16913 Germantown Road
Germantown, Maryland 20875-0320
The Logic of Human Destiny
Sermon Date:Sun, 11/21/2010
Early on I was tempted to use a Star Trek-inspired title for today's service. "To boldly go where no civilization has gone before" would've made a good title. Or maybe, in order to inspire people to exchange nationalistic fervor for planetary pride, it should've been "Don't Kling-on, Beam-up"
For those of you who don't know much about Star Trek, one of its most intriguing aspects, at least for me, is that, unlike much science fiction that's set in an apocalyptic future, the creators of Star Trek envisioned a very positive future for mankind: A world where the people of Earth live under a planet- wide democratic government; in a peaceful and prosperous society, with ample resources to provide for everyone's needs.
Can we imagine such a world? Is it possible? Can we imagine a world such as Alfred Lord Tennyson did when he wrote...
For I dipped into the future, far as human eye can see. Saw the vision of the world And all the wonder that would be. Till the war drum throbbed no longer, and the battle flags were furled, in the parliament of man, the federation of the world.
I think we have a moral and perhaps spiritual obligation to imagine such a world--and to work toward it. For there is truth in Albert Einstein's words:
Mankind's desire for peace can be realized only by the creation of a world government. With all my heart I believe that the world's present system of sovereign nations can only lead to barbarism, war and inhumanity.
Sermon: The Logic of Human Destiny
<...pause...> I dream! <...pause...> I dream of a wonderful future. ... Do you?
We come to church and speak about the inherent dignity of ALL human beings. And we sing songs about "The brotherhood of man", "Peace on Earth" and about the need for people of all countries to come together and care for our planet... or as it's called in a Peter Mayer song, our "Blue Boat Home".
But how many of us truly believe that these beautiful goals are really achievable? Is it possible to eliminate warfare across the planet... forever? Can we really build a world where no one goes hungry and no one lacks basic medical care? Do we think it childishly naive to believe that we can not only stop the destruction of our planet, but some day actually start to reverse much of the damage to the environment? Is it pie in the sky to think that armies can be eliminated, or that some day we won't need jails because we will have eliminated social injustices all over the world and adequately addressed mental illness?
I believe all these things are possible... and more. To quote John Lennon, "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one". It's true, I'm not the only one. In fact, I belong to a growing multitude. Across the world a wave is building, pushed by cautious but realistic optimism. It's a lovely dream, but it's not a pipe dream.
It's my hope that today I can convince you to start dreaming, or to relearn how to dream as perhaps you once did; and that those dreams are full of hope and optimism. Some day our dream will change the world. But even in my dream of the future there will be hardship. The heartrending sorrow of someone who has just lost a loved one will be as painful then as it is now. Disease, accidents, natural disasters, death... these things will not go away. But we can remove all the unnecessary tragedies, the man-made ones brought on by war, hunger, injustice and inequity. Maybe this is something that the spirit of love that binds the universe is calling us to do--to work for a heaven on Earth.
I was not always as optimistic. But over the years I've come to notice that nothing is ever as dire as it sometimes seems. I've also become more acutely aware of the fact that we live in an environment in which bad news reaches us far more easily than good news. The news media, of all types, are eager to publish just about anything negative, often with a degree of exaggeration that leaves me flabbergasted. "Read all about it: Killer Bed Bugs On The Rise -- No treatment works! Hotel industry Doomed!"
And there are other reasons for my optimism. A few years ago my brother recommended two books, both by Robert Wright: "Moral Animal: Why we are the way we are, the new science of evolutionary psychology" and "NonZero, The Logic Of Human Destiny". These books have affected the way I view people and the world, and have made me a more hopeful, and thus happier person.
First, let me assure you that I don't automatically agree with everything I read. There are premises in each book that seem weak, with supporting arguments riddled with holes. But on the whole I think the author's logic is pretty good.
The first book, "Moral Animal", deals with evolutionary psychology, which is based on the notion that our emotions and social behaviors have evolved just as much, and via the same Darwinian mechanisms as our physiology. It's a fascinating book that gave me many insights. It paves the way for the second book, "NonZero, The Logic Of Human Destiny", which concerns itself with civilization rather than the individual.
It's this book that affected me most. And I'm not the only one. Apparently then- president Bill Clinton was also impressed. He called it "astonishing" and "fascinating", and instructed White House staff to read it.
In "Nonzero", the author views the evolution of human social structures through the lens of zero and non-zero sum games. These are terms of mathematical game theory. A zero-sum game is a scenario that, when concluded, produces no net gain for the players as a whole. Going to war to grab a piece of land from your neighbor is a zero-sum game activity. When all is done the amount of land hasn't increased--one side gained what the other lost--a zero sum. But trading your group's excess cloth for another group's excess food is a Nonzero game. One side gets better clothing, the other better food. Both sides gain more than they lose. (By the way, that's about as complex as the math gets--you don't need to be a mathematician to enjoy the book).
The history of humankind has shown a consistent progression toward increased cooperation, communication and trade, with technological advances providing better living standards and higher levels of education. This progress hasn't always been smooth and steady. There have been many halts and regressions along the way. But such setbacks have always been local and short-lived. For example, after the fall of the Roman empire Western and Northern Europe sank into the trying times called the dark ages. But it wasn't dark everywhere. Much of the art and science of the Roman empire was retained in the Byzantine empire, the Islamic world and elsewhere. And eventually Europe resumed its course.
Some of you may disagree with my labeling the dark ages "short-lived" when they lasted for several centuries. But when we look at the entire time line of human civilization, such setbacks are indeed of short duration. The evidence is strong that Homo Sapien is genetically wired to prefer nonzero sum activities to those in which only one group gains or in which everyone loses. This genetic disposition ensures that the long-term trends of increased communication and cooperation inevitably resume. There is a lesson to be learned from this. Don't be discouraged when things seem to be going the wrong way. Keep your eye on the long term.
I brought up the past only because it's only by looking at the ENTIRE time line of civilization that the overall trends can be seen. And only then can we understand that, despite all the bad news with which we're constantly being barraged, on the whole, in many ways things are better now than they've ever been. The examination of historical trends, combined with a logical explanation for why they've occurred, has given me a realistic basis for an optimistic hope for the future. We aren't doomed to eternal war and strife. Viewed in the context of the entire timeline of humanity, we are at the cusp of a quantum leap in the evolution of civilization. A virtual utopia is within our reach... If we believe it... If we work for it.
But enough about the past. Where are we now? Where are we going... as a species and a planet? What part do we play in our social evolution? What will be required of society... of us... in order to achieve planet-wide harmony and prosperity?
The single most important requirement for achieving world peace and prosperity is global ENFORCEABLE law.
The rule of law is man's greatest invention, greater even than the harnessing of fire or the invention of the wheel, the printing press, or the internet. When two people disagree and must have a resolution, there are really only two ways to settle the dispute: The stronger person can bash the other guy's head in, or they can let the law decide. Without law we would always be at the mercy of the strongest.
We MUST have global enforceable law. A law that's not enforceable is virtually useless. The slogan of the 1940's United World Federalist movement was "THERE IS NO PEACE WITHOUT JUSTICE, NO JUSTICE WITHOUT LAW, AND NO LAW WITHOUT GOVERNMENT".
Or as the authors of the book "One World Democracy" put it... "Angels can live in peace, without laws and government, but human beings cannot... Peace without justice is an illusion... Global justice is simply not achievable without the establishment of law by an elected legislature in combination with judicial institutions... Those who aspire for world peace really have no choice but to work for the achievement of enforceable global law".
Achieving global enforceable law will not be easy. It will require a critical mass of people, both here and around the world, who think of themselves first as citizens of the earth, and only secondly as citizens of a nation. Throughout history there has been the occasional person like that:
"I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the world".
The author Victor Hugo wrote
"I represent a party which does not yet exist... the party of civilization. There will come from it, first a United States of Europe, then a United States of the World."
And from what we might think is an unusual source, the old Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev said "Our ideal is a world community of states which ... subordinate their foreign policy activities to [international] law."
Having enforceable global law will require a globally elected government, a planet- wide judicial system, and a de-facto planet-wide law-enforcement system. Clearly nations will have to give up some of their sovereignty in exchange for security and economic gain.
This doesn't mean that the concept of a nation needs to disappear. The map of the United States will not change as a result of this. To the extent that they don't violate principles of a Universal bill of rights, nations will be encouraged to hold on to their traditions and cultures. For those who fear the idea of a world government that can pass laws which our own country must obey, I say look around you. You already live in that situation.
In the very earliest years after the war of independence, the US was a confederation rather than a federation. It was a loose collection of states which agreed in principal to cooperate with each other. But each one could have its own army, declare its own wars, and decide whether or not to ratify (go along with) laws passed by the United States government. If a state didn't agree with a law, it simply didn't have to ratify it, very much the way international agreements and treaties work today.
But it didn't take long for the states to realize that it was to their mutual benefit to become a true federation, a political entity in which, although state's retained certain rights, the federal government could pass binding laws for the good of the entire country.
The United States remains to this day a model for a world federation. By becoming an American I did not lose the fact that I'm a Marylander or a Montgomery County-er (??). In the same way I can be both an American and global citizen at the same time.
The European Union is another great model. Never in the history of humanity have so many countries, and so many people, voluntarily joined together. The European Union was not built by military conquest, as were empires of the past. Never have the people of so many countries realized that it is in their best interest to give up some of their sovereignty in exchange for security and economic strength. As of November 2010 the Union encompassed 27 countries, with 4 additional countries having applied and 5 others seriously considering application.
None of these nations were forced into it. As they are required to do, each country put the question to their people. And in each case it was the people that voted "Yes!". In a sense it isn't governments that join the Union, it's peoples.
These peoples of various cultures voted to join despite knowing that they would have to give up some of their sovereignty and take on many new requirements. As examples... They may never again wage war with another member of the Union; They MUST use the union's "Court of Justice" to settle disputes with another member; Their borders must be open to other members of the Union (people are free to live and settle anywhere within the union, just as Americans are free to live in any state). They must have their economic figures audited by the European Court of Auditors; They must have a democratic form of government; They must... The list is surprisingly long.
Perhaps you noticed that I did not say "NATIONS" will have to give up some of their sovereignty. In a Democracy, sovereignty belongs to the people. It is PEOPLE who have the right to trade it or shift it, and only people. It's worth noting that all nations of the European Union are Democracies. I cannot imagine a European Union forming under a system of absolute monarchs--kings have historically not been very willing to give up some of their power.
When the time comes, I hope that I, my children, or my grandchildren will have the opportunity to vote and transfer some of OUR American sovereignty over to OUR world government. That's the way we need to view it. By joining a democratic world federation we would be making a trade: True, there are some things that we would no longer control on our own. But on the other hand, we would gain so much more input into solving planet-wide issues. We would be able to solve problems that affect everyone, including Americans--problems about which we can currently do virtually nothing.
For example, OUR world government might declare that all nuclear material in the world, both military and civilian, has to be under the strict control of a world supervisory body. This would mean that we, the US, no longer have sole control over our own nuclear materials. On the other hand, we would have our fair share of input into the passing of laws needed to address global issues. We could for example sponsor and lobby for a bill to truly ban all whaling everywhere, with mandatory inspections. That's power and input we currently don't have.
Look at it this way. Would you rather have Maryland be a totally sovereign nation, with total control over its own decisions, but without any input on what goes on in the rest of the United States? Or would you prefer that it remain part of a federation in which the federal government can make laws that are in the best interest of all states, and in which we Marylanders have our fair amount of input and control over those laws, and share in the infrastructures and benefits of a much larger country?
Earlier I said that "we are at the cusp of a quantum leap in the evolution of civilization". What do I mean by a "quantum leap"? And why are we more ready for it now than ever before?
<< Why "Quantum Leap"?>>
The next stage in the evolution of civilization will be qualitatively different. For the first time the ENTIRE planet will be under a single government. Imagine what that could mean. Author H.G. Wells wrote... " A federation of all humanity... would mean such a release and increase of human energy as to open up a new phase in human history."
Joining together will of course give us the usual benefits seen throughout history when geographic areas join together: greater freedom of travel within the larger political entity; freedom from war within it; easier flow of trade goods... etc.
But this time there is a key difference. For the first time ever there won't be any OTHER place". This has many implications.
Perhaps the most important one is its effect on military institutions. If the world government, like the European Union, forbids all its member nations to use its military forces outside of its own borders, then... Does it still make sense to have an army when there is no longer any "other place" that can threaten you? Can you imagine what we can do in the United States by being able to redirect fully half our budget toward social and environmental concerns?
There will still be a need for an armed force. Such a force will be needed to protect people from atrocities such as the genocide attempts in Rwanda and Darfur. But that force will be part of the law-enforcement branch of our world government, a government which we, the people, will have authorized to hold leaders throughout the world responsible for ensuring that everyone has the rights listed in the United Nation's magnificent "Universal Declaration of Human Rights". Such a government will be able to remove negligent leaders from office and prosecute them before the International Criminal Court. Human rights crimes can be stopped before they become large scale tragedies.
Another implication of the "no other place" change is that global corporations will no longer be able to go shopping for places with cheap labor or lax environmental protections. Decent living wages and protective environmental laws will be enforced everywhere.
<< Why "NOW"?>>
I've only begun to touch on the ways in which a global government would be a very qualitative change, a "quantum leap". But what about the other part of my statement, that we are "on the cusp"? Why now? How is the world of today different from that of the past?
Today there are many forces at work that never existed before, and many others that are stronger than ever. I can think of at least five:
1) The concept of a Democratic Federation has proven itself. Several centuries ago there were no good examples. Now we have the US, the European Union, Canada, and many others. This form of government is a proven success, both economically and with regard to the happiness of its people. Three hundred years ago most people would probably have doubted that a government of the people and by the people could last for very long. Less than a century ago, who would've thought that something like the European Union could have been possible? France and Germany, historically bitter enemies that have so often gone to war are now so tightly linked both politically and economically that war between them is virtually unthinkable. Which brings up the second point.
2) The increased entanglement of economies. The economies of the world are now so intertwined that co-operation is more and more essential. War is less and less an option.
3) The increased power of warfare technology. The technology of warfare is more horrific than ever. Good people all over the world know that it must be avoid at all cost.
4) The Global Nature Of Serious Problems. Not only the world's leaders, but also the world's individual citizens are increasingly aware that we have more and more problems that simply can't be solved at a national level--They require global solutions: Regulation of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials, regulation of global corporations, global warming, species extinction, international crime, international terrorism... the list is long and growing. These problem can't be solved without world-wide "enforceable" laws.
Author, historian and naturalist Thor Heyordahl wrote... "Any scientist can testify that a dead ocean means a dead planet... No national law, no national precautions can save the planet. The ocean is a classic example of the ABSOLUTE need for GLOBAL action"
5) The Reduction Of Xenophobia. Xenophobia, the fear of strangers and strange things, has been dropping since the day two tribes first traded with each other. Today it's lower than ever, and is dropping all the time. This has come about in many ways. For example...
- The internet has made communication between individuals of different nations easier than ever. - People travel internationally more than ever.
- International student exchange programs are flourishing all over the world.
- For better or worse (in this case better), a "world" culture is developing, especially among young people. This enables them to see their counterparts in other worlds as more like themselves.
- The mass migration of people from underdeveloped nations to countries of greater opportunity has led to a much more diverse mixture of peoples and cultures. Fifty years ago the cities of Europe were fairly homogeneous. Today ALL major urban centers of Europe are a polyglot of languages, cultures, and races. A Parisian today is as likely to wear a turban as a beret.
- Even such things as the free exchange of star athletes among countries leads us to increased understanding and connection to other peoples. At the conclusion of the cold war, who would have thought that today the most popular player in the National Hockey League would be the Washington Capital's Alex Ovechkin... a "Russian" by God! Or that a Chinese player would be a successful and very popular center in the NBA... or that half of Europe's best and most loved soccer players would come from Africa, South and Central America, and increasingly Asia, or that the Soviet Union (aka the "evil empire") could produce so many talented and charming tennis players.
More and more people across the world are identifying themselves as citizens of the world. That's what we all must do. We must enlarge our idea of patriotism to include not only our duty to the planet and humanity, but also our right to have some say in world-wide issues.
A united world is an idea whose time has come. Many intelligent, well-traveled people agree with the words of U Thant, former secretary general of the U.N. "World federalists hold before us a vision of a unified mankind living in peace under a just world order... The heart of their program--a world under law--is realistic and attainable."
It's time to make noise. I urge you to educate yourself, read books such as the ones I've mentioned or join a group such as "Citizens For Global Solutions" (globalsolutions.org). All over the world we CITIZENS OF THE WORLD must let everyone, especially our leaders, know that we're here, in ever-growing numbers, and that we demand the formation of OUR government.
And then what? What happens once we've evolved civilization into this magnificent new stage in which all humanity shares a single government? Where will we go from there? Will it lead to an evolution of the spirit, a time when we can become a truly "civil" civilization, one in which a new spirituality based on a real brotherhood of man can flourish?
<...pause...> I dream! <...pause...>
Come Join us! Blessed be