Tuesday, June 17, 2008

p24 Interdependence

The Declaration of Interdependence

By John Taylor; 2008 June 17, 13 Nur, 165 BE


Baha'is are familiar with the Race Amity conferences that Abdu'l-Baha initiated and encouraged. These continued periodically during the 1920's and petered out during the 1930's. I think that this line of thought was continued, though perhaps unconsciously, when the idea of a "declaration of inter-dependence" was floated during and just after the World Wars. I do not remember ever having heard of a declaration of interdependence before. But then last week I came across a reference to such a document in a biography of Buckminster Fuller. It seems that during Buckminster Fuller's visit to Pennsylvania the following transpired,


"At the suggestion of Harris Wolford of Bryn Mawr, Bucky was asked to take part in planning Philadelphia's role in the celebration of the Bicentennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Bucky says:

`It is of great importance in Philadelphia because, of course, this is where it was done. The people here are completely committed to the idea of saying something to the world; they would like what they do to be metaphysical instead of physical, an expression of the same kind of thinking that had gone on before.

`Quite a long time ago, I had proposed to them that a Declaration of Interdependence would be the only thing that the world would be impressed with today.

`An interesting development was that M. Carey Thomas, the first woman president of Bryn Mawr, in her latest years when the League of Nations was being formed, had written a Declaration of Interdependence of the World. President Wolford brought it out, and the committee asked me to lead them in the writing of the new Declaration of Interdependence.'" (Buckminster Fuller: At Home in the Universe, Alden Hatch, Dell Publishing, New York, 1974, p. 257)


I did a web search for the text of this declaration of interdependence that was apparently made up for the League of Nations, but it did not turn up. I did find a later document, though, which was apparently put forward by the historian and philosopher Will Durant. According to the official website devoted to Durant, this is how this declaration came about,


"On April 8, 1944, Pulitzer Prize-winning philosopher Will Durant was approached by two leaders in the Jewish and Christian communities, Mr. Meyer David and Dr. Christian Richard, about collaborating on a project of social significance. Recalled Durant:

"Dr. Richard and Mr. David came to me with suggestions to organize a movement to raise moral standards. I talked them out of it, and suggested, instead, they work against racial intolerance. I outlined the argument, and proposed a Declaration of Interdependence. I thought the phrase was original with me, but found it had been used before -- however, only in regard to international political independence. I asked them to draw up such a Declaration, and promised to sign it if I liked it.

"Durant, David, and Richard outlined their plans for the movement and drafted a declaration that represented their core beliefs. This document Durant called "A Declaration of Interdependence". In Ariel and Will Durant's dual autobiography, Will Durant expressed his reasoning for his recommendation:

"Just as independence has been the motto of states and individuals since 1750, so the motto of the coming generations should be interdependence. And just as no state can now survive by its own unaided power, so no democracy can long endure without recognizing and encouraging the interdependence of the racial and religious groups composing it. The Declaration of Interdependence was launched on March 22, 1945 at a gala event in Hollywood.  (Will Durant and the Declaration of Interdependence http://www.willdurant.com/interdependence.htm)


Just how much Durant was inspired by the Baha'i teachings and the Master's Race Unity gatherings, I do not know. It was "introduced into the Congressional Record on October 1, 1945 by Hon. Ellis E. Patterson." Support for this initiative dwindled in the 1950's, but Durant's supporters give it credit for being a precursor to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's. It is a pity that a non-violent but still very confrontational movement succeeded where pure idealism had clearly failed to capture peoples' attention or to goad anybody to act.


In any case, the declaration seems to have gone from political to moral, and then interdependence was forgotten for decades until late in the 20th Century it was reborn as an environmental document, evidently in other words, it was taken up by David Suzuki,


"Five members of the David Suzuki Foundation team wrote the following Declaration of Interdependence in 1992 for the United Nations' Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro."



I am no expert on this, but my guess is that this environmental initiative eventually melded into the Earth Charter. Correct me if I am wrong. In any case, the declaration now exists online in version 2.0, the one started off by Will Durant. It is, I think, very important for understanding the Baha'i principles, so I include the full text here, along with a site where you can sign a petition in its support.


The Declaration of INTERdependence


Human progress having reached a high level through respect for the liberty and dignity of men, it has become desirable to re-affirm these evident truths:

That differences of race, color, and creed are natural, and that diverse groups, institutions, and ideas are stimulating factors in the development of man;

That to promote harmony in diversity is a responsible task of religion and statesmanship;

That since no individual can express the whole truth, it is essential to treat with understanding and good will those whose views differ from our own;

That by the testimony of history intolerance is the door to violence, brutality and dictatorship; and

That the realization of human interdependence and solidarity is the best guard of civilization. Therefore, we solemnly resolve, and invite everyone to join in united action.

To uphold and promote human fellowship through mutual consideration and respect;

To champion human dignity and decency, and to safeguard these without distinction of race, or color, or creed;

To strive in concert with others to discourage all animosities arising from these differences, and to unite all groups in the fair play of civilized life.

ROOTED in freedom, bonded in the fellowship of danger, sharing everywhere a common human blood, we declare again that all men are brothers, and that mutual tolerance is the price of liberty.


You can sign a petition in support of it at: http://www.civworld.org/declaration.cfm

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