The Obstacles to Human Unity and World Peace.

In “The Ideal of Human Unity” Sri Aurobindo approached the root causes of large-scale organized violence and what it will take to eliminate war.

Sri Aurobindo Studies

Sri Aurobindo analyzes the issues that stand in the way of development of a larger societal formation that would work to eliminate strife and bring humanity together for its collective benefit in a peaceful regime.  Without a radical change in the human psychology, all the outer methods and systems fall short of achieving a total solution.

“The mind of the race has not as yet the necessary experience; the intellect of its ruling classes has not acquired the needed minimum of wisdom and foresight; the temperament of the peoples has not developed the indispensable instincts and sentiments.  Whatever arrangement is made will proceed on the old basis of national egoisms, hungers, cupidities, self-assertions and will simply endeavour to regulate them just enough to prevent too disastrous collisions.  The first means tried will necessarily be insufficient because too much respect will be paid to those very egoisms which it is sought…

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Moralizing International Politics.

(Originally posted at Transcend International)

Moralizing International Politics

BY TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 4 Dec 2017

Dr. Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra – TRANSCEND Media Service

This article makes an appeal to bridge the chasm between the practice of international politics and the universal moral principles. Violation of moral principles has emerged a norm than exception in international politics. States and global institutions have proved ineffective to checkmate violent conflicts and wanton killings as in Syria. It is not they are incapable or lack resources. The problem lies elsewhere. Ego is a major cause behind much of the hazards in international politics. The article problematizes ego and calls for a broader thinking in international politics.  

Ban Ki-moon, the former head of the United Nations, expressed the frustration of our age. He lamented: “It should shame us all…the suffering of the Syrian people continues to plumb new depths … The international community, and in particular the Security Council, cannot afford to waste any further time in ending the cycle of violence… it is time to find an exit from this madness” (The United Nations 2015). Syria provides a stark example before us how states and global institutions have proved ineffective to ensure international peace and security. Within a span of six years since the crisis erupted, more than 400,000 people lost lives and unaccountable others uprooted. The powerful states in the United Nations flexed muscles over means to realize peace. Peace remained elusive.

One of the factors that contribute to the ineffectiveness of the international community and its leaders is the technological-moral chasm. There has been rapid growth in technology, particularly the communication technology, but the thinking pattern has not witnessed parallel growth. The old primordial way of thinking has not changed. The archetypal thinking in terms of binaries – mine vs thine, us vs them, my group vs rival group – has not evolved over centuries though major changes appeared in the structure and organization of human living. This thinking has produced a paradox. In the midst of developed technology, globalization and discourses of a flat and borderless world, the states are engaged in re-bordering practices. Technology has been used to rigidify barriers – us vs them – through narrow visions of security. Both hard power and soft power are used to strengthen these binaries in thinking and practice.

Does seclusion/isolation help? Is an isolated state immune from insecurity beyond its borders? In this age of globalization, how would states ensure safety at home when there is violence outside? The global concerns such as terrorism, religious extremism and climate change transcend state borders. Isolation as a foreign policy strategy might have worked in the past, but in the contemporary world isolation implies invitation to more problems. A small happening in a small part of the globe can shape international developments. How would erecting barriers ensure security of one state while other states undergo violent crises? Does eerie calm imply peace? When minds are disturbed, security is fragile, peace is uneasy, when we have blatantly messed up with Nature, how would we ensure the survival of human race in the decades and centuries to come?

The states spend billions of dollars in building weapons, while vouching disarmament. States spent around 1686 billion US dollars on defense in 2016. Contrast this figure with another figure: from 2014 to 2016, about 795 million people in the world suffered from chronic undernourishment. Is it not a violation of human moral principle to invest billions in weapons to secure people and borders while people remain hungry?

Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo argued, like individuals, states have egos– amplified through national habits, prejudices and idiosyncrasies (Sri Aurobindo 1962). When applied to international politics, they lead to jingoism, exploitation and wars, leading to practices like colonialism and imperialism. Colonialism and imperialism, one of the worst forms of exploitation, have ended. However, they were only manifestation of an exploitative substructure. The root, the ego, is intact, and its manifestation has acquired new shapes. The Indian philosopher argued that state ego could evolve when state leaders think in terms of larger human unity and harmony. The establishment of the United Nations, after the failure of the League of Nations, was hailed as a right step in this direction. The UN was established with a promise to ensure dignity and equality to all states. Has this happened?

If the ultimate goal of human life is peace and security, then the theories of international politics have not fared well. Grand theorizing might provide a big picture and offer plausible explanations of developments, but they largely fail to account small developments at small places with big implications. Should not theories suggest ways to address state egos and its various avatars? Explaining developments in retrospect maybe useful as it offers insights for future action, but unless there is an active agenda to realize global peace, the theories would be limiting in their usefulness. Social science theories, dealing with human beings and their behaviors, stand in contrast to physical science theories, which deal with matter, mostly insentient. The post-behavioralism trend in political science that emerged in late 1960s due to ‘deep dissatisfaction in political research and teaching’ called for ‘new strategies in science’. David Easton in his presidential address at American Political Science Association in 1969 called for “the development of new norm of behavior” as the post-behavioral trend “sees policy engagement as a social responsibility of the intellectual…” He further agued, “Someday it may also require the release of the social scientist from bondage to the unique needs and objectives of his own national political system” (Easton 1969, 1061). The trend, however, petered out quickly. Now is the time to revive this trend.

Some theories suggest that the world has become a better place to live since inter-state wars have declined. Are we living in a more secure and peaceful world? What about wars within communities and states and their international ramifications? How does one define conflict in Syria – intrastate, interstate or both, or a more dangerous face of traditional rivalries? Thousands of fault lines along regions, religions, races, ethnicities have emerged. Even the threat of interstate wars with a nuclear angle cannot be undermined. The present crisis can be compared to a can of worms, with worms – multiple conflicts at various levels – continuously crawl out, in all shapes, sizes and colors and challenge individuals and states alike.

The dilemma over pleasure, happiness and peace was well depicted in the life of the Greek philosopher Diogenes. The philosopher asked the Emperor Alexander, who offered him all comforts of life, not to block sun light and that was all what he needed from him. With a lantern in his hand, Diogenes searched for an honest man. This act may defy rational understanding, but it contains a deeper message, which can help salvage humanity from the multiple crises. Pretensions, subterfuges, and other instruments meant for tangential gains bring hazards in its trail and harm the perpetrator. Gandhi’s caution rings true: “For one man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole” (Gandhi 1969, 571).

A report titled, “Welcome to Miami, Massachusetts” claimed that if the greenhouse gas emission continues at the current rate, “… by 2100 Boston’s average summer-high temperatures will likely be more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than they are now, ‘making it feel as steamy as North Miami Beach is today’” (Annear 2014). A large iceberg of the size of Delaware broke off from an ice shelf in Antarctica in July 2017. According to a report, “global warming has pushed temperatures up to 5 degrees higher in the region since the 1950s and could increase up to 7 degrees more by the end of the century, putting more stress on the ice” (Rice 2017). Tony de Brum, the former Marshall Islands Foreign Minister, nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for his role in Paris Climate agreement, died recently at the age of 72. Brum witnessed the ‘Bravo shot,’ the thermonuclear test at Bikini Atoll when he was 9 years old. He became a champion of nuclear disarmament and environment protection. Brum, whose island home went under waters due to rising ocean, argued, “The thought of evacuation is repulsive to us…We think that the more reasonable thing to do is to seek to end this madness, this climate madness, where people think that smaller, vulnerable countries are expendable and therefore they can continue to do business as usual” (The Guardian 2017). Gandhi’s ‘Nature has for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed’ provides a powerful message. Unless the very basic thinking of states and their leaders change, it will be difficult to moralize international politics.

Plato devised a scheme of governance in which the king, the modern equivalent of president/prime minister, must be a philosopher. The king must undergo decades of education to govern the state. The king and his class must rise above the notions of mine and thine, live a communal life, eat in common kitchen, transcend boundaries of family and group, and become free to dedicate his life to state. Applying the Platonic yardstick to modern day kings, leaders of modern states, may appear farfetched, but it provides a vision how a leader should govern a state.

For moralizing international politics, one state does not have to dominate or be dominated. Morality requires collective conscience and action. The states, through their leaders, need to develop an integral moral psychology that informs social, economic and political worlds as they interact and shape each other. Powerful states may provide leadership in this direction.

References:

Annear, Steve (2014) Welcome to Miami, Massachusetts. Boston Daily, July 11, http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2014/07/11/climate-central-map-heat-boston-miami/, accessed 4 July 2017.

Easton, David (1969) The New Revolution in Political Science. The American Political Science Review; 63 (4):1051-1061.

Gandhi, Mahatma (1969) The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi Vol. 32. New Delhi: The Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.

Rice, Doyle (2017) Massive iceberg nearly the size of Delaware breaks off Antarctica. USA Today, 12 July, https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/sciencefair/2017/07/12/massive-iceberg-breaks-off-antarctica/102637874/, accessed 4 July 2017.

Sri Aurobindo (1962) Human Cycle, the Ideal of Human Unity, War and Self-Determination. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

The Guardian (2017) Tony de Brum, champion of Paris climate agreement, dies aged 72, 23 August,https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/23/tony-de-brum-champion-of-paris-climate-agreement-dies-aged-72, accessed 24 August 2017.

The United Nations (2015) Statement by the Secretary-General on the Third Anniversary of the Geneva Communique on Syria.  30 June, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/06/30/world/middleeast/ap-un-united-nations-syria.html, accessed 5 August 2017.

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Dr Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra is a member of the TRANSCEND Network, Director of the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Non-Violence, Human Rights and World Peace at Hindu University of America in Florida, and a Fellow at the Center for Peace, Democracy and Development, University of Massachusetts Boston. He is an Indian commentator and his areas of interest include conflict transformation and peacebuilding in South and Central Asia. His edited book Conflict and Peace in Eurasia was published by Routledge in 2013.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 4 Dec 2017.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source,TMS: Moralizing International Politics, is included. Thank you.

An Interview Of Santosh Krinsky.

By Jerry Alatalo

r. Santosh Krinsky, editor of Sri Aurobindo Studies here at WordPress, has kindly given a positive response to our invitation to participate in an interview. Thank you Santosh for sharing your thoughts in the following words.

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Question 1…) What was your primary motivation for entering the world of blogging on the worldwide web – on the internet?

Having heard for years how difficult it was for many people to delve into the writings of Sri Aurobindo, and their consequent lack of knowledge about the issues raised and covered in those writings, and having personally determined that I wanted to find a way to deepen my own appreciation by a steady, systematic review, I combined the intention of a daily study session with the idea of blogging to allow others to participate if they felt so inclined, in this process. 

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Question 2…) How would you describe yourself with regard to spirituality? What were some of the most memorable transforming points across the years (books, personal contacts, mystical experiences, etc.) in the developing of your current spiritual perspective?

I distinguish spirituality from any form of religious practice.  For myself a spiritual life is about recognizing the oneness and inter-connectedness of all life and existence, and then working to transform thoughts, emotions, and actions to express the recognition of that oneness.  During that process, the essential mystical experience is one that opens the heart and mind to the beauty and underlying harmony of existence, which can arise at any time and under any circumstances, whether in solitude walking in a forest, or in the midst of activity of daily life. 

As to memorable transforming moments, the first time I was given a copy of Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine certainly counts as one of those moments.  When I opened it randomly and read the first few paragraphs, I suddenly recognized a connection which has continued now for over 46 years!  Another was when I was residing for a period of time at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry India in 1973 and experienced the Mahasamadhi of Sri Aurobindo’s co-worker The Mother in November 1973.  The events of that time went deep into my psyche and helped me to take a new direction and attitude in my life.

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Question 3…) What is your greatest wish for readers as a consequence after reading/considering your writings?

In the end, no amount of reading can replace the actual inner opening and practice of the spiritual principles.   The daily blog post may be a way for readers to step out of their normal hectic lives for a few moments to reflect on how to integrate their spiritual quest in their lives, and if it has that result, I would be gratified. 

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Question 4…and final) Can you offer any advice to people having a difficult time dealing with government and media lies, especially as it pertains to so many average citizens who hold erroneous perceptions on important events and situations around the Earth.

I find this message from Sri Aurobindo to be essential:   “live within, be not shaken by outward happenings”.   The evolution of consciousness on the planet continues, just as life evolved out of matter, and mind evolved out of life, the next phase of development of consciousness is underway.  One of the hallmarks of this process is the revealing and exposure of the falsehoods and deceptions that have built up under the framework of physical denseness, vital aggressiveness and mental separation.  As the awareness of oneness takes hold, secrets get revealed and all people and institutions of society are impacted.  Those holding power try to hold on using “any means necessary” which causes considerable short-term suffering.  The ongoing force of the spiritual transformation however eventually will be able to gain the upper hand and usher in a new vision that treats the planet with respect, and which recognizes the oneness of all people and does not get bogged down in the mental distinctions of race, religion, gender, class, etc. which so burden all of humanity in today’s world. 

Eventually the deceptions must be revealed.  What is occurring in the modern world is essentially no different than what has happened throughout the vital and mental phases of human evolution, only that the powers of mass media and corporatism  provide added leverage to those seeking to hold power over others and undertake the “self-dealing” that creates enormous suffering in the world for those who are prevented from having access to the world’s resources.  Yet we see an ever growing force of “truth-consciousness” which is beginning to peel back the layers of obscuration and deception so that we become more aware of it.  Awareness is the first stage for any real change of consciousness.  Thus we can see that persistence and patience, understanding and goodwill, and providing an example of action from the state of oneness are the powers that each person who awakens at this critical juncture needs to put into practice.  Speak truth, act with honor, hold goodwill and compassion in one’s heart, and have confidence that the evolutionary process proceeds apace to spread a new power of consciousness that will be able to bring forth the harmony that is so desperately needed in the world.

Actually one thing occurred to me that people everywhere can do along these lines:

People can take active steps to recognize the oneness of all of humanity by building bridges between people of different cultures and religions, sharing and appreciating what strengths each of them bring with them, and looking behind the differences to see the common humanity.  This may involve visiting, participating in and honoring the practices of various religions or spiritual paths, reaching out to people who are disadvantaged and working actively to ease their suffering, as well as acting as a thought-leader in one’s own circles to counter-act bigotry and racism, class consciousness and prejudice with a deeper conviction and insight into the common circumstances of all humanity. 

Similarly, working toward respecting all species who share the planet, and working toward respecting the planet itself and supporting actions that heal rather than destroy, that bring harmony rather than dissension, are all things that people of good will can do.

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Thank you again, Santosh. Peace.