ON HUMAN SURVIVAL

by

Maj. Gen. (Retd.) K.S. Pendse


"Never seek to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee" -Jhon Donne

Introduction :

Nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan in may 1998 have stunned the world that tended to believe that testing of such weapons was the sole prerogative of the Permanent Five (P-5) members of the UN Security Council. A world order created for the benefit of a few core states at the expense of the many at its periphery has been challenged, albeit hesitantly, by both India and Pakistan. Small wonder then that South Asia is perceived to be at a flash-point, especially by those who created nuclear haves and have-nots division for global dominance.

What is overlooked in this context is the fact that human survival on earth has been under threat on two counts, for a considerable time. First is the more visible threat of a nuclear winter, that may be triggered by the use of just 500 megatons out of the current clear weapon stockpile of over 10,000 megatons in the arsenals of the P-5 nations. Second is the progressive ecological suicide in which humankind has been engaged since the Industrial Revolution began three centuries ago that has alarmingly accelerated with the advent of the nuclear age. To survive the environmental degradation and the ultimate ecological suicide, it is necessary to identify what ails the human psyche, and how to try and transform it so as to ensure long term survival of our planet. The case is presented under the following headings: -
  1. A Chaotic World
  2. The Underlying Mindset
  3. The Road to Survival


A Chaotic World

The 20th Century that is about to end shortly has been marked by an astounding rate of change in human affairs. Technology has shrunk space and telescoped time to such an extent that most events have an immediate global impact. The world has truly become a global village. A hegemonic world order governs the village imposed by a few powerful nations such as the P-5 and the so called economically advanced nations. A large majority of less privileged nations struggle on the periphery. More than three quarters of human population lives in these developing and least developed countries, most on the edge of poverty.

What makes this scene chaotic and dangerous is the rapid convergence of major challenges to human existence on earth. These are:
  • A population explosion among the poorer regions alongside a technological revolution in the affluent nations
  • Deforestation and desertification and a consequent scarcity of food and water leading to tragic loss of life as in Africa
  • Ecological degradation on an unprecedented scale mainly to satisfy the dictates of a Western life style and exploitative economic model
  • Depletion of the Earth's non-renewable resources such as oil and minerals required by industrialised nations
  • nuclear proliferation both for production of electrical energy as a source of power and as weapons of mass destruction that underlie global insecurity
  • Loss of human control over science and technology with erosion of its focus on human welfare and ethical values


In summary these trend add up to an inexorable downward path towards self destruction.

Will Durant summed up the human dilemma of our times succinctly when he wrote. "The rate, complexity and variety of change in our time is without precedent. The passage from agriculture to industry, from the village to the city, has elevated science, ended monarchy and aristocracy, generated democracy and socialism, emancipated women, disrupted marriage, broken down the old moral code, exalted excitement above content, taken from us many of our cherished beliefs and given us in exchange a mechanical and a fatalistic philosophy of life. In the midst of unprecedented knowledge and power, we are uncertain of our purposes, our values and our goals. What we have lost above all is 'total perspective'. Life seems too intricate and mobile for us to grasp its unity. We have no purposes that look beyond our death, we cease to be citizens and become only individuals. The entire world seems consumed in a disorderly individualism that reflects the chaotic fragmentation of our character. Without that total vision which unifies purpose and establishes the hierarchy of desires, we being destroyed by our knowledge which has made us drunk with our power. And we shall not be saved without wisdom".

Alvin Toffler's analysis of the global scene is more definitive than Durant's elegiac version of the fall of Man. He sees a world trisected by three distinct modes of creating wealth:
  • An agricultural mode thousands of years old,
  • A three century old industrial route
  • a 20th century phenomenon of using information and knowledge to earn riches in American style.


Not only are nations divided by these three different modes but also societies within nations, especially among those whose economy was predominantly agricultural in nature till mid-20th Century. China, India and most South-East Asian countries are prime examples. These three modes have their distinct pace of evolution, have different survival needs and also their own way of waging wars If the killing fields of the 20th Century saw a hundred million people die in different conflicts, the coming century holds the dire prospect of extermination of most life on earth through an indiscriminate use of weapons of mass destruction.

Our global system, which has had a nation-state as its basic unit, continues to put its faith the doctrine of 'balance of power' for maintaining global peace. During the Cold War era the balance of terror was apparently replaced the earlier concept of balance of power, whose efficacy is guaranteed buy the fear of mutual assured destruction. A nuclear deterrence which is country-specific in being made into an omnibus one by the Nuclear Weapon States in the post Cold War era. There is little understanding of how ineffective such deterrence really is when faced with nuclear threats from growing numbers of non-state actors (such as terrorists). Ironically such horizontal proliferation is intially aided and abetted by the nuclear weapon states themselves for subserving their political interests.

The Cold War has ended, but there is little political will towards global disarmament, since a global arms trade, even on a slightly reduced scale, does ensure mega-profit for these advanced nations, dsriven by their military industrial complex.. Fukuyama hailed the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 as a triumph of a free-market capitalism over a state-controlled communistic alternative. He went on to declare that history itself had ended with this victory of the US strategy of containment.(Clarify?) An analysis by Thomas J. McCormic of the driving force behind an American ambition to establish a world empire is aluminising.(not Clear) According to him, a demolition of the British hegemony during and after the Second World War was justified by the US ruling elite thus: "While they acknowledge the self-interest that would be served by their new order, they were convinced that other core powers would also benefit and that even the periphery ultimately stood to gain from trickle-down effect. In a cost-benefit analysis, the rest of the world would win more than it would lose by acquiescing in American hegemony: greater security and material rewards in exchange for diminished autonomy."(needs editing to meaningfully connect to the rest of the para)

What this actually implies is brought out clearly by Alvin Toffler while elaborating upon his well known three wave hypothesis; the survival needs of an emerging Third Wave information society in the US, vis a vis those of the First Wave agricultural and the Second Wave industrial societies. Those are quite divergent, except for energy, food, capital and access to sea and air transport.

For the agricultural economy, land energy, access to water for irrigation, food, minimal literacy, markets for cash crops and raw materials are essential, because these are relatively uncomplicated, agricultural economics.

Industrial economies are still reliant on cheep manual labour and mass manufacture, and are concentrated, integrated national economics. Being more urbanised, they depend on heavy food import from their own countryside or from abroad. They need high input of energy, bulk raw materials and are home to a small number of global corporations that are major polluters of ecology. And above all, they need export markets for selling their mass-manufactured goods.

Information oriented economies, unlike agricultural ones, neither need additional territory nor vast natural resources of their own. Japan is rich today without colonies or raw materials of its orn. These economies do need food and energy. But what they also need is knowledge that can be converted into wealth, access to world data banks and control of telecommunication networks. They also need protection against piracy of intellectual products. As far as ecology is concerned, these advanced nations need less developed countries to protect their ecology at least to the extent that they remain robust markets.

With such widely divergent needs, it is only natural that their conception of 'national security' would be radically different. Under the clash of these interests and needs, sharp tensions and conflicts now and in the future are but inevitable.

That is why the behaviour of nations in the 21st Century is likely to resemble that of 'crazy states' as posited by Illy Prigogine.(suggest replacement of the rest of the para with the following. Apart from the "Crazy states pursuing their selfish needs with relentless purpose, many "crazy (and not so crazy) non-states actors -= from terrorists at one end of the spectrum to organizations like the Green Peace at the other- play on the global theater. One does not expect their interplay to produce a harmonized symphony, but an increasingly confused and chaotic play repete with danger From boming of buses that kill children to explosions in the embassies are all manifestions of the crazy drama constantly played on the global scene.) When one acknowledges the emergence of many non-state actors, ranging from trans-national corporations through NGOs like 'Greenpeace' to terrorists and fundamentalists, on the global scene, one can anticipate a higher degree of crazineers than the world has experienced thus far. Bombing of US embassies in Africa and the US response thereto in the recent past are but a sample of such behavior in our chaotic world.


The Underlying Mindset

The seeds of this global chaos can be traced to man's unceasing human quest for a non-existent security through an ever-increasing material prosperity that has elevated satisfaction of sensate values over all else. Two widely divergent behalf-systems such as capitalism and communism had held out hopes of such prosperity, peace and common security in the wake of the Industrial Revolution of the 16th Century. In practice, both systems promoted rule of the elite, by the elite and for the elite. Though the USSR broke up in 1991 more due to its internal contradictions then due to any intrinsic superiority of the capitalist model, the failure of Soviet Russia to establish a parallel world and a parallel economy has helped the Second Wave Industrial and the Third Wave Informational societies of the advanced nations to justify an inequitable world economic order. (Break up into smaller sentences) Neither the efforts of a majority of nations to promote a New International Economic Order nor their plans to save the Earth from an ecological death have received the attention they deserve. (Toffler's and McCormick's analysis of the US world-view rationalises the current reality of 23% of the world's population, residing in the rich North. Commanding 85% of the world income. An insensitivity of this magnitude condemns a large majority of the deprived 77% people, living in the poor South to rely on the doubtful economic benefits of a 'trickle-down' effect that has proved to be a hoax already). Suggest the following instaed. On the economic front, the fact remains a mere quarter of the worlds nations consume more than three quarters of the Earth's resources and the vast majority of the nations live with an unacceptable quality of life. The trickle down hypothesis has proven to be illusory.

At the same time, thanks to the information revolution, the expectations of these deprived people have been heightened by exposure to a Western Life-style on the TV screen, even though such affluence remains cut of their reach in the present dispensation. As a flood of fortune-seeking immigrants flows from the poor South to the rich North, the latter cannot quarantine out human misery despite its technological superiority, unless it uses force to do so. That will beget a response in kind, because of a horizontal proliferation of military technology through spread of dual purpose technology in civil as well as military fields all over the globe. Paul Kennedy has warned of many wars of redistribution of people and of resources in the 21st Century, that will be more devastating as non-state actors gain access to methods of making weapons of mass destruction in the backyard. Even if the rich North retreats into a shell bristling with their own weapons of greater sophistication, longer range and pinpoint accuracy and greater powers of devastation, their non-state opponents will provide no identifiable target and, therefore, will not be deterred in their terrible purpose..

However, the affluent, advanced nations continue to equate their security with a pursuit of narrow national interest, and keep refining their awesome arsenals in a vertical proliferation, They continue to deny such an alternative to the rest of the nations through various treaty obligations that remain patently discriminatory. Many of the nuclear weapon states have declared their right to use nuclear weapons even against a non-nuclear nation in defence of their supreme national interest, if forced to do so, in their depositions before the International Court of Justice. Does this signify a 'bifurcation point' in the global order that has reached a state of disequilibrium a la Prigogine ? If so, it would be difficult to determine whether the whole social system will disintegrate into total chaos, or leap to a higher level organisation a new. To understand this challenge to the very existence of the human species, one has to trace its origin in the history of human evolution on earth.

Humanity probably took a wrong turn about five to six thousand years ago, when plundering and taking of slaves after winning a battle or a skirmish became an accepted privilege of the victor. This was capital accumulation in the grossest form. After this, the main purpose of human endeavour has been apparently to exploit and to plunder, either openly as in the colonial era, or indirectly as many transactional corporations do today in a fierce trade was that has replaced the Cold War. Psychologically, therefore, humans seem to have developed a mind-set which treats conflict as a natural state of affairs, in his obsession to fulfill his greed. Most inhabitants of the planet are being conditioned to exclusively focus on their own survival. This is the basis of constant quest for weapoins of conquest and survival and means of exploitation.. At the very root of this mind-set is an animal trait of dividing the species into 'in-groups' and 'out-groups', so starkly demonstrated in our times by events in former Yugoslavia and in Rwands-Burundi.

The 'realist' school in the study of international relations has elevated this perpetual conflict to the level of doctrine, implicit in Henry Kissinger's prescription that the foundation of a stable world order is the relative insecurity of its members. It is this Cold War mind-set of nations remaining engaged constantly in a game of dominance that continues to guide decision-makers especially in the rich North. As a result, the idea of a global strategy for human security through a people-centered model of development finds no place in their thinking.. Even when such a security of nations is talked about, it, as Barry Buzen comments, a companion to rather then a derivative of power, and more usefully viewed as a prior condition of peace than a consequence of it.

This wider concept of security goes against the grain of the ruling elite of the affluent Societies, whose mind-set sports three significant features.

First is their faith in their own ability to find a technological fix for any challenge thrown at them.

Next is their belief in the perfectibility of their environment as a result of what they perceive to be their hard-won victory over nature. Thirdly, for them Time is an arrow that always leads to better times, as opposed to the Oriental concept of a cyclical Time.

Having benefited materially from a capitalist model of economic growth, based on their technological lead over the rest of the world, these elite are, more often than not, mere spokes persons for all-powerful business interests, whose primary concern remains centred on maximisation of their profits. It is well known that the annual sales of corporations like General Motors exceed the Gross National Product of any oil-rich country such as Saudi Arbia. "The logic of globalism and the centrality of technology in the contemporary world are self-evident. Technology is the motive power of the modern age and it is the key-determinant in military and security areas", wrote Kamlesh Sharma, a former Indian ambassador in Germany. It is, therefore, natural that these world-leaders in technology, commanding most of the world income, would put their faith in sophisticated weapons to ensure the security of their national interest. This would in their thinking ensure unfettered access to cheap oil and raw materials and captive markets of the Third World countries.

The phenomenal success of the Industrial Revolution that began in the First World Countries in the 16th Century has thus, convinced their sites that a mechanistic Newtonian world-view is the only appropriate view. It treats individual nations as more cogs in the global machine of perpetual growth and prosperity. In effect, these core states assume that they are pre-ordained to run this money-making machine as per their own global agenda. This was evident at the Earth Summit in 1992. The US representative balked at the "polluter pays" principle and declared his inability to ask the American citizen either to pay more taxes to clean up the polluted environment or to reduce his affluent life-style that consumes thirty five times more resources than that of any Third World citizen. This lack of a total accountability on most issues, be they concerning nuclear proliferation or ecological suicide as a result of a mass production-mass consumption oriented western economic model xx stems from a mind-set perennially preoccupied with immediate profit at the cost of the security of future generations. The trillions of dollars invested in stockpiling of nuclear weapons that can destroy all life on earth five times over, could have solved most problems of global human security by now, had they been spent wisely on programmes directed to that end.

In sum, the advanced nations may have understood the economics of material prosperity, but they have yet to internalize the psychology of plenty. The global problem of human survival, therefore, is not so much a conflict between realism and idealism as the political scientists would have believe, as that between the short term maximisation of profit by a few nations and the long term aspirations of future generations. As John F. Kennedy once remarked, "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich". Dr. Elin Whitney-Smith of Micro Information Systems Inc. USA., has updated this home truth by arguing that wide access to information and communication is a precondition for economic development." In the interest of US national security, we need to use this knowledge to bring prosperity to the rest of the world, before its entire people became immigrants, refugees or pensioners of the West. Says she in conclusion: That is a major aspect of global mind change needed for human survival, here and now.


The Road to Survival

From the foregoing, it is evident that a total re-orientation of the Cold War mind-set is required for the salvation of mankind at large. How can such a global mind-change be brought about is the central question of the day. The world faces many other threats besides nuclear extinction and ecological suicide, through it is these two which impact directly on its chances of survival. Ethnic sub-nationalism and religious fundamentalism have captured the hearts and minds of many people whose armed revolts have challenged the sovereignty and territorial integrity of many established nations. In addition, a growing influence of a parallel economy thriving on violence, terrorism, drugs trade, money laundering and corruption of polity by criminals masquerading as political leaders is subjecting many nations to what is in effect a terrorist rule. Transnational corporations, engaged in industrial espionage and sabotage, are fielding their private armies and are buying political influence even in advanced nations like Japan, many of whose prime ministers had to resign on that score. China has been allegedly funding elections in the US to swing commercial deals in its favour. There is nothing which money cannot buy in today's world. This break-up of an organised society into individuals consumed by a total autonomy of their personal desire seems to have affected even the mightiest of nations. A road to human survival has to be found out of this bizarre situation, before the global society dissipates at best into a meaningless mass of an struggling humanity, or at worst, becomes near-extinct as species.

Many efforts in this direction have been made in the last fifty years or so. There have been peace movements that have ultimately floundered over the question of just wars, so much so that there were proponents of just nuclear arms race during the Cold War. Peace activities around the globe hailed to unite so far, in order to force the nuclear weapon states to accept a time-bound dennuclear abolition as first step towards global disarmament. Various treaties such as the NPT, the CTBT and the forthcoming FMCT are being used by the few core states as mechanisms for their monopoly of control over these weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations Organisation, dormant during the Cold War, has thereafter, being used to sanction military action in defence of the interests of these states without any final resolution of the basic courses of conflicts in the affected regions. This smacks of the proverbial attempt to treat the symptoms of an illness, instead of eradicating the disease.

The prescription to promote peace in the 21st Century falls in the same category, with its top-down approach to put a lid on all conflicts. Toffler and others have suggested a strategy that encompasses:
  • greater transparency,
  • verification of compliance regarding arms control measures,
  • tracking technology transfers so as to prevent horizontal proliferation through use of dual-purpose items,
  • acquiring information about such transfer by rewarding informers,
  • trade-in unsafe weapons for safer ones,
  • set up training facilities to learn how to anticipate potential conflicts and resolve them,
  • use of sensors to obtain advanced warning of preparation for war,
  • and most striking of all eliminating scientists who lend their technical expertise to regimes that are attempting to manufacture prohibited weaponry.


It is in such a pursuit of 'real-politick' by its responsible founder-member states that the charter of the United Nations, which enjoins them to practise tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, gets buried almost in its archives. However, the UNO on its own has made a valiantly effort to live upto its charter. Various Commissions set up directly by the UN or blessed by it have examined most issues concerning major causes for conflict and the continuing economic disparity between nations that is its main cause. While greater emphasis was laid on arms control and disarmament by the UN because of East-West confrontation at the height of the Cold War, many peace-related issues such as the arms race, disarmamnet and development, disarmament and security, North-South dialogue, environment and development and the Challenge to the South were tackled by leaders lisuch as Willy Brandt, Olof Palme, Gro Harlem Brundland and Julius Nyerere. A recent report in the cause of global peace is that of the Commission on Global Governance, funded directly by concerned governments. It came out in 1995 under the title, "Our Global Neighborhood". Since its deliberations took place well after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War of 1991, its approach to the current global problems and its recommendations are quite relevant.

In its Introduction, the Report States: "Time is not on the side of indecision. Important choices must be made now, because we are at the threshold of a new era. We have to go forward to a new era of security that responds to law and collective will and common responsibility, by placing the security of the people and the planet at the centre. Or we can go back to the spirit and methods of the 'sheriff's posse' dressed up to masquerade as global action. The right way forward requires the assertion of the values of internationalism, the primacy of the rule of law world-wide and institutional reforms that secure and susta in them."

Some important suggestions made in this report are :
  • Establishing an economic security council forming a UN volunteer force for peacemaking; a right of petition by non-state reactors;
  • A mandatory Arms Register to record all arms transfers;
  • curtailment of arms trade;
  • setting up a demilitarization fund to help developing countries reduce their military expenditure;
  • elimination of weapons of mass destruction in ten to fifteen years;
  • reforming the security council and phasing out of the veto by 20005 AD,
  • giving the Trusteeship Council a new mandate over the 'global commons' for the security of the planet and revitalizing the general assembly;
  • holding a world conference on global governance so as to put its decisions into effect by 2000 AD.


The Report rightly stresses that global governance is not global government. It is interdependence without losing independence, and that the quality of such global governance things ultimately on a leadership that is proactive, inspired and looks to the longer term and to future generations for whom the present is held in trust. The chances of such sage leadership arising in time to save us from extinction depend upon the self organising ability of human society, to attain a higher order structure than the current chaotic one.

The report spells out the sources of such leadership, It calls for enlightenment at every level: "In local and national groups, in parliaments and in professions, among scientists and writers, in small community groups and large NGOs, international bodies of every description, in religious community and among teachers, in political parties and citizens' movements, in the private sector and among the large transnational corporations, and particularly in the media." XXX

Unfortunately today the world lacks such a vision of a viable global future. The change must emanate from diverse areas. The architecture of global governance will be shaped by the spread and extensive use of information technology that may act as a global player. That ought to enable the UN and the appropriate NGOs to combine effectively in order to compel governments to protect environment and also to tax the transnational corporations in order to fund human development. They can work together to arrange transfer of eco-friendly technology from the First World to the Third World countries who may otherwise pollute the environment in their fight against poverty through a rapid industrial development using out of date technologies. And the UN must be given sharper teeth to prevent errant nations from pursuing their narrow national interest by means that are patently inimical to the alacrity of future generations. To guard against such an infraction of UN decisions, appropriate trustee nations should be selected, both globally and regionally, to act as watchdogs of the UN in securing the long term interest of the international community that is bound together in a common destiny. And most of all, a world-wide effort to create and promote an enlightened sense of right and wrong among all the members of the human family through a global culture of ethical behaviour is the need of the hour. As Vaclav Havel said to the US Congress in 1990. "…without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change in our being as humans and the catastrophe toward which our world is headed will be unavoidable."

While the UN would consider these and other suggestions to improve its effectiveness as the world entrees the new millennium, that global revolution in human consciousness mentioned by Vaclav havel can occur only at the individual level. "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in those very minds that defence against was must be constructed." Such a mind-change comes about when one rises above the 'we' versus 'they' syndrome, glorified so far by Darwin's theory of struggle for existence and Spencer's thesis of the survival of the fittest. Once all divisions in human society are dispensed with, it becomes easy to shed all prejudices and to view all events and persons in an unbiased manner. Only such an uncluttered mind can appreciate a problem in all its dimensions, simultaneously with its solution in an intuitive fashion. For such a creative response to problem-solving, one's mind must have a clarity born out of one's choiceless awareness of all facts. It is time we stopped conquering nature and started living in harmony with it. It is leadership based on such a clarity of mind, and a holistic vision, which can lead humankind on the road to survival. Conclusion

Can global governance fulfil this need for peace and common security ? A global mind-change cannot be legislated through UN It charters. It occurs when where is a total focus of the human mind, which then perceives directly the basic identity of all that exists on this spaceship earth. This is self-education at its highest, to which H.G. Wells referred when he described the current global crisis as a race between education and catastrophe.

Such enlightened minds are always in a minority. Few receive any attention in their life-time. The mass of humanity is motivated mostly by a self-centred concern for short term gain. This particularly true of political leaders. The current global chaos is, in reality, a crisis of leadership. Under these circumstances, can the desired global mind-change take place peacefully ? Those who founded the UN in 1945 mostly belonged to a generation that had suffered the horrors of two most violent world wars in their life time, which imparted a sense of urgency to their endeavour in promoting global peace. Does the present generation need to be shocked into action through a similar threat of immediate extinction ? Hopefully, right and continuous education by all available means will teach mankind to ensure its own survival through peace and common security in the next millenniums without further violence. The choice rests with each one of us.

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