On October 2, 2017, Former Ambassador of India, Pascal Alan Nazareth, delivered a speech entitled, “Gandhi For The Twenty First Century” at the 2017 International Day of Non Violence at the UN Library in Geneva.
Pascal is the author of the widely acclaimed book entitled Gandhi’s Outstanding Leadership, which was formally released in New Delhi in 2006 by the former Prime Minister of India Dr. I. K. Gujral and at the UN in New York by Under Secretary General Shashi Taroor. On October 9, 2007, Ambassador Nazareth was presented the U Thant Peace Award by the Sri Chinmoy Peace Meditation Group at the United Nations. Among previous recipients of this Award were Pope John Paul II, The Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
Pascal has chosen to share the contents of his speech with The Teen Mentor in order to pass the wisdom contained within it on to today’s teens throughout the world to promote living in harmony with nature, world peace and non-violence, religious tranquility, freedom, love, spirituality, and universal happiness.
In his speech, Pascal touches on topics such as terrorism and asymmetric warfare, religious fanaticisms, WMDs, meltdowns in nuclear power stations, the financial, food, unemployment and refugee crises, global warming and misconduct in national and global governance.
After all, you are our world’s future leaders.
GANDHI FOR THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY
Gandhi was born in the second half of the 19th century. The major part of his life and work was in the first half of the 20th century. So why is he relevant to the 21st century which is so radically different to the scenario in which he was born, lived and worked?
• In the aftermath of the tragic and horrifying destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atom bombs Albert Einstein had declared. “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything but our thinking; thus we are drifting toward a catastrophe beyond comparison. We shall require a new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive”.
• Gandhi, in the most blood stained century in human history enunciated the “new manner of thinking” to avert the “catastrophe beyond comparison” Einstein spoke about.
• The renowned psychoanalyst Eric Ericson has written “In a period when proud statesmen could speak of a “war to end War’, and Russian Revolutionaries entertained the belief that terror could initiate an eventual “withering away of the state”, one man in India presented the world with a new political instrument endowed with a new kind of religious fervor.”
• Martin Luther King went even further. He wrote “Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation”
What was Gandhi’s “new way of thinking” and the “universal principles” it embodied? These are best presented in his own words and those of his disciples.
• “Satyagraha is Soul Force pure and simple. In politics, Satyagraha’s use is based on the immutable maxim that government of the people is possible only so long as they consent either consciously or unconsciously to be governed”.
• “Soul Force does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer, but putting of one’s whole soul against the will of the tyrant”. By adopting “it is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honour, his religion, his soul, and lay the foundation for that empire’s fall or its regeneration”
• Gene Sharpe has lauded Gandhi for “one of the most fundamental of all insights into the nature of Government viz that all rulers are dependent for their power on the submission, cooperation and obedience of their subjects” thereby showing how injustice and oppression can be nonviolently yet effectively opposed.
What did Gandhi’s Soul Force ideology and praxis achieve in the twentieth century?
Briefly, these are : the “brightest jewel in the the British Crown” was plucked from it and a highly feudal, deeply caste ridden, women suppressed and minimally enfranchised India was transformed into a democratic polity based on universal adult franchise, which within thirty years after its Independence elected a woman prime minister and within the next thirty years later elected a dalit (former “untouchable”) as its president and a dalit woman as Chief Minister of its largest state. Within During the same period ( 1947 – 2007) over 100 former European colonies in Asia and Africa attained Independence Communist dictatorships all over Eastern Europe ended, the Berlin Wall dismantled, Germany reunified, racial discrimination in the US and Apartheid in South Africa abolished and military dictators in the Phillipines, Argentina and Chile brought down and an Aymara Indian named Evo Morales elected as President of Bolivia, A year later, an Afro- American named Barack Obama was elected US President. Almost all of these radical changes in national poliitics and international political geography were brought about through non violent struggles. Vaclav Havel, who led the Czechoslovak “Soul Force” revolution described it as the “Power of the Powerless”.
• Since so many of these remarakble developments had taken place in the second half of the 20th century, the dawn of the 21st century was celebrated with great Euphoria and high hopes for a new century of peace, prosperity and progress. Sadly however, just 21 months later these optimistic hopes were suddenly shattered by the cataclysmic “9/11” terror attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. Stunning as this was, what was even more stunning was that the 14 Saudis, 3 Emiratis and 1 Egyptian who had perpetrated this fiendish terrorist act, had used US flying schools to learn how to fly, US aircraft, US gasoline and US airports to destroy two of its most iconic national assets in just one hour of a sunny September morning ! By doing so they had gestated the ominous new era of “asymmetric warfare”.
• Among the plethora of comments about this cataclysmic event those of Karen Armstrong and Joseph Nye are the most insightful. The former wrote “The world changed on September 11th. We now realize that we in the privileged Western countries can no longer assume that events in the rest of the world do not concern us. What happens in Gaza, Iraq or Afghanistan today, is likely to have repercussions in New York, Washington or London tomorrow and small groups will soon have the capacity to commit acts of mass destruction previously only possible for powerful nations”.
• Nye wrote “This terrorist attack is a terrible symptom of deeper changes that are occurring in the world. A technological revolution in information and communications has been diffusing power away from governments and empowering individuals and groups to play roles in world politics – including wreaking massive destruction – that were once reserved for governments. Privatization has been increasing and terrorism is the privatization of war.”
• At the Nuclear Security Summit at Washington on April 13, 2010 President Obama averred that a terrorist securing a nuclear weapon was “the single biggest threat to US security, both short–term, medium-term and long-term.”
• In early December 2014 an ISIS spokesman claimed it had secured enough radioactive uranium from a Mosul University laboratory to produce a “dirty bomb”. The security threat mentioned by President Obama is therefore a very real one.
How is Gandhi pertinent to this ominous scenario? Jonathan Schell, has answered this question : “As the new century begins, no question is more important than whether the world has now embarked on a new cycle of violence, condemning the 21st century to repeat or even outdo, the bloodshed of the 20th.” He has stated the present dangers are not “the massed conventional armies and systematized hatreds of rival great powers” but “the persistent and steady spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and the demons of national, religious and class fury” and that “notwithstanding the shock of September 11th and the need for forceful measures to counter global terrorism, a new and promising path has opened up. For in 20th century history another complimentary lesson, less conspicuous than the first but just as important, has been emerging. It is that forms of non-violent action can serve effectively in the place of violence at every level of political affairs. This is the promise of Mohandas K. Gandhi’s resistance to the British Empire in India, of Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement in the United States, of the non-violent movements in Eastern Europe and Russia that brought down Communism and the Soviet Union”
Terrorism, assymmetric warfare and WMD proliferation are not the only threats humanity faces in the 21st century. Religious fanaticisms, “meltdowns” in nuclear power stations and global financial markets, the food, unemployment, refugee, global warming, globalization’s ill effects and gross misconduct in national and global governance are also matter of serious concern.
• Gandhi, with his prophetic vision, had foreseen many of these threats, amazingly even terrorism. In his life time it was prevalent in Russia, Italy, Ireland and India. His 1909 ‘Hind Swaraj’ was written “ in answer to the Indian school of violence” and was. as he himself revealed “an attempt to offer the revolutionary something infinitely superior, retaining the whole of the spirit of self sacrifice and bravery that was to be found in the revolutionary”. His objective was two fold and very ambitious : to convert the hate filled, violent revolutionary into one motivated by truth, love and non violence, and also fathom the reasons for his hatred and violence. He averred “Three-fourths of the miseries and misunderstandings in the world will disappear if we step into the shoes of our adversaries and understand their standpoint.”
• Fathoming the reasons for the hatreds that motivate terrorists is not so difficult as many of them leave farewell messages giving reasons / justifications for their acts. Prominent among these are foreign invasion / occupation of their countries, rapes/massacres of their religious brethren, desecration of their sacred books / places of worship and denigration of their religious leaders.
• Samuel Huntington has written “The West’s efforts to universalize its values and institutions, to maintain its military and economic superiority, and to intervene in conflicts in the Muslim world generate intense resentment among Muslims. During the fifteen years between 1980 and 1995,the US engaged in 17 military operations in the Middle East, all of them directed against Muslim states” and averred “No comparable pattern of US military operations occurred against the people of any other civilization.”
• Since 1995 five Muslim countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria – have been / are being destroyed by incessant US / NATO bombing. In Syria, Russia is also doing so bur for a contrary objective. Al Qaeda, Al Nusra and ISIS warriors are mainly from these five countries countries.
• In this context, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s May 26, 2017 statement in the British Parliament is as pertinent as it is notable. “Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home…. We must be brave enough to admit the war on terror is simply not working. We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism.” Salman Abedi, the terrorist involved in the Manchester bombing, was born in the UK to Libyan parents!
• Religious fanaticisms have triggered numerous assassinations, communal massacres and terrorist acts in the 20th century. Mahatma Gandhi, Solomon Bandaranaike, Anwar Sadat, Indira Gandhi and Yitzhak Rabin are the best known of the political leaders who were assassinated by religious fanatics. India, and many Asian / African countries have often suffered communal massacres during this period. The latter have also happened in this century’s first sixteen years.
Gandhi’s praxis for promoting respect for all religions and inter-religious harmony is therefore very pertinent to the 21st century. Among his many statements on this issue the following are the most important:
• “The essence of all religions is the same only their approaches are different”
• “I reject any religious doctrine that does not appeal to reason and is in conflict with morality”.
• “Independent India as conceived by me will have all Indians belonging to different religions, living in perfect friendship”
• Though a deeply devout Hindu, he declared that his religion was that “which transcends Hinduism, which changes one’s very nature, binds one indissolubly to the truth within and ever purifies.”
• By defining his religion in these terms he raised it to the level of spirituality. This is what the 21st century very much needs. It has too much of the religiosity that divides and kills people and too little of the spirituality that unites and uplifts them.
• Johan Galtung’ has averred “Gandhi’s type of religiousness is becoming more and more important in the world….It is trans-religious, combining elements in occidental and oriental thought… It embodies the Unity of Man idea.”
Nuclear and other WMDs
Gandhi’s great horror of WMDs is revealed in his statement about the atom bomb destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He described it as “the supreme tragedy of the bomb” and declared “Unless the world now adopts non-violence, it will spell certain suicide for mankind.” He clearly foresaw that such bombs were MAD (Mutual assured destruction) and that unless the world rejected them in favour of non violent conflict resolution humanity would destroy itself.
For four decades after its independence India had steadfastly adhered to the Gandhian ethic and opposed the production and threats of use of nuclear arms, as “crimes against humanity”. At the February 1988 UNGA Third Special Session on Disarmament Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi declared “Nuclear weapons threaten to annihilate human civilization and all that mankind has built through millenia of labour and toil. It is imperative that nuclear weapons be eliminated…… Peace must be predicated on a basis other than the assurance of global destruction. We need a world order based on non-violence and peaceful coexistence.” He urged the adoption of a three stage Action Plan for elimination of all nuclear weapons by the year 2010. Just 14 months earlier he and the Soviet President Mikhial Gorbachev had signed the historic Delhi Declaration on Principles for a Non-Violent and Nuclear Weapon Free world. It was historic because this was the first that these principles had been incorporated in a formal bilateral state document. The most important of such principles was that the “Balance of Terror” strategy should be replaced by a comprehensive international security pact.
Sadly, on May 11, 1998, a newly elected ultra nationalist Government jettisoned India’s long struggle for a nuclear free world, with five nuclear bomb explosions. Protagonists of this step, as also successor governments, have rationalized this step in terms of India’s greatly endangered security environment. However, this became even more endangered as Pakistan also went nuclear soon thereafter and made the Indian sub-continent the “most dangerous place on earth”
• On July 8, 2017, the UNGA adopted the first-ever legally-binding multilateral treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,with 122 votes in favour, one against (Netherlands) and one abstention (Singapore). Sadly however, all the nine nuclear weapon states( US, UK, France Russia, China, India, Pakistan,North Korea & Israel) stayed away from these negotiations / historic vote.
• The adoption of this treaty is primarily due to strenuous and sustained efforts of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons ( ICAN), which is a global civil society coalition of 450 partner organizations in 100 countries, headquartered in Geneva. It will have to keep up its efforts to induce the nine nuclear weapon states (NWS) that stayed away from its negotiations to give up their nuclear weapons.
• India’s spokesman has recently affirmed that India remains committed to a nuclear weapon free world and considers the best way to achieve it is through a step-by-step, mutually agreed, non-discriminatory multilateral framework, in the UN Conference on Disarmament. As India is the land of Lord Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, it should take the lead in inducing the other eight NSW to adopt this course.
• The 1986 Chernobyl and 2011 Fukushima nuclear disasters have highlighted the great dangers of nuclear power. Radio active particles from the former travelled through much of Europe and from the latter reached, via the Pacific. as far as the west coast of south America. T.P. Sreenivasan, former Indian Ambassador to IAEA, has written: “Mankind developed nuclear weapons in its quest for security and realized the folly of Mutually Assured Destruction. The quest for energy security has driven it to develop nuclear power, the more benign manifestation of the atom. The time has come for it to pause and ensure that the second quest does not prove as dangerous as the first.”
• Soon after the Fukushima disaster, Germany shut down 8 of its 17 reactors and has pledged to close the rest by 2022. Most countries of the world have no nuclear power and are moving towards non conventional energy.. Globally, more nuclear power reactors have closed than opened in recent years.
• Until mid 2014, India was heavily committed to nuclear power. Fortunately, since Prime Minister Naredra Mod’si assumption of office in May 2014, the focus has shifted substantially to solar and wind power. The target for them has been raised five fold from 20 GW by 2020 and to 175 GW by 2025.
• Gandhi would have been gladdened by this development. There was no nuclear power during his life time, but he would have opposed it because of its high cost and the highly toxic, long life nuclear waste it creates. Besides, he always favoured easily and plentifully available, local resources. Solar and wind power are presently the best on this criterion.
• Global financial, farm, Refugee & unemployment crises.
• About the 2008 global financial crisis Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz has written “American banks were engaged actively in deception; they moved risk off the balance sheet so no one could assess it. The magnitude of deceptions were mind boggling. Lehmann Brothers reported a net worth of $ 26 billion shortly before its collapse and yet had a $ 200 billion hole in its balance sheet.”
• In the LIBOR scandal, the most “respectable” British, German and Swiss banks were found to have been engaged, “atleast since 2008 in falsely inflating or deflating their rates so as to profit from trades, or give the impression they were more creditworthy than they actually were”. MIT Prof. Andrew Lo has averred that this scandal “dwarfs in magnitude every financial scam in the history of markets”.
Former Portuguese Prime Minister Mario Soares has described the close linkage between /migration of top officials of some Western Govts to their mega corporations as “promiscuous intermingling of politics and business” and urged “Capitalism has to be rethought. It must be moved past this phase of speculation, past the “casino economy” to a form of ethical capitalism that respects the environment and concerns of society”. Gandhi had urged “Ethical capitalism” almost a century ago and written “Economics that hurt the moral well being of an individual or a nation are immoral and therefore sinful. So also, the economics that permit one country to prey upon another are immoral”. These maxims are even more important in the 21st century than the preceding one as some governments and the mega corporations that are closely allied with them have become far more brazen than before in pursuing their national and economic interests.
Greed and Profit driven corporatized agriculture, mass produced food, long distance deliveries and “consume by” date markings results in much wastage at every stage from production to consumption. An FAO sponsored Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology study estimated annual global food wastage of approx. 1.3 billion tons, of which the 222 million tons wasted in developed countries, is almost equal to sub-Saharan Africa’s total food production. Dumped in landfills, the rotting of this wastage produces methane, harmful to humans, animals and also the environment. While the baneful rotting of this food waste is taking place in rich countries, thousands are dying of hunger and malnutrition in poor ones. The localized agriculture which Gandhi had urged, and in which food is grown mainly for family and community needs has hardly any food wastage. Fortunately, a growing number of people in many countries are reverting to locally produced fruits, vegetables and other food items having discovered that these are more wholesome and healthier and that the “Mad Cow Disease” which killed several people in the US, UK, France & Canada was caused by “offal” i.e. “trimmings” which include inedible parts / entrails of animals had been used as ingredients in cattle feed by some of its unscrupulous producers.
The genetically modified, pest resistant and high yielding, “miracle seeds”, produced & promoted by seed / biotech corporate, have caused grave damage to traditional farming and social distress in many countries. India is the best example of this. Almost 300,000 Indian cotton farmers have committed suicide since the mid 1990s when they were lured into utilizing Monsanto’s GM Cotton seeds. Of the seven million famers who adopted them, only a small minority with assured water supplies & adequate finance benefitted. For the others, it was total ruin when the rains failed or cotton prices collapsed.
P. Sainath has written “The spate of farm suicides – the largest sustained wave of such deaths recorded in history – accompanied India’s embrace of the brave new world of neo-liberalism……For millions of subsistence farmers, this meant elevated cultivation costs, far greater loans and being locked into the volatility of global commodity prices…. With giant seed companies displacing far cheaper and hardier traditional hybrid seeds with their products, a cotton farmer in Monsanto’s net had no choice but to pay the far higher price for his seed requirements each year.” He has pointed out that in 1991, this farmer could buy a kilogram of local seed for Rs.7. In 2003, it cost him Rs.350 for 450 grams of Monsanto’s Bt cotton seed. In 2008 it was Rs.1,650 for the same quantity!
In sharp contrast the 600,000 Navadanya farmers who used time-tested seeds and traditional organic manures prospered. None of them committed suicide. Navadanya, founded by Vandana Shiva the Gandhi inspired agricultural scientist promotes “ahimsic swadeshi agriculture”. She avers “The path to reverse the agrarian distress and end farmer suicides is chemical-free, corporate-free, traditional farming”.
In this context, it is notable that 38 countries, including France, Germany, Hungary, Poland & Russia have banned GM seed cultivation in their countries. Even in the US, where these seeds are most extensively used (93% for soybeans, 90% for cotton, and 90% for corn ) there is now strong and growing public resistance to them. Mendocino and Marin counties of California State have banned them since 2004.
The Refugee Crisis
According to UNHCR, as of mid-2016, there were 16.5 million refugees globally, 5 million more than in mid-2013. More than 30 percent of all refugees as of mid-2016 came from Syria, the largest source of global refugees.
However, the number of persons whom UNHCR calls “persons of concern” — refugees, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), stateless individuals and others in mid 2016 was 64 million. Of these 37.5 million were IDPs.
There are over 5 million Palestinian refugees — the largest group of refugees in the world, according to the U.N. But they’re not included in the UNHCR data as they are under the jurisdiction of another U.N. agency, United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
This large and growing number of refugees & IDPs creates many challenges for UNHCR and the countries that receive them. They have to be provided with atleast the minimal of food, shelter, medical and sanitation facilities and steps taken for preventing outbreak of epidemics like cholera & measles and most importantly to ensure that there are no potential terrorists among them. All this involves enormous efforts and expenditures.
This major political, social and humanitarian problem however has a fairly simple solution. If those countries which invade or support one or more of the rival factions in civil wars cease to do this the refugee / IDP problem would soon solve itself. Chris Boian, a UNHCR spokesperson has rightly pointed out “There’s a misconception that refugees want to go to Europe or the U.S. to get jobs and lead comfortable lives there. But most of them stay as close to their homes as possible so that they can return there as soon as they are able to do so.” This is validated by the fact that the largest number of the world’s refugees are in Turkey, Pakistan & Lebanon and have come from Syria, Afghanistan and Palestine respectively.
The Unemployment Crisis
A recent OECD report indicates that in April 2017 36.9 million people were unemployed in OECD countries. This was 4.2 million more than in April 2008. In Greece, Spain, Italy, Kenya & South Africa unemployment is now as high as 46.6%, 38.6%, 37%, 42% & 27% respectively. In sharp contrast India’s unemployment which had averaged 7.32 % from 1983 to 2005 has declined steadily thereafter mainly because of the introduction of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme in 2005. In January 2017 it had dropped to 3.4% ( which is about 18 million).
In the developed countries Robotics & Artificial Inteligence (AI) applications in the manufacturing and service industries are already making many professions obsolete. Automated billing and drones are eliminating thousands of jobs in accountancy and the delivery business. In the coming years even nurses in hospitals and even chauffeurs in cars and trucks will become redundant.The World Economic Forum has estimated that there will be a net loss of over 5 million jobs by 2020 across 15 major developed and emerging economies. Citibank has estimated that 47% of US jobs are at risk!
Bill Gates has suggested that governments should tax companies which employ them so as to discourage automation and fund training for new types of employment for those who become redundant. It is a remarkable but humane suggestion from a man who co-founded Microsoft, which is the leading gestator of AI technologies.
Jack Ma, chairman of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has a more Gandhian perspective. He has stated : “In the next 30 years, the world will see much more pain than happiness. Machines should only do what humans cannot. Only in this way can we have the opportunities to keep machines as working partners with humans, rather than as replacements.”
Over a century ago, Gandhi had foreseen that “labour saving” machines “save labour” by making labourers redundant. He had urged “production by the masses” instead of “mass production”. He wanted humans to be industrious, “not like a machine, but like the busy bee.”. His choice of the Charka (spinning wheel) as his mascot for employment generation, ridiculed by many economists of his day as “antediluvian”, revived India’s traditional cottage and village industries. The multiplicity of their hand made products, which include Khadi garments, shawls, carpets, brass & marble ware, bone & wooden sculptures etc employ over 30 million artisans and earn India over $ 5 billion a year in export earnings.
Rachel Carson’s 1962 book ‘Silent Spring’, which highlighted the noxious effects of pesticides and averred that if humans poisoned nature they would themselves be poisoned is often lauded as the modern ecological pioneer. Yet over thirty years earlier Gandhi had written :
“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”
• It is a well established scientific fact that where forests are denuded of trees, rains cease, where trees are planted rains are attracted and the volume of water received increases with the increase of vegetation”
• “The earth, air, land and water are not an inheritance from our fore fathers but on loan from our children. So we have to handover to them at least what was handed over to us.”
• “I want to create a world where the environment does not need protecting”
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi made an important early contribution to environmental protection in India by supporting the Chipko tree protection movement and banning deforestation in the Himalayan foot hills. She attended the Stockholm conference on human environment (UNCHE) and boldly pointed out that poverty alleviation was imperative for environmental protection. Thereafter, broad spectrum environmental policy became a matter of universal concern and discussion. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) was set up in 1972 and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. Since then, the latter is the global nodal agency on climate change.
• It is notable Gandhi’s maxim “The world provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not for every man’s greed” has been one of UNEP’s prime publicity slogans. The US Public Broadcasting service (PBS), in its RACE TO SAVE THE PLANET TV Series has done likewise.
• In recent years former US Vice President Al Gore has campaigned strenuously to highlight the global warming threat and urge the urgent need to counter it. He has pointed out that “20 of the hottest years on record have occurred within the last 25 years” and that global warming’s stark consequences are increased drought, crop failures, forest fires; more destructive hurricanes; melting of polar ice caps and glaciers worldwide, rising ocean levels and submerging of numerous islands, coastal areas and cities resulting in extensive human displacement and loss of animal and plant diversity.”
• In view of this somber scenario, the December 2015 COP21 Climate Agreement which was negotiated / signed at Paris by 195 UNFCCC members is of seminal importance. In signing this agreement the Obama administration had committed that the US (which is the world’s second largest environmental polluter, next only to China.) would reduce its pollution by 25 % by 2025 and contribute $ 3 billion to the Green Climate Fund. Therefore, President Trump’s June 1, 2017 announcement that the US was withdrawing from this agreement is very unfortunate. Among the many world leaders and scientists who have critiqued it is the renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking who has averred “We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s action could push the earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees and raining sulphuric acid”. Fortunately over 20 US states and 100 US cities have pledged to abide by the previous US administration’s commitments to the Paris Climate accord.
COP21’s importance was heightened by launch of the joint India – France International Solar Alliance (ISA) of 120 countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared on this occasion that it was “the foundation of the new economy of the 21st century” and President Hollande lauded it as “climate justice in action, mobilizing finance from richer states to deliver energy access universally”.
• Vandana Shiva has proposed (in her book ‘Soil Not Oil’) a simple Gandhian solution to both the unemployment and global warming crises. “Two crises of our times are intimately connected – the climate crises and the unemployment crises. As long as we address them separately, we will not solve either. Industrialization replaces the renewable energy of humans and other animals with non-renewable energy… To make the energy transition beyond oil we need to bring people back into the economy; bring human energy back into production, respect physical work and give it dignity. If it is adequately tapped, this is the largest energy source we have – inexhaustible, replenishable, and ever enlarging. Human energy, combined with the energy of the sun, the plants and animals, the wind, the air, the sea and water, the soil and the earth, is both the basis of work and livelihoods and the source of sustainable and renewable energy”.
• Sharply contrary to this simple Gandhian solution, are the “ultra hi-tech” antidotes for global warming which some scientists and their corporate sponsors have mooted. Most amazing of them is to “modify solar brilliance” by frequently “bombarding sulfate based aerosols into the atmosphere to deflect the sunlight”. Its estimated annual cost is $ 50 billion !
• Prince Charles, in his 2009 ‘Facing the Future’ Richard Dimbleby Lecture, dealt with the 21st century’s challenges on very Gandhian lines. After mentioning the Greek concept of ‘harmonia’, Adam Smith’s ‘Theory of Moral sentiments’,the Stern Review on the economics of climate change and the UN’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment he stated “So much, it seems to me, depends on how you define “growth” and “prosperity.” Most would agree, that the main result of progress should be less misery and more happiness. But in our modern situation these “ends” have become dangerously confused with the “means,” to the point where, now, wealth, innovation and growth have become the final goals. Through a drift of ethics, the direction of our economic system has ended up being an end in itself …we have liquidated natural assets in pursuit of what we call ‘progress’.” He concluded thus : “As Mahatma Gandhi pointed out, the difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems. We must see that we are part of the Natural order rather than isolated from it; see that Nature is a profoundly beautiful world of complexity that operates according to an organic “grammar” of harmony, an interconnected, interdependent function of creation with harmony existing between all things”.
Ill effects of Globalization
Some scholars have argued that Globalization began with the first European and Asian empires and that the ancient Silk Road is the best example of it. However, in its modern usage, it can be said to have gestated with the 1945 Bretton Woods conference, and the World Bank and IMF it created and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and World Trade Organization (WTO) which were subsequently set up. Techological advances in the communications and transportation fields and the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 greatly stimulated it. The early benefits it brought with increased trade and foreign investment inflows burnished its image and by the mid 1990s it was being presented by its votaries as the magic wand to transform poor countries into prosperous ones. However, in recent years its baneful effects, particularly the nefarious role of the transnational corporations(TNCs) which are at its core, have become quite clear.
• David Korten has described the TNC role in the financial, industrial, mining and agricultural fields as a “market tyranny that is extending its reach across the planet like a cancer, colonizing ever more of the planet’s living spaces, destroying livelihoods, displacing people, rendering democratic institutions impotent, and feeding on life.” The solution, he has urged is to “re-create societies that nurture cultural and biological diversity, get corporations out of politics…… and create localized economies” .
• Noam Chomsky has described globalization as “the extention of transnational corporate tyranny” and alleged they are huge commanding economies, run from the top, relatively unaccountable and interlinked in various ways, whose prime first interest is profit” and added “But it is does not end there. It deeper objective is to construct an audience of a particular type, one that is addicted to a certain life style with artificial wants.”
• Both these quotes echoes Gandhi who many years earlier had urged localized communities that nurture cultural and biological diversity and ensure employment and averred “Formerly men were made slaves under physical compulsion. Now they are enslaved by temptation of money and of the luxuries that money can buy.”
• Globalization has also created wide social disparities because of the much higher salaries which TNCs offer and the lavish life styles they promote. In the United States 5% of its people own 54% of its wealth! In India, as former Reserve Bank of India governor Bimal Jalan, has pointed out the total asset value of its top five billionaires (in US dollar terms) equaled those of the bottom 300 million Indians!. One of these billionaires has built himself a 27 floor mansion in Mumbai for his family of four and their numerous domestic staff and luxury cars ! It is such gross economic and social disparities and the vulgar display by the wealthy of their wealth, that gestate intense animosities and violent upheavals and therefore need to be countered and curbed.
Gross Misconduct in national & global governance.
• The many political scandals of the last six decades are clear proof of the gross misconduct in national governance. Best known of these scandals are UK Defence Secretary Profumo’s “Christine Keeler Affair”(1963); US President Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky affair (1998); Corruption scandals of Brazilian Presidents Collor de Mello (1992) & Dilma Roussef (2016);Korean President Park Geun-hye (2017), Japanese Prime Ministers Takeshita (1989) and Hosokawa (1994) Indian Prime Minister Narasinha Rao (2000) and Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi (2015), and the fraudulent expenditure claims of numerous British MPs (2009) because of which Michael Martin, Speaker of the House of Commons was constrained to resign and Prime Minister Gordon Brown to apologize “on behalf of all politicians” All these scandals, which have resulted in impeachments and resignations and in two cases even imprisonments highlight the dire consequences of misconduct in national governance and the imperative need for trustworthy leaders in all spheres of national governance. They also validate Gandhi’s emphasis on every citizen acquiring the capacity to resist authority when it is abused”. It is notable that the 2017 resignation of the South Korean President was brought about by the “people’s power” mass uprising of its citizens.
• In global governance the record is heartening and impressive as far as the UNGA and UN organizations in the economic, environmental, food, health, humanitarian & law fields are concerned. They have in fact done more than any other international institution or organizational group in promoting human rights, education, food, health and housing for all, disaster and refugee relief environmental protection, culture of non violence and peace and creation of international law in diverse spheres. Notable among these contributions in the Gandhian perspective is the September 1999 UNGA ‘Declaration on the Culture of Peace’ which declared 2000 as the ‘International Year for the Culture of Peace’ and the 2001 – 2010 period as the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World’; Its June 27, 2007, resolution declared October 2 ( Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday) as ‘International Day of Non-Violence’ and called upon all Member States, UN organizations and NGOs to disseminate the message of non-violence by all possible means. Besides, the Millenium and Sustainable Development Goals it has adopted, which urge the creation of inclusive, accountable, just & peaceful societies and sustainable economic development are intrinsically Gandhian in their contents.
• In sharp contrast to all this, the UNSC’s record, particularly in the last fifteen years is a dismal one. Mandated “to maintain international peace and security” and fulfill the UN’s prime objective “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, its five veto wielding permanent members (P5), are the world’s largest producers and salesmen of lethal weapons. One of them annually spends more on their research / production than all other UN member states put together. It has used its veto 39 times to shield a bellicose ally from UNSC resolutions which deplored its aggressive acts against other states and illegal occupation of conquered territories.
• On many thorny international issues three of the P5 have often preferred military action to diplomatic conflict resolution. The 2003 Iraq war was embarked upon by a “Coalition of the Willing” assembled and led by two of the P5 on the basis of blatant untruths and “sexed up intelligence”, in open defiance of the Security Council. Over 1 million Iraqis have been killed and over four million displaced by this devastating and illegal war. In Libya, three of the P5 misused a 2011 UNSC “right to protect” (R2P) resolution to bring about regime change. In doing so they destroyed most of the infrastructure, including the excellent irrigation system this secular and prosperous though authoritarian Arab state had painstakingly built to irrigate its desert. In Syria the same three P5 have supported anti-regime and Jihadi groups battling the legitimate government of a UN member state. Out of the chaos of this long drawn out civil war the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIL) and its “Caliphate” emerged. Using mainly US & NATO military hardware abandoned by retreating Iraqi troops it captured extensive swathes of Syrian and Iraqi territory. When it captured Ramadi in May 2015, it was only 100 miles from Baghdad! Thereafter, subjected to relentless bombing by US and subsequently by another P5 member Russia, it has been driven out of all the territory it had held including Raqqa, its capital. But it has not been decimated yet. Its “Black flag warriors” have dispersed world wide and are now active in countries as far apart as Spain, Russia, Nigeria, Pakistan & the Phillipines & the US. Quite proficient in social media recruitment it makes new recruits every day from the innumerable war ravaged Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and Libyans.
• The dire consequences of the mentioned misconduct by some of the P5 make the reform of the UNSC and abolition of the P5 veto powers an imperative need for ensuring world peace and stability. This will be a herculean task but not an impossible one if the struggle to achieve it is strenuously waged in the UNGA, and also globally on lines akin to that of the World Social Forum (WSF)’s struggle against the TNC dominated global economic system.
• WSF, also referred to as ‘Global Justice Movement’, was born at Puerto Allegre, Brazil in June 2001 with the support of the Brazilian Workers Party. It meets annually, to discuss / propose solutions to global economic problems Its first three meetings were held at Puerto Allegra with participant numbers rising from 12,000 in 2001 to 66,000 in 2003. Its 2004 meeting, held at Mumbai, was attended by 85,000 activists from over 100 countries. In 2005, five regional forums – for the Americas, Europe, The Mediterranean, Africa and Asia – were set up, and these have met annually. Its 2015 and 2016 meetings, held at Tunis and Montreal, were attended by almost 3000 NGOs from 110 countries. About these activists David Hardiman has written “They stand for a human spirit that refuses to be crushed by the ‘Leviathan’ of the modern system of violence, oppression and exploitation. They aspire for a better, more equitable and non-violent future. In them, Gandhi –their model – still lives”. WSF is the emergence of “people’s power” on the global scale. The internet and social media have contributed greatly to its gestation and rapid growth.
• Ray Kurzweil, inventor of numerous digital technologies has described Mahatma Gandhi as the “Prophet of the Age of the Communication Revolution” and written “Mahtama Gandhi’s movement is a very good early example of the power of people coming together to change an oppressive reality and achieve that purpose nonviolently. He did not have the benefit if electronic communication . His idea travelled mostly by word of mouth…..The Internet has demonstrated the power to organize the voices of the oppressed in nonviolent but effective ways….……The Civil Rights Movement in the United States, led by Martin Luther King, in which I participated, was directly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. King made frequent references to him. I cannot think of another example in human history in which ordinary people organized themselves peacefully and brought about great change.”
• The new born nano-technology, which the late C.K.Prahlad had described as “Gandhian Engineering”, by simulating plant and tree growth and producing more from less natural resources has begun to benefit both humans and the environment and to thus to fulfill Gandhi’s dream of sustainable development and also prove that small is not only beautiful but also bountiful.
• In his ‘The Ascent of Man’ book, Jacob Bronowski, has traced Man’s slow ascent from Aegyptopithecus to Homo Erectus to Home Sapiens fashioning stone implements, discovering fire and then harnessing animals, water, wind, steam and nuclear energy and affirmed “We have made a revolution in our total picture of the world by creating whole new concepts like relativity. What is ahead for us? At last the bringing together of all that we have learnt, in physics, and in biology, towards an understanding of where we have come, what Man is?”
Gandhi had a clear understanding of “what Man is”. For him every human being is essentially Divine being imbued with the Divine Spark. Everyone of them has therefore to love and serve one another and seek union with the Divine and “When the practice of non Violence becomes universal, God will reign on earth as he does in heaven”. In other words if all humans nurture the Divine Spark within themselves, love and serve one another, adopt simple life styles, non-violent conflict resolution and live in harmony with Nature, perpetual peace and universal happiness would emerge on this earth.
By achieving all that he did with his non violent “Soul Force” strategy in the most revolutionary and blood stained century in human history, and anchoring it firmly in the “indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything” Gandhi revolutionized revolution and spiritualized it and put humanity on its next upward step in the ‘Ascent of Man’.
He is therefore pertinent not only to the 21st century but also to humanity’s survival in the grimmest scenario of nuclear annihilation and global warming threats it has ever faced.
About the Author/Speaker: Pascal Alan Nazareth, Ambassador of India (Ret’d.) holds a Master’s Degree in Economic from Madras University, and served in India’s diplomatic and consular missions in Tokyo, Rangoon, Lima, London, Chicago, and New York and as India’s High Commissioner to Ghana and Ambassador to Liberia, Upper Volta, Togo, Egypt, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Belize.
Since his retirement in 1994, he has been a guest lecturer at many renowned universities and institutions, including UC Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, Yale, Columbia and New York Universities, Moscow State University for the Humanities and St. Petersburg State University in Russia, Uppsala University in Sweden, KOC University at Istanbul, Peking, Fudan, South China and Sun Yat Sen Universities in China, and the United Nations headquarters in New York, just to mention a few.
He is the author of the widely acclaimed book entitled Gandhi’s Outstanding Leadership, which was formally released in New Delhi in 2006 by the former Prime Minister of India Dr. I. K. Gujral and at the UN in New York by Under Secretary General Shashi Taroor. Since then it has been translated into 11 Indian and 14 foreign languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Korean, Bahasa Indonesia, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Italian and German, Swedish, Dutch, Serbian, and Hungarian). The foreword for the newest editions of this book was written by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
Presently, Mr. Nazareth is a founder and Managing Trustee of Sarvodaya International Trust (established in 1995) which is dedicated to promoting the Gandhian ideals of Truth, nonviolence, communal harmony, humanitarian service and peace.
In 2007 he was presented the U Thant Peace Award by Sri Chinmoy, Founder of the UN Peace Meditation Group for his “Life Time of World Service.” Recently, in 2015 he was awarded the Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) Degree by Mangalayatan Jain University at Aligarh (India) “in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the fields of administrative services, academics, and promotion of Gandhian values.”