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A global ethos: Imperative for world governance

A global ethos: Imperative for world governance

By Pete Haug

As inhabitants of earth, we share one homeland. Uncountable wars throughout history suggest we’ve not yet learned to play nicely in our sandbox. But some of us are trying and possibly succeeding. We Americans live in the oldest continuous experiment of democratic self-governance, with all its zits, warts, and speedbumps.          

A century ago a similar attempt was unsuccessful, but the League of Nations planted seeds that sprouted in 1941. Great Britain had been enduring relentless bombing for 22 months when nine exiled governments, harboring in London, signed the Declaration of St. James’s Palace, proclaiming: “[T]he only true basis of enduring peace is the willing co-operation of free peoples in a world in which, relieved of the menace of aggression, all may enjoy economic and social security…”

These beginnings spawned the United Nations. In 1945, representatives from 50 nations met in San Francisco in another effort to restore and maintain global peace. That same year, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin published a prescient essay, “A Great Event Foreshadowed: The Planetization of Mankind.”

Teilhard de Chardin’s essay represents an overarching vision of an Earth teeming with biophysical interconnections, a system of systems, macro to micro. He sees “socialization of Mankind” as “irresistible.” The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, issued in 1948, recognizes “the inherent dignity and…the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

The Parliament of the World’s Religions published “Declaration toward a Global Ethic” in 1993 and updated it in 2018 to include “ecological issues.” It was drafted by theologian Hans Kung, who wrote elsewhere, “There will be peace on earth when there is peace among the world religions.” A trend is threading its way into global consciousness.

The problem with nation states

A 2014 New Scientist article comments, “Nation states cause some of our biggest problems, from civil war to climate inaction.” The author asks readers “to envisage a world without countries,” to “imagine a map not divided into neat, colored patches, each with clear borders, governments, laws.” She cites a growing feeling among economists, political scientists, and even national governments that “the nation state is not necessarily the best scale on which to run our affairs.” She observes that “national agendas repeatedly trump the global good,” whereas city and regional administrations “often seem to serve people better than national governments.” Such a model, coupled with a global ethic might just prevail.

A world commonwealth governed by a universal ethos

None of the above ideas is new. In the 19th century, Baha’u’llah laid out a spiritually based universal ethos for creating social structures to achieve and maintain a peaceful civilization. Earlier FāVS posts presented some foundational ideas for such a civilization.

Baha’u’llah’s ideas for a world commonwealth include a world executive, legislature, and tribunal. These complementary branches of government will function differently, but their members will share a common spiritual ethos to guide their decisions, individually and collectively.

That ethos begins with recognition of a single creator, God, the author of all revealed religions – which are fundamentally one – eventually unifying the entire human race. Such unification “implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united.” At the same time, the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of individuals will be “definitely and completely safeguarded.”

A legislature, as “trustees of the whole of mankind, ultimately controlling the entire resources of all the component nations,” will enact laws “to regulate the life, satisfy the needs and adjust the relationships of all races and peoples.” A world executive, supported by an international force, will carry out decisions and laws enacted by that legislature, safeguarding “the organic unity of the whole commonwealth.” A world tribunal will “adjudicate and deliver its compulsory and final verdict in all and any disputes” that may arise within this system.

There’s much more within this comprehensive vision of a peaceful, unified world commonwealth. Secular forces have been moving in this direction for more than a century. A recent example is the book “Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century,” published last year.

Baha’is have been working toward this aim since the 19th century. Recent letters have included such observations as these: “For the first time in history it is possible for everyone to view the entire planet, with all its myriad diversified peoples, in one perspective. World peace is not only possible but inevitable. It is the next stage in the evolution of this planet…’the planetization of mankind’.”

As Baha’u’llah wrote, “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”

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