Violence is the main obstacle to human development. Since there is an intrinsic link between patriarchy and violence, mitigating violence requires overcoming the patriarchal mindset in both secular and religious institutions. The mission of this electronic newsletter is to provide a commented digest on current research and emerging issues related to human solidarity, ecological sustainability, and both secular and religious non-violence. Each section includes links to relevant "best of the web" content. The basic philosophy of the newsletter is Christian, but no source of wisdom is excluded. The U.N. "Millennium Development Goals" (MDGs) are used as a point of reference.
It is well known that human beings are "social animals." We cannot live in complete isolation from other people. We need community. It is in communities where cultures flourish or perish. It is in community where human development happens, and it is in community that sustainable development happens. The phrase "unity in diversity" encapsulates the essential meaning of community. So does the equivalent phrase, "diversity in unity." But unity is not synonymous with uniformity. On the contrary, unity means that men and women that belong to a community seek to balance self-interest and the common good of the community. There must be unity in seeking this balance, and diversity in the means to achieve it, for no one has all the answers.
Therefore, "let us enrich ourselves with our mutual differences" (Paul Valéry, 1871-1945).
The financial crisis that is currently unfolding worldwide serves as a good example of the need for balancing self-interest and the common good. This is what living in community is all about. This balance may never be perfect, but it must be sought at all levels of community: married couples, families, neighborhoods, schools, small towns, large cities, nations, regions, and the entire world. The "population explosion," the "limits to growth," and "global warming" are among the many significant problems facing humanity, but exacerbating such trends with endless advertising to reinforce consumerist behavior is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Engaging in dubious financial manipulations that enrich a few and add no value social value is beyond part of the problem; it may not be illegal, but it is certainly unethical.
"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed" (Mohandas Gandhi, 1869-1948).
The only way to avoid this kind of misbehavior is to make sustainable development (and any other human activity) to be rooted in spirituality. It may be secular spirituality. It may be religious or non-religious spirituality. It may be
Christian spirituality, or spirituality derived from any other religious tradition. But paying attention to the inner life is indispensable to recognize that the solution to all human issues is to be found within the human person, not out there in technological fixes or social systems that care only about material things and couldn't care less about the human soul.
In the history of religious art, the best visualization of this "hidden treasure" may be the Trinity Icon of Andrei Rublev. This is admittedly a piece of Christian art. Other religious traditions may have their own "mantras." This one is especial because it portrays unity in diversity, gender balance, inner life that overflows in service to others. The following quotation is not intended to preclude consideration of other human attempts to offer a glimpse of the divinity that abides in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16) within each human being. It is, however, an excellent summary:
"The viewer who comes upon the Trinity of Rublev unexpectedly, catching sight of it from a short distance away in a room in a gallery, lit only by daylight from a side window, will have the unforgettable memory of an encounter striking for its beauty and its utter realism. The three life-sized figures seem to draw near, catching and submerging the viewer in a sea of beatitude. The dominant impression is brightness. The yellows, greens, and lilacs are very light and transparent. In the center, there is the resonant area of red-violet and of that incredible blue mantle of the central angel which reappears in the dress of the angel on the right. Is this not perhaps the very color of sapphire -- of heaven -- which is the "place" of God?
"The movement that animates the entire composition proceeds from the angel on the right, in conveyed further by the inclination of the center angel, and, gathered in by the third angel, flows anew towards the right to conclude and perpetuate its ceaseless circular motion. Because they do not meet, the gazes of the three angels leave the interior space open to signify that the perpetual exchange and the communication of love between the Three Persons is a mystery of total interiority.
"But something unforeseen happens precisely in the returning motion of the angel on the left: already pushed forward by the angel's erect position, the arch of the circle formed by the three heads is further expanded by the lines of the seats and the footrests which converge towards a point outside the icon, where the viewer is standing. And the closed sphere of the Three is disclosed, and the mystery of the superabundant Life is manifested to the one who contemplates as infinite Love the large chalice formed by the side angels, and as love bestowed, the cup which rests on the table." Maria Giovanna Muzj, 1987
It is critical to notice that trinitarian "unity in diversity" means three things: a perfect unity between the three divine persons (can you see the inner chalice?), a perfect willingness of the three divine persons to relate to humanity in a diversity of missions (can you see the outer chalice?), and a perfect willingness to do so by sharing, in a rich diversity of ways, the love that makes them one and that they freely want to share with humanity (the chalice on the table). Readers who might be aware of similar "mantras" in other religious traditions are cordially invited to send them to the editor. In order for humanity to move toward sustainability, we need to enrich the human community with both unity and diversity.
Selected references for section 1:
Definitions of "community"
Community, Mark K. Smith, Encyclopedia of Informal Education, 2001.
Community, Caleb Stegall, The New Pantagruel, Volume Two, Issue Three, Summer/Fall 2005.
Ethical behavior is indispensable for harmonious community life.
It is therefore indispensable for sustainable development. Human beings are capable of behaving ethically without the support of religion or spirituality. However, such support is invaluable in that it provides a solid foundation for making ethical decisions and creates an ethos that becomes the backbone of human relations within a community. For example, the Christian concept of the Trinity helps us to understand God as a community of Persons. Since we are imago Dei, and the divine community abides within us, it seems reasonable to think that the human community should reflect a "trinity," albeit within the limitations of the human condition. In other words, the 6+ billion people currently alive should exhibit, at least to some extent, unity in diversity. But how can we articulate what this means in our three-dimensional world?
Two recent books by Charles K. Bellinger may be useful to operationalize the trinitarian model in three-dimensional space. The first book, The Genealogy of Violence, published in 2001, is an analysis of human violence mainly based on the work of Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). The second book, The Trinitarian Self,
published in 2008, attempts to isolate the root cause for human violence by a juxtaposition of the works of Eric Voegelin (1901-1985) and René Girard (b. 1923). It is in the second book that Bellinger provides some very insightful three-dimensional diagrams as a synthesis that integrates the works of Kierkegaard, Voegelin, and Girard. In what follows, similar diagrams are used to visualize the spiritual, social, and temporal dimensions of sustainable development. It must be clearly understood that Bellinger is totally innocent of any misuse or misinterpretation of his diagrams.
Basically, the vertical dimension is the human relationship with God, which can go from a highly negative value of egocentrism, and attachment to a materialistic mindset, to a very high positive value of fellowship with God in prayer, obedience to the divine will, and mystical unity (where the "trinitarian self" help us become what we are). The horizontal axis is the social dimension, which on the negative side reaches the extreme individualism in which only self-interest matters and on the positive side reaches a balance between self-interest and the common good, and may even reach a heroic degree of solidarity that is both generous and nonviolent. Finally, the time axis, or temporal dimension, captures the unfolding of human history, which moves in the positive direction toward sustainable human development (a prevalence of freedom of conscience, peace with justice, human rights, gender equality) by overcoming the negative events and habits of the past (such as slavery and all kinds of violence). Each human being, and human civilization, may oscillate between the positive and negative segments of each axis. Movement in the positive direction of any axis is, at best, a two steps forward, one step backward process. Consider Figure 1.
Figure 1 - Conceptual Model of Spirituality, Solidarity, and Sustainability
NB: The chart is adapted from Bellinger, 2008, pp. 3, 5, 6, 11, 53, 55, 57, 93, 107.
Bellinger is innocent of any misuse or misinterpretation of his diagrams.
The conceptual model has three dimensions. The horizontal axis, X, is the people's propensity to solidarity when it is positive, or the propensity to ignore the common good when it is negative. The vertical axis, Y, is the people's propensity to grow in spirituality when it is positive, or the propensity to ignore the inner life when it is negative. The temporal axis, Z, is the progress toward sustainability when positive, the regression to consumerism when negative. The individualist tendency to ignore the common good, poor stewardship of the human habitat, and a widespread lack of spirituality is the scenario that generally leads to violent behavior (including wars), environmental dislocations, and all manner of social and ecological crises.
The thesis being hereby proposed is that to attempt progress in sustainable development, while ignoring the inner spiritual life of human beings, is an exercise in futility. Growth in the spiritual dimension is the engine that makes progress possible in solidarity and sustainability. Most of the rhetoric about "economic growth" (which usually refers to the rich and seldom to the poor) is an escape to avoid embarking on the "inner journey" that (once we have disposed of the "demons" found along the way) makes us free to renounce the tricks of scapegoating and become available to participate in projects such as the Millennium Development Goals and other similar undertakings for the benefit of humanity and the human habitat. In the Buddhist tradition, this path of "spiritual growth" is summarized as follows:
"1. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.
"2. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given.
"3. I undertake the training rule to abstain from sexual misconduct.
"4. I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech.
"5. I undertake the training rule to abstain from drinks and drugs that cause heedlessness."
"1. I undertake to abstain from taking life (both human and nonhuman).
"2. I undertake to abstain from taking what is not given (stealing).
"3. I undertake to abstain from all sexual activity.
"4. I undertake to abstain from telling lies.
"5. I undertake to abstain from using intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
"6. I undertake to abstain from eating at the wrong time (the right time is eating once, after sunrise, before noon).
"7. I undertake to abstain from singing, dancing, playing music, attending entertainment performances, wearing perfume, and using cosmetics and garlands (decorative accessories).
"8. I undertake to abstain from luxurious places for sitting or sleeping."
The Ten Precepts are for those who seek inner freedom to serve others:
"1. Refrain from killing living things.
"2. Refrain from stealing.
"3. Refrain from un-chastity (sensuality, sexuality, lust).
"4. Refrain from lying.
"5. Refrain from taking intoxicants.
"6. Refrain from taking food at inappropriate times (after noon).
"7. Refrain from singing, dancing, playing music or attending entertainment programs (performances).
"8. Refrain from wearing perfume, cosmetics and garland (decorative accessories).
"9. Refrain from sitting on high chairs and sleeping on luxurious, soft beds.
"10. Refrain from accepting money."
It is hard to imagine a transition from the current crisis (financial and otherwise) to a world of solidarity and sustainability without the support of ethics and spirituality. The currently unfolding financial meltdown is an opportunity to learn this lesson. Else, humanity will continue to suffer from recurring cycles of mimetic rivalry, scapegoating, and violence. The invited paper this month, another welcomed contribution by Patrick Bond, mentions the possibility of this crisis leading to the exercise of social power from below, against the worst depredations of oppression, which are often experienced through the financial circuit of capital. Indeed, as Ramzy Baroud has pointed out, "it is egregious that while a billion people worldwide are starving, governments are throwing thousands of billions in aid to failed financial institutions."
Selected references for section 2:
René Girard's Theory of Mimetic Desire and Scapegoating
Sustainable development requires the support of all human communities, from families to worldwide partnerships. This global "community of communities" is like a large mosaic in which all dimensions of sustainable development (human, religious, spiritual, ethical, social, ethnic, cultural, political, economic, geographic, demographic, etc.) coexist and enrich each other. However, at this point in human history, it seems fair to say the idolatry of money cancels the benefits of this magnificent diversity by destroying its unity. Rather than seeking a balance of self-interest and the common good, the idolatry of money induces most people and most communities to become enslaved by greed. This greed leads to mimetic rivalry, violence, and endless scapegoating. The global financial meltdown is the bad fruit of greed and violence, the kind of financial violence that squeezes money from the general population to fill the pockets of the financial wizards.
Sustainable development requires a radical renunciation of greed and all manner of violence, including financial violence. In terms of the conceptual model of Figure 1, the current "state of the world" in three dimensional (spirituality, solidarity, sustainability) space might be perceived as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2 - Conceptual Model of Scenario Leading to the 2008 Financial Crisis
NB: The chart is adapted from Bellinger, 2008, pp. 3, 5, 6, 11, 53, 55, 57, 93, 107.
Bellinger is innocent of any misuse or misinterpretation of his diagrams.
The conceptual model has three dimensions, as in Figure 1. The color segments in the axes are indicative of the current ethos regarding solidarity, sustainability, and spirituality. The current financial crisis is induced by the strong tendency to ignore the common good (the rich getting richer via dubious financial manipulations), the abuse of the human habitat (by financial decisions that do not take into account possible environmental impacts), and the low level of spirituality (money is the one and only idol that is worshipped in the consumerist society). A similar model would serve to visualize the root causes of widespread hunger and extreme poverty, a shameful humanitarian calamity; or global warming, a very serious ecological crisis. But the financial crisis is getting more media and political attention because it is hitting wealthy people and wealthy institutions where it hurts: in their pocketbooks and bank accounts.
In these three-dimensional diagrams, some form of violence is the driver that pushes people toward the negative extreme of each axis. According to Bellinger, "the deepest root of violence is the self's refusal to grow spiritually." He unpacks this key assertion as follows:
"The profound question regarding why human beings are violent can be answered along the following lines. Truth is accumulative; our consciousness will be shaped by truth to the extent that we allow ourselves to be educated by the wisdom that comes from God and has been mediated to us through our philosophical and religious traditions. The Good is the fruit of maturation; human beings become ethical as they allow themselves to be drawn upward so that they participate in God’s love
for humanity. The ability to perceive the Beauty of the world and to live a beautiful life is a gift from God. Violence rejects this journey of growth into the fullness of what it means to be a human being; it prefers a stunted life that produces falsehood, evil, and ugliness. We can specify precisely the deepest root of pathological violence as the resistance of the human being to the growth, expansion, and increasing complexity that are the marks of living into the image of God in which we are created.
"Why do we resist growth? We human beings are distinct from the lower animals in our ability to experience angst, which is an emotion arising from our ambivalence about our existence in time. Angst, or anxiety, results from desiring and fearing the same thing at the same time, which is the possibility of our spiritual development..... We have been created, but we are still coming into existence; the event of creation is still happening within us, which fills us with anxiety. We invent strategies that seek to manage this anxiety and keep it in check. To the extent that we are narcissistic we seek comfort and avoid pain. To be open to growth toward maturity involves a willingness to endure the pain of dying to oneself and being reborn. If we are unwilling to go through this pain, the result will be our attempts to make others feel pain in the false belief that by doing so we will avoid it.
"Fundamentalism, individualistic aestheticism, and utopianism are all examples of human inventiveness when it comes to evading the call of creation. They are forms of immature selfhood that seek to fend off the possibility of mature selfhood. If we dimly perceive the possibility that our self could die and be replaced by another self, we must prevent this by construing the more mature self as an other, an alien, rather than as the true self that we are called to be. This is the root of the rejection of otherness that our modern culture notices but can only respond to with calls for "tolerance." We attack the Other because we do not want to become an other to ourselves through the event of spiritual death and rebirth. We become violent when we try to maintain the current shape of our immature, unbalanced, and contracted consciousness (against the possibility that it could become mature, balanced, and expansive) by attacking the alien Other that has been generated out of our fear of growth. In other words, violence against others begins with the invisible spiritual act of doing violence to the potential development of one’s own selfhood. This is the foundational, shared spiritual condition of the fundamentalists, the individualists, and the revolutionaries. We usually do not notice this underlying commonality because we are bedazzled by the surface disparities between them." (Bellinger, The Trinitarian Self, 2008, pages 81-82)
Long quote, but worth reading and rereading several times. This goes to the core of theological anthropology as it applies to sustainable development. In addition, is this "theological psychology" or "psychological theology"? Jung's animus/anima can be discerned lurking in between lines, and so can Stafford's invisible partners. In fact, isn't fundamentalism a symptom of phallagocentrism? Exorcising phallagocentrism from the human psyche might do more to mitigate fundamentalism, and foster sustainable behavior, than all technological fixes and econometric models combined.
The nuptial dimension of sustainable development was the main theme of four consecutive issues starting with the May 2008 issue. This section is an addendum to consider how the financial crisis affects nuptial and family relations. The recent trend toward setting up a prenuptial agreement, before a wedding is a case in point. What is a prenuptial agreement? It is a contract, not a covenant. The marriage is no longer an unconditional commitment to share the gift of love and the gift of life. The marriage becomes like a business contract, as Peter Karl has pointed out:
"Irrespective of the type of entity in which the operations will be conducted, one of the most important legal considerations before commencing a business with others (even if related parties) is a buy-sell agreement that includes restrictions on the transfer or pledge of any ownership interest. This is essentially a “prenuptial arrangement” for a business marriage, which negotiations in the marital context usually require separate advisors. This may be a relevant consideration with respect to the representation of the various parties involved in the buy-sell agreement. This document should address issues such as the valuation and funding for any subsequent buyout, which could be structured as an entity redemption, a cross-purchase by the owners, or a hybrid of the two."
(Peter A. Karl, 2008)
Consider how the institution of marriage is degraded by the so-called "prenuptial agreements":
"Prenuptial agreements are an evil that destroys the institution of marriage and their legality and morality must be addressed if we are to reestablish the notion of a family.... As the name implies, a prenuptial agreement is a decision that the two parties agree to prior to marriage..... prenuptials are a response to – and, in many ways, an indicator of – a potential divorce..... Priorities also become distorted through the enactment of prenuptial agreements. Ownership of materials ranks higher than the family in such circumstances..... A true couple would be willing to share their resources and possessions for the benefit of both; prenuptial agreements, on the contrary, demonstrate that the individual is second to the object because retaining ownership of a worldly good is more important than staying together with a life partner."
(Jim Price, 2006)
Another important consideration is how such "prenuptial agreements" affect the moral and psychological growth of children and young people. Bernice Hill, a Jungian psychologist, has identified "four wounds of wealth." According to Hill, these wounds affect human relations, and even the personal inner life of people, at successively deeper levels of intimacy:
"1. Burdens of Expectation
"Those few who are considered wealthy are often the targets of the fears, needs, and expectations of the many who lack money. Societal expectations permeate many aspects of life, including supporting charities and generally 'doing the right thing,' which often translates into writing check after check. The affluent are left to ask themselves, 'When asked to attend an affair or participate in an event, social or otherwise, am I or my checkbook being invited?'
"Similarly, the wealthy must question if their personal relationships are based on money or status rather than genuine caring and true feelings of friendship. As a consequence, those of means tend to socialize only with others with similar financial and social backgrounds, and ultimately come to experience a deep sense of 'isolation.' The painful question lingers, 'How many of my friends would still be my friends if I didn’t have any money, and how might I find out?' Love, popularity, and camaraderie can be as paper-thin as money itself. This lack of trust is reflected in the security measures that are taken, the higher walls built around their homes, possessions, and lives, literally and psychologically. In the end, the affluent tend to seek refuge in 'golden ghettos.'
"3. Unhealthy family dynamics
"Wealth can lead to unhealthy family dynamics. How often do we hear of rich family feuds–the nagging fears and general angst regarding inheritances, wills, and pressures brought to bear on siblings regarding proper behavior? Even the most intimate relationships–choosing the 'right' mate in marriage–are subject to the all-important pre-nuptial agreements, becoming yet another business contract.
"4. Crisis of Identity
'Most importantly perhaps, particularly for those who have inherited wealth, are the questions of identity and self-worth. 'Who am I' can be a painful question when the main public identity is that you have money. Philosopher Jacob Needleman observes that 'the only thing that money will not buy is meaning.' Often, wealthy people suffer from guilt, anxiety, and the sense of meaninglessness."
There can be no doubt that children and young people will suffer each of these "wounds." Wound #1 makes the child anxious as to his/her fate if the parents divorce and the nuptial agreement is exercise. Wound #2 makes the child wonder why is it that financial considerations are more important than their own wellbeing. Why is it that prenuptial agreements are only about money, and not about ensuring that the children will not become isolated from the care and warmth of the family? Wound #3 is self-explanatory. Wound #4 completes the picture of desolation: even if the children eventually receive a large inheritance, are they reassured about what meaning they had in the life of their parents?
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that teenage suicides are on the rise, that must teenagers engage in pre-marital sex, and that so many teenagers succumb to the temptation of drugs that allow them to escape from "burdens of expectation, isolation, unhealthy family dynamics, and crisis of identity." Then comes a financial crisis or some other catastrophic event, and all the carefully crafted provisions of the prenuptial agreement vanish into thin air. And then .... what?
"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so
close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the
world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he
attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man,
woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination.
Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere."
— Eleanor Roosevelt
Human needs change often and are culturally and geographically conditioned. Not so the core concept of sustainable development. It remains the same for all communities -- family, locality, nation, region, and the entire world. At this point, it is opportune to clarify what sustainable development is about:
"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
The concept of 'needs', in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs."
There are of course many types of communities, and therefore many variations of human needs. Some human needs, such as food and shelter, are universal. Others are limited to some specific communities. The focus of sustainable development is always to meet human needs, and to meet them in such a way that both present and future human needs are taken into account. It is worth mentioning that the "essential needs of the world's poor" should include the especial needs of indigenous communities, especially those who were invaded and "colonized" for political and/or religious motives. Such "colonization" often resulted in the indigenous people being practically exterminated and their way of life destroyed, with long-term repercussions that inhibit their integration into modern societies without a net reduction in cultural diversity.
Needless to say, the financial manipulations that led to the current Wall Street and worldwide meltdown utterly lacked any "concept of 'needs', in particular the essential needs of the world's poor," whether now or in the future. The propensity of society to indulge in excessive consumption was reinforced by misusing ICT technologies to create the illusion that paying with "plastic" was fine and the future would take care of itself. This can happen in families (previous section), and can happen in communities. At the local community level (neighborhood, town, city) it is manifested by the obsession to grow -- bigger buildings, bigger roads, bigger churches, bigger everything except providing adequate compensation for the teachers of the children who are the future, let alone providing assistance to the local poor. But it is rare to see such local consumerist behavior unless it is consistent with wider communities in which the local community is embedded, such as the state and the region. With globalization, the consumerist mindset became global, and the process of the consumerist mindset becoming global has been a fast one -- due to cheap ICT devices that even the poorest people can afford. In terms of social psychology:
"We're slowly moving from an individual consciousness and into a collective one. Carl Jung described this transition this way, "In the history of the collective as in the history of the individual, everything depends on the development of consciousness." Man has experienced three major collective paradigm shifts and we're on the cusp of the fourth. We've gone from collective hunters 40,000 years ago, to collective farmers 10,000 years ago, to collective builders 300 years ago." (Ernie Fitzpatrick, 2007)
The transition from collective builders to collective consumerist started as recently as 30 years ago. The next transition, from consumerism to sustainability, may or may not happen smoothly in every local community. This is the reason that Chapter 28 of Agenda 21 specifically calls for each community to formulate its own Local Agenda 21:
"Each local authority should enter into a dialogue with its citizens, local organizations, and private enterprises and adopt 'a local Agenda 21.' Through consultation and consensus-building, local authorities would learn from citizens and from local, civic, community, business and industrial organizations and acquire the information needed for formulating the best strategies." (Agenda 21, Chapter 28)
Sounds reasonable, but it is still hard to find local communities in which everyone is aware of the need for sustainable development, let alone participate in formulating a local sustainable development strategy. The structures of governance, education, and industry at all levels -- local, national, regional, global -- need a radical reformation to shift gears from promoting "consumption for growth" to promoting "sustainable development" as defined by Our Common Future. While this transition unfolds, sustainable development at the local level is where the action is. This includes, for example, small groups from developed nations working directly with small groups in developing nations (bypassing national governments if possible) to create the local infrastructure required for sustainable development: schools, water for drinking and irrigation, local energy sources such as electricity generated from waterfalls, etc. Sustainable development may never "trickle down" until it "trickles up" independently of government bureaucracies.
A legitimate concern is how the global financial crisis will impact MDG and other sustainable development activities on a nation by nation basis. At a High-level Event, UN Headquarters, New York, 25 September 2008, representatives of national governments and international development institutions reiterated their commitment to the MDGs. But, given that the long-term repercussions of the financial crisis are barely beginning to emerge, there is reason for concern:
"The current global financial crisis is among the greatest challenges to the world economy since the end of World War II. Unlike past financial crises, which were confined to particular regions, the current financial contagion is quickly spreading across continents. Unless action is taken in the next few months to shore up faltering countries and restore confidence in the global economy, the world will face a deep and prolonged recession." (Maurice Greenberg, October 2008)
As usual, the world's poor will be the ones who suffer the most:
"UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned his top lieutenants on Friday that the global financial crisis jeopardized everything the UN has done to help the world’s poor. 'It threatens to undermine all our achievements and all our progress,' Ban told a meeting of UN agency chiefs devoted to the crisis. 'Our progress in eradicating poverty and disease. Our efforts to fight climate change and promote development. To ensure that people have enough to eat.'
"At a meeting also attended by the heads of the World Bank and IMF, Ban said the credit crunch that has stunned markets worldwide compounded the food crisis, the energy crisis and Africa’s development crisis. 'It could be the final blow that many of the poorest of the world’s poor simply cannot survive,' he said, in one of his bleakest assessments of the impact of the financial turmoil."
(UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, October 2008)
There can be no doubt that the poor nations are going to become poorer. This time around, however, the rich nations may become poorer too. So now we may get to the point of having a lot of hungry people in the poor nations, and a lot of angry people in the rich nations. It remains to be seen how this will play out in the international dynamics of solidarity, sustainability, and violence/nonviolence. Let us pray that violence can be prevented, both within nations and between nations.
Indeed, the world has become a "global village." Consider the speed of propagation of the financial crisis that started in Wall Street, New York, less than a moth ago. The American financial crisis became the global financial crisis in a matter of days. And this crisis, like the environmental crisis, requires responsive decision-making at the global level. Global environmental governance has been a subject of research and discussion for years. Global financial governance may have to be discussed in the not so distant future. But who has the authority to assume such responsibility?
One of the key objectives of the United Nations is to keep the peace. But how can the UN fulfill such responsibility without having the authority to do so? The same question applies to other global issues, such as managing the environmental and financial global systems. The United Nations is neither perfect nor infallible. Like any other human organization, it is vulnerable to corruption. There can be no doubt that the UN needs reform, for the same reason that human institutions (both secular and religious) need reform from time to time.
The balance between responsibility and authority is an unavoidable issue. It will take a long time to, but there can be no effective global governance until the issue is settled. To begin with, the Security Council is a legacy of World War II and the Cold War, and must be replaced by a democratic system in which each nation has one vote (or perhaps a number of votes in proportion to its population?) and decisions are approved and take effect if, and only if, the majority of nations are in favor. The majority may be a simple majority, or it might require 2/3 of the votes; it is not practical to discuss such procedural details here. However, going back to the fundamental issue of balancing responsibility and authority, the following table attempts to provide a "strawman" on how to achieve such balancing in three areas: keeping the peace worldwide, global environmental protection, and global financial stability.
Enforce cease fires
General assembly vote is binding
Blue helmets/logistics on call
Blue helmets/logistics on call
Toxic water pollution targets
CO2 and other emission targets
Resource depletion/recycling limits
ISO-9000 periodic audits
ISO-14000 periodic audits
ISO-26000 periodic audits
Approved financial instruments
Approved credit practices
Approved market operations
Table 1 - Balancing Authority and Responsibility in Global Governance.
ISO-9001 is the Quality Management System (QMS) Standard.
ISO-14001 is the Environmental Management System (EMS) Standard.
ISO-26000 is the forthcoming (2010) Social Responsibility Guideline.
These standards, like all entries in Table 1, are provided simply as examples.
Global governance should have authority commensurate with its responsibility. The responsibilities should be the minimum required due to the global nature of the responsibilities. Likewise, the authority of global governance should be the minimum required to fulfill the global responsibilities. In other words, both responsibility and authority must be such that no nation, acting unilaterally, can resolve the related issues in a way that takes into account the common good of humanity, including the integrity of the human habitat. The authority and responsibility of global governance is to be democratically determined by delegates of all the member nations acting together as a general assembly. Checks and balances must be instituted in order to ensure that neither the global government nor the national governments exceed the limits of their authority. It is not possible to go into further details here. The next section proposes that basic principles for democratic global governance.
"A democracy would do well to apply a plan of compulsory attendance for the deliberative assembly. The results are better when all deliberate together; when the populace is mixed with the notables and they, in turn, with the populace." (Aristotle, 350 BCE). Surely, Aristotle was no champion of democracy, but he understood the fundamental need of participation by everyone, including both those who govern and those who are governed.
Such participation, however, cannot occur in a vacuum. Fully participative deliberations also need well defined boundaries, so that there is a common understanding of what is a legitimate issue for deliberation and resolution at a given level of government. There is also a need for clear principles which are accepted by all the participants and constitute the "collective conscience." Let us consider principles first. The most basic is the principle of justice, and there are many theories of justice. According to John Rawls , justice includes both liberty and equality, and equality includes both difference and fairness. In summary:
FIRST PRINCIPLE OF JUSTICE (LIBERTY)
"Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for others." (the liberty principle)
SECOND PRINCIPLE OF JUSTICE (EQUALITY)
Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that
(a)"They are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society." (the difference principle).
(b)"Offices and positions must be open to everyone under conditions of fair equality of opportunity." (the fairness principle).
It is noteworthy that the definition of sustainable development provided in Our Common Future (see Section 5) is fully consistent with Rawls' definition of justice, in particular regarding the difference principle. Our Common Future also extends the time horizon of justice by including both the present and the future, something that is difficult to swallow for those who remain attached to "the future is now" mentality.
Given that we are standing on a solid theoretical foundation, many practical questions remain. For instance, how robust and resilient can a democratic system be under the pressures and counter-pressures created by the attempted or actual misuse of the principles of liberty, difference, and fairness?
"It is often assumed that democracies can make good use of the epistemic benefits of diversity among their citizenry, but difficult to show why this is the case. In a deliberative democracy, epistemically relevant diversity has three aspects: the diversity of opinions, values, and perspectives. Deliberative democrats generally argue for an epistemic form of Rawls’ difference principle: that good deliberative practice ought to maximize deliberative inputs, whatever they are, so as to benefit all deliberators, including the least effective. The proper maximandum of such a principle is not the pool of reasons, but rather the availability of perspectives. This sort of diversity makes robustness across different perspectives the proper epistemic aim of deliberative processes. Robustness also offers a measure of success for those democratic practices of inquiry based on the deliberation of all citizens." (James Bohman, 2006, page 175)
Other questions come to mind. At the global level, are all the "independent" nations really "independent"? Is "independence" equivalent to "self-determination"? In terms of solidarity and sustainability, how can we ensure that "independence" is never used to make unilateral decisions pursuant to national (Darfur), regional (Iraq), or global (USA) domination? The specter of the Roman empire (and "pax romana") still lingers around.
"Understood as non-domination, then the self-determination of peoples has the following elements. First, self-determination means a presumption of non-interference. A people have the prima-facie right to set its own governance procedures and make its own decisions about its activities within its jurisdiction, without interference from others. In so far as these activities may adversely affect others, however, or generate conflict for other reasons, self-determination entails the right of those others to make claims on the group, negotiate the terms of their relations, and mutually adjust their effects. Thus self-determining peoples require recognized and settled institutions and procedures through which they negotiate, adjudicate conflicts, and enforce agreements. Self-determination does not imply independence, but rather that peoples dwell together within political institutions which minimize domination among them. Finally, self-determination of peoples requires that the peoples have the right to participate in designing and implementing intergovernmental institutions aimed at minimizing domination. In these ways a non-domination interpretation of the principle of self-determination enacts ideals of differentiated solidarity, in principle on a global scale." (Iris Marion Young, 2002, page 265)
How is responsibility and authority allocated to each level of government -- local, national, global? An answer to this one was stated (at the global level) in the last paragraph of the previous section. The same answer flows down to lower levels of government. At each level, governments should have authority commensurate with its responsibility. At each level, governmental authority should be the minimum required to fulfill the governance responsibilities at that level. The authority and responsibility of governance at each level is to be democratically determined by delegates of all the lower level communities. Checks and balances must be instituted within and between levels in order to ensure that no government at any level exceeds the limits of its authority. Formally, this is known as the "principle of subsidiarity". This principle was originally defined by Heinrich Pesch (1854-1926), A German political economist and Jesuit priest who also helped to develop the Catholic doctrine of social doctrine.
Is it necessary to repeat that the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, and sustainability are tightly coupled?
Definition of Solidarity (AG-ESRC)
"Solidarity refers to the feeling of unity based on common goals, interests, and sympathies. It is a term which is promoted by many social movements to help create social relationships based on justice and equality."
Definition of Subsidiarity (Carroza, AJIL)
"Subsidiarity is the principle that each social and political group should help smaller or more local ones accomplish their respective ends without, however, arrogating those tasks to itself."
In that "subsidiarity" might be the most unfamiliar term for most readers, consider the adaptation of the principle to a concrete situation, the European Union:
Subsidiarity in the European Union
The principle of subsidiarity is defined in Article 5 of the Treaty establishing the European Community. It is intended to ensure that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen and that constant checks are made as to whether action at Community level is justified in the light of the possibilities available at national, regional or local level. Specifically, it is the principle whereby the Union does not take action (except in the areas which fall within its exclusive competence) unless it is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level. It is closely bound up with the principles of proportionality and necessity, which require that any action by the Union should not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Treaty.
Finally, our understanding of "democracy" may also require an evolution pursuant to energize the process of sustainable development by fostering sustainable behavior. A purely political democracy is no longer adequate, as shown by the spread of the current financial crisis and the lack of political will to think in terms of long-term as opposed to short-term solutions to complex issues such as the emergence of global warming and the pursue of the UN MDGs. It is saddening that the few billions required for the MDGs have not materialized; and yet, in a matter of days, national governments somehow are digging up trillions to "rescue" financial institutions that have failed miserably. Some people are hard at work trying to redesign democratic institutions so that they exercise due diligence (politically, socially, economically, ecologically) in addressing real human "needs." A notable example is the Socioeconomic Democracy of Robley E. George:
In essence, "Socioeconomic Democracy is a model economic system, or more precisely, socioeconomic subsystem, in which there is some form of Universal Guaranteed Personal Income (UGPI) as well as some form of Maximum Allowable Personal Wealth (MAPW), with both the lower bound on personal material poverty and the upper bound on personal material wealth set and adjusted democratically by all society." (Robley E. George, 2002)
Question: How can the UGPI and MAPW be democratically set at each level -- local, national, global?
Long as it is, this article cannot end without a brief reminder about the spiritual dimension of sustainable development. We can have the most advanced technologies and the deepest theoretical knowledge of solidarity, subsidiarity, sustainability, socioeconomic democracy etc., etc., etc. If the "inner needs" of people are ignored, any system will collapse, just as our powerful, resourceful, high tech financial systems have collapsed.
Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
Figure 3A - Divine Plan
Figure 3B - Human Plan
Figure 3 - Conceptual Model of Human Behavior in the 2008 Financial Crisis
Figure 3 displays two Venn diagrams. Figure 3A is the "divine plan." Spirituality connects humanity and divinity, and thereby supports both human solidarity and ecological sustainability. Figure 3B is the "human plan." Lack of spirituality leads to love of money, power, and honors; this in turn leads to greed, and greed destroys the integrity of the global financial system and induces a degradation of both human solidarity and ecological sustainability.
"The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire." (Teilhard de Chardin, 1936)
Icon of the Holy Trinity
Andrei Rublev, ca. 1410 CE
God is both Heavenly Citizen #1 and Global Citizen #1. It is good to know that Global Citizen #1 is divine and loves humanity unconditionally. The icon shown above, painted by Andrei Rublev (a monk of the Russian Orthodox Church) in the early 1400s, is of course inspired by the Christian understanding of God as a trinity of divine Persons. It is a perfect visualization of unity in diversity and diversity in unity. The reader is encouraged to google an explanation of this icon, in which there is no detail without theological and social meaning. Other religious traditions have different ways of representing God or referring to God. But there is one common thread: that God loves humanity unconditionally, abhors violence, and still has confidence in humanity. Indeed, taking good care of the human habitat is a mission entrusted to humanity; and each baby that is born is a proof that God trusts humanity without the slightest reservation.
Reverend Nancy Charton Anglican Priest, South Africa
ACTIVE OCTOGENARIAN PRIEST
Rev. Nancy Charton, 88, was one of the first ordained Anglican women priests in South Africa (1992) and is still active at the Parish of St James the Great in Graaff-Reinet’s central business district and St Phillips in the township.
Source: Daily Dispatch Online Photo: Andrew Stone
Reverend Margaret Howland Presbyterian Minister, New York
50 YEARS OF ORDAINED MINISTRY
The Rev. Margaret E. Howland of Yonkers, standing in the Presbyterian Church of White Plains, celebrates her 50th year as a minister today. Howland was only the 12th female Presbyterian minister when she was ordained in 1958.
Source: The Journal News Photo: Carucha Meuse
Reverend Jessica Rowley Catholic Priest, St. Louis
YOUNG PRIEST, RECENTLY ORDAINED
The Rev. Jessica Rowley is a priest of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC). Ordained in September 2007, she is associate pastor of the Saints Clare and Francis Community and is expecting her first child, due in a few weeks.
Source: Newsweek Photo: Vivian Lodderhose
Resources worth visiting:
Wikigender Platform for Sharing Information on Gender Equity
Humiliation Studies of Evelin Lindner
Mimetic Theory of René Girard
Socioeconomic Democracy Robley E. George, Director Center for the Study of Democratic Societies
SciNet is a search engine for science and technology. Returns to a given set of keywords are on target. Users can add links. It presently has 15,000 listings in the following categories:
The UNDP web site has a search box to find information contained in the Human Development Reports (HDRs). Options are provided to search by year or for all years (1990-2008), by area (global, regional, national), by theme (10 themes, 33 subthemes), and by keywords, and the results are sorted by year or by country/region. The results are links to reports (HDRs and other more specific UN reports). Clicking on a link leads to a report summary and additional links to view the report outlines and download the reports. Given the massive amount of data and information contained in the annual HDRs, and the large number of other reports published by the UN over the years, researchers may find this tool to be a significant time saver.
VADLO is a search engine for biologists. Currently a free beta service. Queries can be submitted for searching by keyword(s), protocols (methods, techniques, essays, procedures, reagent recipes, plasmid maps, etc.), tools (calculators, servers, prediction tools, sequence alignment and manipulation tools, primer design etc.), seminars (powerpoint presentations, lectures, and talks), databases (data repositories, taxonomies, compilations, lists etc.), and software (codes, scripts, algorithms, executables, downloadable programs). Search results include daily "life in research" cartoons. Biologists and other life scientists can submit their links for consideration (only http:// links at the moment).
The developer of this freeware is Glenn Scheper. The following abbreviated description is adapted from his web site:
Words Extended (WordsEx) is a powerful Internet text information discovery, retrieval, extraction, and display tool. It includes ranking heuristics that speed you to the choicest information. Minimal motion right hand operation, smooth scrolling and big fonts make it easy. This version is the first release on
Windows 2000, XP, or Vista users can try WordsEx immediately by clicking HERE. It comes with a concise but clearly written user's guide as well as some additional software documentation. The tool can be used to find, retrieve, and rank online information on any subject matter, but several sample analyses supported by WordsEx are provided in Glenn's page.
"There is grace enough for thousands
Of new worlds as great as this;
There is room for fresh creations
In that upper home of bliss.
For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.
Was there ever kinder shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Savior who would have us
Come and gather at His feet?"
"Our Mother who is within us
we celebrate your many names.
Your wisdom come.
Your will be done,
unfolding from the depths within us.
Each day you give us all that we need.
You remind us of our limits
and we let go.
You support us in our power
and we act with courage.
For you are the dwelling place within us
the empowerment around us
and the celebration among us
now and for ever. Amen"
RETHINKING EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRY Sponsored by the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC). March 5-7, 2009, York University, Toronto. Sub-theme: "Regulation, Dispossession, and Emerging Claims." Organizing commitee: CERLAC.
RELIGION AND KNOWLEDGE British Sociological Association, Sociology of Religion Study Group Annual Conference, 30th March - 1st April, 2009
St Chad's College, Durham University. Details and booking form available at the Sociology of Religion website. Please direct all enquiries to the organiser, Dr. Matthew Guest
GLOBAL HEALTH Unite For Sight 6th Annual Global Health Conference. Theme: "Achieving Global Goals Through Innovation." Saturday, April 18 - Sunday, April 19, 2009, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. Complete information is available in the conference website. Contact: Unite for Sight.
SUSTAINABILITY CONFERENCE Villanova University is hosting an international interdisciplinary conference on Sustainability, April 23-25, 2009. The conference aims to bring together scholars, activists, and government and corporate professionals from across the United States and around the world to learn from each other in exploring the multiple dimensions of Sustainability. Points of contact are Chaone Mallory and Paul Rosier.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS The conference on Environmental Accounting and Sustainable Development Indicators (EMAN 2009) will be held on April 23-24, 2009, in Prague, the Czech Republic. This year's conference will be focused indicators both at micro and macro levels. For more information please visit the EMAN 2009 website. Please direct your questions and suggestions to EMAN 2009.
TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY 2009 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS '09). Theme: Social Implications of Sustainable Development. May 18-20, 2009, Tempe, Arizona, USA. ISTAS'09 will be held concurrently with the IEEE International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technology (ISSST). Visit the SSIT website for submission guidelines and more information. Program Committee Chair: Clinton Andrews, Rutgers University.
MARINE CONSERVATION International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC). May 20-24, 2009, Washington DC, USA. ISSR Conference, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 27-31 July 2009. Theme: Making Marine Science Matter. For more information see the conference website or contact Ellen Hines, Chair, IMCC 2009.
CONSERVATION BIOLOGY The 23rd annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology, "Conservation: Harmony for Nature and Society," will be held from 11-16 July 2009 in Beijing, China. Complete instructions for submitting proposals are available at the meeting website or by contacting SCB 2009.
WORK & EMPLOYMENT An inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary conference on "Decent Work and Unemployment" will be hosted by the Center for Ethics and Poverty Research (University of Salzburg), Salzburg, May 26-29 2009. It seeks to examine and explore the connections of "decent work" and unemployment. Please send your paper together with a short CV to CEPR.
EXPERIENTIAL KNOWLEDGE EKSIG 2009: Experiential Knowledge, Method and Methodology International Conference. Theme: "Experiential Knowledge, Method and Methodology." Friday, 19 June 2009. Hosted by London Metropolitan University. For more information see the conference website. Contact: EKSIG 2009.
HUMAN ECOLOGY The next major international human ecology conference will take place at the Manchester University, UK, June 29th - July 3rd, 2009. For conference information please visit the Additional information is also available on the web-site Society for Human Ecology (SHE) web site. If you are interested in participating, helping to organize sessions, or would like further information please contact: Ian Douglas
PSYCHOLOGY & RELIGION The 2009 Congress of the International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR 2009) will be held in Vienna, Austria, 23 to 27 August 2009. Local organizing committee: Susanne Heine and Herman Westerink, Department for Practical Theology and Psychology of Religion, Protestant Theological Faculty, University of Vienna.
FEMINIST ETHICS & SOCIAL THEORY The Association for Feminist Ethics And Social Theory (FEAST) invites submissions for the Fall 2009 conference, 24-27 September 2009, Clearwater Beach, Florida. FEAST 2009 will also include two invited panels: "Environmental Feminism," with Chris Cuomo, Trish Glazebrook, and Chaone Mallory, and "Evolutionary Psychology," with Carla Fehr, Letitia Meynell, and Anya Plutynski. Questions may be directed to Lisa Schwartzman.
WORLD POPULATION The International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) announces the XXVI International Population Conference, 27 September - 2 October 2009, Marrakech, Morocco. For the CFP and paper submissions visit the marrakech2009.
ISLAMIC THOUGHT The Second International Seminar on Islamic Thought (ISoIT2) will be held at the National University of Malaysia, Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia. The date for the event is 6-7 October 2009. For points of contact and other information, please visit the conference website conference website.
AFRICA GIS International Conference AfricaGIS2009, 26– 29 October 2009, Kampala, Uganda. Conference theme: "Geo-Spatial Information and Sustainable Development in Africa: Facing Challenges of Global Change." For further information please visit the AFRICAGIS2009 conference website. For general inquiries please contact AfricaGIS 2009.
RELIGION: A HUMAN PHENOMENON Sponsored by the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR). The theme for the Congress has been chosen to encourage discussion of religions and religious phenomena across traditional geographical and temporal boundaries. August 15-21, 2010,
Toronto, Canada. See the conference website for further information. The conference director is Professor Donald Wiebe.
STUDY OF THE COMMONS The International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) is still accepting preliminary proposals from individuals and organizations interested in HOSTING our 13th Biennial Conference, scheduled for the summer or autumn, 2010. For more information contact Jim Robson and visit the
The SSNV Knowledge Taxonomy has been updated. As of 20 May 2008, it provides links to 2131 web sites that contain evidentiary data and knowledge content that is relevant to global issues of human solidarity and nonviolence, environmental sustainability, and sustainable human development.
Each link is classified by the following categories:
Currently, the database is sorted by mega-disciplines, disciplines, and specialties. The sub-specialties field is temporarily being used for knowledge source (often using institutional or facility acronyms). Many resources are applicable to two or more of the MDGs. This is work in progress, and both the taxonomies and the links will continue to evolve, but the reader may find something useful by clicking HERE. For a more comprehensive map of knowledge, see Knowledge 2008, by Chaim Zins.
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.