Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Writing Cosmopolitan History

This is another draft of the seventh chapter of the first section of Citizens Without Borders.

By John Taylor; 2010 Aug 18, Kamal 17, 167 BE

The American Model of Democracy

The United States was the first major democracy in modern times. Since its founding in the late 18th Century, the American model of democracy has been imitated around the world. It offered a high ideal that did tremendous good, but its practice remains tragically flawed. Democracy as we know it confounds contention, advocacy and competition with civic virtue. The party system foments artificial divisions, then incites partisans to endless, prodigiously wasteful struggle. In order to keep ubiquitous strife from provoking a single tyranny, it sets up clumsy "checks and balances" that divide power among several ruling institutions. This slows decision making and, applied to election campaigns, opens it up to corruption.

Just as Aristotle predicted, when a democracy becomes corrupt, it degrades inevitably into oligarchy, rule of the rich. The oligarchs see to it that political equality never leads to equality of means, as it inevitably would if the majority had a say in who gets the wealth. Instead, the tiny percentage of the population who own the lion's share of the wealth not so much corrupt the system as make the system itself into a form of corruption. As a result, the American experiment in democracy is antinomian, democratic in name but the reverse in practice. Its electoral process openly makes leaders into cat's paws for unseen interests, which supports the further enrichment of the elite. In a world where three out of five are indigent, the last thing wealthy countries tolerate is democracy on a world level. Even with their sophisticated puppet masters, it would be hard to imagine gaming the system so that a democratic world government would tolerate the present distribution of wealth, or, to speak more exactly, the utter lack of distribution.

The Comenian Model of Democracy

John Amos Comenius had a stroke of genius when he put forward his decade plan and tripartite division of governance at all levels. His last work, Panorthosia or Universal Reform, sets up an alternative model of democracy to the American one. This masterpiece offers a vision of how science, religion and politics all might work hand-in-hand to better the human condition and lay the groundwork for permanent happiness. He wrote that, "Any reforms in philosophy, religion and politics must fall short of perfection, unless they bring peace and lasting happiness to the minds, consciences and societies of mankind." (Ch. 1, para 4, pp. 48-49) A Comenian world government would rapidly activate latent talents in individuals while bringing into the mainstream entire cultures, regions and populations that are now neglected. In order to accomplish this, Comenius insists that the inauguration of a world government cannot be a merely political act. It calls for the activation of all of our faculties; it demands fundamental changes in every sphere of human endeavour, including the physical infrastructure.

The holistic paradigm of Universal Reform frees politicians to address their true calling, the establishment of peace. It sets scientists and educators free not only to teach and research but also to work directly on solutions to problems like climate change, without going hat in hand to political institutions or allowing interested parties to intervene and politicize the situation. It allows the rest of us to stop wasting precious time and energy in conflict and encourages strong institutional guidance by keeping power and wealth from concentrating into the hands of a few.
All this makes Comenius a founding father of local as well as world government.

Kant's Universal Civic Society

Of course, this is not to say that Comenius was the only writer of genius to recognize the momentousness of the challenge of world government. Immanuel Kant, also at the end of his life, came independently to the same conclusion. All philosophy and all of nature urges us on to one, inescapable conclusion, "The greatest problem for the human race, to the solution of which Nature drives man, is the achievement of a universal civic society which administers law among men." (Opening sentence of the fifth thesis of Immanuel Kant's Cosmopolitan History) Universal rule of law, then, is the ultimate benefit of world order. Unless we devote our whole energy and attention to uniting the world, we must fall short of the purpose of our humanity.

Whereas Comenius portrayed world federalism as an outcome of understanding the Bible, Kant was exclusively scientific and philosophical in his approach. He recognized that it is impossible for any mind, no matter how powerful, to imagine the details of the coming "universal civic society." His great achievement for world peace was to draw up what he called first drafts.

One draft was for a world history, in effect a curriculum for a world educational system, which he called the "Cosmopolitan History." The human race must join together to complete the history of our own provenance and development. Difficult as it is even to imagine the human race united, nonetheless it is our duty as human beings to at least try to envision the faint traces of the shores towards which the ship of state is taking us. Planet wide unification will one day be born from the "womb" of a collective pregnancy, a "universal cosmopolitan condition,"

"Although this government at present exists only as a rough outline, nevertheless in all the members there is rising a feeling which each has for the preservation of the whole. This gives hope finally that after many reformative revolutions, a universal cosmopolitan condition, which Nature has as her ultimate purpose, will come into being as the womb wherein all the original capacities of the human race can develop." (Cosmopolitan History, Eighth Thesis, in Immanuel Kant, Philosophical Writings, Ernst Behler, Ed., Continuum, New York, 1986, p. 260)

The world government's rule of law, then, comes from not from central authority. Instead it is the outcome of everyone's attention to duty in our own affairs. The interaction of personal and group duty conceive the cosmopolitan condition, and only that will give birth to world government.
Finally, Kant wrote his brief "Sketch for a Perpetual Peace," which he also saw not as a final summation but a preliminary outline for the constitution of any future world government.

Kant's Influence

Unlike Comenius' "Panorthosia, Kant's works were not buried for centuries in an obscure library. They influenced the formation in the Twentieth Century of the League of Nations (the name "league of nations" itself was coined by Kant in the Sketch), then the United Nations and, in the Twenty-first Century, the Earth Charter. The wording of the opening sentence of this charter for global rights could have been written as a direct response to Kant's statement cited above that world unity is our destiny.

"We stand at a critical moment in Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future. ... To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny." (preamble, Earth Charter,

The prospect of world government may frighten the powerful oligarchs but for the vast majority of the human race we should expect nothing less than what both Comenius and Kant saw as inevitable: the inauguration of an artistic, spiritual and intellectual renaissance, a Golden Age that will change the moral reflexes of humanity, both in space and time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this John; the progress of international unity is there but of course too slow, but even in our lifetimes there has been some universal progress by the forming of international groups.

Ideas like grouped currency, 'The United States of Africa' idea, international aid pools, the spread of English (sorry Esperanto guy) and many secretaries of state running around trying to make peace (although mostly for economic and military tactics).

Best of all the 12 principles of Bahai becoming more wide spread - look at it this way - if you believe in only 4 of the 12 principles -you are already a 33% Bahai.

I think that smaller groups and alliances must form first and then the groups get together as a whole integrated system.

Thanks for getting me thinking about this again, we must all work harder to change peoples minds and thoughts and essentially hearts towards larger international groups.