Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Global Commonwealth

I read a passage from the Guardian today that made me sit up.

Although it may take you by surprise, as it did me, and you may react harshly against it as it is here, slightly out of context, I ask you to pause with that reaction, and keep reading.  It raises a very interesting question, and, given today's climate of distrust, would not surprise me if many were initially against such a notion.

But we are Baha'i here (at least I am writing for Baha'is, so if you're not Baha'i, please, I ask you to trust me for a moment), and we all have faith in our beloved Guardian.

So, now that I've got your attention, what is the quote?  As usual, dear Reader, I'm glad you asked.  I just love how perceptive you are.

Before I tell you, I must remind you, dear Reader, that this is only my own opinion, and not an authoritative representation of the Baha'i Faith.

The Guardian, in 1936, spoke of the implications of world unity, and the unity of which Baha'u'llah spoke.  He wrote of the establishment of what he called a "world commonwealth", at a time when the League of Nations had already been admitted to be powerless, and well before the establishment of the United Nations.  He said, "This commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize it, consist of a world legisalture, whose members will, as the trustees of the whole of mankind, ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations, and will enact such laws as shall be required to regulate the life, satisfy the needs and adjust the relationships of all races and peoples."

So why did this make me sit up?  Why am I concerned about how you may react?  Specifically because of the statement in there in which he talks about the control of resources.  He says that this body will "ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations".

And why, after expressing concern, am I not concerned about this?

Because, after reflecting on it, it just makes sense.

Why?  Well, let's explore this from a purely practical standpoint.

Let's take water, as just a single example.  As we all know, fresh water is a staple of life and a very valuable resource.  To date, some countries have commodified this resource and are selling it off without much concern for their population, appearing to be more concerned with the corporations that are purchasing these alleged rights.

Now, we could protest against such behaviour, or take part in rallies or marches, decrying all sorts of things, but let's not forget the wisdom shown to us by the Universal House of Justice:  Humanity's crying need will not be met by a struggle among competing ambitions or by protest against one or another of the countless wrongs afflicting a desperate age.

So what do we do about the water situation?  I would venture to say that we change the laws.

And how will that solve the problem?

Well, let's look at it from a slightly different perspective.   Suppose someone, person A, stole something of yours and then sold it person B.  Do they have any rights to it?  Of course not.  It was stolen, and will, upon recovery, be returned to you.  At that time, the object of the theft will have transferred from being your item to being the money that person B spent.  In other words, person A will now have stolen the money from person B, and you will be out of the picture.

My wife and I were talking about investments the other day and this idea came up, the idea of paying for stolen goods.  If we know that a company has paid for stolen goods, and will at some point realize it, why would we invest in that company?  They are operating under false pretenses, and have far less than they think they do.  Sounds like a bad investment to me.

This is how we understand the commodification of water.  At some point, this global commonwealth will control this resource and use it for the betterment of all peoples.  Any contracts that were signed before that time will be recognized as absurd, or even criminal, so they will not be honoured.

Pretty simple.  No concern on my part, except to help people come to the understanding of the need for this commonwealth and legislature, and the powers that it must have in order to be effective.

You see, in other words, I think that what we are dealing with is a reconceptualization of human relationships (I think that's the phrase with the longest words I've put into this blog so far).  And, as the Baha'i International Community has pointed out, it "cannot be achieved -- indeed, its attainment is severely handicapped -- by the culture of protest that is another widely prevailing feature of contemporary society."

So, if protest is out, what can we do?

First, we can begin by acting wisely and within the bounds of reason.  We can make choices that reflect our understanding of the global situation.  We can modify our behaviour and strive to act more in accord with the standard set forth in the Writings.

Second, we can help educate people about the need for a global commonwealth as described in the Baha'i Writings.  This will allow the further development of governments that have the trust of their people, as well as their support.

Third, we can fully support our governments, and politicians, and help them understand the important role they play in human affairs.

Fourth, we can modify our behaviour and strive to act more in accord with the standard set forth in the Writings.

Oh, I mentioned that one?  Well, I think it bears mentioning again.  It's that important.  Nothing will change unless we change our behaviour.

Finally, we can vote and take active part in our government in a manner that is productive and conducive to good will.  Actions that do nothing but anger others are counterproductive, despite how good it may make us feel.  When we cast our votes in accordance with Baha'i principals, instead of by reacting to advertisments or stated platforms that go against what we know of the people making them, then we can learn to put the appropriate trust in our governing bodies.  When we elect our representatives based upon their character, we will feel good about them, and be happy to work with them.

You see, I believe that nothing will change unless we actively work to change it.  But the ends do not justify the means.  We must act in accordance with our beliefs and strive to uphold the dignity of ourselves, the people we are dealing with, and the Faith.  When we do, we will understand that the way in which we try to change things is just as important as what we change.

We will also realize that different levels of government have different perspectives.

An example that comes to mind is the Baha'i community.  There are things that individuals may wish to do, but the Local Assembly may be aware of other things happening in the community that they may be working against, by accident.  There may also be things that a local community may wish to do that would go against something that is happening nationally.  Or internationally.

This is why I am, at times, cautious about what I write.  I understand there are things happening in other countries that may be adversely affected by what I write here in my office in Canada.  My perspective just isn't that broad.

And so I stick to the Writings.

Baha'u'llah says to support our governments, and so I do.  And I encourage it in others.

'Abdu'l-Baha tells us to be kind and loving, firm and yet flexible.  He has set a standard of behaviour for us that I encourage all to try and emulate.

The Guardian described for us some of the elements of this global commonwealth, and I believe his vision is more acute than mine.  So I support his vision, and encourage others to support it, too.

The Universal House of Justice has also given us great guidance on how to change the world around us, and a Plan in which to do it effectively.  So let's support that Plan.

Now, does that quote about resource control still make me sit up?  No.  Well, except to pay more attention to it.

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