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Friday, August 22, 2008

It's time for the rule of law...

While the Cold War has ended, there are of course still regularly conflicts around the world where one group claims the right to self-determination (as enshrined in the United Nations charter) and another (or others) disputes the "self" or "determination" of the other. Widows, widowers, and orphans are made regularly out of this anarchy.

The only way in which an impartial determination can be made is for a higher representative authority (read: a reformed United Nations) to agree on and establish such borders. We all recognize that city disputes can be regulated by national authorities. It's high time national disputes become regulated by international institutions.

And in order for this to be able to occur, while not being rosy-eyed about the realities and challenges, its also high time for humanity to drop its self-defeating (and unscientific) cynicism about the race's capacity to organize itself into a higher unit of organization and to drop its irrational, self-defeating, and frankly childish fear that such a reorganization would inevitably lead to some kind of stifling Orwellian Big Brother state, any more than our history of organizing into nation-states has inevitably led to Big Brother nations (yes, the threat of terrorism may have led to more intrusive or excessive measures within some nation-states of late, but that threat itself occurred and occurs more readily because of a lack of a viable and just international order). Indeed, in order to establish a sufficiently strengthened world state, justice, common ground, and respect for diversity is necessary (as was the case with the formation of the United States itself) and would facilitate unhampered expression of human potential in its diversity, just as a just rule of law within a nation, enables diverse people to coexist and find expression for their own potential. The Articles of Confederation proved that a weak constitution cannot bring unity, while a federated one can.

So, with a more scientific approach, one which doesn't take fashionable statements about human beings being inevitable war-mongers; even for stark nationalists who are solely concerned with their own country--the only promise for the development of oneself (or one's country) is a balanced integration with the world.

While it may be reasonable and even incumbent on me to defend my neighbor, if police are not around to do so, if I become embroiled in a local conflict (let's say with a neighbor who claimed his property extended to another neighbor's), my own objectivity might be called into question by other neighbors if I were to take sides in the dispute. So, humanity has learned enough, through trial and error, that laws must be made to make clear exactly what land boundaries are, and so within nations, to a large extent, we don't inevitably have problems with say Illinois trying to forcefully push its borders into Indiana. Sure there are water disputes, etc., but these also can often be handled by appeals to a higher authority--and they certainly don't inevitably lead to armed conflict! It's not because Illinoisans are inherently more civilized than other peoples living where border disputes occur (though being originally an Illinoisan myself, I might wish to make that argument). It's foremost because there is a mindset that we all belong to one higher unit (the U.S.)--a mindset which did not occur on its own but which had to be actively promoted through education and P.R. at the country's inception by the state's founders (just as world citizenship needs to be promoted actively around the world now)--and that higher unit has the authority (and is respected through elected and balance-of-powers accountability) to intervene if there is a local conflict because the borders have been blessed by legal recognition. The problem is that if we only bow to the false god of nationalism, the mindset that my identity is foremost a U.S. citizen (just as if say some Mexicans, to take one border issue impinging with the U.S., only believe they are Mexicans), I will inevitably be closed to international solutions which in some cases might alone bring peace to myself as well as to Mexicans. People must shake off the mental shackles that they must be wholly allied to some narrowly-defined, man-made grouping, with partisan mindsets incapable of transcending their thinking to a broader, more sympathetic level. This is not to encourage undermining legitimate loyalties and understandable primary concern for those more close-to-home; rather, it is to fulfill them. If you really love your country, you must love the world, just as if you really love your home-town, you must love the country which enables it to flourish.

"True civilization will unfurl its banner in the midmost heart of the world whenever a certain number of its distinguished and high-minded sovereigns -- the shining exemplars of devotion and determination -- shall, for the good and happiness of all mankind, arise, with firm resolve and clear vision, to establish the Cause of Universal Peace. They must make the Cause of Peace the object of general consultation, and seek by every means in their power to establish a Union of the nations of the world. They must conclude a binding treaty and establish a covenant, the provisions of which shall be sound, inviolable and definite. They must proclaim it to all the world and obtain for it the sanction of all the human race. This supreme and noble undertaking -- the real source of the peace and well-being of all the world -- should be regarded as sacred by all that dwell on earth. All the forces of humanity must be mobilized to ensure the stability and permanence of this Most Great Covenant. In this all-embracing Pact the limits and frontiers of each and every nation should be clearly fixed, the principles underlying the relations of governments towards one another definitely laid down, and all international agreements and obligations ascertained. In like manner, the size of the armaments of every government should be strictly limited, for if the preparations for war and the military forces of any nation should be allowed to increase, they will arouse the suspicion of others. The fundamental principle underlying this solemn Pact should be so fixed that if any government later violate any one of its provisions, all the governments on earth should arise to reduce it to utter submission, nay the human race as a whole should resolve, with every power at its disposal, to destroy that government. Should this greatest of all remedies be applied to the sick body of the world, it will assuredly recover from its ills and will remain eternally safe and secure."

`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization. Trans. Marzieh Gail. (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. 1957.) pp. 64-65.

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