"Why is man still as brutal, selfish and greedy as he was in his primitive existence? Has he not learnt from history that fruits of tyranny and oppression are short lived? Why should the strong nations be allowed to rob the weak and get stronger? Why should they wallow in luxury and comfort at the cost of the hungry and deprived? Did not humankind inherit the earth to share its bounties equitably? Will there ever be justice in the world?" This was my grandson's cry of anguish, shattering the peace of my study as he threw his books on the sofa. Returning from his university classes, he seemed to be deeply distressed. The young man was obviously hit by the oldest enigmas of humanity for the first time and with full force. I put down whatever I was reading, took off my glasses and asked him fondly," What happened? "
Grandson: My Professor thinks that history has not come to an end but it certainly has taken a new turn. Gone are the days when the defender possessed the same weapons as the aggressor and was able to deter if not defeat the enemy. Now, the leadership of Superpower who has the 'critical mass' of new push-button weaponry and the economic spine to support it, can kill with impunity from a distance and without losing a single soldier of their own. They claim to own the world. They have debarred others from possessing such weapons or the wherewithal of developing them. The deficient nations are under orders to obey and crush any move or uprising on their soil which the Superpower does not approve of, or face their own destruction. For good behavior they can be allowed to enjoy the euphemism of sovereignty. Does it mean that the majority of humanity is doomed to a status quo of subjugation forever? Will they never be able to raise their heads and live with dignity again?
Grandfather: There is no doubt that the flux of change has made most of the nations weapon- incompatible and therefore subservient to superpowers. But history has shown that after a power has spread its might too far and too thin, it starts changing from within counter-productively. It either mends its ways to remain a viable entity or collapses under its own weight of over grown apparatus and consequent decadence of its human resources. So there are limits to power, which will provide the oppressed humanity a break and an opportunity to recover. As for the continued human folly, the sages and philosophers have shared your concern from time immemorial. Unfortunately, knowledge and wisdom have not grown in tandem. While the former thrived unimpeded on objectivity and produced the best and the worst that man has experienced, the latter was inhibited by the selfish baggage that man carries as his genetic heritage. Only true education of mind with cultivated rationality will mitigate such impulses some day.
GS: But these changes may take centuries, while the humanity continues to suffer the torment. Is that justified?
GF: Unfortunately the pace of change in societies has been painfully slow compared with the life span of the individual. But modern technology, particularly in the field of information, has spurred change to move faster and also focused attention on the global dimension of human issues. The free flow of information has provided an opportunity of universal human interaction and is in the process of breaking down the old barriers of parochial interests. It is expected to illuminate man's mind with facts relating to his collective survival and well being.
GS: How on earth can such information stop the big powers from pulverizing territories in order to exploit more resources or lay new pipelines? How can information loosen the stranglehold such powers have around the necks of the client states?
GF: You are right in challenging the statement because it assumes new linkages and is partly speculative in its projections. For explanation, the deteriorating global environment is jointly linked to extreme poverty on the one hand and a high degree of affluence on the other. As you know, when the population in the tropics gets poorer it cuts down the rain forests to make a living. This in turn reduces the capacity of the environment to convert carbon dioxide back to oxygen and food for greenery. With this reduced capacity, the excessive carbon dioxide produced by the cars and factories of the rich North become a potential disaster of global warming with its punishing effects to the whole world. The linkage between a well-informed electorate and the people's representatives in governments envisages more responsible behavior of the leadership in matters of global interest. All the political oppression in distant lands that enrages the youth, the diseases that fester amongst the poor, and the narcotics the hungry farmers must produce in order to survive, eventually come calling at the doors of the rich in the form of terrorism, AIDS and drug packets. No amount of law enforcement has been able to stop these. People of the world are now interacting with each other over the head of the state influenced media and coming to the conclusion that they must "act now or perish". They are suggesting a paradigm of prevention in preference to the primitive urge of suppression and tyranny and asking "Is not elimination of poverty now, a necessity rather than charity for saving the world? Will it not be cheaper to nip the diseases in the bud rather than wait till they reach the epidemic scale in the world and devour billions of dollars? Why not divert a part of the budget of Drug Enforcement Agencies to educate and help the farmers earn a better living with other crops? Will not a small part of trillions of dollars spent on crushing dissent in pursuit of national interest; remove the very causes of dissent and terrorism? What is the cost-benefit ratio of covert intervention in the affairs of the underdeveloped nations? Will it not be eventually be more profitable to let them develop themselves?"
GS: All this sounds so Utopian and may need a non-existent Philosopher King to implement. It is also too much of sense to expect from the politicians, who are essentially a fighting breed with a narrow vision. They fight their way to power, promising short-term gains and fight on through their tenure, ignoring the long-term damage they may be causing. The Superpower uses all the tricks at its command to dominate the world, and hide from its electorate all the mischief it perpetrates to deliver them the goodies. President Bush opposes establishment of an International Criminal Court of Justice, because he does not want to be answerable to his own crimes against humanity. He rejects the Kyoto Accord because it may put the economy under pressure and make him less popular for his re-election. Prevention of global warming does not benefit him in his term and still may be 20 years away. Very few in the country have been told that the USA has been found guilty of illegal intervention and killings in Nicaragua in 1986 and fined by the International Court of Justice, which it refuses to pay. How will people act if they do not know?
GF: Thanks to the ubiquitous Internet that defies all state controls, much is coming to light. There are undeniable indications that a new global consciousness is developing which will be a force to reckon with. In fact the human concern is breaking through the national borders and carving out new virtual territories on the map of universal morality. It is evolving new centers of opinion-power in the domains of environments, human rights, economic tyranny and weapon trade, which monitor, censure and expose the mindless onslaught of the conventional politics against humanity. Take for example the 'Seattle Phenomenon', which has been enacted in different parts of the world by the youth, speaking different languages but having the same message. They do not talk about themselves as much as they protest against the exploit,ation of the starving millions and destruction of the environment of the world by the powerful countries directly and through the World Bank and the IMF. They are nameless yet, but will soon organize as a global community of their own, like Green peace and Amnesty International to awaken the conscience of the world. Their influence on their Governments, through the ballot and protest, will upgrade democracy. It was due to such movements that the world community was obliged to ostracize the mighty USA by showing it the door in the latest elections of the United Nations Commission for Human Rights. A political party, dedicated solely to the protection of global environment, is sharing power with the ruling coalition in Germany. Many others with global agendas will soon have their voices in decision-making. If "the business of USA is business" as one of the Presidents said, it should know that monopolies are essentially short lived. New competitors are already emerging in the market of power. Whoever takes better care of the customer world will profit more. This is not news for America, who used to be in the business of winning friends not too long ago.
GS: What message do you have for my Professor and my Class?
GF: Pull yourself out of the gloom. Employ endeavor not terror as the weapon, to fight your oppressors. Participate actively in politics of your country. Gather others and speak your mind loudly through the ballot. Stand up and raise your voice fearlessly against injustice. Banish ethnic preferences and prejudices against others, and focus on humanity. Shun those who flaunt ill-gotten wealth, and honor the meritorious and those who serve and sacrifice for the deprived. Aim at transforming the liability of ignorance into the asset of human capital. Lastly, get online, get connected to your own creed in the cyberspace. Click on to facts whether you like them or not. Everyone has to make efforts for himself, yet being an integral part of the world we all owe something to each other. There is an emerging global consciousness in your generation. Nurture it together and make the world a better place.
The author is an independent commentator based in Karachi, Pakistan.