and Amersinghe continued as WCPA President until his death at age 90 in 2007. Both Ruge and Amerasinghe understood human life through the model of the emergence of a higher level of human existence, one major step for which would be the ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Each of them understood that “the ascent to the Divine Life is the human journey, the Work of works, the acceptable sacrifice. This alone is man’s real business in the world and the justification of his existence….[ii] (46).  Perhaps this is why these leaders spent so much time in India.  India is not only a center of the great insight into the human ascent to the Divine, but its multiple wisdom traditions lend themselves to an understanding of the need for the dynamic unity in diversity envisioned by the Preamble to the Earth Constitution. In the words of Aurobindo, “the universe and the individual are necessary to each other in their ascent” (49 ).

This period was also the time of the development of Liberation Theology and philosophy, originating in the Latin American Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965, but soon spreading to other continents and other religions. There have, of course, been many philosophies of liberation historically, including that of Sri Aurobindo.  What Vatican II did for Christianity, however, was to bring the teachings of the Biblical Prophets and Jesus into the sphere of concrete action on behalf of the poor and the oppressed and on behalf of a world-transformative process that they called “preparing the Kingdom of God on Earth.” The “praxis” of Liberation Theology recalls the Karmayoga of Mahatma Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo.  Aurobindo writes: “The soul in us develops itself by life and works, and, indeed not so much as the action itself but the way of our soul’s inner force of working determines its inner relations to Spirit.  This is, indeed, the justification of Karmayoga as a justification of the soul’s higher self-realization.” (117)

Liberation theology emphasizes the liberation of the poor and the oppressed, those who constitute the majority of humanity. Their liberation, however, is not simply through transformation of the present economic system into one that creates prosperity for all. For liberation theology, human liberation also involves the realization in human life of agape, the love taught by Jesus, and the building of a new kingdom on the Earth in which people live in communities of equality, justice, freedom, and compassion. Economics must become humanized economics: human economic and social relationships based on values, respect for human dignity, and the need to create a decent existence for all human beings.

Sri Aurobindo expresses a similar vision: “The aim of economics should not be to create a huge engine of production, whether of the competitive or the co-operative kind, but to give to men – not only to some but to all men in his highest possible measure – the joy of work according to their own nature and the free leisure to grow inwardly, as well as a simply rich and beautiful life for all.” (197)  Aurobindo formulated the pragmatics of human liberation far before the advent of Liberation Theology. To “grow inwardly” is to grow in love, compassion, truth, and the deep freedom of inner silence.

The spirit of WCPA under the influence of Amerasinghe and Ruge was informed by the vision of evolutionary ascent articulated by Aurobindo and by the praxis of liberation philosophy that spread across the world from Latin America to Africa to Asia in the decades after 1965. Amerasinghe (an international lawyer from Sri Lanka, educated in London, with a Ph.D. in Asian history) was one of five primary authors of the Earth Constitution, the preliminary draft of which was written in Denver, Colorado in the spring of 1972. The Earth Constitution is the Magna Charta for human liberation in the sense that it forms the crucial next step in the process of realizing Supermind in human life and absolutely fundamental for establishing a global economic system premised on universal human dignity and well being.

In their discourse on Education, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother affirm that collective reorganization for humanity is just as fundamental as individual self-realization: “In this effort, however, to improve human conditions there have always been two tendencies, which although apparently contrary to each other should rather be complementary and together work of the progress. One seeks a collective reorganization, something that would lead toward an effective unity of mankind: the other declares that all progress is made first by the individual who should be given the conditions in which he can progress freely. Both are equally true and necessary, and our effort should be directed along both lines. Collective progress and individual progress are interdependent.” (227)

The Earth Constitution organizes human life on our planet to make further progress possible. At present, our global economic system (in which, as Gandhi put it, “the few ride on the backs of the millions”) in conjunction with the system of sovereign nation-states blocks all possible further progress. Human life cannot move forward when 20% of humanity control 90% of our planet’s wealth and resources while the other 80% live in a condition of misery and exploitation in slavery to these Lords of the Earth.  During the life of Sri Aurobindo, this condition was not nearly as severe as it is today, but the authors of the Earth Constitution and the leaders of World Union during the 1970s understood the tragic direction of history toward ever-greater poverty and misery. They also understood the tragic destruction of our planetary environment that has continued apace in the last 40 years as well as the astonishing developments in weaponry and spread of nuclear weapons across the world, weapons that have spread recently even to the homeland of Gandhi and Aurobindo.

All these increasing calamities – poverty and misery, destruction of our planetary environment, worldwide depletion of resources such as fresh water and arable land, and vast increases in the destructive power of weaponry – are exacerbated by the system of some 192 autonomous nation-states recognizing no effective law above themselves. Collectively these militarized national security states spend more than one trillion US dollars per year on militarism and weapons, making the world evermore dangerous, evermore unstable, evermore desperate, and evermore inhospitable for the development of the spirit within communities and individuals.

The Earth Constitution is premised on the sovereignty of the people of Earth, and the nations under the Constitution have a sovereign authority appropriate to national units within the Earth Federation. Their status is comparable that of states within the United States or Pradesh within India. When the process of ratification of the Constitution (prescribed in Article 17) has reached its second stage, the nations are required to demilitarize according to a carefully developed plan that does not leave any nation feeling vulnerable. The large sum of money saved from this, along with vast sums of credit created by the Earth Federation, will now be used to end poverty on Earth, restore the planetary environment, and protect essential resources such as fresh water and arable land.

Equally fundamental, the Earth Constitution establishes every person in the Federation as a world citizen with full protection for his or her human rights and with the capacity to relate to every other citizen in equality and dignity. The present apparent incommensurability between religions, races, ideologies, cultures and nations will be transformed through this global social contract.  The unity in diversity of humankind will be established and protected by law. A great transformation in human consciousness will result, when the apparent incommensurability of these divisive forces will disappear for most people. The unity proclaimed by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother will begin to be actualized for the first time in history.

The Earth Constitution is predicated on an economics designed to provide every person on Earth with a “rich and beautiful” existence, a set of laws and institutions necessary to protect the global environment and to preserve essential resources, and the means by which to demilitarize the nations and make them subject to the enforceable rule of democratically legislated world laws. This alone will make possible the next step in the ascent of humanity to the life divine. As Aurobindo and the Mother proclaimed, the process of individual self-realization and social reorganization are necessary to one another and inseparable. We can no longer wait for a slow evolution of humankind that some thinkers proclaim necessary. The threats to human existence are so much greater today than when Aurobindo and the Mother lived.  World Union today is necessary not only for the advance of humankind, but for its very survival.  Ratification of the Earth Constitution remains our most promising option to make this happen.

Drawing on the long association with World Union and the work of Aurobindo, in July, 2010, WCPA organized the 11th session of the Provisional World Parliament at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Nainital, India. The Provisional World Parliament has been meeting since 1982 under the authority of Article 19 of the Earth Constitution (as we saw above), with A. B. Patel as its first Parliamentary Speaker. The Parliament passes provisional world laws and resolutions designed to facilitate the developing infrastructure of Provisional World Government as well as ratification of the Earth Constitution. On the way to Nainital, many delegates came from abroad through the international airport at New Delhi and were hosted with kindness and friendship by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Delhi.  Our hosts at Nainital held yoga sessions every morning for those delegates who cared to participate and went out of their way to facilitate a successful session of the Parliament.  Again, during the 12th session of Parliament in December 2010, in Kolkata, delegates held formal meetings at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in that city.

The history of WCPA remains linked to Sri Aurobindo and World Union.  Despite the appearances today of insurmountable obstacles to the unification of humankind, WCPA chapters around the world continue to actively promote the Earth Constitution. The large chapter in Chennai, India is planning a week of events, seminars, and lectures in June 2011, and we hope that World Union will participate. I believe we share a common understanding that the next step for human beings can and must be political and constitutional union for human beings under the Earth Constitution. It alone will make possible the further descent of the Divine into human life.  With Sri Aurobindo, we also understand that a great transformation can happen at any time: “if earth calls and the Supreme answers, the hour can be even now for that immense and glorious transformation” (57).

[i]   Basu, Samar, The UNO, the World Government and the Ideal of World Union. Pondicherry: World Union Publisher

[ii]  Aurobindo, Sri. The Essential Aurobindo. Robert McDermott, ed. New York: Schocken Books, 1973. For convenience, all quotations from Aurobindo’s works have been drawn from this anthology, with page references given in the text of the article.

War, Terror, and Our Fractured World System

Glen  T. Martin

1 May 2011

A BBC Documentary called “The Power of Nightmares, Rise of the Politics of Fear,” directed by Adam Curtis, points out that the global terrorist conspiracy, like the so-called Al Qaeda organization, has never been anything but illusions promoted by both the world’s ruling junta and by the desperate suicide martyrs who resist what they take to be the evil of the dominant system.

However, Adam Curtis and the BBC leave out the dynamics of the world capitalist system (intimately married to the system of so-called sovereign nation-states) that has moved into crisis mode now that it has become ever-clearer to more and more people that (1) it is a system of total domination through the use of immense violence, (2) it is a system perpetually eating and destroying the biosphere and portending the collapse of the life-sustaining climate of the Earth, (3) it is diminishing the natural resources of the Earth at an ever-accelerating rate (especially fresh water and arable land), (4) it is increasing poverty and misery worldwide at and phenomenal rate, and (5) it never was, nor can be, a genuine system of democracy and freedom.  By leaving analysis of the system itself out of their analysis, by not mentioning it, they place our fractured global disorder beyond the parameters of consciousness as well as criticism.

The documentary states that the Neo-Cons behind the war on terror and the national security state system in Britain and the U.S. were inspired by the philosophy of Leo Strauss (1899-1973), who argued that ordinary people had to be managed through “myths” created by their leaders, and that liberal democracy run by citizen participants was an illusion that could not work.  The documentary omits that Strauss, who taught at the University of Chicago, was a minion of the capitalist-nation-state system, as were his fascist predecessors such as Carl Schmitt (architect of the Nazi system), Joseph Schumpeter, and Friedrich von Hayek. It omits the fact that the massive system of capitalist-run, nation-state violence  necessary for keeping this system of exploitation and domination in place requires official enemies and a mythic struggle of “good” against “evil” in order to keep the subjected populations (especially in the imperial centers) in humble submission to the system.

As the documentary indirectly points out, this was the function of the illusion of the global Communist conspiracy that animated the Cold War, which was promoted as a cover for the overthrow, torture, and manipulation of countries throughout the empire.  In Part One of the documentary, they had already characterized Henry Kissinger and some others as being “realists” as opposed to NeoCon Straussian idealsists, as if these orientations were significant, when in reality they simply amount to arguments within the ruling class as to how best to maintain, extend, and solidify the empire.  One could point to the horrors that Kissinger unleashed, for example, in East Timor, Chile, and Cambodia.

Then the invincible evil enemy collapsed, a new global evil enemy had to be found, and (after some years of foundering concerning how to create a new mythic enemy) the minions of the ruling class came upon the global terrorist conspiracy, which, like Communism before it, had “sleeper cells” everywhere waiting to pounce on the innocent, unsuspecting, processes of goodness, democracy, and freedom.

The contradictions of capitalism, by this time, were so glaringly great that it was becoming time, as Chalmers Johnson put it in Nemesis: the Last Days of the American Republic, to cross the Rubicon and effectively end the pretence of democracy and freedom.  One thing Curtis notably leaves out is the “Project for a New American Century Document,” signed by Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and other NeoCons who came to power with Bush, stating in effect that crossing this Rubicon would require another “Pearl Harbor,” another attack on American soil to mobilize the masses behind the project of global military domination and empire.

In other words, Curtis suggests that just as the anti-communists came to believe their own myth of a global Communist conspiracy, the NeoCons came to believe their own myth of a global terror network (he interviews that idiot Tony Blair as proof of this).  But this is making it look all too innocent.  These leaders, he says, influenced by Strauss (without mentioning the global capitalism-nation-state nexus that they really represented), creating a myth to morally unite their people (as if this was some sort of innocent concern for the well-being of their people), and then falling prey to their own myth. 

9/11 then becomes just a sort of miraculous, improbable accident that solidifies and appears to document this myth.   Now they invade Afghanistan and, low and behold, find no vast network of Al Qaeda conspirators.  The same with Iraq.   No mention that they already knew this to be a lie. No mention that the real motive of these invasions was the drive to solidify the empire worldwide under the guidance of the Project for a new American Century document, the miraculous convenience of 9/11, and perpetuating this myth of evil enemies.  

No mention of the intensification of exploitation, promotion of global free trade, and vast increase in poverty and other global crises that these wars cover up and hide from the public consciousness.  No mention of the crossing of the Rubicon in the service of a ruling class that no longer finds a need to perpetuate the illusion of democracy within the imperial center.  No mention of the proletariatization of the middle classes in the centers of empire through making their labor contingent and increasing the level of exploitation now that the ruling class no longer needs their political support.

And now they are bombing Libya on “humanitarian grounds.”  How clear does the picture have to be before people recognize its essential, structural features?  Apparently the propaganda system remains as effective as ever over the masses through the mass media, “terror alerts,” etc.   But on the internet, all hell is breaking loose.  Will the empire be able to survive the internet?    Well, they did manage to co-opt the “counter-culture” of the 60s, which, like the internet today, was telling some of the truth about the system.   We live, to say the least, in interesting times.

Self-Determination and the Earth Constitution

Glen T. Martin

                                                                         November 2011         

  1. Personal self-determination and the role of government

Since the 1970s social psychologists have been developing “self-determination theory.”  While the theory has been elaborated and refined in a number of directions since that time, in general the theory has maintained that there are innate needs within human beings for autonomy, competence, and personal relatedness.[i]  Autonomy, in general, appears to mean something like self-motivated behavior directed toward meaningful goals.   Competence, in general, to mean something like a person’s feeling of effectiveness in achieving such goals.  And personal relatedness to mean the feeling that others care personally about who one is and what one is doing.

The self-determination of individual persons generally assumes some principles that are not explicitly found in self-determination theory.  The theory recognizes that situations in which there is external control over an individual’s behavior tends to diminish the sense of self-determination and hence the self-satisfaction of such persons.  The flourishing of self-determination for individuals, therefore, requires a democratic framework in which persons enjoy a range of basic rights and opportunities that maximize the possibilities for self-determinative kinds of behavior.

To speak in terms of traditional social contract theory that developed among the 18th century theorists of democracy, the social contract creating government over all citizens in which the power of government is limited by the contract and the rights and freedoms to personal autonomy are protected by the contract creates the optimum framework for personal autonomy.   Prior to the social contract, theorists such as Immanuel Kant and Thomas Hobbes argued that people without the framework of government supplying universal laws applicable to all (that is people in the “state of nature”) exist in a condition of “war” with one another.  Without the framework of coherent government the stronger or more unscrupulous can oppress or dominate the weaker, destroying the possibility of self-determination for all but the few who dominate.[ii]

Since all persons exist within communities, and communities require some ways of regulating themselves and providing social order, the question of self-determination for individuals amounts to the kinds of order structuring the communities of which one is a part.  In social contract theory, what Kant calls “republican government,” government ensuring the freedom, equality and independence of each citizen before the law, is fundamental to empowering the citizens for self-determination.[iii]  Individuals who live within a social framework that is not democratic do not experience much capacity for self-determination.   And individuals who live in a social framework in which there is little or no order (i.e., in a state of nature), similarly experience little capacity for self-determination unless they are the stronger or more unscrupulous who can take what they want (within this state of “war”) and dominate others as they please.

It should be clear, therefore, that a democratic social framework in which individual rights are protected and respected constitutes a fundamental precondition for individual self-determination.  Alan Gewirth, an American philosopher who specialized in human rights, takes a similar perspective on rights. Rights, for Gewirth, are not something added to human life continently but form the logically necessary precondition for the possibility of human action.

  …Human rights are of supreme importance, and are central to all other moral considerations, because they are rights of every human being to the necessary conditions of human action, i.e., those conditions that must be fulfilled if human action is to be possible either at all or with general chances of success in achieving the purposes for which humans act.  Because they are such rights, they must be respected by every human being, and the primary justification of governments is that they serve to secure these rights.[iv]

As with the social contract theorists of the 18th century, governments exist, not to impose structures on persons that limit their rights to freedom and well-being, but to make these possible. Gewirth makes it clear that the function of governments in protecting human rights is that self-determination that is the “basis of human dignity.”

All the human rights, those of well-being as well as those of freedom, have as their aim that each person have rational autonomy in the sense of being a self-controlling, self-developing agent who can relate to other persons on a basis of mutual respect and cooperation, in contrast to being a dependent, passive recipient of the agency of others.  In this way, agency is both the metaphysical and moral basis of human dignity.[v]

A democratic social framework protects and empowers individuals so that they may lead lives of self-determination. Gewirth includes two generic types of human rights, those of freedom and those of well-being. The later recognizes, he says, that people who are hungry or destitute or without economic security cannot actualize their potential to be self-determining agents of their own lives.  The purpose and justification of governments, therefore, is that they provide the conditions necessary for people to actualize their potential for self-determination. This is why governments must be democratic or ‘republican’ in Kant’s sense of this word. A non-democratic government denies people the conditions necessary for self-determination and uses the power and authority of government in the interests of the dominating group. Democratic government is an a priori requirement that makes self-determination possible.

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth provides a global social contract for the people of Earth. Like democratic social contract theorists of the 18th century such as John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant, the Earth Constitution provides the framework for the self-determination of all persons subject to the Earth Federation government.  It recognizes that the primary subject of human rights and responsibilities is the human person. As we shall see below, the assignment of rights to groups (including nations) raises immense difficulties that must be examined very closely and dealt with carefully, because the concept of group rights appears to generate antinomies in conflict with the human rights of the individuals who compose these groups.

The Constitution establishes as “inalienable” the range of democratic political rights such as freedom of thought, speech, assembly, religion, press, travel, etc., under the heading of “equal rights for all citizens of the Federation of Earth, with no discrimination on the grounds of race, color, caste, nationality, sex, religion, political affiliation, property or social status” (12.1). As we saw above, such civil protections under democratic government do not impose something alien on the citizens who are bearers of these rights but rather make possible their self-determination.  “Freedom” is not the right or ability to do whatever one likes regardless of the framework provided by society, nor is it license within a condition of anarchy. Freedom is engendered, established, activated, only through the social contract provided by democratic government.

Article 13 of the Earth Constitution establishes the conditions for personal self-determination with great power and insight: equal opportunity for everyone (13.1), freedom of choice in work or profession (13.2), full access to the accumulated knowledge of the human race (13.3), free and adequate public education for everyone (13.4), free and adequate medical care for everyone (13.5), assurance for everyone of adequate housing, food, and safe water supplies (13.11), and social security for everyone (13.13).  As Gewirth asserts, the rights to political freedom (Article 12 of the Constitution) must necessarily be complemented by the rights to well-being (Article 13). The cumulative effect of this social contract protecting the a priori right of people to self-determination is identified as “assure to each child the right to the full realization of his or her potential” (13.12).  In other words, the conditions for self-determination must be there a priori in an effective social contract before self-determination of persons becomes possible. It is what makes such self-determination possible.

2. Self-determination of peoples

The UN Charter states as one of the fundamental purposes of the UN:  “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace”   (Chapter 1, Article 1, number 2). In the light of the history of colonialism, imperial domination, and international economic exploitation, this concept was certainly an important one within the UN Charter. Yet this important mission of the UN has not been very successful, perhaps for two basic reasons: (1) the concept of the “self-determination of peoples” raises a host of very complicated and somewhat irresolvable issues, and (2) the UN never effectively ended colonialism, imperial domination, and international economic exploitation. It did not establish the global social contract that would be necessary to effectively end these worldwide forces robbing the wealth and preventing the self-determination from peoples everywhere on Earth.

This principle of the self-determination of peoples has been pursued vigorously by some forces with the UN so that it has become recognized in the early 21st century as a fundamental initiative of continuing significance.  However, it appears to have led to an ever-increasing degree of conflict within today’s nations.  Minorities, sub-groups, and dissenters seek self-determination in ways independent of the larger nations of which they are a part.  Some groups have pushed for secession and have turned to violence to pursue their “self-determination.”

In international law, self-determination is the idea that nations have the right to remain “sovereign” in the sense of determining their own internal affairs and independence in their foreign affairs without external interference.  There is no principle of international law that states what such self-determination means, except the broad prohibitions against military or economic aggression against other nations.  International law does not define what constitutes a nation, and there are conflicting ideas about what constitutes a nation or a people and about the criteria for determining what groups may legally claim the right to self-determination. 

Under international law, self-determination is applied to nation-states but the historical conditions and criteria under which nation-states have been created (and many new ones have been created in the past 50 years) cover a multitude of stipulations of which “self-determination” is merely one.  This is one of the reasons why discontented sub groups have turned to the option of succession through violence in order to establish a separate territorial state that then might be recognized as a new “nation” by the UN. International law does not recognize language, ethnicity, indigenous communities, cultural heritage, or religious identify as qualifying groups for the right of self-determination, even though some UN agencies try to promote or protect these things.  Groups wishing greater autonomy are tempted to try to form their own territorial nation-state through violence or other means to secession.

I do not want to minimize or ignore the great deal of excellent conflict resolution work and promotion of diversity that goes on under the auspices of the UN and some other organizations around the world.  Countless individuals and numerous groups have been empowered through this work (truth and reconciliation commissions, etc.). Nevertheless, really effective and lasting self-determination cannot succeed within the framework of the present world order as we now know it.

The world is full of unhappy groups that would like what they call self-determination.  Should the Tamils of Sri Lanka be allowed to form an independent nation or be given privileged status within the legal system of that country?  Should Kashmir be made a separate nation?  Should southern Sudan be allowed to succeed and become an independent nation?  Should Palestine become an independent nation?  Both the Palestinian people and Israel claim the right of self-determination within that conflict.  With the breakup of Yugoslavia, what determined the division of those peoples into Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo etc., given that each of these smaller units still included a great religious and ethnic diversity?  Should Puerto Rico become a nation?  Should the Basques in southern France and northern Spain be allowed to secede from these countries and form their own nation?  Should Quebec be allowed to secede from Canada?  Should Chechnya be able to secede from Russia?  Should Cyprus be divided into two countries, one Turkish and one Greek? The list goes on and on.

Under democratic theory, a social contract is created over a territory in which the majority rules while the rights of all individuals (and hence their freedom as dissenting minorities) are protected by a Constitution that cannot easily be changed by any majority.  Minorities are protected insofar as their individual members are guaranteed inalienable rights but minorities may not be protected in their cultural, linguistic, or ethnic traditions. Such minorities may demand legal exceptions from what the law of the majority requires of citizens.  Minorities may wish to have specific practices required of their group that would not apply to others.  Nevertheless, under much democratic theory, the self-determination of individuals is the basis for legitimate government and minorities do not have the right to impose practices on their members that violate the democratic rights of the individuals within their group.

How can one group require that all its members, or members of a certain gender, learn a certain language, belong to a certain religion, or wear certain clothing (like a burka)?  The concept of the right to self-determination of groups appears to conflict with the centrality of human persons within democratic theory.  What are the criteria for a group demanding self-determination?   Perhaps unanimity among every member?  This would be extremely unlikely.   Perhaps majority vote?  In such a case a majority may be demanding the right to impose group practices or identity on its members in violation of their individual human rights.  Some authors have claimed the criterion for special treatment of a minority is persecution by the larger state or community that has power over the minority. How can such minorities be protected from persecution?  How to protect the Baha’is of Iran?  How to protect Chechnya from Russian domination, Shiites from Sunnis, Tutsis from Hutus, Tamils from Sinhalese?  Under international law, they would have to form a separate nation-state. However, such protection, if it were to occur, should not serve as a carte blanche for the group to impose undemocratic conformity on its own members in violation of their individual rights. Individual rights, if we are to have a free and democratic world system, must trump group rights.

Some nations have created “autonomous” zones within which the local residents have a significant degree of autonomy over their internal affairs. Creating any federal system could do something similar. The Federation of Earth might emphasize and work to empower local government with respect to towns, regions, or nations. However, the central reality on which democratic government is founded – the rights of individual persons to self-determination and the conditions that make this possible – cannot be violated if such efforts to empower peoples are to be legitimate. An autonomous region, therefore, would have to respect the rights of individual citizens to self-determination and not have the power to impose religious, cultural, or other practices on citizens against their will.

Under the present world system of sovereign nation-states, whose sovereignty is supposed to be protected and respected by the UN, protection of one group from another is extremely difficult and perhaps well-neigh impossible.  Under the current world system of globalized economics operated in the service of giant banks and corporations, the citizens in most countries cannot be protected from brutal forms of economic exploitation, with the corporations and banks bribing officials and colonizing governments and police to protect their plunder.  Supposing we could find ways to protect the rights of groups and enhance their self-determination?   Since no people lives free of the global economic system, how would we protect their self-determination from the corporate predators who have colonized their livelihood systems?  Suppose the people of southern Sudan were made independent?   Would the big oil companies lusting after their untapped oil fields be prevented from colonizing their government and exploiting the people?

In her 2008 book The Shock Doctrine – The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein describes her interviews with African National Congress (ANC) activists ten years after the black majority won “self-determination” from the white ruling class:

After a decade of ANC rule, millions of people had been cut off from the newly connected water and electricity because they couldn’t pay their bills. At least 40 percent of the new phone lines were no longer in service by 2003. As for the “banks, mines, and monopoly industry” that Mandela had pledged to nationalize, they remained firmly in the hands of the same four white-owned mega-conglomerates that also control 80 percent of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.  In 2005, only 4 percent of the companies listed on the exchange were owned or controlled by blacks. Seventy percent of South Africa’s land, in 2006, was still monopolized by whites, who are just 10 percent of the population.[vi]

The globalized economic system controls the economy of every part of the world; what would “self-determination” of peoples mean under such as system? We saw above that an essential feature of self-determination for persons is a system in which both freedom and “well-being” are fundamental. Without “well-being” self-determination is a sham, for both individuals and persons.

Under the present world system of militarized sovereign nation-states (recognizing no effective law above themselves), the powerful imperial nations routinely dominate and manipulate the majority of weaker nations in the service of national self-interests, and (as Klein and many others have pointed out) in the interests of the economic domination of the imperial centers.   Under this system of military domination of the weaker nations by the powerful imperial nations, protection and self-determination are equally impossible.  When Guatemala attempted a mild form of economic self-determination, the U.S. overthrew the democratically elected President and instituted a military dictatorship subordinate to US economic interests.   The same thing took place that year in Iran, the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh was overthrown by the CIA and replaced by the brutal Shah of Iran who opened the wealth of the country to multinational corporations.  In 1973, the US arranged the overthrow of the democratically elected President of Chile and placed General Pinochet as dictator who opened the country to US economic interests.  During the 1980s the US sponsored Contra terrorists within Nicaragua with the goal of destroying the independent economic path the Nicaraguan government had taken.

The story goes on and on, as scholars like Michael Parenti have pointed out, amounting to the overthrow or subversion of dozens of countries worldwide, actively preventing the self-determination of nations everywhere on the planet.[vii] The first thing the US did after its invasion of Iraq in 2003 was abolish nationalized industries and open up all the wealth and business of the country to uncontrolled foreign investment.  The self-determination of the people of Iraq was eliminated across the board. Their government was destroyed and their economic independence was destroyed.  Such dual domination is perhaps the most fundamental feature of today’s world system.  How can the self-determination of peoples occur within such a global framework?

3. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth

The Earth Constitution is founded in its prologue, both morally and philosophically, on the principle of unity in diversity.  There is no real unity (of the human race within the Earth Federation) without real diversity (inclusion of all the world’s multiplicity of races, cultures, nations, traditions, and religions) and there is no real diversity (protection of the vast multiplicity of groups and persons) without true unity (a moral, civic, and legal framework binding all together). In the world of the early 21st century, even within the so-called democratic nations, this principle of unity in diversity is ignored or subverted for parochial ends. Worldwide, it is practically non-existent because the UN is not a government and does not have the authority, nor the ability, to overcome the fragmentation of an anarchic world disorder.

Today’s world, both between and within nations, fragmentation is the rule, not unity in diversity. Fragmentation arises from a number of sources, but one central source of fragmentation is the perception of incommensurability among religions, cultures, traditions, ethnicities, and nations. The concept of the “sovereign” nation itself legalizes incommensurability in the form of international law: the absolute control of sovereign governments over their internal affairs and absolute independence in foreign policy. One result of this incommensurability is the need to militarize each nation for defense against possible attack from all the other nations within an anarchic world of fragments. What of universal human civilization or universal human rights?  What of the common global problems we all share concerning the environment, global poverty, or militarism?  Fragmentation prevents our joining together in unity to solve our common problems, one of which is how to empower diversity through the power of a common unity affirming the rights and freedoms of all.

Within today’s fragmented civilization, self-determination of peoples is largely an illusory ideal. If Kashmir were to become an independent state, it would take its place within the struggle of fragmented nation states, politically, economically, and militarily. It would take its place within a fragmented global economic order dominating its economy from outside and resulting in absolute winners (the banks and corporations) and absolute losers (the majority of its own people). It would take its place within global perceptions of the incommensurability of its religions and cultures with those of its neighbors to the north (Pakistan) and south (India).  The same fate awaits attempts at self-determination by groupings within nations. Self-determination for Baha’is in Iran is perceived within Iran as incommensurable with their dominant religion.

The only real solution to the problem of self-determination again shows itself as an a priori framework that establishes the moral and legal relationships for human civilization as a whole under the principle of unity in diversity, now enshrined in an Earth Constitution that applies this principle to all groups and persons. That is why a paradigm shift is needed if we are to really affirm the self-determination of peoples. Under the present dominant global paradigm, fragmentation and incommensurability reign, preventing diversity from flourishing.  The new paradigm binds all together within a Constitutional framework recognizing unity in diversity as an essential feature of civilization on the Earth. The self-determination of peoples arises from a new planetary paradigm and global legal order that makes this possible.

Nevertheless, we have seen that the concept of self-determination of peoples is not a simple one, but one that will challenge even the representatives of a transformed planetary paradigm.  There are several issues that plague the concept of self-determination when this is applied to peoples.  How do we define the people for whom self-determination is demanded?   Do all the members of a group needing self-determination need to have some feature, such as religion, in common?  But what other features might members of such a group have in common that would lead to other groupings?  Further, does the group have among them a diversity (nearly inevitable in today’s world) that would become a new minority to be negated and oppressed by the self-determination accorded to the larger group?  

How are the rights to self-determination of the group to be reconciled with the rights of individual persons within every group to self-determination?   Under international law, we saw, the only mechanism for affirming the self-determination of peoples is the secession or establishment of a separate nation-state.  Yet we also saw that the creation of separate nations within the present world system will not bring self-determination.  The global economic system prevents self-determination among the majority of nations and peoples of the world, and the global system of militarized imperial nations similarly prevents all smaller or weaker nations from determining their own destiny.

Effectively speaking, therefore, in today’s world self-determination for groups is nearly impossible.  Within an unliberated and oppressive world disorder, no part will be able to liberate itself. Self-determination for most groups and most persons is an illusion without the a priori framework that makes this possible – a social contract establishing freedom and well-being.  The parts require a whole to allow them to function as legitimate and genuine parts. These immense difficulties of the self-determination of peoples under the present world system can only be addressed with some significant degree of success through democratic world law under the Earth Constitution.  Such law first and foremost guarantees self-determination to every individual person, and this must be the framework and criterion for addressing the issue of group self-determination.  Groups cannot be empowered in ways that violate the human rights of their members (or others outside the group). Nevertheless, there is much that can be done at the level of global government to protect and enhance the self-determination of groups.

Ratifying the Earth Constitution requires that the peoples of Earth (in every nation or locality) democratically vote on whether they wish to ratify and hence become bound by that social contract.  Once ratified it provides the planetary framework for the self-determination of nations, peoples, and persons everywhere. Traditional social contract theory characterizes the establishment of the social contract through ratification of a constitution as the “explicit consent” of the founders. Subsequent generations who benefit from the freedom and well-being established by the contract are said to give “tacit consent” to the contract.[viii] The African-American minority in the United States struggled for self-determination by appealing to the original social contract and the tacit consent that all Americans had given to this. They understood that their liberation depended upon the strength of that social contract. They did not demand to secede and establish their own social contract. The present generation of the world is in the position of the original framers: it is up to us to give the initial “explicit consent” to a global social contract so that all persons and peoples everywhere can enjoy the freedom and well-being that make possible self-determination. 

First and foremost, the Earth Constitution begins the process of disarming the nations of the world and concomitantly establishing the means for the peaceful resolutions of disputes through the World Court system, the World Parliament, the World Police (with its department of Conflict Resolution), the World Ombudsmus, and a multiplicity of programs and agencies aimed at establishing economic, political, and social equality among the peoples of Earth.  Article 4.4 grants as one of the specific powers of the Earth Federation to “provide the means for peaceful and just solution of disputes and conflicts among or between nations, peoples, and/or other components within the Federation of Earth.”  A world in which militarized imperialism disempowers nations and peoples will be abolished in favor of conflict resolution programs empowering mutual understanding and cooperation among nations and peoples.  For the first time in history there is an a priori framework for all persons mandated to end war and establish the mechanisms of non-violent conflict resolution for all groups and individuals. Such cooperation empowers the self-determination of all.

Secondly, the Earth Constitution establishes a new global economic system predicated on the well-being of all rather than the exploitation of the many by the few. Corporate personhood is abolished, public banking is established in the service of all people, and government created money, debt-free, is used to activate and empower people out of poverty in every corner of the globe.  Peoples and groups experiencing well-being for the first time in recorded history will be immeasurably empowered. They will have the resources to promote, preserve, and activate their cultures, religions, traditions, etc. 

The second bill of rights within the Constitution (which emphasizes rights to well-being), requires of the Earth Federation “encouragement of cultural diversity; encouragement for decentralized administration.” (13.16)  These can be encouraged by the Earth Federation in a variety of ways, the first of which is by bringing peoples and individuals out of poverty. Programs promoting cultures and traditions will then empower people to be proud of their diverse heritages rather than competitive against others with differing heritages.  When the stakes are transformed: when the stakes are no longer my wealth at the expense of your poverty, or my culture (e.g. Sinhalese versus Tamil, Greek versus Turkish, Tutsi versus Hutu) in competition with your culture, or my power at the expense of your power, then groups, like persons, can flourish without fear and anger against what is different from themselves. 

It is the a priori framework itself that removes the perceived incommensurability of groups, cultures, and traditions characteristic of a world of naked power relations and economic scarcity.  Most groups and peoples who see themselves as oppressed believe that the dominant system within their nations has marginalized them both economically and politically. Dominant groups, on the other hand (e.g., Israel over Palestine) see the economic necessity in exploiting or denying marginal groups their fair share.  In a world of scarcity and naked power relationships (which is inevitable without a global social contract), such marginalization or domination will necessarily follow. The global social contract under the Earth Constitution distributes political power equitably throughout the Earth and provides an equitable well-being for all that ends economic marginalization.  Liberation from these perceived “necessities” then comes to all.  Either all are free for self-determination or none are free.

The Constitution specifies that the Earth Federation provide “freedom for peaceful self-determination for minorities, refugees and dissenters” (13.17).  The principle of peaceful “self-determination” of groups is hereby constitutionally grounded.  Like encouragement for diversity, the peaceful self-determination of groups will be mandated by the global social contract.  The Constitution provides for “the right of asylum “for persons who may seek refuge from countries or nations which are not yet included within the federation of earth” (14.1.3).  Groups or persons outside the Federation will naturally be clamoring to become part of the Federation since only this framework of a global social contract will be able to end their marginalization.

For new nations joining the Federation (which will rapidly grow to include the entire Earth for the reasons outlined above), the Constitution guarantees “full faith and credit” to their public acts, records, legislation and judicial proceedings as consistent with the Constitution” (14.1.1). It guarantees “freedom of choice” for member nations for their own “political, economic, and social systems” consistent with the Constitution (14.1.2) and, once the federation includes 90% of the territory of Earth, it guarantees the right of individuals and groups to peacefully leave the hegemony of the Federation and live peacefully apart if they so choose.  All of these conditions of the global social contract empower nations and peoples.  Small nations (the majority of the world) will be able to live with freedom, pride, and dignity without a false submission to the great powers, and the now disarmed larger nations will be freed from the perceived necessities to dominate and exploit for resources, hegemony, and control of potential enemies.

Nationhood, therefore, will come to mean something entirely new. Once the system of sovereign nations is transformed from its present condition of an inherent war system to a peace system (and from a scarcity system to a prosperity system) established by the social contract, it will no longer matter very much where the borders of a nation are drawn. There will no longer be vital economic, political, or security reasons for borders in one place rather than another.  The fate of Kashmir between India and Pakistan will no longer matter to India and Pakistan and its citizens may decide to become a nation (with the approval of the World Parliament). The autonomy of Palestine will no longer be seen as a threat to Israel and nationhood is assured. Greek Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus can become separate nations at peace with one another. It will not matter to Canada if Quebec is enfranchised within the Federation, nor to the US if Puerto Rico becomes a nation.

Procedures for the empowerment and self-determination of peoples will necessarily become part of the legislation before the World Parliament (already representing all peoples and nations equitably).  The procedures for becoming a new nation will have no more consequence than electoral redistricting that now takes place within democratic nations, only the stakes will probably be smaller, since political power itself within the Federation will no longer be a means to economic power within a system of scarcity. The Basque people between France and Spain may or may not wish to be recognized as a nation represented with one vote in the House of Nations within the World Parliament. France and Spain, both still fully represented within the House of Nations, are not likely to object.

The Earth Constitution provides, for the first time in history, a world peace system, a world freedom system, a world sustainability system, a world justice system, and a world prosperity system.[ix] These are all part of the inherent rights (and therefore the inherent destiny) of humanity.  Implicit in our humanity is the demand for a global social contract providing the a priori conditions for human self-determination (and therefore for human liberation).  This implies, therefore, that the complement of the idea presented in the preceding paragraph will also be true.  Just as there will be little or no reason why groups that are now nations would object to having subgroups within their borders become nations within the Earth Federation so there will be few reasons why subgroups will want to become independent nations.  The framework of a peace, freedom, and prosperity system will likely make subgroups happy with their protection and liberation as groups living within the Earth Federation, where everybody is protected and the self-determination of everyone is empowered. Prosperity, like cultural diversity and religious freedom, will be assured already and it will not be necessary to secede from larger groups to enjoy these aspects of self-determination.

Given the difficulties described above in which self-determination for groups or peoples cannot be allowed to violate the self-determination of the persons within these groups, the Earth Constitution will provide the conditions, as far as practically possible, the self-determination of all peoples on Earth. There is no self-determination for anyone without a social contract that makes this possible, and the only social contract that can make self-determination possible for all groups and persons is the planetary one. Ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, giving the explicit consent to the framework that makes peace, freedom, prosperity (and hence self-determination) possible, is the task of the present generation.

All peoples everywhere must see that we are linked together by the unbreakable bonds of our humanity and that there is no self-determination for some without a framework making possible the self-determination of all. The task of future generations, who will be immeasurably grateful to we the founders of the system ensuring their freedom and dignity, will be to give tacit consent through maintaining and protecting the framework bequeathed to them – making possible genuine self-determination for all the peoples and persons who live upon the Earth.    


[ii]   See my account of these thinkers in Chapters 5 and 6 of Assent to Freedom. Practical and Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law. Pamplin, VA: Institute for Democracy Press, 2008.

[iii]  Kant, Immanuel (1957). Perpetual Peace. Louis White Beck, trans. New York: Macmillan.

[iv] Gewirth, Alan (1982). Human Rights: Essays on Justification and Applications. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 3.

[v]    Ibid., p. 5.

[vi]   Klein, Naomi (2007). The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Henry Holt and Company, p. 206.

[vii]   Parenti, Michael (1995). Against Empire. San Francisco: City Lights Books, p. 38.

[viii]   Locke, John (1965). John Locke: Two Treatises of Government. Revised Edition. Peter Laslett, ed. New York: Mentor Books.

[ix]   See the “Conceptual Model of the Earth Federation” passed by the 12th session of the Provisional World Parliament. This is included in Glen T. Martin, The Earth Federation Movement. Founding a Social Contract for the People of Earth. Pamplin, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2011, pp. 118-147.

The Globalization of Public Freedom

Glen T. Martin

The idea of human freedom remains an elusive concept and an unattainable ideal for most human beings.  Yet freedom has emerged in history as an idea directly linked to the concept of being human. To be human is to possess a temporal structure that chooses among possibilities in varying degrees of actual or potential freedom.  The question freedom for what? enters the discussion in terms of the concept of peace. Phenomenologically, freedom appears as a specifically human quality linked with the structures of human temporality, a quality emerging out of the evolutionary process beyond the apparent necessity and causal determinism of nature.  The structure of personal and public freedom and its relation to the question of peace is the focus of this essay.

Freedom, bound up not only with time but language, constitutes our creative expression as human beings. As a language-using being, for example, a human being possesses the capacity to express an infinite variety of sentences (Pinker, Ch. 9). Language breaks a barrier of necessity found in all other biological creatures and unleashes a potentially unlimited freedom of thought, expression, and action. Our unlimited creative freedom provided by language is bound within the existential temporality of human life: the process of perpetual movement from the past into the future through a dynamic present.

If we were not bound in time, it is difficult to say whether freedom would have any meaning for us. It looks as though time, as Heidegger (1927) taught, and Kant (1781) before him recognized, constitutes a presupposition for our human being-in-the world.[i] In each day and hour and minute, we appropriate our past experiences, knowledge, and awareness within a lived present and project our lives toward a tomorrow, toward a future in the next minute, hour, day, year, or beyond.  We can even act in the present with a view to a future beyond our own lifetimes.  In this way, our freedom in some aspect allows us to transcend our own death.  We can commit to the future of our children, our religion, our nation, future generations, or humankind.

In the living existential present in which past and future dynamically combine to enable decisions that open up certain options for the future and close off others.  I can choose to study my lessons this evening, or listen to music, or go out with friends.  Each choice closes off options regarding the future and opens up other options.  Going out with friends may lead to meeting my future husband or wife.  Studying my lessons may lead to the discovery of special intellectual abilities or self-awareness about what I dislike or a greater understanding of history and human life.   Each day a human being makes innumerable small and large choices among the options available that close off certain possible futures and open up others.

This freedom emerges from, and remains contingent on, many biological and physical necessities that circumscribe our lives.  It requires physical and mental health.  We require basic necessities such as food, sanitation, education, health care, and housing. Our freedom to actualize certain options and preclude others is contingent on a host of necessary requirements, some of which we have control over, others (like natural disasters) intervene beyond our control.  The ones over which we have control often necessitate work: laboring in the sweat of our brows to sustain ourselves. 

Laboring itself, of course, requires perpetual choices within the dynamism of the present, even if its basic goal is simply survival.  But the will to survive, to live, goes beyond a mere biological instinct to live to the pleasure of living a temporalized existence, the joy of living as a being drawing upon its past and projecting itself into the future.  Freedom, therefore, expresses both the quality of life and our sense of the intrinsic value of human life. The so-called right to life recognizes the intrinsic value of this core character of our humanity.  The so-called right to life is routinely conjoined with liberty: the right to life must include liberty, indicating that the quality of a human life can be diminished or enhanced depending on the degree of latitude it has with respect to the future.[ii]

We recognize, therefore, that the freedom of temporalized existence is relative to the nexus of necessities that condition our lives.  Those who must work 12 hours per day, six days per week, to secure the most basic necessities of survival are not as free as those who do not need to work to live or who can secure the basic necessities with much fewer hours of work.  We also recognize that those who work at chosen vocations that can procure the basic necessities while having a meaningful and fruitful working existence are so much freer that those who perform some alien drudgery necessary for mere survival.

Nevertheless, temporality, the movement from past to future through the living present, forms an a priori framework for human life.  A second a priori framework, inseparable from the first, involves our always being with others.  The temporal structure of our lives is social. It is always and everywhere within a social context and many of its features, such as our sense of what options are open to us (as, say, women or Moslems or blacks) have socially constructed content. The freedom that we experience as temporalized beings is always a socialized freedom, inevitably dependent on the others: family, village, inheritance of the efforts of past generations, education, the very acquisition of language, culture, and government (Sherover 1989).[iii]

My temporal structure arises as human, and hence as a being among others. The others, therefore, like my body and the infrastructure of material necessities, form an a priori condition of my temporal freedom. We live as social beings from the very beginning and our individualized temporal freedom (the uniqueness of each of us as persons) arises from the community. The unique individuality of each of us is derived from the communities within which we are embedded and cannot be sustained or developed apart from those communities.   I realize that my unique freedom – my unique ability to appropriate my past and actualize my life-possibilities into a projected future – also involves a public freedom, that is, a freedom characteristic of the communities of which I am a member. Phenomenologically time, like my being with others, ultimately involves an a priori feature of our common humanity, a phenomena sometimes referred to as human ‘historicity’. Just as the individual human life is a temporalized freedom project so the course of human history involves a comparable freedom project (Heidegger 1927). We are temporally involved with others from the very beginning. Much political philosophy explores the forms and dynamics of collective decision-making appropriating a past in a lived present and projecting toward a collective future.

My possibilities derive not only from my most basic reality as a temporalized social being, but are also contingent upon a host of social factors: where I happen to have been born, the inherited social and material wealth into which I happen to have been born, the governmental, cultural, and religious forms of my communities, and the prospects for a secure and stable life building upon this inheritance (the absence, for example, of wars or natural disasters).  I understand that freedom is not a metaphysical property of my individual mind or soul but rather emerges as a social product. 

My individual freedom presupposes the freedom of all the others as similar social beings and presupposes the existence of the human community as a whole.  All language-using beings share this dynamic temporal structure. I cannot separate my personal freedom from that of all the others. As Jürgen Habermas expresses this: ‘The individual cannot be free unless all are free, and all cannot be free unless all are free in community’ (1986:146).[iv] Habermas has uncovered the presuppositional status of communicative action directed toward mutual understanding that places communicative dialogue before secondary and parasitic forms of speech: strategic, technical, manipulative, or ideological (1998a). Collectively, our future depends on the development of public spaces where dialogue directed toward mutual understanding and ‘collective will formation’ can take place (1998b: 450). The assumption of equality (of voice) and democratic decision-making is built into the very structure of language and hence our humanity.[v]

The community, therefore, and our common humanity (the human community as a whole) make possible the freedom of each of us as temporalized individuals. Our individuality is inseparably bound to the human community.  For this reason we must concern ourselves with the relation of the community to freedom.  My personal freedom to determine my life and my fate within the limitations specified above functions within a context in which community groups also manifest a temporalized existence drawing on a past in a living, shared present and projecting toward a possible future.  

This is done by my family, as when parents plan for their children’s marriage or college education or inheritance of the family business.  It is done by my local community through its collective decision-making process in which community resources are allocated and decisions are made that close off certain possibilities for the group and open up others. (For example, should a new road be built through the center of town, and what consequences are likely to follow upon this course of action?)

Collective decision-making processes are necessary at all levels of community existence, from the family to the global levels.  Regions need to make decisions about use of resources, such as rivers and forests.  Nations need to make decisions regarding economics, resources, protection of liberties, education, transportation, security, and a host of other factors.  In each case, those charged with making decisions draw collectively upon a more or less shared past and, in discussion with one another within the living present, make decisions that project the community into an imagined future, closing off certain possibilities and opening up others.   

My unique freedom is inseparable from multiple dimensions of public freedom.  It derives from the human community as its precondition, and the various levels of community within which I am embedded, from the family to the locality to the state, national, and global levels, bear on my own personal temporalized freedom. The decision made on the national level, for example, to go to war, or to institute a military draft, bears on my individual freedom: I may be required to pay my share of taxes to support the war or I may be drafted into the military in the service of this national war effort. 

As a thoughtful human being aware of this multi-dimensional temporalized structure of human freedom, I understand the importance of reflecting on the nature, organizational structure, and decisional processes through which the various communities within which I am embedded move into the future.  Historically, it has often been the province of political philosophy to reflect on government and processes of community decision-making in relation to the temporalized life-possibilities of the individuals within each community. [vi]

Emerging from this history of political philosophy has been the demand for democratic or republican forms of government that attempt to integrate the good of the community (and methods of determining its collective future) with the good of the individual (and the rights of individuals to determine their personal future insofar as this is compatible with the similar rights of all the others). I realize that my own temporalized freedom is linked to the public freedom within each of the communities within which I am embedded (Martin 2008; Chs. 4-6).[vii]

Unless there are democratic, transparent, and coherent decision-making processes within which I can participate and that serve our common human interest in freedom, my personal freedom is endangered and compromised.  I have, therefore, a very powerful interest in understanding the nature and possibilities of public freedom. I have a powerful interest in promoting, protecting, and participating in public freedom within all levels of community that encompass me.

For the past 200 years or more, the reality of human beings as one common species living on every part of the globe has become ever-more widely understood.  This awareness escalated with the First World War that gave birth to the world federalist movement with peace activists and advocates of world government such as Rosika Schwimmer or Lola Maverick Lloyd who expressed the need for representative democracy at the planetary level. These activists argued that the system of militarized sovereign nation-states is inherently a war system that can never lead to peace on Earth but only ever-greater mutual slaughters and wars. These activists adamantly linked peace with freedom. The Second World War, and the use of weapons of mass destruction, only served to increase this awareness of the need for a higher form of democratic decision-making beyond the level of the nation-state.[viii]

However, it is only in the past half century that awareness of so-called global problems has spread throughout the world.  Today, people everywhere are aware of problems such as global warming, population explosion, resource depletion, pollution, militarism, weapons of mass destruction, and other problems commonly recognized as global in scope and therefore beyond the decision-making capacities of individual sovereign nation-states.  With respect to global problems, there are no viable decision-making processes for our planet, and what little coordination exists through the U.N. is non-democratic in the extreme (since the U.N. sees itself in Article 2 of its Charter as a confederation of autonomous sovereign nation-states). Today’s globalized world exhibits a chaos of militarized nation-states and huge multinational corporations making decisions in relatively complete fragmentation from one another.  They are collectively and often unwittingly determining a future for our planet that looks extremely bleak.

My individual l temporalized freedom, like that of everyone else on the Earth, is in jeopardy.  For temporalized freedom is always future oriented, and I find that the future is cut off from me at every level.  Even at the level of my family, I cannot guarantee my children a future because the collective human future is itself in jeopardy.  My children will be forced to live or die in an environment hostile to life: full of pollution, deprivation, war, disease, and death. There is no planetary public freedom for the Earth. There are no democratic or republican political processes by which human beings can collectively discuss and determine a future for humanity, that is, a future that deals with the many global problems that are beyond the scope of nation-state decision-making processes (Harris 2000: 103).

Where does such freedom come from?  How are human beings to come together in a forum capable of action to reach, through dialogue, mutual understanding concerning the realities of our human situation (its totality)? How are they to devise a course of action directed toward the future? How are they to devise collective actions that must be taken to create and protect a future for humanity and our common home, the Earth?  Hannah Arendt writes:

Only in the freedom of our speaking with one another does the world, as that about which we speak, emerge in objectivity and visibility from all sides…. The freedom to interact in speech with many others and experience the diversity that the world always is in its totality….is rather the substance and meaning of all things political. In this sense politics and freedom are identical, and wherever this kind of freedom does not exist, there is no political space in the true sense. (2005: 128-129)

A number of world federalist thinkers (as far back as the two world wars) realized this fact that a public political space encompassing the diversity of all the world’s citizens for discussing the future of humanity does not exist.[ix]  Eventually some of these thinkers took steps for bringing together world citizens in four Constituent Assemblies (between 1968 and 1991) that created the Constitution for the Federation of Earth (Martin 2010b).[x] The Constitution provides humankind with a carefully worked out structure for democratic world government centered on public freedom. It articulates a process of discussion, decision-making, and action that completes and embraces the historical human project of temporalized freedom that all along (we have seen) included the entire human community as its most basic presupposition.

Article One of the Constitution states six broad functions of the Earth Federation – revealing that the sphere of action of the world government will be all those global problems beyond the scope of individual nation-states.  This is certainly vital and grounds for ratification of the Constitution by the people and nations of Earth according to the democratic criteria specified in Article 17.   However, philosophically, the Constitution does much more than this.   The history of political philosophy and human know-how today culminates in human beings taking practical steps to create public freedom at the planetary level.

The sixth broad function of the Constitution captures something of this dimension: to devise and implement solutions to all problems which are beyond the capacity of national governments, or which are now or may become of global or international concern or consequence.  The future oriented character of the global public space under the Constitution is here assumed: drawing on the collective knowledge of the world and members of the World Parliament, the government must address future problems that are beyond the capacity of the nation-states.

Having understood the temporal and community presuppositions of our individual personal freedoms, political philosophy has articulated the theoretical and practical foundations for democratic and republican forms of government, which are now understood as the only legitimate forms of government – since every person is a temporalized freedom with equal rights to participate in the communities of public freedom that bear in innumerable ways upon his or her individual life. However, with the ascent to the philosophy of democratic world government, political philosophy now fulfills its historical quest to understand and properly institutionalize the relation between individual and public freedom in its only fully coherent and logical possible form – public freedom for the entire human community (Harris 2008, Ch. 8).

The historicity of the human project, involving it’s a priori temporalized and ‘always with others’ structures, logically demands political forms of freedom applying to humanity as a whole. The organization of these structures, however, is necessarily ‘federal,’ that is, there is public space for democratic government at every level, from the local to the regional to the national to the world level, for collectively people require freedom at each level to arrive at public decisions regarding issues appropriate to that level.

The anti-globalization movement resists the domination of huge fragments (such as nation-states or multinational corporations) in the name of peoples’ right to life, liberty, and security of person, that is, in the name of democracy.  Indeed, local democracies today are often the most transparent and effective loci of freedom. At the national level this essential transparency soon disappears within a fragmented world of militarized nation-states premised on secrecy for the sake of national security.  The so-called democracies within these militarized nation-states often assume freedom is possible within a nation while human rights violations, support for dictators, covert operations, and war are acceptable in foreign policy.  This constitutes a fatal mistake that destroys freedom at every level.  The national-security state closes off republican government in a veil of militarized secrecy, hence defeating democracy at the national level, and making democratic openness, communication, and transparency more difficult at every level.

Global economics as it operates today performs the same destructive function. Banking cartels, multinational corporations, World Bank structural adjustment programs, and other global economic actors inevitably impinge on government at every level making democratic decision-making extremely difficult throughout the planet. Ultimately, ‘there can be no freedom unless all are free’ requires a global public political space where the future of humanity as a whole can be decided in the face of the many global problems that exist beyond the scope of individual nations. Ultimately the system of fragmented militarized nation-states and the system of global economic monopolies defeats freedom at every level.  These forces can only be controlled by a non-military democratic global government that replaces violence and the threat of violence with a world parliament providing public space for all cultures, peoples, nations and regions to enter into a discourse regarding the future of humanity upon this planet.

The Preamble to the Constitution for the Federation of Earth provides perhaps the most basic philosophical framework for the Constitution through making clear that the principle of unity in diversity is the only possible coherent basis for planetary peace, justice, and freedom.  And the Constitution itself provides a framework for global public space within the World Parliament encompassing all the peoples and nations of Earth along with the set of institutions, from judiciary to civilian police, necessary to maintain and protect that global public space. Here lies the real significance of the Constitution for philosophers and global thinkers. It culminates the human quest for freedom and draws humanity together into the global community that is already presupposed by every individual temporalized life-project and every community of decision-making on Earth.

Its practical effects will likely result in binding humans together within a framework of common dialogue and decision-making regarding our common human fate. For institutions are established that make all persons equally responsible as legal world citizens before one, universal common law that allows for democratic diversity at every level within the world federal system. It brings the theoretically understood structure of human freedom (that the human community is presupposed in every individual temporalized freedom) into the practical public realm by institutionalizing a public freedom for the human community (where that public freedom ultimately belongs) to deal with issues insolvable at the local and regional levels.

This public freedom is not only a fulfillment of the philosophical quest of political thought over the centuries and a major actualization of our human quest for freedom. It is also the foundation stone for human survival and flourishing upon planet Earth – for that survival and flourishing can only take place in freedom – through the establishment of a planetary public freedom embracing and protecting the individual personal freedom (and hence the future) of every citizen of our precious planet Earth.


[i]  Kant recognized the a priori status of time, calling it the form of inner sense, a feature of our human perceptual apparatus that remained itself (in some ways) a static way of organizing experience. This characterization ignored the movement inherent in our existential experience of time.  Hegel attempted to overcome this static character of Kant’s division between the phenomenal appearances and the noumenal thing in itself by temporalizing the relation between phenomena and noumena as the progress of the World Spirit within history, thereby projecting a priori temporality onto a metaphysical, world historical plane. In the early 20th Century, drawing on the existential (temporalized) thought of Kierkegaard and the phenomenological method of Husserl, Martin Heidegger phenomenologically described the human experience of temporalized, existential existence in Being and Time. (1927). Jean-Paul Sartre, in Being and Nothingness (1943),also understood freedom in somewhat similar terms as the actualizing of life-possibilities, a theme that he developed as a critical social philosophy in Critique of Dialectical Reason(1960).

[ii] See, e.g., the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 1-3. Article 3 states that ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.’

[iii] The phrase public freedom is not often used by Sherover, nor by Hannah Arendt (2005) or Habermas (1998b). However, they are describing something closely related in their similar concepts of positive freedom that requires a public space within which citizens can dialogue with one another concerning their common future.

[iv]  Habermas writes: Freedom, even personal freedom, freedom of choice in the last instance, can only be thought in internal connection with a network of interpersonal relationships, and this means in the context of the communicative structures of a community, which ensures that the freedom of some is not achieved at the cost of the freedom of others…. The individual cannot be free unless all are free, and all cannot be free unless all are free in community.

[v]  In his inaugural address, Habermas writes: ‘The human interest in autonomy and responsibility is not mere fancy, for it can be apprehended a priori. What raises us out of nature is the only thing whose nature we can know: language. Through its structure, autonomy and responsibility are posited for us. Our first sentence expresses unequivocally the intention of universal and unconstrained consensus.’ (1971: 314).

[vi]   Although the language of political philosophy evolved through the centuries, the central question can be expressed in this way.  Aristotle opens his Nichomachean Ethics, for example, by claiming that all human activities are future oriented toward some good and then asserts that politics is higher than ethics because it involves community action directed toward the good of the whole.

[vii]  In Western thought, the Greeks first conceived of public freedom in relation to the polis and initiated the reflection concerning what types of governments can preserve and enhance this freedom, a process in some ways culminating in the democratic revolutions of the 18th century and continuing thereafter with a wealth of reflections on republican and democratic forms of government.

[viii]  See Martin 2010b: Introduction.  The theoretical foundations for this, of course, date back to the Greek and Roman Stoics in their concept of a universal order of things under a common logos informing the intelligence of all men.  The first elaborated modern theoretical statement is found in Kant’s Perpetual Peace, originally published in 1895. In Western political thought, Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke, Kant, and Hegel (as well as others) recognized the system of sovereign nation-states as inherently a war system.

[ix]  Emory Reves, The Anatomy of Peace (1945) is a classic expression of the sovereignty of humankind and the absolute need to express that sovereignty within a global political public forum or world parliament. Albert Camus, in his famous essay, Neither Victims, Nor Executioners (1946) also argues for a world parliament premised on dialogue as the only thing that can free us from being murderers, or accomplices of murderers.

[x]   The Constitution for the Federation of Earth, which has been translated into some 23 languages, can be found on-line in a number of places, for example, at

Democratic Springtime 2011: Democratizing our Dysfunctional World System

Glen T. Martin

The “Democratic Spring” of 2011 expresses what people around the world have felt for a long time.  In nation after nation both nonviolent and armed resistance to dictatorship and tyranny has erupted. This rebellion is significant and indicative of the sentiment of people’s worldwide. The World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) has chapters in many countries around the world from which people are demanding democracy, not only for themselves, but for the people of Earth.

Much of the uprising in this democratic springtime has taken place in the Arab nations of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and elsewhere.  There was even incipient resistance in Saudi Arabia, where massive force was used to prevent its overt appearance.[i] I was in Bangladesh in December 2010, where people are struggling against fundamentalist religious and military forces to preserve their democracy that was established in 1971. In India as well, as Vandana Shiva has eloquently described in her book Earth Democracy, the struggle for democracy is vibrant and widespread.

A similar upsurge has even taken place in the United States and Great Britain where masses of people in both nations have come out in demonstrations, civil disobedience, and other forms of resistance against the ruling class attempt to break the unions, cut fundamental social services, and solidify corporate domination over the political process.[ii]  Many articles have appeared in the alternative press in these countries detailing the facts of the vast accumulation of wealth in the hands of the rich that has continued even after the crash of 2008, as well as the steps taken by politicians representing corporate domination to further that wealth and reduce the opportunities of ordinary people.[iii]

The democratic revolution erupting this spring, however, will not succeed under the current world system, which is heavily stacked against democracy and the welfare of the people of Earth. This world system has two major components that work together to ensure the rule of a tiny fraction of the Earth’s population over the rest of us. It works, in other words, to ensure that democracy does not work and cannot work.  These two interrelated components are global corporate capitalism and the global system of “sovereign” nation-states.  In this system, the elites in government and the elites in business work hand in hand to make laws and regulations benefiting corporate wealth-accumulation through laws benefiting corporate interests including privatization programs, security arrangements protecting corporations, interest and rent payments, access to cheap resources, and access to cheap, exploitable labor. [iv]

This global system is protected by the world’s imperial hegemon, the United States, with 730 known military bases in all corners of the world and significant economic and political leverage over nearly every nation on Earth.[v]  This system ensures the accumulation of private wealth in the hands of the banks and large corporations (including the ruling class within the US) through a balkanization of the world’s peoples into easily manageable nation-state components. Sometimes the Pentagon and US espionage systems are taken by surprise as happened recently in Tunisia, where largely nonviolent massive protests rapidly toppled a US supported dictator early in 2011 and served as a catalyst for the “Democratic Springtime” throughout much of the Arab-speaking world, giving the people of Tunisia at least some hope of creating for themselves an effective constitutional democracy.

A largely nonviolent revolution soon followed in Egypt resulting in the deposition of another US supported dictator, with the Egyptian army refusing the dictator’s orders to fire upon the protestors. However, forward movement toward democracy in Egypt remains stalled since the army has assumed control of the country, an option for “governing” regularly supported by the US since its ascendency to hegemony after the Second World War.[vi]  The US has now swung into action to help suppress the spread of democracy in the Arab world.  It has made an agreement with Saudi Arabia not to interfere with Saudi military invasion of Bahrain to protect the autocratic government there and has remained silent as governments in Yemen and other Arab countries fire upon unarmed protestors to stifle democratic dissent.[vii]

The current nation-state system allows political trouble in one part of the world to be quarantined and eradicated by the global hegemon and its imperial lackeys (Britain, France, etc.). If international manipulation of the victim country fails to succeed (bribes, economic threats, etc.), then hegemonic interests will be protected by overt force. Direct invasion and colonial control (as in Iraq and Afghanistan), once accomplished, may result in withdrawal and installation of neo-colonial puppet dictators who use political surveillance and torture to prevent outbreaks of democracy and other such rebellions against the poverty, marginalization, and misery of the masses.[viii]  The principle on non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states applies in general to all nations except the imperial superpower, which routinely attempts to influence elections, fund right wing media, bribe officials, and use all means of pressure to keep its global empire in conformity with the needs of corporate investors.

When the imperial interests of the former colonial powers dictate military intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, then the principle of non-interference is quickly jettisoned, as in the case of Libya after the democratic springtime spread to that country. The dictator in Libya was not a puppet of the imperial powers but a vocal critic of Western hypocrisy. In addition, he had control of significant oil resources not directly in the hands of the multinational oil cartels. For both these reasons, he had to go. Suddenly, “humanitarian intervention” was the theme of the day, and a UN agreement to a simple no-fly zone was interpreted by the US, Britain, and France as near unlimited discretion to militarily support the rebels against the forces of the official Libyan government.  Again, the balkanization of the world into particulate nation-states allowed the imperial forces to ensure domination of a portion of the world’s people in the service of their “national interests.” There is no doubt, however, that democracy will not be allowed to triumph in Libya.

The balkanization of the people of Earth into nation-state compartments is essential to the maintenance of the world capitalist system and the US Empire.  World citizens who wish to free human beings to become self-determining participants in “one world democracy” often do not realize the extent to which the balkanized system of sovereign nation-states must necessarily be preserved by the global ruling class.[ix] Many world federalist organizations support the democratization of the UN, for example, and the democratic spring of 2011 has enlivened them to push, in the name of the aspirations of the people of Earth, for a World Parliament to directly represent people within the UN organization to complement the existing General Assembly (that represents only governments).[x]

The present world system, however, is promoted and protected by the UN organization, which largely mirrors the world system as described above.  The UN Charter recognizes the “sovereign integrity of its member states” (Article 2) and places all effective power in the hands of the Security Council, dominated by its five permanent members, all of whom have aspirations to global power and, at the very least, regional hegemony.  In addition, the entire UN system has long been colonized by global capitalism so, for example, GATT (the General Agreement on Treaties and Trade) has been transformed into the adamantly “free trade” World Trade Organization (WTO). The principle of “national sovereignty” means that nations may or may not sign treaties, that they have no compelling reason to comply with treaties they have signed, and that they may even sign treaties (so called international laws) while exempting themselves from compliance (as the US has repeatedly done).

The UN allows the global superpower almost free rein to use UN “international laws” in its own interest, and, when these do not serve its interests, ignore them, as it did with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Many world federalists correctly perceive that the UN has an extensive worldwide infrastructure that could be very useful to global democracy, but they fail to realize that piecemeal reform of the UN system will not result in global democracy. The imperial dominators hold all the cards that will certainly be used to block effectiveness of reform, including the effectiveness of a global people’s assembly that might be created to complement the nearly powerless General Assembly.

The World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) does not share the apparent naiveté of many world federalist organizations regarding the world system represented in the UN.  The WCPA understands that piecemeal reforms of the UN system cannot be successful in the face of the forces ranged against global democracy (at least not in time to prevent planetary ecocide or nuclear omnicide).  The WCPA has long supported, however, an Article 109 Review Conference in which the nations in the General Assembly vote to reexamine the UN system. 

In an Article 109 review conference, the UN would have the option to replace the UN Charter (representing the current undemocratic world system) with the Constitution for the Federation of Earth (representing true global democracy: The Earth Constitution provides for a truly democratic tri-cameral legislature with the authority, and supporting institutions, to pass enforceable world laws for the people of Earth. A Review Conference that ratified the Earth Constitution would be an optimum result for the people of Earth. The General Assembly could easily become the core of the House of Nations, the global voting mechanisms that are currently set up by organizations like Vote World Parliament and the People’s Congress could elect the representatives to the House of Peoples, and the presently functioning Provisional World Parliament could become the core of the House of Counselors.

By the simple act of replacing the UN Charter with the Earth Constitution, moreover, the UN High Commission of Human Rights could become the core of the World Ombudsmus created by the Constitution, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) could become benches of the World Supreme Court system, the WTO could be converted to the democratically run World Financial Administration, and UN Peacekeeping forces could be converted into the civilian World Police. Moreover, the transformation would be decisive. It would not become a mere cosmetic modification of the current world system of domination and exploitation. For the Constitution creates genuine world democracy with enforceable world law, with the power and mandate to require multinational banking and corporations to serve the needs of the people of Earth, and with the power to disarm the nations and bring them into conformity with the democratic rule of law.

The Provisional World Parliament has already taken other steps to promote this integration. For example, the Education Act (WLA 26) allocates major funding to a number of U.N. agencies that promote education in the world as soon as these agencies ratify the Earth Constitution. It names the following agencies for allocations: U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), U.N. University (UNU), International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), U.N. Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), and U.N. University for Peace (UPAZ). Unlike the U.N., the Earth Federation government will not be dependent on the voluntary donations of sovereign nation-states but will have entirely sufficient funds to serve all human needs, including massive worldwide educational development.[xi]

However, even though the WCPA fully supports a UN General Review Conference that would open up the possibilities outlined here, it is likely that the global hegemon will veto any attempt to make this happen.  In our judgment, it is very likely that the people of Earth will have to directly ratify the Earth Constitution independently of the UN system, attracting those nation-states to their cause who realize that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain through joining the Earth Federation under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  The democratic springtime of 2011 offers a taste of the hopes and dreams entertained by the people of Earth.

But these hopes and dreams can only be realized through the founding of a new social contract for the Earth. The UN is not a social contract but a treaty of sovereign nations colonized by the world’s hegemon.  It is not likely that it can be modified to become a genuine democracy.  There will be subversion and resistance every step of the way.  But ratifying a new founding document (that cannot be altered or compromised prior to its ratification) offers a tremendous hope to the people of Earth.  There is great strength in placing our hopes in a founded global social contract.

Perpetual compromise with the forces of global capital and imperialism is unnecessary here.  The people of Earth can rise up and shout “enough!”  They can found a new world system predicated on equality, freedom, peace, prosperity, and justice from the very start.  Only such a founded Earth Constitution can really transform the present undemocratic world system.  Reforming the UN is ultimately not a significantly viable option.  Democratic freedom for the people of Earth demands a global social contract in the form of a transparent, completed document: the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

[i]  Noam Chomsky, “On Libya and the Unfolding Crises,” Interviewed by Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, March 31, 2011.  Z-Net:

[ii]Andy Kroll, “Return to Wisconsin: the Beginning or the End?”  Tom Dispatch, March 31, 2011.

[iii] Zachary Roth, “Off-The-Charts Income Gains For Super-Rich,” by Zachary Roth. The Lookout – Yahoo News, April 8, 2011.

[iv] Terry Boswell and Christopher Chase-Dunn, The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism: Toward Global Democracy. Boulder, CO: Lynne Reiner Publishers, 2000.

[v] Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the end of the Republic. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2004.

[vi] Michael Parenti, Against Empire. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1995.

[vii]  Chomsky, op.cit.

[viii]  Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2008.

[ix] Belitsos and Tetalman, One World Democracy: A Progressive Vision for Enforceable World Law. San Rafael, CA: Origin Press, 2005.

[x]  Andreas Bummel, “Towards a Global Democratic Revolution: A Global Parliament and the Transformation of the World Order,” April 5, 2011. Internet circulated article.

[xi] Glen T. Martin, The Earth Federation Movement: Founding a Global Social Contract. History, Vision, Documents. Pamplin, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2011.

Glen T. Martin is Professor of Philosophy at Radford University, Virginia, USA, Secretary-General of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), and President of the Institute on World Problems (IOWP).  His web site is

Black Friday, Black Institutions, and a Black Future?

Glen T. Martin

26 November 2010

This morning is Black Friday, the day that the profits of the retail community are said to run in the black, where some retailers open at 4 AM with droves of customers already waiting in line to take advantage of the sale prices. However, if the word “black” also connotes darkness, obscurity, loss of transparency (as in “blackout”) or absolute secrecy (as in “black budget” or “black-ops”) or loss of a future (as in “the future looks black”), then it may be that our entire season should be labeled “black” and that the sun tomorrow morning will not bring light, translucency, and a new day.

The three most pervasive dimensions of our society operate in the dark, outside of the light of transparency and the integrity that might be thrown upon them by democratic awareness and oversight.  The first is government, which is no longer of the people, by the people, and for the people.  The lion’s share of government today is secret from the people, and much of it secret from the people’s elected representatives in Congress.  The spurious idea of a “war on terror” with elusive, indefinable enemies everywhere and no possible date of victory and restoration of peace, has led us into the darkness of governmental tyranny and secrecy, with corresponding corruption our democratic traditions.

The Pentagon’s “black budget” for 2010 tops 56 billion dollars, and funds “black-ops,” in other words, secret wars, secret surveillance, secret assassinations, secret alliances (often with criminal elements), secret bases, and secret torture centers.  Secrecy breeds corruption. It brings out the worst in human nature: torture, assassination, murder, greed, lawlessness, and lust. What operates in secret from the people destroys democracy and the rights and freedoms of the people, what we see all about us today in the loss of our personal dignity (as in our airports), loss of our right to security of person, loss of habeas corpus, and loss of our rights to freedom of association.

Yet the “black budget” is only the tip of the secrecy iceberg.  A recent two year investigation by the Washington Post found that since 911 our government has created an immense secret government inside itself that includes “some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States” (  Democracy cannot survive darkness.  Citizens cannot effectively participate in their civic duties of voting, governance, and democratic control of their society when they lack the necessary information and understanding of what is going on. Darkness breeds tyranny, and, as Chalmers Johnson maintained in his book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic.  He states there that it may be too late, that we may already have passed the point of no return from republic to tyranny.

The darkness of our times, however, is compounded by the economic secrecy of big business and corporate domination of government, employment, insurance, and commerce – essentially the entire framework of our modern lives. Since corporations are legally considered “private persons,” what goes on in their executive meetings is hidden from view – both from citizens and from the government that supposedly is there to protect citizens and the common good.  Like the secret government of the U.S., they command virtually unlimited control over vast sums of money to be used at their discretion for creating even more vast sums of money in the form of profits.  Human beings cannot but be victims of this system of vast unaccountable wealth and secrecy: from destruction of the environment into which they externalize their costs to the third world victims whom they exploit in horrible sweatshops to the shoddy products designed to break with days after expiration of the warranty.

The 2010 Supreme Court decision known as “Citizens United” has now overthrown all restraints on corporate interference in the political process: the buying of political influence, elections, candidates, and putting our government effectively for sale to the highest bidder.  Elected representatives no longer even hide the fact that big money determines their policies. According to news sources, Pennsylvania governor-elect Tom Corbett has openly composed his transition team of individuals who made contributions of more than $1.5 million to his campaign.

 (  Corporate contributions to campaigns can even remain secret, so that the voters do not even know the sources of the campaign funds of the candidates whose qualifications they are supposed to evaluate.

Darkness descends over the political process just as it has descended over government operations. Black Friday is black indeed, since any control we the people might want to assert over our future appears to have been effectively blacked out.  But what of our universities, the third major institution of our society, and traditionally thought of as bastions of independent thought, investigation, pursuit of truth, and therefore light?  But a university is first a foremost a product of the society within which it is embedded.  Embedded in a free society, a university can be a beacon of light.  Embedded in a totalitarian society, a university’s mission is to transmit the darkness.

Today, the economics, political science, and business colleges of universities sing the praises of unfettered capitalism to new generations of students.  Today, nearly every university gratefully prostitutes itself to corporate money and to the largess of military recruiting, ROTC programs on campus, complicity with secret “homeland security” programs, and Patriot Act enforcement.  The darkness of the Pentagon and the hidden deceits of corporate strategies today inform the very structure of university campuses. The classroom becomes a vehicle for brainwashing future generations into the dogmatic ideologies of the dominant forces in society.  As little light emanates from today’s classrooms as from today’s boardrooms or today’s “strategic operations” rooms.  

Many of those who “shop till they drop” on Black Friday are shopping for Christmas gifts for family and friends.  Many of them bemoan the fact that Christmas has lost its true meaning within the darkness of commercial culture. The original revelation, as the Gospel of John reports, came to humanity “to bear witness to the light. . . .The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.”  Could it be that the darkness and corruption  we have allowed to descend upon us has a Satanic dimension? 

Could it be that the darkness of our government and the corporations that dominate our lives operate in deep violation of the “light that enlightens every man”?   Could it be that truth itself is dying – in the way we govern ourselves, in the way we satisfy our economic needs, and even in the ways that we gather and transmit knowledge to future generations?  Could it be that Black Friday, black government, black corporate domination, and black institutions of higher learning translate into a very possible black future – a future of evil, corruption, and the perversion of our true human destiny?

Human Alienation and Liberation: Dynamics for a Transformed Future (outlined in 18 points)

Glen T. Martin

 May 2011

Nearly all philosophies and religions that attempt to conceptually embrace the human situation involve theories of alienation and its overcoming within a transformed future.  As I have argued in Millennium Dawn and other places, this distinction in some form or other characterizes the entire civilizational project of the human species since the Axial Period some 2500 years ago. It is this distinction that is part of the meaning and fundamental dynamic of human life in every age and culture.  This distinction lies at the heart of being a self-aware creature able to critically evaluate its circumstances and act to transform what is distorted, lacking or inadequate within those circumstances. Absent this distinction human beings become, in Herbert Marcuse’s apt phrase, “one dimensional men,” lacking our most fundamental ability, which is to become ever-more fully human.

In the last 2500 years, we have been struggling to actualize the immense potential implicit within our common humanity. Today, we are on the verge of taking the next step to this higher and more fulfilling level of existence. The story of the struggle to actualize our deeper human potential begins in the ancient world and includes all the major world religions developed since the Axis Period. However, in relation to our modern situation, perhaps its most fundamental elements were first articulated by Karl Marx and further elaborated within the tradition of critical social theory.

1.Marxism involves the theory of alienation from man’s species-being.  The concept of species-being expresses our essential human powers and capacities. These are blocked under capitalism, which alienates us from the productive work-life through which we manifest our life energies, from other human beings, from our deeper selves, and from our common humanity. Hence, our human potential for a fulfilling, meaningful, productive existence is made impossible not only for the worker but for the capitalist as well.  Society in general is alienated and our ability to actualize our higher human potential is blocked.

2. Thinkers like Marcuse, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Erich Fromm, Wilhelm Reich, Jürgen Habermas and others associated with the “Frankfurt School” of social criticism addressed this phenomenon of alienation with additional insights derived from the work of Sigmund Freud and depth psychology.  The result was theories of social alienation and the blocking of man’s essential powers due to “surplus repression” under modern capitalism. These theories in many ways account for why capitalism, with its devastating history of creating ever-greater poverty and fostering immense violence in the world, continued to endure long after it should have been overthrown.

3. Jürgen Habermas does little with depth psychology in his work but provides in indirect theory of alienation nevertheless. He demonstrates that the core of the very possibility of human languages lies in the communicative relationship directed toward mutual understanding. This primary relationship of human beings to one another is blocked by contemporary social systems in a variety of ways that result in primary uses of language that are instrumental and strategic, the latter two being especially fundamental to capitalism.   Hence, at the heart of language itself lies a vast reservoir of transformed human relationships in potentiality. Our human potential for dialogue, communicative uses of language directed toward mutual understanding, and pacified human relationships is blocked by a colonized life-world that covers up this potential in its structural imperative that fosters strategic and instrumental uses of language.

4. Emmanuel Levinas sees our human estrangement as a consequence of our orientation to the world as a closed totality (as “being”) in which other people become ciphers of a sameness, a thingness conceiving of others and all phenomena as simply one kind of entity within the vast collection of entities that comprise the world.  This alienation, for him, is overcome through an awakening to the “infinity in the human face,” to the fact that others confront us as a freedom that cannot be subsumed under the various modes of knowability but can only be related-to through a moral encounter: a relationship of unlimited respect and responsiveness to the command implicit in our human situation – moral responsibility for the other – “thou shall not kill.”   In this philosophical articulation of our human situation, Levinas draws upon the great Jewish tradition that affords primacy to the ethical dimension that informs a human condition in which the infinity of God is reflected in the infinity and freedom of the Other.

5. Buddhism, like all religions, contains a similar dynamic distinguishing our present alienated state (suffering through false attachments) from our fuller human potential that can be released through following the noble eight-fold path toward awakening. Nirvana, a condition of peace and “harmony with all beings,” represents the actualization of our deeper human potential.

In relation to this Buddhist analysis, all theories of spiritual awakening fit a similar dynamic.  At present, such theories attest, we are asleep, benighted, compulsive, and anxiety-ridden.   But we have the potential through spiritual realization, often following certain specific practices such as meditation, to actualize our higher human capacity for lives of inner-peace, love, freedom, and fulfillment. Writers such as Rubin Habito in Total Liberation: Zen Spirituality and the Social Dimension and Thich Nhat Hanh in Being Peace fall into this tradition.

6. Christianity, in both its traditional orthodox forms and its contemporary less metaphysical forms, follows this dynamic of alienation and redemption leading to the realization of our true human potential. Human beings have estranged themselves from God, for whom they were made and without whom they are lost in greed, selfishness, conflict, and evil. But the process of redemption has been made possible by God in the form of the Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection.  Our higher human potential, for Christianity, is only actualized through right relation to God, something achieved by a rebirth of our lives through a dynamic of faith, repentance, openness to God’s grace, and a new being in Christ as the result.

7. Paul Tillich, in this tradition, presents a strikingly modern understanding of Christianity. Tillich sees our human alienation and estrangement as a product of our inevitable finitude, which comprises our human existential condition.  Christianity, therefore, offering us the dynamics of a faith that stands in relation to the ground of Being, to God, addresses this estranged human condition and offers the possibility of our actualizing our higher human potential in a meaningful life of love, faith, fulfillment, justice, and mercy. We stand in the “ecstatic” relationship of faith to the infinite ground of our being.

John Hick, in An Interpretation of Religion, understands all post-Axial religions as awakening to the problem of a life centered on the ego-self as opposed to a life centered on reality, that is, on the depths of the one, infinite, source of things behind the finite world.  This reality is understood as only apprehended through an overcoming of the ego-self orientation in a progressive centering of our lives on that ultimate reality behind the phenomena: God. All religions, even his own Christianity, are understood on this model. It is “eschatological” for him, and hence transformative, since the demand of all religions involves transformation of the selfishness, greed, and compulsion associated with ego-centeredness toward the love, inclusiveness, and freedom associated with a Reality-God-centered life.

Liberation theology (Gustavo Gutierrez, Dominique Barbé, Leonardo Boff, Jose Miranda, Enrique Dussel, and others), following a similar pattern, tends to combine a neo-Marxist analysis of human exploitation and oppression with the prophetic call for justice and compassion (voiced through the prophets by the living God) as well as Jesus’ call for preparing the Kingdom of God on Earth through transforming social relations from cruelty and domination to those of agapē: compassion, mercy, justice, and equality.

8. The philosophy of nonviolence developed by thinkers like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. offers a similar orientation.  In its Gandhian form, the philosophy of nonviolence derives from the experiential understanding that “all men are brothers” in that the Atman, the sacred infinite One, resides at the heart of all things and all human beings.   It is “ignorance” that gives us the sense that we are incommensurable nations, groups, or persons who have incompatible interests and therefore irreconcilable conflicts. The consequence of the insight into this oneness is nonviolence in thought, word, and deed toward the other.  Behind the external alienation of human beings from one another, lies the true reality of the Atman.  Social, institutional, and spiritual transformation are necessary to actualize awareness of this oneness within human life.

Our current estranged state of violence, war, greed, and conflict, therefore, is overcome through the transformation toward our true condition of oneness and the nonviolent relationship between nations, groups, and persons resulting from this. Nonviolence as a way of life in which human beings live in the light of their ontological unity with others, understands that ends and means cannot be separated. The transformation to a world of nonviolent (loving) relationships can itself be effected only by that same nonviolence. Ultimately, for Gandhi, this will necessitate the development of a federal world government to facilitate the proper cooperation and nonviolent community relationships among all nations and peoples.

9. The human self-aware critical ability to envision a better and transformed state of affairs and to act on its behalf, may clearly take distorted or perverted forms, such as Nazism or Stalinism.  However, the critical dynamic of human life itself is not to blame for these travesties.  One major flaw of all such disasters is the idea that violent means can be used in the service of noble or transformative ends. Perhaps this is the ultimate flaw within the entire human project, since throughout history the drive for a transformed condition has nearly always been coupled with methodologies of organized violence. However, for its perpetrators, organized violence has also had the additional hidden benefit of enabling the domination and exploitation of dominated peoples and classes. The organized violence perpetuated by the ruling classes of history in the name of noble ideals has enabled them to benefit from its use.  The drive for a transformed condition has often served as a cover for greed and power.

10. Theories of democracy often offer the same dynamic.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau says “Man is born free but is everywhere in chains,” and he offers a social contract theory of democracy to reestablish that freedom on a higher level through the uniting of all society in a social compact that empowers and unleashes the free life-potential of each citizen. “Freedom” is the theme of many theories of democracy under the assumption that, without democracy, man’s potential is crushed or limited with very negative consequences for human life. Given the freedom that comes with true democracy, however, human potential is protected and empowered, allowing people to live creative, fulfilling, and more meaningful lives.

Immanuel Kant asserts that to live under (or establish) republican government is an a priori command of the categorical imperative of reason, which thereby establishes “freedom, equality, and independence” by law.  Living under such government, in turn, progressively adapts people to the commands of moral living.  They more and more learn to treat one another as “ends in themselves, never merely as a means.” The regulative ideal placed over society (by republican government), therefore, is, for Kant, the ideal of “the kingdom of ends,” a future in which every person will treat every other morally, as an end in themselves. Transformation here is not revolutionary but evolutionary.  Nevertheless, the dynamic of our present alienation (living, as Kant puts it, in a state of “war” with one another insofar as we lack true republican government) is transformed through the progressive actualization of authentic republican government in human affairs (under the a priori absolute moral obligation to do so), leading to a universal, morally grounded, human community.

John Locke asserts that the social contract to establish democratic government serves to protect the “life, liberty, and property” of each citizen through providing impartial laws, fair judges, and a framework protecting the common good of the whole.  The immense value of this, according to Locke, will be that people are able to reap the fruits of their own hard work and live in that right relation to God that comes through obeying reason and its moral laws.

Theories of democracy such as Locke’s are often characterized as theories of “negative freedom” in that the central function of government is to protect a priori freedoms (that it does not create since they come from God) and the idea that government must be as limited as possible if these a priori freedoms are to flourish and serve their purpose of human fulfillment and well-being.  The traditions of democratic thought running through Spinoza, Leibniz, Rousseau, Kant, and Hegel, on the other hand, are often characterized as advocating theories of “positive freedom.” In theories of positive freedom, society and government are seen as essential factors in establishing and actualizing human freedom.

11. All these theories of democracy developed, however, concomitantly with the ascendency of the capitalist economic system and the “Westphalian” system of sovereign nation-states.  Indeed, the first 17th and 18th century proponents in the struggle for overthrowing aristocratic modes of social domination and initiating democratic protection of rights and freedoms came from the Bourgeoisie, who wanted freedom commensurate with their new found wealth and power.

As capitalism colonized the entire system and the nation-state that served as its primary form of political organization (Habermas states that it even colonized the “life-world” of individual persons living within this system), the problem of the struggle for a higher level of freedom was compounded by the capitalist hegemony over the ideas produced within capitalist societies.  Marx had correctly affirmed that “the dominant ideas within class society are the ideas of its dominant class.” In any class society, the ideology spewed forth from the centers of power and communication will involve the attempt to hide, cover up, and distort the realities of power, domination, and exploitation at the base of that society. (Chapters 8 and 9 of Millennium Dawn attempt to deal with this distortion of the conceptual framework within Bourgeois society and the project of critical social theory to analyze and deal with it.)

12. Democracy and democratic theory have developed in a struggle, therefore, with the forces of domination and exploitation that characterize modernity.  It only makes sense that these forces would appropriate the concept of democracy for their own ideological ends as the chief propaganda tool through which they would hide their own denial and distortion of freedom in the service of their totalitarian economic interests.

These insights are relatively commonplace among critical social thinkers and can be found throughout the literature.  For example, in the conclusion of What Uncle Sam Really Wants, Noam Chomsky draws on the iconic image deriving from George Orwell’s 1984 to characterize the ideological framework of the U.S. since the Second World War as promoting doublethink: “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.”  In this same section, he analyzes key words used by the intellectual mandarin class within the U.S. such as “democracy,” “free enterprise,” “defense against aggression,” “peace process,” and “socialism.”  In every case, the meaning emanating from the mandarin class of journalists, government spokesmen, think tanks, and opinion leaders is precisely the opposite of the dictionary definitions of these words.

13. Relatively recent theories of democracy and positive freedom can be found in the works of such thinkers as T.H. Green, Bernard Bosanquet, Ernest Barker, Benjamin Barber, and Errol E. Harris.  Barker, for example, sees democratic society as a “system of social discussion” which fosters “the development of personality and individuality in every self.” In these theories, the democratic community forms the matrix and framework for the very possibility of freedom and individuality. The more that we maximize this sort of genuine community of mutual discussion and communication with respect to the common good and the meaning of our lives within society, the greater will be human fulfillment and well-being. 

Hence, our current condition of alienation and estrangement can be overcome through actualizing the true dimensions of community, sociality, and dialogue directed toward mutual understanding. These theories of democracy that see positive freedom as integral to the human community itself resonate with Marx’s concept of our human “species-being” that represents the true potential of our species (for cooperation, meaningful work, individual development, aesthetic fulfillment, creativity, etc.) that is suppressed under the capitalist system of exploitation and human alienation. The holistic reality of the common species-being of men and woman is blocked, distorted, and estranged by the dominant systems of fragmentation in our age, namely capitalism integrated with the Westphalian system of sovereign nation-states.

14. The distinction between these two theoretical concepts of democracy is significantly different from that made in the 1950s by Isaiah Berlin. Berlin distinguishes between “negative and positive liberty
 and claims that the attempt to create positive liberty always leads to tyranny. For freedom to exist, he says, government must be limited in many ways in order to protect this negative liberty, which is simply freedom from government interference politically and economically. To an extent, Berlin falls into the Lockean democratic tradition seeing the function of government as simply minimalist, protecting negative liberty understood as the rights of individuals to be free of both government and community interference. He does not appear to be aware of the significance and sophisticated theoretical developments regarding positive freedom and its links with human community and sociality developed by thinkers from Spinoza to Barker. However, Berlin is not only lost in the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s, but, like most professors, he functioned as a mouthpiece for the dominant system and its ideological illusions (Chomsky calls these “necessary illusions” in his book by that title).

Berlin’s use of the phrase “negative liberty” is a code word for the freedom of the plutarchy to exploit and plunder the planet. For this reason, it should be clear that there was not as much difference as often claimed between the ideological cold-war positions of the 1950s, the positions of so-called “realists” like Lyndon Johnson and Henry Kissinger of the 60s and 70s, and the ideology of the neo-conservatives of the 1980s and beyond. The drive of the neo-conservatives beginning with Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and leading to George Bush and Tony Blair through the early 21st century was typical of all political representatives of the ruling class whose job it is to provide a noble-sounding ideological cover for ruling class rule, plunder, and exploitation.  This ideological cover was affected through the rhetoric of “free trade,” “negative freedom,” “spreading democracy,” and “protecting human rights” around the world.  (The “human right” they were most eager to protect was that of private property.)

15. Even the most superficial analysis of the economic and political system during the 20th and 21st centuries would expose this ideological ruse for what it is. “Negative freedom” as promoted by Western governments means slavery for the majority of humanity and tyranny by the plutocrats behind the scenes even within so-called “democratic” societies. The recent BBC documentary by Adam Curtis entitled “The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom” depicts this struggle between negative and positive freedom (using Berlin’s article as its starting point). The documentary even, at one point, calls the negative freedom promoted by Western governments “economic democracy.”  This complete inversion of the meaning of the term “economic democracy” (as originally defined by Karl Marx in opposition to Western political democracies) exposes their systematic set of lies for what they are: the ideological cover for the rape, plunder, and pillage of the planet. Like the dominant system itself, the documentary appears to take seriously the ersatz, apologist intellectuals who are used by the system to cover up and justify its predations. Curtis interviews quacks like Leo Strauss, Isaiah Berlin, Francis Fukuyama, etc., never major critical thinkers like Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, or Michel Chossudovski.

The documentary appears to take seriously the U.S. and British led destruction of the former Yugoslavia in 1998 that was affected under the cover of “protecting human rights” and “promoting democracy.” In reality, the invasion and conquest was undertaken under the dual strategy of extending the empire (the largest permanent U.S. military base in the world, Camp Bondsteel, has since been build in Kosovo) and destroying what Chomsky calls “threats of a good example,” that is, any examples of thriving socialism in the world.  The current attack on Libya exhibits the same dynamic directed to both extending the empire and destroying successful examples of state socialism.

There are dozens of excellent scholarly books coming out analyzing this system and its dynamics, not only by the three prominent critical intellectuals just mentioned. Three recent excellent studies are Empire with Imperialism: The Globalizing Dynamics of Neo-liberal Capitalism by James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer, Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order by F. William Engdahl, and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein. Perhaps Adam Curtis is simply trying to document the actual pronouncements of the dominant sectors in Britain and the U.S. and show the disasters to which these professed policies have led, but the documentary appears to lack a critical social understanding as a base from which to orient its analysis.  Most obviously, it insists on using Berlin’s concept of “negative freedom” and appears to take seriously the claim of U.S. and British leaders that they want to spread “democracy” around the world.  Both these concepts serve as ideological covers for the drive for empire in the service of plunder of natural resources and exploitation of cheap labor worldwide by the capitalist ruling class.

16. Curtis’ account of the debacle in Russia, for example, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, even uses the Chicago School of Economics phrase “shock doctrine” in its description of the invasion of Russia by U.S. economists, advisors, and bureaucrats who were ostensibly helping with the “transition” from communism to capitalism.  He never mentions that a successful transition was never the intention at all. The U.S. knew that Russia had immense resources, advanced technology, and nuclear weapons, and that it would likely remain a major potential contender to U.S. dominance. The “conversion” operation was in reality a Trojan horse deception designed to collapse the Russian economic system entirely and return Russia to the status of a third world country easily controlled by U.S. manipulations. 

It almost worked. The economic disaster that ensued was not, as Curtis depicts it, an unintended and unfortunate result of well-intentioned advising.  It went exactly as planned.  If it had not been for Vladimir Putin’s take over and his steps to salvage some features of the old Soviet system, the attempt to bring “democracy,” U.S. style, to Russia, would have succeeded. “Democracy,” as Chomsky says, has the exact opposite meaning in the propaganda system from what is given in the dictionary. If Curtis’ documentary has a critical subtext that intends to suggest this, it is so low-key and subtle as to escape this viewer entirely.

17. My own comprehension of our human situation draws upon nearly all of the above philosophical and religious orientations, including critical social theory, perhaps adding to these a greater explicit awareness of the holism that has emerged as a new paradigm as a result of the scientific revolutions of the 20th century. The wholeness of the universe, our planetary biosphere, and the human species, both within each sphere, and with one another, is now established scientific fact.  I first articulated this paradigm shift from fragmentation to holism in a systematic fashion in the opening chapter of Toward Genuine Global Governance: Critical Reactions to “Our Global Neighborhood” (1999),edited by Errol E. Harris and James Yunker. It is spelled out in significant detail in my Ascent to Freedom (2008) and again in Triumph of Civilization (2010).

Our suicidal global problems such as climate change, poverty, militarism, resource depletion, and human rights violations cannot be adequately addressed under our current condition of fragmentation and division, at the heart of which are corporate capitalism intertwined with the Westphalian nation-state system. Neither can this system address the actualization of our true human potential for democracy, freedom, peace, or justice. Unity in diversity, that is, the holistic paradigm, is fundamentally different from fragmentation and division in that the latter promotes the fragmented parts as incommensurable with one another.  Today, this sense of incommensurability is fostered not only by global capitalism and the system of sovereign nation-states, but also by fundamentalist religions, theories of the “clash of civilizations,” through ethnic and racial bigotry, etc.

All of these factors deny and violate the holism that constitutes the (scientifically discovered) reality of our situation. Hence, our human potential for authentic religion, authentic spirituality, authentic economic relationships, authentic community, and authentic democracy is blocked by the current world system and its cultural offspring (such as fundamentalist religions).  Capitalist alienation, like the system of sovereign nation-states, fosters, as Marx correctly stated, the separation of human beings from one another, separation from our common species-being, and even from our deeper individual selves. Hence, the perceptions of incommensurability characteristic of racism, fundamentalist religions, etc., are exacerbated by the larger structural framework of fragmentation fostering manifold perceptions of division and conflict within the human population.

18. The essential practical and institutional factor that can facilitate the human transition from alienation, estrangement, separation, violence, and systems of exploitation to a condition of friendship, cooperation, community, nonviolence, and systems of justice and equality is ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

Ratification of the Earth Constitution will not automatically transform people spiritually, religiously, or socially into relationships of friendship, community, or cooperative forms of living, but it is the necessary precondition that makes this transformation possible.  By uniting all persons in an institutionalized structure of unity in diversity, and by overcoming the fragmentation of the global system of sovereign nation-states integrated with corporate capitalism, ratification of the Earth Constitution will break the hold of these gigantic institutionalized forms of fragmentation.  It will break the hold of the system of sovereign nation-states integrated with corporate capitalism both institutionally and culturally, allowing people for the first time to recognize and actualize the unity in diversity that is our true human condition.

Means and ends are perfectly in harmony here because the Constitution can only be legitimized by the democratic criteria set forth in Article 17 that show the road map by which human beings can ascend to a higher level of being and realize at least some of their historically repressed human potential for democracy, justice, peace, freedom, and equality.  It is the global social contract that provides the structural framework for the actualization of these human potentialities. Without that structural framework, these concepts remain mere “ideals” apparently impossible of attainment, for the current structural framework of corporate capitalism interlocked with the sovereign nation-state system actively militates against their realization.

Our higher human destiny is actualized when we decide to move to the next higher stage in the evolution of human existence: we ascend to an institutionalized recognition of our common life as a single species living on spaceship Earth.  This will be a key step in the process of actualizing our higher human potential as conceptualized by nearly all of the above philosophies and religions. By democratically and nonviolently ratifying the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, we take the key step toward realizing our evolutionary destiny, what Paulo Freire called “our ontological vocation to become more fully human.”

            Glen T. Martin is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Program in Peace Studies at Radford University.  He is also Secretary-general of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) and President of the Institute on World Problems (IOWP).  Copyright 2011.

The Beauty of the World and Our Essential Humanity

Glen T. Martin

July 2010

During my lifetime I have spent a great deal of time in a cabin on a mountain lake in New York State, surrounded by forest and the beauty of nature. I have come to realize that that beauty is not separable from me in my purely human nature. The glory and beauty of the world arises through us, and its majesty calls us to live with serenity, dignity, justice, and nobility within this unspeakable splendor.

As a boy of 12 or 14 years, I was curious about the mysterious ever-changing patterns in the waters of the lake.  There would appear dark areas in the bay or long, straight streaks which appeared without ripples within the regular waves of the bay. The water displayed as many moods and varieties of motion, light, and texture as did the sky with its immense clouds, modes of lighting, and innumerable hues of color. In those days I rowed a boat or paddled a canoe all over this large, beautiful bay. I repeatedly rowed or paddled to where the dark, calm, or steaks on the water appeared to be only to consistently find that the water in these places was no different in its wavelets, motion, or coloration than any other location. The phenomena that I observed from afar did not appear to be there upon close inspection

I understood something then that only later dawned on me in its implications. The sparkles on the waves, the light and dark variations in the water, the changing patterns and shapes on the bay, were the product of a vast multiplicity of factors – sunlight, winds, temperatures, and the ever-moving waters viewed from ever-changing angles of observation and perceptual conditions. The amazing lines, designs, shadows, and light patterns in the water were inseparable from the observer, from the angle of light and the many ambient conditions surrounding the observer at the time of observation. Like the rainbow, the patterns and lines on the water were not observable apart from the observer, from the light entering the eye and the unique angle and conditions of vision. I was inseparably connected to the world. The beauty of the world did not exist except for me in my essential humanity. Yet the beauty of the world was the most real, the most objective possible phenomenon.

“The observer is the observed,” as J. Krishnamurti declares. The beauty of the world is not “merely” subjective. The split of human subjectivity from “the objective world apart from our perception of it” is a very limited distinction, useful in science and other circumscribed circumstances. However, there is a deeper level transcending this distinction. The beauty of the world rises to the status of objective reality as human beings emerge out of the foundations of the universe, actualizing the potential for beauty, meaning, value, and delight inherent in its foundations. Sri Aurobindo writes, “the universe and the individual are necessary to each other in their ascent.”

The beauty of the world remains and inexplicable mystery that no aesthetic theory has been able to fully explain. The complex play of light and dark, the dynamic of form and shape, the subtlety of hue and tone, the delicacies of texture and depth, the angle and conditions of observation, the synthetic composition of the whole – all this happening every moment as we look at the water, then the sky, then the forest.

The sacred value of the world, like the sacred value of our lives within the world, connects in some way with this beauty, which includes not only the beauty of nature but the beauty of the human form and face. As D.H. Lawrence proclaims, “whatever the unborn and the dead may know, they cannot know the beauty, the marvel of being alive in the flesh…. We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living, incarnate cosmos.” We also have the sense that the universe expects something of us, that we should be doing something that we are not now doing.

We ourselves manifest that incarnate cosmos bringing beauty and value to the world with our ineluctable emergence into self-awareness and the splendid radiance of the world’s beauty. The moonbeams on the rippled water always follow our canoe and always point directly from the moon to each of us, anywhere in the world. The sun always shines directly to each of us, the precious “eachness” of our humanity, inseparable from our common essential human being. We have burst upon the world only in the past few thousand years after the long evolutionary process of 12 billion years of cosmic preparation. The universe now shines in immense glory after eons of silent, unselfconscious nurturing.

In the 18th century, the great philosopher Immanuel Kant identified the two things that filled him with awe and wonder the more consistently and profoundly he reflected on them: “the starry skies above and the moral law within.” Kant articulates the great dual glory of our emergent human nature: we are at once a personal freedom through whom freedom enters into the universe in the form of the moral dimension of personal choice, responsibility, and action, and we are the integral source of the beauty of the cosmos, its starry skies, its astonishing patterns, the emergent fullness of existence for which we “ought to dance with joy.” We are at once the eachness of personal freedom and dignity and the generic appurture through which the glory of the universe bursts into being.

The limited distinction between the “merely subjective” and “objective reality” independent of ourselves yields to a deeper, more fundamental level of awareness. The glory of our evolving humanity is that we bring emergent qualities into the universe integral to both the cosmos and our humanity. The freedom of the universe expresses itself through us, and the beauty of nature scintillates into actuality through our essential being. As a boy I knew nothing of this, but only intuited the inseparability of the observer from the observed. These many years later, I understand and feel that oneness with the universe, and that cosmic destiny, ever-more deeply. The beauty of the forest, the water, and the sky burst into radiance through me, through my humanity, through my potential divinity.