The World is Getting Better, not Worse – Unity of Thought in World Undertakings
The world is getting better, not worse. It can be proven. By measuring the increase in something called “unity of thought in world undertakings.”
Whenever all of humanity decides to unite around a certain principle or enterprise, or in solving a common problem, it can be said we have reached a plateau of global consciousness (albeit around a single issue). Unity of thought in world undertakings is a positive trend in the social evolution of the planet. Through it, we can perceive great cause for hope for the future of humanity, rather than the ever-gloomier apocalyptic scenarios popular culture is fond of presenting. Yet, few people are aware of it. It is as if a flower has bloomed in the night, and is presented at break of day, to an astounded humanity.
This global unity of thought may be scientific, economic, or in the arena of human rights or global governance. It also comes about as a result of shedding of obsolete ideologies from previous centuries. Entire systems of thought, of government and economics have fallen out of favor and are currently frowned upon by the world community, even if they are not yet completely relegated to the past. Among them are slavery, colonialism, imperialism, racism, tyranny, dictatorship, disenfranchisement, religious warfare and genocide, to name a few.
Unity of thought in world undertakings is one of the Seven Candles of Unity. According to ’Abdu’l-Bahá, a Bahá’í leader and writer who lived from 1844 to 1921, these seven candles are the milestones to achieving complete unity on the planet (see all seven candles in the addendum, #1). No one seems to know exactly in what order these candles will be fully lit, only that they are occurring simultaneously or concurrently, and that they are inching us closer to the goal of a united world, a peaceful global civilization. Anyone who puts their efforts behind the achievement of one of these candles of unity can be said to be contributing towards the final goal of a planetary civilization.
Many examples of unity of thought in world undertakings exist, some in the nineteenth century, many more in the twentieth century, and with an accelerating momentum, they are coming to pass in the twenty first.
One early example is when humans agreed to adopt a universal system of time. 26 nations attended the International Meridian Conference held in October 1884. By majority vote they agreed to adopt a single prime meridian for all nations as the beginning point for the measurement of the 24 hour day.[i] The Greenwich meridian, which passes through the village of Greenwich, England, was chosen. Prior to this point there was much confusion in the world. Each city could set it’s own time, so that arriving by train from another city a visitor would not know what time of the day it was. Each city or region operated on its own, with no universal standard.
We can look forward to many other such milestones being achieved in the way we measure things: the adoption of a universal calendar that reconciles both the solar and lunar calendars currently in use around the world is an imperative. A universal system of weights and measures would be infinitely useful. We are almost there, actually, with the United States, Liberia and Myanmar being the last holdouts to the metric system. [ii]
But unity of thought in world undertakings has, and will come about in many other arenas, not just in weights and measures. Health, human rights, international law, and global governance, are a few. Many instruments and agencies have been developed in order to bring about this type of worldwide collaboration.
In the arena of health untold human suffering has been avoided by the formation of the World Health Organization (WHO), one of the specialized agencies under the umbrella of the United Nations.[iii] WHO was formed in 1946 with the mission of working on communicable and non-communicable diseases, to improve maternal and child health, environmental hygiene and nutrition. The global initiative to eradicate smallpox, for example, started in 1958, when 2 million people were dying from it every year. By 1979 the disease was declared eradicated. Many other issues and diseases are now being combated by WHO in a global manner, including malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS, STD’s, polio, measles and recently, Ebola. Global methods of disease outbreak surveillance now exist, as well as the compilation of accurate statistics on the spread and morbidity of diseases.
In the arena of human rights a great milestone was achieved with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human rights in 1948. Prior to this time there was no international standard by which all nations could be held accountable for the treatment of their citizens, or by which progress in human rights could be measured. Now, with this consensus or unity of thought, a charter exists for the convening of world nations in yearly gatherings called Commissions. In these Commissions, government representatives from member nations hammer out and adopt documents called Conventions. Once the Convention is agreed to, each of the signatory countries must take it home, ratify it and try to implement it.
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW),[iv] is one example of a machine that has been working for nearly sixty years to bring about progress in the world of women. Government representatives of each of the UN member states have gathered every year since 1946 “to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.” The CSW, now in it’s 59th yearly gathering, has drafted the 1953 Convention on the Political Rights of Women, the 1957 Convention on the Nationality of Married Women, the 1962 Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages, the 1951 Convention concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value, and the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
More than twenty specialized agencies exist, functioning in a similar manner. Each agency coordinates world efforts in such fields as agriculture, education, children, refugees, development, labor, industry, money, intellectual property, meteorological, maritime, aviation, and narcotics. (see Addendum #2 for a full list of agencies under the umbrella of the United Nations Economic and Social Council). The conventions they’ve adopted have been propelling progress and international cooperation on a range of issues.
Also aiding in the development of unity of thought are world conferences or summits. The United Nations Conferences on the Environment and Development, for instance, also known as the Earth Summits, were held in 1992 and 2012.[v] From them, emerged the following documents: Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, and Forest Principles. The following conventions were adopted: Convention on Biological Diversity, Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Under the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists the world over contribute to an assessment of climate change, it’s physical, social and economic impact, and work on strategies for the control of greenhouse gas emissions. These findings are summarized in yearly reports to governments and policymakers.
On December 12, 2015, the historic Paris accord on climate change was signed by over 180 countries, creating a framework for the reduction of carbon emissions. Countries also pledged one hundred billion dollars to assist other countries and island nations displaced by the effects of climate change.
Another arena where we can look forward to new milestones in unity of thought in world undertakings is the eradication of poverty and hunger. The Millennium Goals were adopted by the United Nations for 1990-2015 (see addendum #3 for all eight goals).[vi] The first target goal was to reduce by one half the number of persons living on less than $1.25 per day, and halving the proportion of those suffering from hunger (defined as 1. Prevalence of underweight children under five years of age and 2. Proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption).
Ahead of the 2015 target date, the population living on less than $1.25 a day in developing countries was halved to 21%, or 1.2 billion people. The majority of this achievement took place in China and India. Some countries did not see progress and some goals fell short of fulfillment. Consultation on more aggressive targets are underway for the future. 795 million people in the world suffer from hunger or famine.
In the financial arena great turbulence exists in the world, much of it due to the absence of universal systems. At present, the people seem to be at the mercy of greed, exploitation, rogue economic maneuvers and financial lawlessness. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank Group of five agencies focused on reconstruction, development, finance and investments, have yet to discover the solutions to the world’s economic problems or the complex process of building a just universal economic system. A global system of currency is also a crying need, not just in the European Union, but for the world. The UN Global Compact came into being in the year 2000 to encourage standards in business with regard to work practices, human rights and corruption. The Compact has given birth to many other related agencies and movements.
Global consciousness has become centered on the terms “income inequality” and “economic justice.” It is now evident that economic justice is a prerequisite to unity. Under conditions of inequality and oppression, world unity and peace are unattainable. The elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty is the ultimate goal, as it is the only solution that will produce lasting tranquility. In the effort to comply with the Millennium goals to decrease poverty, G8 countries supplied the IMF and World Bank with enough funds to forgive the debt of countries with a yearly per capita income of less than $380 per person. Nevertheless, given that global poverty comes from systemic problems, it requires systemic solutions.
Going forward, the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty should be the guiding principle for unity of thought in the economic arena. Legislative remedies and voluntary giving are among the local as well as global movements that must be encouraged. Wise legislation can ensure that wealth is derived ethically and not through exploitation of the worker or the environment. It can also regulate taxation, so that the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. Legislators should also deliberate on what are normative economic rights of citizens. Do they include the right to basic food, to guaranteed work, to elementary education, to public healthcare, to universal pension, for example? Legislation to eliminate extremes could go so far as to promote profit sharing of capital with labor, giving the worker some return for his intellectual/physical effort.
Voluntary giving is a powerful means of ensuring that one’s wealth is spent with purpose, reflecting one’s hopes for humanity. It is also a tool for the elimination of extreme wealth. In 2010 The Giving Pledge became a movement on the part of billionaires to give away over 50% of their wealth.[vii] Through it, philanthropy is not only gaining momentum, it is also transforming the meaning of wealth. Increasingly, wealth is seen as a means of making a difference in the world, rather than as a means of ensuring one’s own comfort.
Civil society is one of the most powerful examples of unity of thought in world undertakings. Often, when official world organizations meet, they are shadowed by a forceful contingent of thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) made up of citizenry. In the Earth Summit, for instance, while some 2000 government officials deliberated, 17,000 non-governmental organization participants held a Global Forum.[viii] These NGO’s often lobby for causes not yet adopted by the world governmental organizations, and provide steady pressure for issues to rise to the top of the world’s agenda. Some organizations may have been born in one nation but their scope can be extended by alliances with an ever-wider group of collaborators, until global solidarity is reached.
This vast catalog of achievements shows that humanity is increasing its power to mobilize around pressing issues, to consult, and to reach consensus. Furthermore, the implementation of world undertakings is becoming more muscular.
Despite this sense of growing hope in our ability to improve global conditions some very thorny problems remain, and a sense of urgency mounts, with regard to increasing the pace of these world undertakings. And although the maxim that “a good tree cannot give bad fruit,” is widely accepted, some detractors of the work of these world bodies exist. Their objections come from a lack of trust between collaborating nations and a fear of jeopardizing individual nation sovereignty. In some extreme cases, fundamentalist religious agendas dominate the domestic discourse and may prevent a country from ratifying these global initiatives. The United States and Iran, for instance, are among the last seven nations that have not ratified CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, adopted by the UN in 1979.[ix]
It is evident that any one country alone cannot solve global crises such as terrorism, human trafficking, international drug trade, and refugees. Ever-wider circles of collaboration must exist, based on the growth of global consciousness of the solutions. Some nations are eager to join in collaborative efforts, while others, due to entrenched private interests or deeply seated “cultural practices,” are slow to join the table of global cooperation. It has been amply demonstrated, however, that slowly, the pressure of the world community and of systematic monitoring, brings about change.
What can the ordinary individual do to contribute to unity of thought in the world or to support these world undertakings? The generality of the public is almost completely unaware of this positive trend in global affairs. At best, our understanding is confused. We have no concept of how massive and organized these efforts are, of their rapid rate of development and mobilization. Our focus is still on individual country hegemony, the current wars and threat of wars, and the chaos of our disunion. An individual strategy, however, to align with the unity of thought movement can be a powerful decision. Artists, activists, socially conscious people of every persuasion can contribute to tipping the scales in the direction of global civilization. They can align their discourse, content, product, or professional practice with the growing consciousness of oneness, diversity, unity, solidarity, cooperation and world-mindedness. It is in the mind of single individuals that vision begins, that innovation is conceived, that love for humanity is born and carried out.
In 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, “The second candle is unity of thought in world undertakings, the consummation of which will erelong be witnessed.” We are surely bearing witness to it in this day. Momentum gathers such that soon, rather than pushing a boulder up a hill, we will have reached the zenith and the boulder will be rolling downhill propelled by its own force. That is to say, that at some point, governments and non-governmental entities will have developed the unity of thought, the will, and the vision to act, to fix the most intractable problems of humanity. Although this is but one of the Seven Candles of Unity (by which we can measure our progress towards world peace), it is overwhelming evidence that the world is making steady progress. The many crisis which daily distract and confound us, serve only to impel us to more clearly define the problems, and to more urgently seek enduring, collective solutions. So, yes, underneath the fog of all that is happening, the world is getting better, not worse.
1 – The Seven Candles of Unity[x]
|1. The first candle is unity in the political realm, the early glimmerings of which can now be discerned.|
|2. The second candle is unity of thought in world undertakings, the consummation of which will erelong be witnessed.|
|3. The third candle is unity in freedom which will surely come to pass.|
|4. The fourth candle is unity in religion which is the corner-stone of the foundation itself, and which, by the power of God, will be revealed in all its splendour.|
|5. The fifth candle is the unity of nations — a unity which in this century will be securely established, causing all the peoples of the world to regard themselves as citizens of one common fatherland.|
|6. The sixth candle is unity of races, making of all that dwell on earth peoples and kindreds of one race.|
|7. The seventh candle is unity of language, i.e., the choice of a universal tongue in which all peoples will be instructed and converse.|
2 – Agencies under the umbrella of the United Nations Economic and Social Council
3 – Millennium Development Goals by 2015: [vi]
- To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- To achieve universal primary education
- To promote gender equality
- To reduce child mortality
- To improve maternal health
- To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
- To ensure environmental sustainability
- To develop a global partnership for development