Eleven Steps toward an Enduring World

© auris

Several decades ago, I was engaged in selecting documents for publication on the workings of the German Foreign Office in the 1920s. I came across a memorandum written by a midlevel official about the League of Nations, the international organization that came into existence at the end of the First World War. The author of this memo regarded the international scene from the perspective of Realpolitik—the ultimate moral imperative of each sovereign political entity to pursue its own interests. He observed that history evidenced a natural evolution of political structures from smaller to larger units, and the next stage, which he perceived as evolving around him right then, was world government.

Many Germans were aggrieved by the imposed settlements that ended World War I, which they felt unjust and biased against their country. In the twilight years of the mid‐1920s, when the Great Depression and the rise of the German Nazi Party were still unforeseen, this cool‐thinking official and several others around him viewed the development of a more just and peaceful international order—one that included a process for peaceful conflict resolution—as perhaps the best path for regaining all the territories and resources that he felt Germany had lost unjustly in the punitive treaties ending that war. Despite the dismal collapse of such internationalist dreams soon afterward as the Second World War loomed, an expectation of the inevitability of ethical progression in international politics was harbored even in this unlikely place.

Having been raised a Friend, I assume a hopeful stance toward the future. Unlike many others, we generally presume that the human world is not meant to be adversarial. Even decision making by voting is rejected among Friends as unnecessarily confrontational. Friends participate in local and national elections, but often with misgivings since these contests, lawmaking, and even courts can be settings in which privilege is preserved and fought for.

One evening a few years ago, as I sat in silence at Southampton (Pa.) Meeting, my attention turned to a 12‐Step poster on the wall, left behind by a Narcotics Anonymous group that meets weekly in our space. As I stared at it, I experienced a flash of insight—that our entire culture is addicted to competition and violence. My perception of them as a disease was new. It came to me in that moment that in order to move toward a more harmonious world like the one perhaps envisioned by that official in the German Foreign Office some 90 years ago, something akin to a 12‐step program could be instrumental as we confront our inborn proclivity toward violence and war.

I imagined and counted up what the 12 steps might be, and a list quickly materialized. I refined it and shared it with friends, some of whom made suggestions and contributed specific language. The number of steps changed over time, and they shortened to 11 when I combined two of them.

I sense that a growing number of people understand that fundamental change is necessary for human survival. An initial step to achieve this change is to envision it, which is what I have done. I encourage others to do likewise.

My starting point has been a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1967, in which he named three central problems facing humanity: racial injustice, poverty, and war. He saw them as requiring solution together, an insight that has become a key gift to humanity.

As the human footprint on our planet has continued to grow in recent decades along with our human potential for destruction, this vision needs also to address a fourth central problem: our endangered global environment.

The following 11 steps take on all four of these issues. The initial steps are for individuals, while larger clusters of people will interact progressively through the list—and, for the final steps, the whole of humanity.

1. Clear One’s Presumptions

It’s time to acknowledge the integrity of the human family. Labels like “terrorists” and “enemies” place some individuals beyond our concern, but our nature requires that we not write off anyone. We can hold people accountable for destructive acts without labeling and stigmatizing them, since doing so undercuts our critical responsibility to include—and listen to—everyone.

2. Access Multiple Sources of Information

We can become sensitized to distortions in news coverage, ones that reveal the self‐interest of forces in the media. We avoid segmented news channels where people of different persuasions retreat into cocoons of broadcast information designed to confirm their separate sets of biases.

We take in multiple sources of news, including ones anchored in different cultural perspectives. We deliberately seek out writers and acquaintances with whom we sometimes disagree.

We look for commentary that offers constructive directions rather than dwelling on the negative and manipulating fear.

3. Value Diversity

We confront racism, which persists as a central cause of conflict and oppression. We listen to the experience of people facing discrimination, ally ourselves with them, and practice inclusiveness.

We oppose discrimination based on gender and gender identity, and we acknowledge and familiarize ourselves with the perspectives of others.

We enable and encourage fluency in multiple languages.

We value and preserve variety in worldwide cultural practices and tastes, which are rich wells of human experience that can be threatened by global homogenization.

4. Practice Equality

We accord all humans full equal rights everywhere. We eliminate all kinds of second‐class citizenship, including discrimination against noncitizens.

We reject punishment, a tool for willful control and manipulation of the less powerful, and we substitute for it the practices of restorative justice.

We honor the spiritual independence of children, support children’s rights, and prioritize education.

We take personal responsibility for the well‐being of the whole of creation.

5. Strengthen Networks

We anchor personal security in long‐term, resilient relationships among family, friends, and local communities, rather than in the accumulation of wealth.

We join support networks to undergird the raising of individual children, enhancing family relationships and offering broad cultural support.

We learn the concepts and structures of intentional communities.

6. Preserve the Environment

We value the worldwide diversity of species and pay attention to the size and impact of the human presence on the world ecosystem.

We implement an international carbon tax as a step to curtail global warming and the burning of fossil fuels, following a plan along the lines of the carbon fee and dividend of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

We expand energy conservation and foster the development of renewable energy.

We monitor the mining of rare elements and conserve supplies.

7. Pursue a Balanced Economy

We enable an economy that includes both entrepreneurship and centralized institutions, with the former respecting the public interest, and the latter maintaining transparency and evenhandedness.

We implement global uniform taxation to close international loopholes and tax dodges.

We set taxation levels adequate to fund desired common services and designed to trend toward an even distribution of wealth and the dissolution of national debt. We follow examples of this in Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right—and How We Can, Too by George Lakey.

We negotiate international trade agreements that protect consumers, workers, and the environment.

We reshape competitive business practices into consultative ones that eliminate self‐interested bargaining and the buying of influence.

We offer free education at all levels of achievement.

We establish universal basic income and universal healthcare.

8. Strengthen Organs of Reconciliation

We assure transparency in all government operations.

We redesign judicial systems to minimize adversarial practices, and we institute paths for conflict resolution and restorative justice.

In criminal justice, we develop consequences for misdeeds that are not punitive or retributive, but instead address the needs of victims and the public. We pursue rehabilitation while assuring public safety.

When widespread misuse of power and injustice, such as racial, cultural, or gender discrimination, are uncovered, we establish truth and reconciliation commissions following the model of the ones used in the recovery from Apartheid in South Africa, where exposing the truth, not retribution, is the goal.

We regard the personal use of mood‐altering drugs as a public health issue and not to be treated within the criminal justice system.

9. Establish Group Decision‐Making Processes

We change the tone of political discourse from hostility and attack to one of seeking truth with respect and constructiveness.

We consider disagreement as an invitation to redefine questions and to delve deeper into facts.

We reshape adversarial political structures, parties, and even rhetoric into practices that promote wide participation and cooperation and enable the goals and interests of various groups to be listened to, heard, and acted upon.

We transform voting and elections into consultative practices. We explore the concepts and processes of sociocracy, holacracy, and double‐linked representation.

10. Transform Military Institutions

We end the dependence of the worldwide economy on military spending and arms dealing. As the flywheel of job generation, income distribution, and economic stability, military contracts are replaced with public funding of constructive sectors of the economy and infrastructure.

We retrain military and police forces to be proficient in nonviolent methods, with the objective of assuring safety, not imposing the will of government. These forces will maintain respect for opponents even when under attack, will use non‐lethal means and minimal force wherever possible, and will completely discontinue the use of destructive weaponry including bombs. For a prototype of these new forces, we will study the practices of Nonviolent Peaceforce (nonviolentpeaceforce​.org).

We will use these newly trained nonviolent forces to intervene preemptively where violence can be anticipated.

11. Implement World Government

We will convert the United Nations from an alliance of states working for their own self‐interest into an institution working for all the people on the planet. We will eliminate cultural chauvinism, racism, and partisan behavior rooted in fear and the discounting of others.

We will eliminate permanent membership in the UN Security Council, as well as the membership in it of individual states, and we will award membership to appointees of non‐governmental organizations that possess expertise on issues of security. Henceforth, “security” will be understood to mean assurance of well‐being, not military prowess.

When needed to maintain order, the Security Council will be empowered to employ forces that are trained in the principles and methods of nonviolence.

We will replace the UN General Assembly’s membership—currently, appointees of individual states—with appointees of local and midlevel nominating bodies representing the spectrum of experiences and skills in the world population. We will assign to this reconstituted General Assembly the appointment and oversight of the UN Secretariat, which has the task of shaping and maintaining a multi‐leveled structure, from local to universal, of cultural, political, economic, and educational institutions.

We will found a new UN organ called the Council for Dispute Resolution with the responsibility of addressing all disputes that would otherwise be resolved by war. This assignment includes, for example, adjusting frontiers where environmental factors such as changing rainfall patterns dictate. The Council will comprise discerning participants appointed by the General Assembly from every cultural grouping across the globe, not from political or military leadership. These appointees will have sufficient opportunity to become familiar with each other and form trusting working relationships. Rather than by voicing competing arguments and voting, the Council will engage in fully transparent discussions, listen deeply, and build solutions together.

Robert Dockhorn, a member of Green Street Meeting in Philadelphia, Pa., was trained as a European historian. He is a former administrator of Testimonies and Concerns programs for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and a former senior editor of Friends Journal.

Posted in: Features, February 2019

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9 thoughts on “Eleven Steps toward an Enduring World

  1. Patrick Dobbs says:

    City & State
    Wales —– UK
    Excellent — but have some reservations on item 11. Think not so much of racialism as tribalism.

  2. Patricia A Lust says:

    City & State
    Commerce Township, MI
    A very thoughtful document. I have Quaker roots on all four sides of my family tree. My maternal grandmother, Hazel Lucille Johnson (Straight) (1897–1992) was raised in the Society of Friends in the Traverse City, MI area. Wonder if one’s DNA gives us a central nervous system which can perceive, implement and thrive with the concepts in your article? (i.e. Collaboration, community, peace, respect, kindness, thinking, research,
to name a few)

  3. gaines steer says:

    City & State
    Pittsboro, NC 27312
    Many thanks for this! I find it inspirational (and hopeful). I plan to copy it and give it to folks I meet.
 Since I did not write it, I am in a position to suggest that others create ways and means to distribute these ideals
    Gaines Steer {[email protected]​gmail.​com}

  4. Bob Talbot says:

    City & State
    Tokoroa New Zealand
    This is really good and gets you thinking of a better world without violence and conflict. I applaud the writer on a job well‐done let’s start the implementation.

  5. Caroline Pybus says:

    City & State
    East Sussex, UK
    Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. Did you know about the peace groups in schools in Zimbabwe? They are supported by Friends there, and are designed to help youngsters cope in a violent society. See Friends of Hlekweni website. (hlekweni means place of laughter). Caroline from Lewes East Sussex

    1. Kevin Plunkett says:

      City & State
      Atkinson New Hampshire
      A number of intriguing ideals set out here, but I was astonished by the lack of focus on late capitalism as a root cause. Quite the contrary the author appears to embrace the sort of balance between entrepreneurial principles and socialalistic endeavors embodied in Scandinavia. But the social democratic project has largely been corrupted, particularly in Denmark which has engaged in a number of punitive actions against refugees, immigrants, Muslims and multiculturalism.

  6. Keith Saylor says:

    City & State
    Bandon, OR
    Since the first appearance of immanent Presence in my conscience and consciousness, I am come out and, am coming out of, the process of guiding and informing relationships and interactions with people through the process of identification with and participation in the ideas and institutions manifested through reflective or mirrored thought. It is discovered to me that it is the very process itself in itself of identification with and participation in ideological constructs and the institutions and leaders that support them, that is the cause of strife and contention. It is also discovered to me that this process is inevitable as long as people value and depend on this process for meaning and purpose in their lives. It is the nature of the process itself that participation in it will manifest strife and contention. When reflective thought is used to guide and inform human relationships and interactions there will be times of peace and times of war and all the manifestations between; it is the nature of the thing itself.

    There is another way to guide and informed human relationships and interactions (mentioned in 1Cor. 13.); through unmediated, unmirrored, unreflected, and direct participation in and identification with the appearance of inshining immanent Presence in the conscience and consciousness in all things and circumstances regarding relationships and interactions. This direct experience is not founded upon the process of reflection nor seeks leadings into ideological or institutional forms. The motion and impulse relative to the increase, decrease, or stasis of the experience itself directs, rules, and informs, human behavior toward one another 
 Love. Of course, this relationship with others is predicated on the experience and does not ignore the reality that human being is largely governed by mirrored consciousness to inform their relationships. As long as this is the reality, there will always be conflict and strife even as people strive to lead other people into different outward political, religious, and social, forms, opinions, and institutions which only replaces one systematic symptom with another and, all the while, leaving the cause of human dis‐ease.

    1. David Tehr says:

      City & State
      Bassendean, Western Australia
      Sorry Keith, but what thou sayest does not speak to my condition. I do not see all “strife and contention” as necessarily bad. Indeed, when used respectfully, I see it as a path that continues to bring us closer and closer to the numinous (a destination we only really reach after we shuffle from this mortal coil). Science, and in particular modern representative democracy show us ways in which we can live in peace *with* strife and contention. The classic for me are the two red lines down the centre of the House of Commons in London. They are a symbolic two‐broadswords distance apart. This means thee and me may “clash swords and make sparks fly”, but we cannot mortally wound each other, so we may as well put the swords away and get on with arguing our case.

      “We NEVER argue.
 we’re not that close” remains one of my more favourite quotes. IF we are to live in the age of reason, ipso facto we live in the age of contention: for reason alone can give valid but opposing answers (although I am firmly pro‐choice, anti capital punishment and pro‐euthanasia, I respect that others have differing but nevertheless valid opinions on these life‐and‐death issues).

      To read that you believe that differing human opinions are somehow a “dis‐ease” is terribly sad to me. The spirit of Jesus calls me to be a peace maker, not a peace keeper. Live adventurously my friend.

      1. Keith Saylor says:

        City & State
        Bandon, OR
        Thank you for your conversation David. I appreciate my use of the word *dis‐ease* in the context of identification with and participation in the process of reflective thought (reason) to guide human relationships and interactions made you *sad* or *dis‐eased * you.

        It strikes me that we are in agreement, by your own admission, that the process (reflective thought) of participation in and and identification with outward political, religious, and social, forms, ideological constructs and contrivances, and the institutions and leaders which promote them to guide and inform human relationships and interactions is the cause (or causes) of contention and strife.

        Our conditions are different in that your testimony is that engagement in the reflective process can teach us ways to live peacefully with one another even as we live in contention and strife and Jesus calls you to help make peace even in the condition of contention and strife. My testimony is that through the appearance of the inshining Light of Jesus Christ upon my conscience and consciousness I am come out of the process of reflective thought to guide and inform my relationships and interactions with people. It is mine to share that which I witness through the inshining impulse of immanent Presence itself upon my conscience. Through the inshining Life itself in itself I am come out of reflective thought to guide and inform relationships and interactions. To go even further, it is discovered to me through direct and unmediated appearance of the Light itself in my conscience that human being can know *numinous* life itself in itself relatively fully even during our life on earth.

        I understand that the testimony to the witness of coming out of the process of participation in and identification with outward political, religious, and social ideological constructs and the institutions and leaders that promote them, does not speak to your condition in strife and contention. I respect your testimony to the calling of peace in the condition of strife and condition. It is discovered to me a different way.

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