“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and thus
we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”
The development, deployment and use of nuclear weapons have forever altered our environment. For the first time, a species has the capability of destroying itself and its life support system.
In addition is the threat to large civilian populations and living systems by widespread biological and chemical poisoning.
The tragedy of September 11, 2001 reminded us that neither technology nor distance can provide true security.
Our thinking, however, has not yet caught up with that reality. In order to survive, we must change our mode of thinking. This change requires knowledge, decision and action.
Throughout recorded history, war has been used to acquire, to defend, to expand, to impose, to preserve. War has been the ultimate arbiter of differences between nations. War and the preparation for war have become intrinsic to human culture. Now we must accept the reality that war has become obsolete.
We cannot fight a full-scale nuclear war. A full-scale nuclear war would destroy civilization as we know it and would threaten life itself.Today, because war has become obsolete, we must learn to resolve conflict without violence.
We cannot fight a limited nuclear war. Detonation of even a small percentage of the world’s nuclear arsenals could trigger a “nuclear winter.” It is also highly probable that a limited nuclear war would escalate to a full-scale nuclear war.
We cannot fight a conventional war among the superpowers. Such a war would likely escalate to a nuclear war.
We cannot fight a conventional war among the non-superpowers without potentially involving the superpowers. The growing interdependence of nations has produced a network of “vital interests” that the superpowers have pledged to defend. This defense could, in turn, escalate through conventional war to nuclear war.
“Once a photograph of the earth, taken from the outside, is available...a new idea as powerful as any in history will let loose.”
Sir Fred Hoyle, 1948
Physics demonstrates that nothing exists in isolation. All of matter, from sub-atomic particles to the galaxies in space, is part of an intricate web of relationships in a unified whole.Together these discoveries reveal in a new way the meaning of “One.” We are one interconnected, interdependent life-system, living on one planet.
Ecology provides the understanding that all parts of a living system are interconnected and that greater stability results from increased diversity.
Biology reveals that, in a totally interrelated system, the principle of survival of the fittest has new meaning. The “fittest” is now seen as that species which best contributes to the well-being of the whole system.
Psychology explains the projection of the dark side of the personality upon an “enemy.” That knowledge gives us new tools to understand conflict and to improve relationships between individuals and between nations.
The knowledge that war is obsolete and that we are one is the foundation of the new mode of thinking. Our mode of thinking is what we identify with. It determines our values, our attitudes, our motivation, and our actions.
Until recently, we had not experienced the earth as one integrated system. We had limited experience of other peoples and other cultures. Therefore, our primary loyalty has been limited to our family, tribe, race, religion, ideology, or nation. Our identification has been restricted, and we have often seen those beyond that identification as enemies.
In the nuclear age this limited identification threatens all of humanity. We can no longer be preoccupied with enemies. We can no longer see ourselves as separate. Modern transportation, communication systems and the discoveries of science have increased tremendously our direct and indirect experience of the world. We now see that all of life is interdependent, that we share a common destiny, that our individual well-being depends on the well-being of the whole system. We must now identify with all humanity, all life, the whole earth. This expanded identification is the new mode of thinking.
It may be that we will never eliminate conflict between individuals or between nations. There will always be different perspectives, different ideas and different approaches to problems. However, an overriding identification with the whole earth will enable us to resolve conflicts by discovering solutions that benefit all. Diversity will no longer be a cause of war. When we change our mode of thinking, diverse points of view will become a source of creative solutions.
The human species has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to change its mode of thinking. As we have matured and acquired new knowledge, we have expanded our identification beyond the tribe, the clan and the city-state. As we began to expand our identification beyond race, we abolished the institution of slavery. Now, by expanding our identification to the whole earth and all humanity, we will build a world beyond war.
“The Age of Nations is past. The task before us now, if we would not perish, is to shake off our ancient prejudices, and to build the earth.”II. DECISION
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 1936
The process of building a world beyond war begins with the acknowledgement that war is obsolete and that we are one. Change then requires a decision to reject totally the obsolete and to commit totally to build upon the new identification.
Decision means “to cut” (-cision) “away from” (de-), to reject forever an option, to close the door to an existing possibility. Without a decision it is impossible to discover the new.
There is always peril in moving into the unknown. We cannot preview all that will happen. We must draw upon our individual and collective experience of making such “leaps” in the past.
The decision to change our mode of thinking must be made on an individual basis. Individuals are the basic elements of societies. Without individual change, societal change cannot occur. Each of us must decide to adopt the new mode of thinking as the basis of his or her life.
“To compromise in this matter is to decide; to postpone and evade decision is to decide; to hide the matter is to decide.... There are a thousand ways of saying no; one way of saying yes; and no way of saying anything else.”III. ACTION: BUILDING AGREEMENT
Gregory Vlastos, 1934
Societies generate their own visions of what is possible and draw their behavior from those visions. This nation must renew its commitment to the vision upon which it was founded and build agreement about the implications of that vision in the contemporary world.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”We have not always lived up to the highest expression of our founding principles. For example, the principle that “all men are created equal” originally meant only white, tax-paying, property-owning males. Clearer understanding of these principles has resulted in creative change. When enough of us agreed that “all men are created equal” meant black and white, we abolished slavery. When enough of us agreed that it meant women and men, we instituted women’s suffrage. When enough of us agreed that it meant more than “separate but equal,” we recognized civil rights.
Declaration of Independence, 1776
When new agreements about principles are reached, laws, treaties and policies are developed to implement them. That is the only sequence of lasting change: agreement about principle, then law. Law cannot effectively precede agreement. Agreement must spring from new understanding of principles. The action through which agreement is built is education.
Today education must be based upon the knowledge that war is obsolete and that we are one. We now know that the principle “all men are created equal” applies to every human being on the planet. We now know that the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness cannot be secured by war. We must now work together to build agreement based on that knowledge throughout our society.
Power comes from individuals who are connected to universal principles and who are working together to build new agreements. The power of this nation has come from the involvement of the people in the unfolding of our founding principles. We have always agreed that such involvement is not the exclusive right of the elite. Truth is self-evident: it is available to all. Power flows not from the top, but from the consent of the governed. Our Great Seal says it clearly: “E Pluribus Unum — Out of Many, One.”
We have become a demonstration of that statement on our Great Seal. The possibility that resulted from the process of involving people in the pursuit of truth has been unfolding for 200 years. This process has served as a beacon of hope and inspiration to people around the world. It has drawn the largest diversity of people ever assembled in one nation. We have gathered the “Many” — the religions, the races, the nationalities — working for the well-being of the “One,” the Whole, the United States of America.
To fulfill the purpose and vision upon which this nation was founded, we must change our understanding of the principle “Out of Many, One” to include the whole earth and all life. We must now work together to build a world beyond war.
“I know of no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but the people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take the power from them, but to in form them by education.”
Thomas Jefferson, 1820