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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
In the wake of another senseless incident of racial violence the majority of Americans are sagging their heads in desperation, rubbing their hearts to assuage the pain of a wound that will not heal, saying, “I can’t do this anymore.” Terroracism has the whole nation firmly in its grip. And the media, well…the media which we watch feverishly for some crumb of understanding, will find its focus where it will. It will magnify seemingly random soundbites and often ignore the greater question.
The point is not whether some almost saintly black people can forgive the misdeeds of the gunman. That should not be our focus in this moment. As sublime and awe inspiring as that may be, that should not be our national discourse in the face of this event. The question is how angry should the rest of us be that this can happen, that there are others waiting in the shadows to commit the same atrocity upon black innocent people. And that we should be powerless to deter it, and have to watch it. Again.
When will we, the silent majority, take to the streets and march in the name of the race unity? When will we decide to show by force of numbers that the evil minority does not speak in our name? That we have turned the tide of our country? I do not know how many racist still exist, too many for sure. But they are a small number compared to those of us who have rejected for all time this malignant ideology, who do not want this cancer in our body politic, who have seen and believed the evidence of science that the human race is one species with infinite variation, who want to live in peace and freedom from prejudice.
Whether or not these nice black people can forgive a satanic individual is a personal matter that should be left to them. There are some people who are highly evolved and follow the Christian teaching of “turn the other cheek.” But that should not be the attitude of the state, whose duty it is to exact justice. Neither should it be the attitude of the rest of us, who should be thinking of the future, taking systematic measures to prevent the other domestic terrorists that lurk in the shadows, plotting similar actions. The terror they inflict on the black population of this country, who cannot even attend church without fearing for their lives, who cannot send their teenage sons out on the street without fearing for their safety, that should be our concern.
For the media to play up the “forgiveness story” of these modern day lynchings only serves to appease our apprehension of an all out race war, our fear of full scale riots by the madding crowd. It is a sinister news angle that does nothing to address the underlying problem.
The reality is that we must root out the language, the symbols, the vestiges and the remnants of racism from our culture. Forget free speech. Your freedom of speech ends where my safety is infringed on. If Germany can make it illegal to display swasticas then we can make it illegal to own klu klux clan paraphernalia, to name our boulevards after slavery defending generals, to wave their flag from our public buildings. We must speak out against racist conversations, race baiting, race bashing, reverse racism, institutional racism and colorism. We’ve got to embrace our mixed nation, praise our abolitionists, expose our history, both the egregious and the noble, let go of our lost cause narrative, show that in the main, we are a great people, struggling to get to the promised land.
Our self defense against terroracism should be decisive, systematic and strategic, aimed at protecting our country and everyone in it. Racists in power should be exposed like naked kings, whether they are policemen, administrators, senators or media commentators. Racism, whether veiled or overt, should be out of fashion, out of favor, and frowned upon.
And still this will not be enough.
To truly heal our nation we must walk the path of race unity, forging lasting friendships, overcoming denial, abandoning mistrust, giving up that unconscious sense of superiority, rooting out that learned sense of inferiority. We must intermarry, have mixed race children with multiple allegiances, who can feel the unity in their own skin. In order “to live out the true meaning of our creed,” we still have much work ahead. But let’s get at it, let’s not give up, nor give in to despair. Let’s not forgive, nor be afraid. Like all true Americans, let’s forge the society we want, let’s pioneer the country we want to live in.
“And except those days be shortened
there shall be no flesh saved:
but for the elect’s sake
those days shall be shortened.”
I am looking for a place to lay down my head
I look right, then left, but no place is home.
I am woman without country
My poetry no longer soothes me
My prayers no longer cure me
My mission doesn’t fill me –
I just want to go home.
Living in the last days,
Time of frogs in boiling water,
Tribulations without end
Such as was not since the beginning…of time.
There’s no flesh on my bones
I am lost in the storm
I must lay down my head
On a smooth white stone.
Iniquity abounds, suffering is aflame
As in the days of Noah…the flood came,
And took them all away
Can a spirit survive being crushed in a vice?
How long before it shatters like a supernova?
Oh Mercy grant that these days are shortened,
Oh say, we can all go home.
Pray we will come together
Oh Faith, feed us on the bread of hope.
And God grant soon the Earth is chastened
Her children helped to find their soul
That one by one we forsake the hating
Bind her wounds and bring her body home.
Please God, may these days be shortened
Praise God, we can all go home.
PEOPLE BEING INTERVIEWED IN A SUPERMARKET
(SHOPPER 1) “She had an unusual religion. Where you can’t get involved in partisan politics. You know? Really. You can’t run for office. Only if you’re appointed. And that’s what happened with her. This old man from her district died. The prime minister asked, who is the best person from your district. They said, ah there’s this retired teacher, a school principal. So they named her. And then she goes there. And starts talking about things.”
(SHOPPER 2) “Solving problems. That’s what she did. While other members were stuck and arguing. She started bringing solutions. And it was so refreshing it caught on. Like a wildfire.”
(SHOPPER 3) “Yeah, and then, people started to watch what she said. It was on television. Her speeches were carried live. And I skipped class one time, because Maria Klaus was going to speak.”
(SHOPPER 4) “Even in the bars. They switched the channel to see her speak. If they knew she was going to speak.”
(SHOPPER 5) “Well that was not so shocking as her first speech in parliament. I looked this one up later, when I was doing my master’s degree on her. And it was absolutely amazing what she did. She changed the rules of the game. She established a whole new set of rules for deliberation. And this applied only when SHE brought something to the floor.”
(SHOPPER 6) “Ah, but it started to rub off. Because by contrast, it made other practices look silly. Actually, you could now see right through members who had an agenda, or who were controlled by special interest groups.”
April 21, Year 1
I thank the Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen, for his gracious introduction and I accept his invitation to address to you a few words. As the speaker mentioned, I am from the — district and I am humbled, sincerely humbled to be in this beautiful edifice, so full of meaning for our people and on which rest so many of their hopes.
I am also a bit overwhelmed to be among the company of such distinguished ladies and gentlemen such as yourselves, who have chosen this field of endeavor, to be public servants, and have spent many years here.
In fact, that is why I address you, to explain to you the peculiarities that have led me here, and the limitations to my service. You see, I will be here a very short time. As you know I was appointed by our illustrious Prime Minister to complete the term of the late distinguished Mr. —–, member for my district for the last 37 years. I have never harbored any aspiration for a political career and was greatly surprised to be asked to undertake this challenge. Nevertheless, I am committed to serve in good faith, to the best of my ability, giving all my heart and mind to the devising of solutions to our country’s problems.
The reason I say I am surprised to find myself here, is that if the normal course of events were to be followed, I could not be here. You see, my religion, it makes no matter what that religion is, I know we make no distinctions here. But the fact of the matter is that I am prevented by that religion from engaging in any form of partisan politics. At present, our political system as u know is very much ruled by the party system. In order to obtain a seat in parliament one must align oneself with one party, in opposition to another. So. The first peculiarity of my case is this, that I will not, indeed cannot seek a second term following the completion of this one.
I appreciate your perplexity, but it must be so.
Now I am sure you have already deduced from this my next difficulty. And that is that I must serve without aligning myself to any political party. You ask yourself perhaps, how can I be of any use at all, then? Well, I have given this a great deal of reflection and I feel there may be a way, if I simply confine myself to deliberating the merits of a question, without regard for how it affects the interests of the various parties or its alignment with a particular partisan ideology. Likewise, ladies and gentlemen, when I bring a proposal to the floor, which I hope, with conscientious study to be able to do, you will help me greatly, by following a procedure where you deliberate my proposals on its merits, with full and total frankness, with full indulgence of my inability to explain how it would fall within the various party alignments. If you are able to do this, I am sure you will quickly ferret out the flaws of my argument or be able to add modifications of improvement. With that explanation, which I hope was sufficiently brief, I hope I have obtained your goodwill for the peculiarity of my mode of serving my term of office.
Thank you very much.
As reported by Rhea Harmsen