28 January 2011

Geography of the Universal Human Nation

The Spokesperson of World without Wars and Violence writes a series of articles envisioning how a future society based on peace and nonviolence could be. The Argentine philosopher and author, Silo, called this world the Universal Human Nation. In this first article the political geography is dealt with, outlining possible new foundations for such a society.
Image by: Wikimedia Commons
Earth from Space
Krakow, 1/27/11 

Over the coming months in our international bulletin we will start to outline some positions regarding what we’re trying to achieve with World without Wars. From the name of the organisation everyone knows that we are to do with the eradication of wars and the eradication of violence, most people (but not everyone) would understand that this also implies eradication of nuclear weapons and the conversion of military expenditure into economic production and development, others will also make the logical step that this means improved human rights, eradication of poverty and a new economic system. I wonder how many people would be able to take the further steps of imagining a world without borders, without passports and without money?

Silo gave a name to this strange, new, non-violent world we are aiming for. He called it the Universal Human Nation. In this series we will start to picture how this world could be. We know that we’re capable of achieving anything we can imagine, so let’s try to create some inspiring images. Maybe if we have it clear where we’re going then we’ll be able to see more clearly how to get there.

In the first article we explore the Geography of the Universal Human Nation.

Geography of the Universal Human Nation

By Tony Robinson, the international spokesperson of World without Wars and Violence

First of all to be clear we are not talking about the physical geography; the rivers, the deserts, oceans and mountains. We may assume that we’ll create this world on the planet we already live on rather than searching for a new planet that can support life and that would accept having us there.

Rather we’re talking about the political geography; the lines drawn on maps, the power accumulated by people within those lines, and the passports and visas that human beings must carry to move from one side of a line on a map to another.

Utopia, the League of Nations, the United Nations
The concept of an ideal society is nothing new. Even before Sir Thomas More—the English philosopher and Renaissance Humanist—wrote his book, Utopia, in 1561, which later went on to symbolise any society governed by an ideal socio-politico-legal system, there have been various proposals for an ideal society, starting with Plato’s Republic in the 4th century BCE, in which Socrates and others proposed a city ruled by philosopher-kings. "Philosophers [must] become kings…or those now called kings [must]…genuinely and adequately philosophize"

Following the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant’s proposals in 1795, the League of Nations was eventually established in 1920, but proved unable to stop the onset of World War II.

The disaster of the 2nd World War led, within weeks, to the signing in San Francisco of the United Nations Charter by 50 States, and came into force shortly thereafter with the final ratification by the five permanent members of the security council on October 24th 1945.
It is clear that today’s global association of States has also been unable to prevent wars. Moreover it has also shown itself incapable of eradicating poverty, halting climate change, achieving universal education, securing human rights, etc, and although some things have been achieved by UN agencies such as the eradication of smallpox, there are few successes of note and as much as we are led to believe by the media that life on the planet has never been better, this is not the daily experience for nearly the entire population of the planet.

Territorial conflicts
Despite the existence of the UN and the apparent end of colonialism in the last century, there are an extraordinary number of territorial conflicts. 200 such conflicts are listed in Wikipedia, including the internationally well-known disputes between the Koreas, Israel and Palestine, the Falklands-Malvinas, Kashmir, etc.

There are others which are just as explosive such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia (which led to a very short war between Russia and Georgia in 2008), Serbia-Kosovo and the Kuril Islands disputed by Japan and Russia.

And there are others that have been going on for so long that they are almost forgotten by the rest of the world like the Western Sahara and Bolivia’s claim to territory lost over 100 years ago in a war with Chile.

Finally there are those that although not likely to lead to conflict appear increasing bizarre in a world advancing towards regionalisation such is the case of Gibraltar.

In addition to these international conflicts, the world is littered with nationalist movements, some stronger than others, in different parts of the world fighting for independence from States which refuse such claims. Such is the case of Scotland in the UK, Quebec in Canada, Catalonia and the Basque country in Spain, Tibet, Aceh in Indonesia and the Kurds in Turkey among others.

And then on top of this there are the peoples, cultures and nations in different countries who cry out for independence and justice and at the very least the right to self-determination from countries created by former colonial powers, illustrated by the Mapuche people in Chile, the Australian Aborigines and the Maoris of New Zealand.

The illusion of the “State”
What is it that makes a man in London say, “The Falklands are British!” so emphatically? What on Earth do these islands 6000 miles away in a different hemisphere have to do with a Londoner? In a world where colonialism is supposedly a thing of the past, what possible justification can there be for such a claim? Yet, we can say the same thing of the PorteƱo in Buenos Aires who says “Las Malvinas son de Argentina!” with the same justification and conviction. Although much closer geographically to the South Atlantic Islands, the Argentine is hardly more likely than the Englishman to even want to go and visit, let alone to live there! Why is it then that people in one territory believe they have the right to claim another territory as their own even if they will never go there?

The reason is that we are under the illusion that concepts such as “the State” are vitally important for our lives and that security is achieved because we have them. We believe that a strong State is the only thing to protect us from other strong States that are out to invade us and take our “country”. Of course this is not surprising because this is the sad path of human history until now. Hundreds of millions of people have died in order to draw lines on maps. But where are these lines? You can’t physically see them. The birds and animals don’t notice them, yet human beings somehow feel that what they see on their side of the line is theirs and on the other side of the line belongs to someone else and they pass on these views on the next generation. And they can even be persuaded to kill others who claim the line is in the wrong place. This is how powerful the illusion is.

Of course, these positions haven’t come from nowhere. Somehow they’ve entered human consciousness because of someone’s intentionality—given that the lines are abstract human constructions—and they must be fulfilling some useful purpose for someone because they’re still here.

Fortunately the new generations don't see things the same way. They find themselves in an old world, in an old way of doing things. They're not interested in the politics that divide.

They’re interested in communication and connection. Whenever territories are disputed by someone it can be for a number of reasons, first the obvious case of those oppressed who live in a place occupied by a Government that isn’t located in that territory. These people are generally discriminated against and oppressed in all manner of subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Why wouldn’t these people want self-determination and dispute their occupation?
Then there are those in a different territory who feel somehow that they have a right to control another territory, or they believe that expressing this point of view will be somehow beneficial to them. For centuries we have been fed Nationalism in our cultures, in our education system and in our media. In these days it seems to be harmlessly channelled into sport and team sports, especially soccer, take on huge national importance. However, it doesn’t stay in sport, as the list of territorial conflicts testifies.

Politicians of all colours have become experts in using territorial disputes to appear strong, and to deflect the criticism of opposition parties when in Government. Margaret Thatcher, former UK Prime Minister, was heading for a humiliating defeat at the hands of a new opposition party until General Galtierri sent Argentinean troops into Port Stanley. She won the next election and the one after that on the back of the Nationalism generated, with dire consequences for the millions of unemployed people caused by her party’s ideology.

Then there are seemingly more complicated cases where people living in the same territory believe that the government of the territory should be controlled by other people of the same culture/religion/heritage as themselves. Such is the case of the Balkans and the Middle East.
Many groups have for centuries been claiming the right to live on the territory and control it. Their forefathers killed the forefathers of another faction, relatives of these forefathers sought revenge, which led to more revenge, and so on and so on for centuries. For very long periods of time people from one faction, lived and died, set roots, practiced religion and enjoyed their culture, later a war resulted in their eviction and replacement by another faction that did exactly the same, while hatred was growing and revenge being planned by yet a third faction.
However, even here, factions don’t spontaneously reach for their weapons and start killing people. Someone or some group is always there organising, feeding the propaganda and inciting the violence.

The power behind government
Behind any form of government are those in control of the military, the economy and the media. Without these three elements it is very difficult for a Government to remain in power. When these powers feel themselves at risk of losing control they will take whatever measures necessary in order to avoid this. Just as the military, the banks and the media are all capable of bringing down a Government when the Government no longer sings the right song.
So, one of the tactics always used by the power behind government is to resort to Nationalism. Given that the education system has drilled into every nation’s youth the mythical story of a proud and noble Nation, with associated songs, myths, symbols and holidays, the people never fail to respond to the call to protect the nation or to claim for what has been “unfairly stolen”. It would be nice to say that the electorate is a force behind a Government and that the electorate can bring a Government down too, but rarely do we see the people mobilised or acting in this way. Of course Gandhi and Luther King through their spiritual leadership brought about social change by inspiring the people, and the fall of the Berlin Wall and Communist Governments across Central and Eastern Europe was brought about by the will of the people expressed without violence, but this is not the everyday experience. This latter case though is an interesting case of a national illusion suddenly disappearing, the people wake up, they feel the failure, and they act to change the situation. Something like this will be required to create a Universal Human Nation.
In these days we see the protests in Tunisia that although not non-violent, have certainly shown how the people have woken up to the illusion they were living under that they were powerless to change anything. We do not know how events will unfold but this is an interesting moment for the people to reflect on their future and we wish them well in this reflection.

The Universal Human Nation - a world without Borders
Why are the borders and passports required? So that the people within the borders know who to pay their taxes to. Why does a State require bigger borders? So that the Government can raise more taxes and control whatever natural resources exist beyond their borders.
In a UHN we can imagine physical borders are not required because there would be no need to keep people within borders. Where ever people may live or work they will pay their taxes and receive the same quality of public services. Although there may be administrative reasons for lines on maps to exist to mark the boundary between local administrations, the increasingly high quality of public services available should not vary.

The natural resources within the Earth’s crust belong to the entire population of the planet, or to no-one depending on your point of view. The benefits gained from the exploitation of these resources should go to the benefit of the entire world population thereby alleviating the need for one State to appropriate the territory of other States.

Silo’s Fourth letter to my friends says, “It is through power over… the State that violence can be established and perpetuated. Because of this, social organisation will require an advanced type of coordination that is safe from any concentration of power, whether private or of the State.” What better way to eradicate State and inter-State violence, than to eradicate the concept and to create this advanced type of coordination.

“But how will we continue to support our national Soccer team,” I can hear people shout as they read these words. Well, why do you need the concept of State or a passport to support a national Soccer team?

Silo differentiated between a State, “an entity that in fact has to do with certain forms of government regulated by law” and a Nation, “What defines a nation is the mutual recognition established between people who identify with similar values and aspire to a common future.”

Once all of us on the planet agree that the value we aspire to is the value of human life: overcoming human pain and suffering in ourselves and those around us; once we agree on the importance of mutual recognition and see each other as human beings and not objects; once we agree to treat others as we would like to be treated; and once we agree that the profound connection between us is greater than the State or any institution then maybe the implementation of this Utopia will be possible and we can make this common future a reality.

Tony Robinson is the International Spokesperson for the organisation World without Wars and Violence

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