Dear Friends of the effort to build Earth Community,
Please, let us start today to send a message of care and support to the people of Syria. Let us work through our government, our elected officials, our religious organizations, and through civic groups such as Citizens for Global Solutions, http://www.globalsolutions.org, and the United Nations Association USA, http://www.una-usa.org, to call for a UN-supervised referendum in Syria so that the people of Syria can determine their own future democratically and non-violently, as is their universal human right.
What’s at Stake?
The relative failure up to now of the International Community, through the UN system or otherwise, to come to the effective aid and rescue of the Syrian people in their struggle for democratic methods of self-government is a travesty and a tragedy. By some estimates, over 7000 pro-democracy protesters have been killed by Syrian governments forces. At stake is the future of Syria and, more broadly, of the Arab human rights revolution.
Human Rights for Syria and the Middle East!
The failure points to the weakness, not of the UN's list of human rights, which is set out in over 90 international documents, but of the UN's regional human rights enforcement system, which, in the case of the Middle East, is simply non-existent.
Why, for example, is there no effort to create a Middle Eastern Court of Human Rights similar to the Inter-American and European courts of human rights? The answer is, of course, simple: the privileged One Percent in the Middle East do not want it.
Ms. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has called on the UN Security Council to refer the Syrian matter to the International Criminal Court. In its initial report in November 2011, the three-member Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, set up by the UN Human Rights Council, stated that the military and security forces of Syria have committed crimes against humanity during their crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. The report documented summary executions, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, including sexual violence, and violations of the rights of children. In an update made public February 23, the three-member commission reported that, in recent months, the crisis has become “increasingly violent and militarized.” In recent debate in the General Assembly, Ms. Pillay stated, “The Government of Syria has manifestly failed to fulfill its obligation to protect its population. Each and every member of the international community must act now to urgently protect the Syrian population.” (See Press Release GA/11206.) Given the failure of the Security Council to take effective action, it is now up to the International Criminal Court to take action and issue arrest warrants for the crimes committed by the Syrian government.
The Obsolete UN Security Council.
The Syrian situation also points to the flaws in the current setup of the UN Security Council, which should enforce the norms of the UN Charter but often does not because of the self-will of the One Percent in one or more of the Permanent Members of the Council. In the Syrian case, the US took a pro-active position, but other major governments (Russia and China) vetoed the resolution that would have threatened legally binding sanctions against the Syrian government. This has given the Syrian government a free hand to increase its violence.
The General Assembly Resolution of February 16, 2012
The situation has now moved to the UN General Assembly, which on February 16 issued a new resolution, but where any resolution, no matter how morally correct, is legally non-binding.
The resolution, which is similar to the one rejected by Russia and China in the Security Council (see Press Release SC/10536), calls for the Syrian government “to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against ciilians.” According to General Assembly Press Release 11207, the Assembly “called on Syria to abide by its obligations under international law, and demanded that the Government, in line with the 2 November 2011 Action Plan of the League of Arab States, and its decisions of 22 January and 12 February 2012, without delay, stop all violence and protect its people, release all those detained during the unrest, withdraw all armed forces from cities and towns, guarantee peaceful demonstrations and allow unhindered access for Arab League monitors and international media.”
On February 23, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as joint UN-Arab League Envoy to Syria.
We cannot create justice in a world governed by and for the One Percent.
The selfish behavior of the One Percent over decades and centuries has driven humanity into endless warfare and the biosphere into what biologists and geologists are now calling the Holocene Extinction Event. A world so governed is inherently unjust and morally abhorrent to any person of sincere religious and spiritual values, to anyone who is seriously trying to build an all-inclusive and sustainable Earth Community.
The world is governed with gross injustice, yet all religions call for justice! As the scriptures of the Baha'i world community tell us: “The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. . . . Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.” (Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 36) (See the PS at the end of this letter for more information about the Bahá'í word community.)
Let us therefore call out, in the name of the world’s religions, for justice in Syria. But will the One Percent in Syria heed a mere call? Sadly, no, at least not at first.
We Need Concrete Alternatives to Rule by the One Percent.
If we, the Ninety-Nine Percent, want this world to govern itself with justice, we need to issue not just a call for justice but start employing actual methods whereby we can begin to organize ourselves as a direct active force within the global self-government process. One excellent and non-violent way to do this is through demanding national, regional, and global referendums on issues of national, regional, and global public policy, such as advocated by Jim Stark and Vote World Parliament, http://www.voteworldparliament.org,
In general, We the Peoples of the United Nations need to start demanding that the One Percent acknowledge our right to direct voter participation in global, regional, and national decision-making. International citizen initiatives and world votes can also be organized privately through the Internet, but it is important to raise the formal demand for our voting rights within the institutions of the One Percent. The failure of the One Percent to have utilized such methods in the past is (yet another) failure on its part to have served humanity’s best interests. In the name of justice, we must correct this failure. The One Percent must do its fair share to fund and institute those corrections.
In the case of Syria, the Syrian people need to be enabled to hold a genuine, UN-supervised referendum or recall vote on their leadership and form of self-government.
This is their universal human right! A referendum is a peaceful and non-violent way to help stop the bloodshed and to resolve the issue in Syria. The Syrian government, indeed, claims to have set a referendum on a new Syrian constitution for February 26, but how can it be a genuine referendum when the Syrian government itscontinues its armed attacks on civilians, children, and the international media? In alignment with the UN General Assembly resolution, which calls for “an inclusive Syrian-led political process, conducted in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation and extremism and aimed at effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the people,” we must demand a genuine, UN-supervised referendum, not a mockery.
As American citizens, we can communicate this idea of a genuine Syrian referendum to our own government and legislators and urge religious and other groups to support it too.
Doing this is as simple as phoning or emailing the groups involved. Reach the White House via 202-456-1111 or http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments). Contact Senate members via http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm and House members via http://www.house.gov/representatives/. Keep abreast of the situation in Syria through our own US Mission to the United Nations (http://www.usun.state.gov/) and through the State Department (http://www.state.gov/). Citizens for Global Solutions can be reached via 202-546-3950 and UNA-USA via 202-887-9040. Urge them, and other groups, to support the plebiscite idea. Spread the word widely.
Globalization and the Internet have made us world public citizens.
As the alternative to world rule by the One Percent, we the Ninety-Nine Percent thus need to start assuming a more direct responsibility for how the world governs itself. While we are at it, let's therefore also take some time to study the general problem of regional and global public voting and of reform of the UN Security Council.
To start on the issue of global public voting, go to the website of Vote World Parliament, http://www.voteworldparliament, and begin to read about the world advisory referendum proposed by Costa Rica as part of the International Year of Peace in 1986. You can also request from me personally a copy of my paper entitled “Plebiscites, Referendums, Initiatives, and Recalls: The Direct Will of the Peoples of States as a Source of International Law and Policy.”
Security Council Reform.
For materials on reform of the Security Council, check out the websites of Citizens for Global Solutions under “United Nations” and also the websites of the Global Policy Forum (www.globalpolicy.org) and the Center for UN Reform Education, www.centerforunreform.org. See particularly the proposals of Professor Joseph Schwartzberg for a regional seating arrangement on the Council that would represent the entire world community and not just a few major powers. Schwartzberg has also proposed weighted voting in the General Assembly that would give it greater moral authority and eventual legal authority.
Build Earth Community!
It is long, long past time for humanity to simply break with its pathetic past of horrific disunity, warfare, and religious and economic alienation and to move together a d ahead toward systematically building a sustainable Earth Community. But this can happen only with the constant peaceful and educated pressure of the Ninety-Nine Percent. THAT’S US!
When the people lead, the leaders will eventually follow. So, let’s get to work! Call your political, religious, and civic group leaders today, while this is still on your mind.
Yours toward Earth Community,
John Dale, firstname.lastname@example.org
PS: Worldwide Religion and Alternatives to Rule by the One Percent.
Why do I mention the Bahá'í world community in this letter? Some of you may not even have heard of it. What, actually, is it, and why is it worthy of attention, IMO?
I mention it not for reasons of some kind of personal religious fanaticism but because it is important for us to try to envision a unifying, constructive role that religion could be playing in humanity’s globalizing future, and the Bahá'í world community offers itself and its principles and methods of self-government in this regard as a model for investigative study.
For better or worse, institutional religions are repositories of much of humanity’s hopes for a better future. They are also significant owners and directors of human and material resources. They and their resources cannot be ignored in any effort to build a sustainable Earth Community. On the other hand, many religions are still “part of the problem” and are failing to orient their followers to the objective reality of humanity’s desperate situation.
That situation is a matter of public scientific record. Humanity’s objective situation on this planet is one of rapidly increasing unsustainability. Many conservation biologists believe that humanity’s current 7 billion population is already 200 to 300 percent over what the Earth can permanently sustain—a population of 2 to 3 billion. Computer models of the world system since the 1970s have consistently predicted large-scale social, agricultural, and ecological system collapses in the first third of the 21st century unless concerted actions were taken to avoid them. THAT’S NOW.
Because humanity has allowed itself to be governed by the One Percent, who live sociologically “in their own world,” those actions have not happened, and we are still “on schedule” for disasters.
Humanity desperately needs alternatives to rule by money, to rule by rhetoric and deception, to rule with an eye to re-election, to rule by military might—to rule by the One Percent.
We need a new system of self-government, a system that will return us to sustainability and move us to Earth Community, to government in the public and long-term interest, and to government unwarped by adversarial and corporately funded electoral systems.
Religion in general, including the Bahá'í teachings, could be an institutional source of this human turn-around and of ethical modulation of rule by the One Percent. We cannot afford to ignore this potentiality. In fact, if religious institutions do not arise to meet the objective needs of humanity at this most critical occasion, their future spiritual irrelevance will be ipso facto guaranteed.
By way of basic background, then, the root baha in Arabic means glory or radiance, like the sun at dawn. In essence, the word “Bahá'í” thus means “radiant,” and “Bahá'u'lláh” thus means “Glory of the Lord,” a phrase and title that runs throughout the Tanakh, the New Testaments, and other scriptures. Bahá'ís are people who are radiant because they are satisfied that the teachings of Mírzá Husayn `Alí Núrí (born Persia, 1817, died in prison in Palestine, 1892), who took the title “Baha’u’llah,” constitute the spiritual return of the Christ “in the glory (baha) of the Father” in advance of the era of globalization. They live in the light of a global spiritual fulfillment, and all of us, whether we are Bahá'ís or not, can live similarly in the spiritualizing, uplifting light of Earth Community.
The Bahá'í community originated in Persia (Iran) in 1844—a date important in both Jewish, Christian, and Islamic prophecy—and now numbers five to six million. It governs itself through a globally elected Universal House of Justice, which is seated on Mt. Carmel in Israel.
Put in contemporary terms, Baha’u’llah’s chief teachings and contributions to human spiritual and political progress include:
· One all-inclusive, all-loving God as the source of every religion and of one advancing global process of spiritual and ethical education for the growth of actual justice, wisdom, and virtues;
· The prohibition of fanaticism and of religious conflict and alienation;
· True religion as re-ligio (re-connection) with reality, with science and religion yoked together for universal human well-being and sustainable development, including the elimination of extremes of both poverty and wealth;
· Achieving the oneness and unanimity of humanity through respectful, inclusive dialogue and feedback within rational, non-fanatical frameworks of general consultation;
· The equal dignity and worth of men and women, and an emphasis on the developing child;
· Elimination of racial, ethnic, and national prejudice and the encouragement of intermarriage;
· Moderation in all affairs, with implications for childbearing and population;
· Appreciation of Nature as God’s trust;
· Humility, and avoidance of excesses of material possessiveness;
· Choice of an auxiliary global language, Esperanto being a designed, working example of such a language that 500,000 to 1,000,000 people around the world have already chosen for their personal use (see, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahá’í_Esperanto-League). Since Bahá'u'lláh’s time, English, obviously, has become widely used, particularly among the One Percent.
· Settling conflicts and ending warfare and violence through dialogue and justice, through international supervision and verification of arms reduction, and through progressively implementing the dignifying patterns and methods of non-adversarial democratic self-government revealed in the Bahá'í scriptures for use at the local, national, and global levels—methods that Bahá'ís see as heralding the political coming-of-age of the human race. Two unique features of this system are (1) no electoral campaigning and (2) decision-making through groups rather than by individual leaders.
Through their NGO at the UN (the Bahá'í International Community), Bahá'ís strongly support universal human rights, international cooperation, and improvements in the UN framework of global self-government.
Earth Community’s main scriptures, including those of the Bahá'í world community, are available for free through www.bahai-library.com. See websites such as http://www.bahai.org/ for more information.
John Therrien Dale,