2013 #22 Winter

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Afghanistan: What Is Happening Now and What Should Be Done

Critical issues presently being discussed by those responsible for the policies of our national government are what is happening now in Afghanistan and what should be done when in the future. We invite all interested parties to become better informed by coming to hear Alvin Edgell’s lecture about the Afghanistan situation at 3:00 p.m. Sunday February 3 at the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis, 5007 Waterman Boulevard (just west of Kingshighway). You can park in the lot just west of the church or on Waterman. Alvin Edgell has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago with a focus on International Relations. He has worked for CARE and as a supervisor of Peace Corps Volunteers in Afghanistan and Turkey. He has also worked in Somalia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Belize. He served as a conscientious objector medic in Europe in WW II and a POW Researcher in the Korean War. He taught courses on Terrorism and Globalization at Kent State University for 14 years before coming to St. Louis three years ago. We will have a potluck dinner immediately after the presentation, so bring something your contribution if you would like to participate. There is no charge for this lecture which is sponsored by Citizens for Global Solutions of Greater St. Louis. For more information contact Ron Glossop at <rglossop@mindspring.com> or by phone at 314/869-2303.

-The Causes and Consequences of Growing Inequality-

And Why it Matters to All of Us

Allan MacNeill’s Ph.D. in Economics is from the University of Massachusetts. He serves as Professor, Department of History, Politics and International Relations at Webster University. He is 2012 winner of both Kemper Award for Teaching Excellence and Emerson Award for Excellence in Teaching. His recent research is on the relationship between increasing income inequality and consumerism. He is a member of steering committee of St. Louis Jobs With Justice.

Sunday, February 10, 2013, 1:30PM, Ethical Society, 9001 Clayton Road, Hanke Room

Sponsored by Womenʼs International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Cosponsors: Peace Economy Project, Instead of War, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Ethical Society and Citizens for Global Solutions of Greater St. Louis.

CEO DON KRAUS ON CHANGES IN GLOBALSOLUTIONS.ORG

(Below are excerpts from Don Kraus’s December 2012 statement titled “GlobalSolutions.org: The Path Forward.”)

“In order to achieve economies of scale while GlobalSolutions.org adopts our new operational model and builds its network of support, we will align closely with the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP). Details are still being worked out, but the overall structure has been approved and we anticipate adopting this new arrangement in 2013.”

“The benefits of this new plan include the opportunity to combine “back office” operations with WFM-IGP [World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy]. We will maintain a DC office and engage staff in other parts of the country . . . .”

“GlobalSolutions.org will be guided by a Steering Committee made up of primarily of current Global Solutions board members and will continue to work closely with and share staff with the Global Solutions Action Network.”

“Existing local chapters of GlobalSolutions.org who are committed to building membership and financial support for the organization will be grandfathered into the new structure of the organization and will continue to work as subsidiaries of the organization.”

Don Kraus, President and CEO GlobalSolutions.org & GlobalSolutions Action Network Contact: 202.330.4103 202.335.0890 (Cell) dkraus@globalsolutions.org http://globalsolutions.org http://wfm-igp.org

MY COUNTRY IS THE WORLD

This essay is by Troy Davis, President of the Association for the School of Democracy and President of the World Citizens Foundation. There is additional supplemental information about Troy Davis at the end.”

Our greatest ethical challenge is to chart a course for Humanity which will allow us to avoid major global catastrophes in the short term, and to live more sustainably in the longer term. This probably means undergoing painful societal transitions. Ethics helps us determine what we ought to do to foster human progress while minimizing human suffering. Our long term goal (by 2100?), might be to reverse our dire global ecological conditions, to live again within the ecological carrying capacity of our planet, so we don’t mortgage the future of our children. It might well be that to achieve this goal means to get rid of war as a means of settling differences. Expressing this in religious terms: it is to become good stewards of Creation.

Comparing the present to where we want to be in 2100, there is no obvious and painless way to get there. Global war, global pandemics or catastrophic climate change resulting in civilizational collapse, and millions of deaths, is possible, maybe even likely. Historically, we have progressed most after such big catastrophes, but apart from natural ones, how can we avoid human-made catastrophes resulting in huge losses of life? We must face an unprecedented historical fact: we are now one of the greatest causes of large-scale planetary changes. The conversion of millions of square km of land providing ecological services (carbon sinks, oxygen sources, or watersheds), the acceleration of species extinction, greenhouse gas emissions, means that we are affecting global biogeochemical cycles. Why are we continuing then? Not because we do not know what to do, but because we do not trust each other enough! We do not trust each other at the levels that are necessary to implement the intense and unprecedented global cooperation needed to solve our problems.

In a complex world with conflicting interests and cultures, the necessary level of trust cannot be maintained in an ad hoc way or without permanent mechanisms. Ultimately trust rests on empathy but our power to affect the world has grown faster than our built-in empathy systems. Over time, the growing gap between power and empathy grew to such proportions that it started to endanger the systems underlying our capacity to survive.

Therefore we must close the gap between our power and our empathy, and negotiate a “global social contract” between ourselves as planetary residents to recreate trust. Such a contract should be based on two pillars, a formal legal one and a psychological cultural one.

An apparent ethical dilemma arises when the needs of those in our present “empathy bubble” are in conflict with the needs of those outside our bubble, both spatially (those living far from us) and temporally (those not born yet, which may in fact include our own children). The problem is that our “empathy bubble”, the symbolic space in which we act according to common ethical principles and in which we strive not to behave selfishly, is too small.

Science teaches us that empathy and ethics are enabled by our “mirror neurons” which allow us to “feel” vicariously what others experience. Thus if we truly want to change our selfish behaviour, we need to “expand” our bubble to include Humanity in general. Many religions are based on that idea, that all humans are part of the same Humanity and that we must expand our ethical space to include them. But religions often discriminate between their own adepts and others, whereas if we want to survive we must include everyone, even those who do not believe as we do. It is as if we were in one big boat on an infinite sea, and we must all cooperate in its management. Come to think of it, this is a description of Planet Earth in space!

We understand the necessity of behaving ethically at short range, but it’s hard for us to do so if the consequences are not easily visible, or only occur far away in time or space. Massive societal change must somehow happen, and if our goal is that it happens with minimum suffering and violence, then it must happen through our own massive behavioral changes.

But we are quite bad at such things, especially if it entails curtailing our selfish desires. So what are the logical options? They belong to two different categories because there are only two components we can act on: either on human nature (internal) or on the socialcultural-political system (external). They are related, but human nature allows a great number of different political systems.

The easiest way out, one often seen in science-fiction, is the temptation to change human nature. Unfortunately, this might soon be possible with genetic engineering, but it is a slippery slope and would mean the end of freedom as we know it. Who would decide and who would control what changes might be made? How would we prevent leaders from attempting to create a more docile human flock? How to prevent Orwell’s “Brave New World”? We must therefore exclude changing human nature as a strategy, as tempting as it may be.

The next options belong to the second, sociopolitical, category. We know that business as usual will not solve the problem and even the growing environmental consciousness of the last decades is a drop in the bucket of what is needed. We are left with two scenarios, change via force or via culture.

The first scenario is even more often explored in literature and science-fiction than the scenario of changing human nature: an elite takes over and decides to lead and control the teeming masses to avoid catastrophe, justifying their total control by explaining that it is just temporary. But given the scale of changes and the timeframe needed, decades, possibly hundreds of years, how can an autocratic system, even one designed for the survival of humanity, voluntarily dissolve itself after generations? Unfortunately, absolute power means that even if the elite is wellmeaning, that it eventually will become corrupted and seek to perpetuate itself, and will probably not restore freedom even after the crisis is solved. This “global green fascism” scenario is to be avoided at all cost, except the cost of human extinction itself. It could be a last resort to save humanity like martial law is a last resort, but if it came down to that, we should clearly state its temporary nature (just as ancient Romans elected temporary Dictators to accomplish specific things) and it should be subject to periodic democratic review.

The last, and best scenario is one where we effect massive global cultural changes on a voluntary basis, to pressure ourselves to change our behaviours but in a way which maximizes freedom. But how to do so? Such changes must harness our human nature and our existing empathy systems, and expand them from our original ancestral “tribes” to the general tribe of Humanity, and to wider compassion for other species too.

Creating a common global identity is not as difficult as it might sound. Many of us already feel a sense of belonging to some abstract frontierless “tribe” linked by common ideas or interests but not in any ethnic sense (like stamp collectors, music fans or a particular profession). Most importantly, all existing nations were built artificially, via “creation myths” explaining their common origin and identity, usually based on historical fragments tied together by mythical deeds, heroic battles or godly injunctions. What we have already done countless times in history we can and should do again, but this time for Humanity as a whole. This will turn humans from a collection of individuals belonging to the same biological species into a global nation, into “world citizens” sharing a common narrative.

But it does not mean destroying local singularities, since those are a vital part of our concentric identities. The main difference between the old-style national creation myths and the new global creation myth is that the latter should be based on facts and science, also expressed emotionally. The two main scientific facts are that we are one single human species and closely related big human family, and secondly, that we share one single home, our blue planet.

But sharing one common cultural story is not enough; we also need the second formal, legal, written pillar of our global social contract, which will codify that we are “all equal though all different”. Whatever it might be called, it is the functional equivalent of a world constitution, clarifying that everyone in the world has equal civic rights. Without a legally binding document which is the flip side of an emerging common identity, resentment at structural injustice between world citizens born at different planetary locations would make a mockery of attempts at building a global nation. A global constitution should be very short, and based on two fundamental principles of political ethics: that all humans possess equal dignity and that the sovereignty belongs to the people. National patriotism would become human patriotism because the world is our country.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The author Troy Davis is son of Garry Davis, a World War II bomber pilot who after the war declared himself a citizen of the World and who publicly called on the U.N. General Assembly to create “one government for the world.” Garry also founded the World Citizen Registry which has issued thousands of “World Passports” and other official documents for refugees and other stateless persons. A film about his life tiltled “My Country Is the World – & the World Is My Stage” has just been produced.

This essay was written the last day of 2012 by Troy Davis as his entry for the International Student/Teacher Essay contest of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs described at

<http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/programs/gen/ index.html>.

Troy’s e-mail address is <troydavis@post.harvard.edu> and his website is <www.ecoledelademocratie.org>.

The italics are not in the original text but are added by your editor Ron Glossop.

WHY COMPROMISE?

(This article by Bob Reinhold first appeared in WILPF’s January 2013 newsletter.)

The wealthiest one or two percent of Americans increased their share of America’s total assets by 50% in the years since the Bush tax decreases went into effect in 2001. Therefore, to let those extended 2001 Bush tax decreases expire is a good idea before those same multi-millionaires acquire an even larger percentage of the nation’s assets while the rest of Americans fall behind.

The secret is that returning to the pre-2001 rates, that is, increasing the capital gains tax by 5%, tax on ordinary income in the higher brackets by 5%, tax on dividends even more, and tax on inheritances starting at one-million-dollar estates can be accompished by President Obama without negotiations with Republicans. All he needs to do is veto any new Congressional tax legislation.

These increases on the wealthy would have gone into effect on January 1, 2013 by the automatic expiration of the extended 2001 tax decreases. Unfortunately the decreases realized by persons in lower tax brackets would also have expired. But also that would have been a good thing because in exchange for the additional $2,000 or so per year for those income earners above $100,000 (and less than a thousand dollars for those families with incomes below $50,000), hundreds of thousands of dollars (in some cases up to millions or more) would be captured from each of the upper 2% income earners.

With such additional federal revenue, the talk about reducing Social Security or Medicare benefits or raising the age of eligibility would be a thing of the past because there would be plenty of funds available.

The talk about the economic recovery being jeopardized was so much hype because everyone in middle income brackets would not need to worry about putting more money aside for retirement and thus would spend it now.

DAVID OUGHTON TO SPEAK ON “WORLD RELIGIONS & WORLD FEDERATION”

David Oughton, Ph.D., faculty member in the Department of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University, will speak about “World Religions and World Federation” at First Presbyterian Church, 100 East Adams, Kirkwood, MO, in room 009 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the following Sundays: March 24, April 7, April 14, and April 21. This series is part of their Adult Education Program but members of the public are welcome.

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