From chaos to a new world order

A call for justice, equality and participation

By Graham Peebles

Living at this time is to bear witness to a world in acute turmoil. Noam Chomsky describes the current climate, saying: “We are living in an era of irrationality, deception, confusion, anger and unfocused fear an ominous combination, with few precedents.” Existing political and economic structures that have failed to serve the people are in decay. A new world order based on the universally recognized principles of justice, equality, unity and freedom is the call of many around the world.

“Human beings are members of a whole, in creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, other members uneasy will remain.” These startling words were spoken not by a Greek philosopher or renowned Indian spiritual master, but by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, during his final address to the UN General Assembly on 26 September.

Free from the usual confrontational rhetoric and overflowing with uncharacteristically inspiring language, the message, while open to criticism and shouts of hypocrisy, is beyond political clichés and is consonant with an army of reasonable voices calling for change throughout the world. The content is remarkable; indeed, one wonders from whence such a stream of righteousness arose – out of the blue, it seems. Love was repeatedly spoken of – the ”L” word being mentioned no less than 13 times; justice was repeated 15 times; and peace 12 times in his half hour an hour at the podium.

Is this a poetical rant from an unpredictable and, among many at home and abroad, unpopular politician, to be dismissed, or is the address something more significant and in tune with the demands of the times: a new world order based on unity and cooperation, participation and justice?

New order to create unity and save our planet

The current world order is, as Ahmadinejad states, “founded on materialism … and has been shaped by selfishness [and] deception… [I]t is discriminatory and based on injustice.” It promotes separation and conflict, and breeds psychological and physiological fear. “No one feels secure or safe, even those who have stockpiled thousands of atomic bombs and other arms in their arsenals,” he said. The perpetuation of anxiety provides a pretext for the production of armaments, fuels paranoia and helps to maintain the constantly growing profits of the pharmaceutical companies, which are running at full capacity to placate a worldwide epidemic of depression and stress.

While politicians flounder in the past and attempt to save crumbling and outdated institutions, people throughout the world suffer through political incompetence and the hardships of economic injustice and collapse. After posing a question that many of us have asked – “Does anybody believe that the continuation of the current order is capable of bringing happiness to human society – Ahmadinejad called for a new world order that will allow human beings to live peacefully and facilitate coordinated action to save our planet

However, for this world order to come about, the broadest level of participation is necessary. Participation underlies the very foundation of democracy, though it is rarely expressed in practice. As Noam Chomsky says, “current Anglo-American institutions of representative democracy would be criticized first of all because there is a monopoly of power centralized in the state, and secondly and critically because the representative democracy is limited to the political sphere and in no serious way encroaches on the economic sphere”. Such concentrations of power and privilege, injustice and unaccountability are neither representative nor democratic and apply to national and international institutions, including the UN, where disproportionate power rests with the unrepresentative Security Council.

Isolationist policies based on self-interest promote distrust, creating division, conflict and tensions that repeatedly ignite into violence and war – the eradication of which is the number one priority for humanity. “Today everyone is discontent and disappointed with the current international order,” Ahmadinejad says. That is an assessment which vast numbers throughout the world would agree with. As Chomsky notes with reference to the US, “there’s a sense of hopelessness, sometimes despair”.

All nations and groups of nations, aligned and nonaligned (the marginalized majority), should be encouraged to participate fully in the creative construction of a new, saner way of living for everyone. Such a rational and inclusive approach to world management runs contrary to the current imbalance and echoes ideas of participation and unity proclaimed by the Occupy movement. This movement is trying to create cooperative communities that just might be the basis for the kinds of lasting organizations necessary to overcome the barriers ahead and the backlash that is already underway.

Participation and cooperation

The majority of people in the world have little or no say over how they are governed and feel they are the victims of government policies that they may not agree with and are powerless to change. People are desperate to have their voices heard and to participate – demonstrations from London to Moscow, Tehran, New York, Madrid and Cairo and all bear witness to this.

The politicians, who are entwined with bankers, economic marshals and corporate magnates in a marriage of exploitation and greed, are formally duty-bound to serve the people, encourage participation and maximize involvement in the decision making that shapes the lives of the majority. But the opposite pertains. As Chomsky says, “The most effective way to restrict democracy is to transfer decision-making from the public arena to unaccountable institutions: kings and princes, priestly castes, military juntas, party dictatorships, or modern corporations.” It is an image which many people living in “democratic” systems would recognize, one in which the leaders see themselves as the masters rather than the servants of their people.

What is needed now is a new political order rooted firmly in universal principles of freedom and justice, free from ideological “isms” and serving the needs of the people; an economic order based on fairness and justice, instead of unfair systems that serve a minority of nations and are dependent on consumerism and exploitation; and an international order founded on integrity, honesty, equality and justice.

What  are needed are not platitudes or clichés but action. Compassion, unless expressed, is a hollow sentiment. Peace means nothing when hidden by the shadow of conflict, and war and justice will remain a fantasy until all are treated equally: all are fed, every man woman and child has a home, access to decent health care, and when all the children of the world are educated, irrespective of where they were born, or the size of their family bank account.

We have moved so far from the expression of such humane ideals that to dare to enunciate them is to be classed naïve, a dreamer blind to the reality of the human condition that is competitive and violent. “It’s always been this way”, it’s the ”survival of the fittest – the law of the jungle”. Such cynicism strengthens materialism and division, poisons the human heart, denies the human spirit and extinguishes all hope; it is the worse kind of inhibiting conditioning. It has no place in any new world order and should be condemned to the past.

Universal guidance and pragmatism

People everywhere have lost faith in their leaders and the current economic system, which has failed the majority, poisoned the planet and cultivated greed and division. As if proof were needed, this is reflected in numerous surveys. For example, a survey in Britain by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in 2010, reported by the BBC, found only 26 per cent of people believed that politicians tell the truth and only a quarter believed their MPs were competent. A recent study by the Pew Research Centre found “that only about a quarter of respondents (27 per cent in 21 countries) were happy with the economic situation in their countries”, and only 20 per cent believed that the free market economy leads to increased general well-being. Whether there is in fact a free market economy at all is disputable – this is a topic for another day. The Pew study also revealed that “[i]n 16 out of the 21 countries the majority of respondents found that politicians were primarily to blame for the current economic malaise”.

New pragmatic methods are needed to build such a new, just world order –not simply words, which we are long on. Peace is the number one priority and will be achieved through removing the causes of conflict, not by violent imposition of any kind. The equitable distribution of the resources of the world to meet human needs would go a long way toward creating trust and justice, dissipating tensions and facilitating a natural flowering of peace.

Freedom, justice and peace are not the utopian ideals of a dreamer, but heartfelt desires that sit deep within people throughout the world. Far from fantastical, such qualities are urgent necessities to safeguard the human race and to save our planet.

Let us go beyond cynicism and dare to believe in the good and the just, dare to share and build the new. Let us dare to have hope.

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