Violence is the main obstacle to human development. There is an intrinsic link between violence and religion, patriarchal gender violence being the most pervasive expression of religious violence. Mitigating violence therefore requires overcoming the patriarchal mindset, especially in religious institutions. The mission of this independent newsletter is to provide a commented digest on current research and emerging issues related to human solidarity, ecological sustainability, and both religious and secular non-violence. The U.N. "Millennium Development Goals" (MDGs) are used as a point of reference.
Theme of this Issue Human Dimension of Sustainable Development
To further amplify on the theme of the month, the invited paper is What Does It Mean to be Human? It is written by Therese F. Hicks, and Irish psychotherapist, and offers significant insights on human nature and human behavior. At the end of the day, it is all about "know thyself" and the realization that growing in self-knowledge requires help, both from within and from the communities in which we live. Both are readily available, and both require our cooperation: "no pain, no gain."
Human development, both individual and communitarian, entails the concrete totality of human life -- biologically, psychologically, and spiritually. Therefore, sustainable development should be "understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence". The so-called three pillars of sustainable development are social development, economic development, and environmental protection:
Figure 1 - The Three Pillars of Sustainable Development
Source: Wikipedia and UNESCO
"Climate change is the defining human development issue of our generation. All development is ultimately about expanding human
potential and enlarging human freedom. It is about people developing the capabilities that empower them to make choices and to lead
lives that they value. Climate change threatens to erode human freedoms and limit choice. It calls into question the Enlightenment principle that human progress will make the future look better than the past" (Executive Summary, page 7).
It is noteworthy that, even though the U.N. is a secular institution, it is explicitly recognized that human development includes not only biophysical development but also "intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual" development. The "higher" phases of human development generally build on the "lower" ones (it is hard to undertake the inner journey while lacking the basic necessities such as water, food, clothing, housing) but there is no fixed order. Some poor people develop to moral and spiritual maturity. Some rich people remain morally and spiritually underdeveloped.
Historically, the general expectation is that the average quality of life improves over time. This may be true, but it is also a fact that the gap between the very rich and the very poor is widening worldwide, in which case averages are meaningless. One rule seems to be universally valid: "it is better to give than to receive"; and, for human development, the most salutary mode of giving is self-giving. In the following sections, we consider the historical context for four stages of human development as manifested by self-giving:
Homo sapiens, the rational human being with social behavior driven by basic human needs
Homo economicus, the rational human being driven by self-interest as top priority
Homo solidarius, the rational human being willing to balance self-interest with the common good
Homo eucharisticus, the rational human being willing to forsake self-interest for the common good
The term Homo sapiens refers to the rational human being with social behavior driven by basic human needs. The emergence of Homo sapiens may go as far back to 200,000 years ago, probably in Africa. No attempt is made here to elaborate on the origins of humankind, as our concern is more about the present and the future. The following online resources provide a good starting point for readers who want to explore the origins and subsequent history of humanity:
The book of Genesis was written as recently as 4,000 years ago. By then, social behavior had become patriarchal. Again, how the patriarchal model became dominant (about 10,000 years ago?) is beyond the scope of this essay. But it is a fact of life that patriarchy has determined the most basic of human relations (i.e., male-female relations) since the inception of recorded history. Genesis 1.1 to 3:16 is basically a story about this process, in which (for those in the Judeo-Christian tradition) the will of God for humankind is revealed albeit mediated by all the limitations of the human condition.
Patriarchy is a corruption of the original unity of man and woman, and to this day persists as the greatest barrier to human development. But the voice of God continues to resound in the events of history, and perhaps we are reaching the point where patriarchal domination is replaced by authentic communion between men and women. One important factor to consider at this point is the explosive population growth that started just a few centuries ago, as shown in Figure 1.
"The first step is to desire money. The second step, to seek power. The third step, to demand honors. From these, all other vices follow." Spiritual Exercises, 142, St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556)
The term Homo economicus refers to the rational human being who applies science and technology with self-interest as top priority.
Homo sapiens remains Homo sapiens, but now humans acquire much greater power to produce, use, and abuse goods and services in massive quantities. This transition to augment human physical power with the power of nature (such as chemical reactions) and the power of machinery (such as the Watt steam engine) is generally known as the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution is one of the decisive bifurcation points in the history of humanity. It was not an instantaneous event, but rather a process that took place in England during approximately one hundred years (1760-1860). The worldwide repercussions continue unfolding to this day. For more information on the industrial revolution and Homo economicus:
Advances in the manipulation of physical and chemical elements, and the advent of machinery, became commercialized rather quickly, with enormous financial gain for those who controlled the "factors of production." Homo sapiens was no longer restricted to farming and trading at the local level. Homo economicus then emerged as a human with an insatiable appetite for financial gain and wealth accumulation. Money became the new idol. The monetary value of annual production became a measure of annual progress for a nation, a region, and the entire world. This measure was gradually refined and became the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). And this monetary value, divided by population, became "GDP per capita". For Homo economicus, this is the ultimate measure of the quality of life for humans. Consider Table 1.
"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith (1723-1790)
"Political economy does not treat the whole of man’s nature as modified by the social state, nor of the whole conduct of man in society. It is concerned with him solely as a being who desires to possess wealth, and who is capable of judging the comparative efficacy of means for obtaining that end." Principles of Political Economy, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
Note: This graph was obtained from Google Advanced News Search by simply running the query "violence" for each decade, 1900 to 2000, and recording (at the end of each decade) the approximate number of news found containing the word "violence." The numbers have not been adjusted to take into account population growth and the total number of news posted and captured by the search engine. This is just a visualization exercise. However, it would seem to support the widespread impression that violence has been increasing during the age of Homo economicus, especially in recent years.
There are many forms of physical and psychological violence. Consider Table 2.
Theatrical distribution by Titan View
Perhaps the most repulsive byproduct of the money-driven society is human trafficking. This abomination entails removing women and children from society and reducing them to sexual slavery. The slightest protestation is brutally suppressed, for these human beings become valuable commodities and their sexual services are extremely profitable. Some are tricked into this calamity by promises of a better life. Some children are sold by their own destitute parents acting in desperation. Many are kidnapped at gun point in cities and villages worldwide. In Australia, the city of Melbourne is becoming an important center for this "business." Brazil, Eastern Europe, and S.E. Asia are favorite hunting grounds for the traffickers. Shame on both sellers and buyers of slave sex.
At the inception of the third millennium of the common era, we must face the wisdom of St. Ignatius dictum, as stated at the beginning of this section. We must overcome the mindset of Homo economicus for Homo sapiens to become more human. Actually, the human use and abuse of human beings, and the human use and abuse of the human habitat, have reached the point of compromising human well-being worldwide; and, as usual, the poor are the ones who suffer the most.
The following is a mini-summary of the age of Homo economicus, approximately 1750 to 2000+ CE:
The industrial revolution made possible the commercialization of many advances in science and technology
Further advances in science and technology were in turn motivated by economic incentives
The American (1776) and French (1789) revolutions were political breakthroughs for freedom and democracy, but succumbed to the idol of financial gain and wealth accumulation
Growth in production/consumption per capita has been unevenly distributed
The human habitat is deteriorating due to irresponsible growth in production/consumption per capita
The Fascist "solutions" to the evils of liberal capitalism were doomed by nationalistic arrogance, imperialist incentives, and reliance in the use of violence leading to horrors such as the "holocaust"
The Marxist "solutions" to the evils of liberal capitalism failed to take into account the subjective dimensions of Homo sapiens and brought about even more violence in both hot and cold wars
The Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the MDGs (2000) are signs of hope that the human spirit is ready for a new age
A new myth has been created, to the effect that "technological fixes" can provide solutions to all socio-ecological problems
Granted that these technical advances would be good (if used well) for the advance of human civilization, and some may even be necessary to clean the current socio-ecological mess, they do not provide a long term corrective to the individual and collective misbehavior of Homo economicus. Where do we go from here?
"The 'control of nature' is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and the convenience of man." Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
In section 1, Homo economicus was defined as the rational human being driven by self-interest as top priority, and
Homo solidarius, was defined as the rational human being willing to balance self-interest with the common good. Consider the following definitions:
It seems clear that Homo solidarius will always attempt to balance self-interest and the common good. It follows that this kind of person will behave according to the principles of sustainability and sustainable development, since both human development and taking good care of the human habitat are intrinsic to the common good; and will always refuse to use violence, which is never in the best interest of either the violent or the victims of violence.
"I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent." Mohandas Gandhi(1869-1948)
"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968).
Global warming is a case in point. Homo economicus will ignore the issue until it hits painfully in the pocketbook. Homo solidarius will start asking what can be done about it, and acting accordingly. Figure 4 shows a simulation of the reductions of emissions per capita by region (2000 to 2200) that are required to reverse the warming trend before irreversible damage is done to the planet's atmospheric and climate systems. It is evident that most of the reductions will have to come from North America, Oceania, and Western Europe. It is possible that China, India, and Russia may become, by the end of this century, part of the exclusive club of super-CO2 polluters. This scenario leads to many interesting questions: What will happen to the American well-known addiction to the automobile? How will life change for the Middle-East aristocracies (and many others) as the flow of oil dwindles due to impending scarcity (Hubbert's peak)? And the most important question is this: Will this be another global transition in which the gap between the very poor and the very rich widens even more?
This scenario shows why sustainability cannot possibly be accomplished without a significant increase in human solidarity. Lack of human solidarity in the years and centuries ahead will inevitably lead to impaired sustainability, lowering priority for human development, and more violence. Significant amounts of resources are already being allocated to find technological fixes to avoid unsustainability, but the most important agent to attain sustainability is Homo solidarius, not computers or cell phones or any other widget; and there is a paucity of research efforts pursuant to understanding how the transition from Homo economicus to Homo solidarius could come to pass, and how to mitigate human suffering during this "post-industrial revolution." Some links to existing online resources are listed below:
To be Homo solidarius may require financial aid from the rich to the poor, but this is not enough. It may require technology transfer, but this is not enough. We all know about Brazil getting technical assistance to convert the Amazon rainforest to farmlands. In a tropical rainforest, at any given time, most of the nutrients reside in the trees, not in the soil. When the trees are removed, most of the nutrients are removed and what happens is that the "farmlands" produce meager crops for a few years, and then support no further cultivation.
Financial assistance is not an unmixed blessing either. Even assuming total absence of corruption so that the funds get to those in need, only the locals really know how to use it wisely. A case in point pertains to global health: "Less than a decade ago, the biggest problem in global health seemed to be the lack of resources available to combat the multiple scourges ravaging the world's poor and sick. Today, thanks to a recent extraordinary and unprecedented rise in public and private giving, more money is being directed toward pressing heath challenges than ever before. But because the efforts this money is paying for are largely uncoordinated and directed mostly at specific high-profile diseases -- rather than at public health in general -- there is a grave danger that the current age of generosity could not only fall short of expectations but actually make things worse on the ground." (Do No Harm: The Global Health Challenge, Laurie Garrett, 2007). The wise Homo solidarius makes it possible for development to happen inside-out, not outside-in. Indeed, sustainable development, like individual human development, always happens inside-out; it never happens outside-in.
"I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We're here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don't have time to carry grudges; you don't have time to cling to the need to be right."
The term Homo eucharisticus refers to the climax of human development: the person who willingly gives top priority to the good of others, and acts accordingly. Jesus of Nazareth is probably the best example of Homo eucharisticus in human history. The logo of this research project is a symbol of Homo eucharisticus:
The pelican is an ancient symbol of commitment to service at all levels -- physical, mental, and spiritual. The following excerpt from the Physiologus (author unknown, circa fourth century CE) captures this ideal: "The long beak of the white pelican is furnished with a sack which serves as a container for the small fish that it feeds its young. In the process of feeding them, the bird presses the sack against its neck in such a way
that it seems to open its breast with its bill. The reddish tinge of its breast plumage and the redness of the tip of its beak fostered the folkloristic notion that it actually drew blood from its own breast." The Physiologus found the action of the pelican, interpreted in this manner, to be a symbol of sacrificial service and a particularly apt symbol of Christ as priest-victim, and also a symbol the eucharist, sacrament of the body and blood of Christ.
Table 3 - The Pelican as a Symbol of Homo eucharisticus
Homo solidarius does not exhaust the potential for human development. There is more, much more. Dr. Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury and a formidable theologian, has written and lectured extensively on horizons of human development that clearly go beyond Homo solidarius, even to the point where the human being becomes Homo eucharisticus. Even if we can barely see at such great distance, let us be aware that humans are called to greatness of mind and heart. The following are some relevant links:
At the very least, let us try to become more human. Let us be more willing to grow in truth, freedom, and care. Homo economicus belongs to the past. For most of us, Homo eucharisticus may not yet be visible in the horizon. But Homo solidarius is already visible to anyone with eyes to see. The present and the future are in the hands of Homo solidarius. If we are not there yet, our children and grandchildren will pay for it.
Given that most people are not yet ready to become Homo eucharisticus, the next best thing is to become Homo solidarius. Indeed, this would be a quantum jump forward in the history of human civilization. Homo economicus was a jump forward in terms of technological development and material standard of living (at least for a few), but it was a regression in terms of inner human development and spiritual growth. This is the reason that human relations, among humans and between humans and the biosphere, continues to deteriorate. We can go to the moon, but we cannot have a civilized dialogue among people of different nationalities, ethnicities, and religions. God is in heaven. Camelot is on the moon. Most humans are miserable.
Where do we go from here?
Professor Hilde Nafstad and her collaborators at the University of Oslo, Norway, have been analyzing social trends by tracking the frequency of keywords that appear in newspapers. The sampling procedure is nontrivial, because it entails adjusting the counts per unit time by the total number of similar publications during the same time intervals. What about mining the same kind of information out of Google News and other online services? Surely, the resulting time histories may be shorter, seldom going back further than the inception of the internet in the early 1990s. But digitization of old newspapers and other information continues, so it may be possible to retrieve longer time histories in the not so distant future. To investigate this possibility, we used the Advanced Google News search engine to see if there are any discernable patterns in the frequency of occurrence of the words "solidarity" and "sustainability." The results of this exercise are presented in Figure 5.
Note: This graph was obtained from Google Advanced News Search by simply running the queries "solidarity" and "sustainability" for each five year period, 1940-2005, and recording (at the end of each five year period) the approximate number of news found containing the words "solidarity" and "sustainability." The numbers have not been adjusted to take into account population growth and the total number of news posted and captured by the search engine. This is just a visualization exercise. The peaks in "solidarity" news correspond to the activity of the solidarity movement in Poland (early 1980s) and the disintegration of the Soviet Union (late 1980s). By 2005 it seems to be increasing again, as the term "solidarity" is gradually becoming more frequent in human discourse. With regard to sustainability, the concept acquires meaning with the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962) and becomes a widespread concern after the 1987 publication of the "Brundtland Report," Our Common Future.
The numbers were not adjusted to take into account population growth and the total number of news posted and captured by the search engine. This is just a crude visualization exercise. But is seems that, while "sustainability" is an increasing topic in the news, "solidarity" is not. The first peak in "solidarity news" corresponds to the emergence of the Solidarity Movement in Gdansk, Poland. The second peak corresponds to the events leading to the election of Lech Walesa in Poland (1989) and the disintegration of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe (1989), followed shortly thereafter by the collapse of the Soviet Union (1991). The trend, however, decreases significantly during the 1990s and is not showing signs of resurgence after the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001. Globalization, trade inequities, and the widening gap between rich and poor worldwide seem to indicate that Homo economicus is back in charge. The many difficulties being encountered to deploy the U.N. MDGs is another indication that Homo economicus remains in control.
During the same timeframe, however, "sustainability news" have been increasing increasingly. It is noteworthy that the first jump in awareness follows the publication of Silent Spring (1962), and the second impulse follows the publication of Our Common Future (1987). However, the increasing awareness about the sustainability issue, which recently has been reinforced by observable increases in water, air, and solid waste, in and of itself is not enough to change the behavior of Homo economicus. The behavior of Homo economicus will change if, and only if, the rich people of the world begin to see their fortunes evaporating. Then, perhaps, Homo solidarius will have a chance.
Updates of the SSNV-MDG knowledge taxonomy and links database continue as time permits. This is work in progress and will continue to evolve as the research unfolds. The best resource on the web that includes both a knowledge taxonomy and links to URLs with knowledge content is the Knowledge 2008: Map of Human Knowledge
by Chaim Zins. It provides:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Write a letter to your secular and/or religious leaders, or perhaps to the editor of your local newspaper. Express your concerns. Ask honest questions. Request an answer. Be positive and respectful. Offer volunteer help. You can use a regular letter, or an e-mail, or any other media; but we are all responsible for communicating our concerns and insights to those in authority.
Wife, Mother, Lawyer, Stateswoman
Senator from New York Next President of the USA
Voters must choose
between experience and change.
But, change .... to what?
The pasture always looks greener
on the other side of the fence.
Change for the sake of change
is a way of coping out.
Changing to what might be best
is often the enemy of what is good.
We know this for sure:
She has been tested
in the furnace of humiliation.
May God help the voters
to choose wisely.
HANG IN THERE HILLARY!
Resources worth visiting:
Breaking Down the Barriers to a Green Economy UNESCO, February 2008
Education for All UNESCO Global Monitoring Report 2008
Short articles about the impacts of all forms of secular and religious violence on
During 2008, articles are especially desired on incentives for solidarity and sustainability and all dimensions of sustainable development. How can people be motivated to collaborate in the transition from patriarchy to solidarity, sustainability, and human development? What is the proper role of secular institutions? What is the proper role of religious institutions?
Accepted papers will be published when time and space allows. Email your submission to SSNV.
HERITAGE 2008 World Heritage and Sustainable Development International Conference, Vila Nova de Foz Côa, Portugal, 8-9 May 2008. Contact: HERITAGE 2008.
ECREA 2008 CFP, ECREA's 2nd European Communication Conference. Barcelona, 25-28 November 2008. Hosted by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). Visit the conference website.
CHILD SLAVERY Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE), University of Hull, UK, 27-28 November 2008. Contact: Jane Ellison.
SSNV-MDG Knowledge Taxonomy and Links Directory
The SSNV-MDG knowledge taxonomy and links database can be downloaded as either an HTML web page or an EXCEL spreadsheet with embedded table-building HTML code that can be modified to fit the user needs.