United Nations and the Unity of Differences

Even the most identical of twins turn out to lead different lives. We are a species of many kinds – languages, customs, cultures, faces, heights, hair, each pair of eyes, each finger print: different.

Ten thousand years ago if you’d have met a stranger, you probably would have avoided them; or else killed them. About 14% of all humans were killed by other humans at that time, the same rate of same-species killing that chimpanzees still commit. Today, about 1% of humans are killed by others – in all crimes, including war. In many respects, this is a remarkable transformation. Not far enough, but well on the way.

All the arguments against war have been rehearsed for thousands of years, since what is called the Axial Age. This is a time when much of the world was scourged by wars, from the Peloponnesian Wars in Greece, to the Age of Warring States in China. Indian warriors even believed that when they died in battle, they immediately rose to heaven, where they were sprinkled with petals and were instantly reborn as heroes. Across the earth warriors fought in a trance-like state of focus and search for glory. Everywhere they left behind them misery and pain.

The wise men and women of the time, surveyed the chaos left by warriors and kings and came up with analysis – violence breeds violence, and the mental weakness of the blood feud. Real strength comes from the well-spring of compassion and kindness, having the character and courage to look after the weak. The answer was the basic principle of peace, individually and in our communities: do to others as you’d like them to do to you. The principle was coined by Confucius in the East, but was reached by others independently in India (Buddha and Mahavira), the Jewish prophets of the Babylonian exile and Socrates in Greece. Humanity with all its myriad beliefs, systems, cultures and languages had found a unifying principle.

There were however still kings and warlords, so we’ve had two thousand years of fighting since that time, characterised by the growth of empires, the spread of “peace through force.” As we moved away from hunter gatherer life styles, towards farming and keeping livestock, this allowed for cities to emerge, and some of these collected great reserves, nurturing cottage industries, crafts, builders, merchants and trade. Each city needed to defend itself. Then when its army became strong, it faced a choice, either stay expensively garrisoned and disciplined at home, or venture abroad and steal. Many armies took to the road and created empires. Whatever arguments they used to dress up their cause, there was one key goal for their adventure, and that was theft. To take from others because they were stronger.

The empires stole and became rich, but not quite as wealthy as the city states which preferred to trade rather than conquer. Cities that avoided war and concentrated on trade, became opulent and splendid.

The problem for empires, was that among subject people they were disliked. How do we get rid of this parasitic yoke, was the colonies cry? Every empire in history over-reached itself and then declined. We have no excuse today to imagine that any of us could build an empire – its future is certain: resented and then doomed.

What are we then to do with this fighting nature, within ourselves? Written about throughout the annals of history! Is there no escape? Why when I leave my door, do I sometimes take my muddled thoughts with me and glower at strangers, or walk as though I could knock them over, as if they weren’t even there?!!

Today we have an alternative for the aggression, the anger, the energy, the search for glory. There is football, rugby, cricket, hockey, basketball, the whole panoply of athletics, boxing, wrestling, cycling, golf, tennis, mountaineering, hill walking, orienteering, canoeing, sailing, skiing, snowboarding, motor racing, extreme sports….an endless parade of ways in which our fighting instincts can find an outlet.

Sport can be exhilarating for people with energy and produces a natural high. You can be a player or spectator, earn money or just have a game with friends. Where it becomes serious and competitive there are referees or umpires to ensure fairness; physios and doctors to patch up the injured, journalists to recount the story,  TV and film can make international stars. The glory of the ancient warrior transported in his imagination into paradise after death, has been replaced by unimaginable wealth and international superstar status. Not everybodies cup of tea, but preferable to the warrior myth with a kamikaze outcome!

And shadowing this outlet for any aggression, we have a body called the United Nations, full of thousands of diplomats, supposedly beavering away to make sure the union of peoples is secure. If Wikileaks is credible, then these diplomats need to stop trying to provoke wars, and start drawing up the protocols of peace. And for sure, many are doing just that, but unfortunately the school bullies of international politics are still to the fore.

Even in small businesses we set up systems and structures to help the smooth running of our affairs. How much more should the United Nations (UN) bring together its best heads to build the peace. The systems of war, the thieves and parasites who bring modern soldiers into disrepute, the practises of war, the steps towards war, need to be step by step dismantled, and the simple protocols of peace written down. Why? Because we are strong enough to respect others and take on the responsibilities of freedom; not subject to the weakness of fear and recurrent blood feuds. Leave us tyrant, your feebleness is pitiful!

Here is a brief text:

1. Every nation is sovereign and independent.

2. In the territorial disputes between nations there should be a twenty year time limited resolution, with final referendum, limited to people registered living there at the start of the process (and their off-spring). Where there are no people then a random lottery should be the decider.

3. Where there is internal conflict, the bordering states should offer humanitarian assistance, but never get involved in military action.

4. If an appeal is made for international assistance, because of crimes against humanity, or crimes committed by rulers trying to place themselves above the laws of their own country, then third parties with no physical proximity should engage in seeking negotiated settlements. These third parties agreed by the UN.

5. Criminals should be indicted and offered a fair trial in an international court of their choice, with a range of five continental options i.e. not just the Hague (although that’s been a good start).

6. Patience and sanctions targetted at the indicted individuals should be the order of the day.

7. Where there is widespread internal conflict, then the country should be assisted by diplomats to explore ranges of options to resolve disputes. Travel out of the country should be discouraged – it is a citizens duty to bring peace to their land. Humanitarian assistance should be offered. (First Ammendment: where there is clear evidence of genocide, then the Security Council should order a 14 day intervention, by third parties, as outlined in section 8, without the five year cooling-off period).

8. After a cooling-off period of five years, if there is no resolution, then the UN can vote on action. A surgical strike, conducted by entirely third parties, sanctioned by the UN, should take place to remove indicted individuals and seize their property for the home state. The maximum length of operation should be 14 days, with limited and agreed strikes. If the operation is unsuccessful it should not be repeated for 5 years.

9. Before an operation is sanctioned by the UN, the outcome should be rigorously planned, with interim replacements to the current power structure agreed, and steps to a new election within 90 days, with all systems in place, including ballot papers, prior to any action.

10. People within a nation in dispute have the duty and responsibility to take every action to resolve their national crisis. They should forgoe holidays abroad and work to restore peace in their land. A General Strike by all workers, except for food distributors and health officials should be declared, as the patriotic will of the people to make peace.

This has taken me two hours to write. Of course there will be many errors and improvements to be made. But the over-arching principle remains – war is over, it’s for people with mental impairment and dinosaurs of history. War is a bore.

There will always be dispute and conflict (like in a game of football), but we are entering an age of peace – ushered in by the prophets of the past from Moses to Muhammad, from Mencius to Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The new frontier is the universe, we need to move our politics on from primate kin and turf stuff.