global peace, do unto others....
GLOBAL PEACE, do unto others...
Neighborhood: A Moral Not Geographic Place
The living sacred biosphere of which the human community is but a part is threatened by the ways in which we humans treat each other and the worlds living systems. At a conference in Moscow several years ago, Very Reverend James Parks Morton, Dean Emeritus of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, said:
Our relationship with the biosphere is not scripturally based on ownership, but rather on the privilege of living in Gods creation and the obligation to be its caretakers. The earth is the Lords.
As caretakers we must affirm in every manner possible our underlying interconnectedness as one magnificent and varied human family, living in different conditions but sharing a commitment to core values all humanity can uphold. As the Commission on Global Governance stated:
We need a set of common values around which we can unite people, irrespective of their cultural, political, religious or philosophical backgrounds... Foremost of these values must include the duty of care for ones neighbor. In a neighborhood, all are neighbors. In our global neighborhoods, therefore, our duty of care is owed to all who share the planet. The duty, of course, is more compelling the more a neighbor needs care.
Neighborhood is not a geographic but moral definition. It is a model consistent with the growing recognition of interdependencies, whether economic or environmental. But this is a relatively new model in government and law.
In law, for example, there are three models of relationships. Nations make agreements, such as treaties, as sovereign entities always reserving the right of withdrawal for their supreme national interest. Market place entities, corporations. or individuals, make arms length agreements, such as contracts, defining rights and responsibilities held together by judicial enforcement. The family is premised on the legal union of people. Families live as one where each feels the joys and sorrows of the other as their own. Each parent is the caretaker of the children, and husbands and wives share life in unity. In family the supreme interest of self is the well being of all.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines a set of family values appropriate to the visions of the earth the astronauts photos reveal -- one living organism of interconnected lives. The Declaration begins emphasizing that recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. The family values of ethnic, racial, religious or nationalistic prejudice, the family values of my family only with no deep concern for the rest of humanity is far too narrow a condition to be called fully human in this day and age.
The family values upon which the Declaration of Human Rights are often perverted in the world of affairs between nations. Professor Stephen Van Evera of MIT characterizes this condition bluntly:
The international arena is a brutal back alley inhabited by governments whose conduct is largely driven by greed, mutual fear, occasional stupidity, and little regard for general human welfare. These governments worry actively about the suffering of people living beyond their borders, only when the suffering threatens their own well being.
A brief observation of our humanity and the numerous examples of almost any period of human history is replete with horrors; adequate justification to believe the world is an unredeemable place. In the last fifty years alone there have been over 200 wars with more than 25 million killed. Yes, there is evidence that life is suffering and there are reasons to rely primarily on the threat and use of violence for security.
But this rationale is incomplete; it is flawed in its denial of our humanity and the numerous examples of self- government and justice arising from our capacities of enlightened self-interest, reason and compassion. Because we have the capacity to behave with ignorance, we are not condemned to do so. Every major religion has foundations of ethical brilliance based on the Golden Rule; numerous countries allow us to live with unprecedented liberty and wealth because of social cooperation. Now we face global issues and the UN Charter is a collective proclamation of humanitys commitment to rise above ignorance and to move from the law of power to the power of law.
As Congressman James Leach stated so eloquently in his Introduction of Defining Purpose: The UN and the Health of Nations, The Final Report of the United States Commission on Improving the Effectiveness of the United Nations (Sept. 1993):
Only an optimistic assessment of human nature makes the prospect of greater world law and order imaginable. For philosophers like Hobbes, self-centered man cannot put himself in the shoes of others; he cannot find his way out of the jungle where life is nasty, brutish and short, because he has no capacity for mutual accommodation. For Marx, malleable man, the tool for determinist forces, needs to be controlled; he could never take responsibility for forging his own destiny. For Locke and his philosophical stepson, Jefferson, mans fate can be viewed more optimistically. Individuals are not only presumed to be born with rights no legitimate state can take away, but with a rational nature capable of developing institutional arrangements to protect and preserve those rights.
For the world to cope with old problems of wars and new problems of arms control and environmental poisoning, the optimist assumption must hold; that just as mans propensity to maximize self interest makes the establishment of civil society a survivalist imperative, so mans capacity for compromise, for reasoned give and take, makes a civilized community possible... Never in the course of human events has it been more important for individuals in public life to appeal to the highest rather than the lowest instinct of the body politic...The stakes are too high. And he ends his thoughts reflecting on Americas role: In America in particular there is no place for self centered isolationism. Americans cannot walk away from great history or deny a greater destiny.
Not only is the body politic of America a wondrous example of organization, but we must look closer to our own beings for the imperative of inspiration. Each and every natural creation is miraculous. In all of the natural creation we can observe the intricate interplay of the delicate balances of life acting in harmonious patterns which stun the mind in their complexity and beauty. Should not the human community recognize its own exalted potential? Is not this realization a matter of survival in this age? Banding together with solid ties of family and community, humans throughout history have demonstrated cooperative and organizational abilities and capacities for caring. Upon reflection we can each discover that the concerns we feel for others are not driven by self-interest or external authority. They arise from the very core of our being.
I believe that our future is largely determined by the view of the human condition we choose.
We are in a time of crisis, a time of choice. The brilliant and recently departed Gerald Mische, a founder of Global Education Associates said:
All of history has been leading to the present moment of decision. Ours is not a time to surrender imagination and courage. It is, above all, a time to affirm and take bold initiatives toward the emergence of a new era in the whole earth community... The Chinese character for crisis includes two concepts: that of imminent decay and that of imminent breakthrough. Both possibilities exist simultaneously.
Science progresses geometrically and weapons of mass destruction will become increasingly easy to produce technologically. Principled institutional transformations must be accelerated. The irony is that for science to progress it had to break out of the old Newtonian worldview and adopt the insightful theories of relativity propounded by Albert Einstein. We must now quickly adopt Einsteins peace paradigms if we are to survive the capacities the new scientific paradigms have given us.
It is fear that generated the multibillion-dollar complexes of death. It is fear which has led us to strategies for war from the atomic and microbiological realms right through the entire physical world and into space... strategies for killing, with rationales and machines... universities teaching the reasons for and the methods of total and complete annihilation. There is an alternative to living in fear.
We have the capacity to analyze perennial values that respond positively to our collective challenge. It is love that can lead us to strategies from deep within our hearts to create institutional structures for peace where the majesty of the preciousness of life will be respected from the microbiological realm into the infinite firmaments.
Let the hearts of each of us be the beginning of such a place of love, peace and forgiveness. Let each of us challenge ourselves, our political bodies, our churches, temples, mosques and indeed the United Nations and our member States with the seriousness of our commitment. Let each of us remember the sanctity of everyday life, and in all humility the power of destruction or blessing the awesome human life possesses. Let each of us choose the road that blesses and relies on love. The short span of years we each have can be filled with an awareness of exaltedness contained in our full humanity or with an apathy that accepts the reliance on the threat and use of violence. Our alternatives could not be clearer.
The power of these beautiful qualities should never be underestimated. Look at the example of the power released through the forgiveness of Nelson Mandela. Why should we doubt the power of conscience, the power of love? Is it because our deepest fear is that we are actually the expressions of the Creators divine brilliance and that if we allow room for accepting such majesty our responsibility to one another will increase? Will not our duties to care and be expressions of compassion increase?
Yes, and all those who have willingly and with clear faith and certain intention accepted such responsibility report to humanity in every culture since time recorded that such a life is filled with meaning and peace. Let us then go forth allowing the light of our intrinsic goodness and dignity to shine and thus unconsciously giving permission for others to open and shine. Let us not shrink from the beauty that our hearts can express, a beauty that naturally liberates in untold ways, spiritual and political. Let us not shrink in faith. There is indeed a Grantor of this glorious neighborhood. Along with the privilege of living in it we are granted the privilege of giving thanks. Let us never forget that privilege. Thank you.
Jonathan Granoff is an attorney , author, award-winning screenwriter (The Constitution: The Document that Created a Nation) and public advocate for the legal, ethical and spiritual dimension of human development and peace. He is President of the Global Security Institute, Vice President and UN Representative of LAWS (Lawyers Alliance for World Security), VP of the NGO Committee on Disarmament at the UN, and advisor to the International Association. of Sufism. He is co-chair, American Bar Association, Committee on Arms Control and National Security. Having studied with Sufi Master Bawa Muhaiyaddeen since his youth, he is honored by receiving his name-sake, Ahamed Muhaiyaddeen.