|Issues||November 2007 Newsletter|
A NEW COMMUNICATIONS REVOLUTION
Many technological changes currently underway will have astounding implications for how the world will be organized and function in the future. Although it is easy to become discouraged when contemplating all of today's problems, we should not forget the wonderful changes that will open new possibilities. More than ten years before his untimely death, the scientist and futurist, Carl Sagan, pointed out that human communication had reached the speed of light and could go no faster. It would, however, continue to become less expensive and more universally available and that would open up new possibilities.
The richest industrialist and philanthropist of our age, Bill Gates, is dedicating significant effort and a substantial amount of his wealth towards getting the next billion people connected to the Internet by 2015 (for a total of two billion, or about one third of humanity). What effect will this have on economic output, rising expectations, security and activism?
Individual portable electronics are now at least half a century old, with the worldwide spread of transistor radios. But what's different now with the I-pod, Blackberry and a stream of similar devices is their connectedness to a global information system that individualizes the medium to the needs and tastes of user. They are not "broad cast" mass media devices in the old sense as much as they are "unique download" devices under the control of the user (though constrained, of course, by his/her available budget). This is potentially as empowering as the transition that occurred with the introduction of movable type and the explosion of access to information in the fifteenth century. I say "potentially" because these technologies are often implemented with designed-in barriers to steer the user to specific suppliers, for example, of music.
But the potential for this inherently open technology to revolutionize education should be obvious. Perhaps the most efficient (and therefore executable) way to educate the economically lower half of a needy world is through satellite down-loaded news, courses, health education and, yes, entertainment, all running on ubiquitous pocket-sized personal devices for which the marketing name has yet to be established. It's possible in this way that we will see further progress towards one of the goals stated in the UN Charter, "to promote social progress and better standards of life."
In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.
--Pastor Martin Niemöller
THIRD THURSDAY (not this time) GLOBAL ISSUES FORUM
N.b.: Because our speaker, Harlan Smith, teaches on Thursday evenings, our next TTGIF program will be held, exceptionally, on Wednesday, November 14
Free and open to the public.
Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, 511 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis (at Lyndale & Hennepin) Park in church lot.
Wednesday, November 14, 7:00 - 9:00 pm.
Presenter: HARLAN SMITH. Harlan, the honoree at the banquet at this year's national meeting of CGS, has been a World Federalist since the 1950s. Since joining the economics faculty at the University of Minnesota in 1950, he has taught an extraordinarily wide range of courses. Despite having officially "retired" in 1985, he continues to teach one course per semester and is now close to setting an all-time university record for longevity. His current course explores the intersections of economics and ethics and his interests have always been much broader than his departmental affiliation might suggest. Harlan has a B.A. in sociology, an M.A. in social science and a Ph.D. in economics, all from the University of Chicago.
N.b. Because the third Thursday in December falls quite close to Christmas, there will be no Forum that month.
2007 ANNUAL NATIONAL MEETING A GREAT SUCCESS
The Minnesota Chapter of Citizens for Global Solutions was honored to host the organization's national meeting on October 26-28, mainly at the University of Minne-sota's Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. The general theme was "Steps on the Road to a Just and Enduring Peace." Not counting CGS staff, 110 persons attended the event. Of these, 37 came from outside Minnesota from places as distant as California and Maine. Remarkably, four attendees have been World Federalists and CGS members since the founding of the United World Federalists in 1947! Of the Minnesotans in attendance many are not yet mem-bers of CGS; but we hope, in light of what they heard at our gathering, that they will soon decide to join.
The meeting began with a seated dinner at the Holiday Inn Metrodome. There 4th district Congresswoman Betty McCollum, delivered the keynote address, touching on many of CGS' short-term concerns. This was followed by a presentation by the evening's honoree, long-time WFA/CGS member and supporter, Harlan Smith. His remarks were partly autobiographical, laying a background for the long-term vision that formed the heart of his message. Harlan was the originator and principal funder of the annual Builders of a Better World student competition. Originally an essay contest, its focus was subsequently changed to flash video and rap poetry; and impressive videos were shown of winning entries in both categories.
Saturday's program was devoted mainly to panels on substantive issues. It commenced with a short film focused on Richard Hudson's Binding Triad proposal for reform of the UN General Assembly and Minnesota Board member Joe Schwartzberg's proposal for weighted voting in the Security Council. Narrated by Myron (Mike) Kronisch, Vice-Chair of the Center for War/Peace Studies, the film also included relevant messages from Walter Cronkite, widely regarded as the "most trusted man in America," and UN guru, Professor Ed Luck. The film provided an excellent segue to a panel on "Weighted Voting at the United Nations" at which Joe and Mike were the principal speakers. For those who were interested, free copies of the CW/PS DVD on weighted voting and of two of Joe's relevant publications were available.
Two more members of our state Board, Bharat Parekh and Gail Hughes, were the presenters in the panel, "Building a Just and Lasting Peace from a Global South Perspective." Bharat, a physicist and development consultant, made a powerful case for supporting a Global Marshall Plan that would go beyond the modest goals set for achieving the UN's modest Millennium Development Goals. Gail, a professor of sociology, laid out two contrasting visions of the global context for development of the global South, one identified as modernization theory and the other, which she favored, as dependency theory.
A panel on the "International Criminal Court & a United Nations Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS)" featured two of the most prominent figures in the promotion of global solutions, William (Bill) Pace, Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement and Chair of the International NGO Coalition for the ICC, and Don Kraus, Executive Vice President of CGS. The creation of the ICC has been hailed as the most important institutional reform in global governance since the establishment of the UN; while support for UNEPS - an internationally recruited, highly trained, rapid deployment force under direct UN command - has gained sufficient momentum to find a place on the Congressional agenda.
In a session entitled "Thinking Ahead" the audience was treated to a memorable bravura address by Tad Daley, Writing Fellow, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Focusing on what the world might be like in the year 2057, Tad debunked the Realpolitik argument that war was an inescapable condition of human existence and made a persuasive case that it was within human power to abolish major armed conflict and bring about the unification of our planet within the next half-century.
A session on "Creating a Nuclear Weapons-Free World" provided a novel and lively departure from a lecture format. Instead, Didier Jacobs, Special Advisor to Oxfam America, led the audience - simulating the US Senate - in an interactive exercise in which individuals were asked to discuss the pros and cons in respect to a number of thorny nuclear issues likely to come before the Senate in the years ahead, especially relating to the arguably anachronistic 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty.
On Saturday evening (fortunately, after we'd all had dinner) we watched and then discussed the heart-rending, gut-wrenching film, The Devil Came on Horseback, a powerful documentary on the on-going Darfur genocide, by former US Marine Captain Brian Steidle. For commentary, see the following op-ed.
Sunday morning's program consisted mainly of book discussions by the authors of two new books, Global Democracy: The Struggle for Political and Civil Rights in the 21st Century, by Didier Jacobs (noted above); and Political Globalization: A New Vision of Federal World Government, by James Yunker, a Professor of Economics at Western Illinois University. Both are highly original works and merit study by individuals searching for new paths for major global reform.
All in all, it was a highly educational, enjoyable and, at times, even inspiring meeting.
INACTION IS COMPLICITY
In the report above on our CGS national meeting we noted our showing of the film, The Devil Came on Horseback, which documents in shocking detail the ongoing genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur. As it happens, Brian Steidle, the film's author, was in the Twin Cities a mere two days before our meeting. He was the keynote speaker at the excellent Darfur-focused United Nations Rally, held on UN Day, October 24, in the Minneapolis Convention Center; and, also, that evening after a showing of the film at the University of Minnesota's School of Law under the auspices of the University's Human Rights Center and Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights.
How, one wonders, could the so-called "civilized" people of the world, whoever they may be, allow genocide to occur anywhere on our planet? Time after time - following the Holocaust during Hitler's reign in Germany, the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, the 100-day 1984 genocide in Rwanda, and several genocidal wars in the former Yugoslavia - we uttered the words, "Never again!" But it meant little. When faced with the choice of acting effectively or joining in a collective wringing one's hands on the sidelines, the UN, which could have asserted its legal right to intervene, failed to do so, rationalizing inaction by citing considerations of national sovereignty. But the failure of the UN, properly seen, was the failure of its members, especially the United States and the four other permanent members of the Security Council. Such inaction was and remains inexcusable. It is doubly inexcusable in the case of Darfur and the little reported, drawn out genocidal activity in the Congo because it continues in the wake of the adoption by the world's leaders of the Responsibility to Protect ("R2P") resolution at the UN summit conference in 2005 and the reaffirmation of that resolution by the SC in April 2006. R2P states that all states have a primary obligation to protect their own populations; but, if they fail to do so, the international community has the responsibility to act to do so.
The American media and most diplomats conveniently put the blame on China for UN inaction on Darfur, not recognizing the fact that China abstained, rather than exercising its veto power, when a vote authorizing intervention in Sudan was taken in the Security Council. This is simply a way of avoiding responsibility. Sadly, our government gets away with this tactic because it is not pressured to do the right thing by a significant segment of the American people. The silence of American citizens is no less blameworthy than the dilatory actions of our government. Both are complicity in evil. Unless our representatives in Congress hear from us, the savaging of Darfur will continue unabated. Do your part. Call or write your representatives in both houses of Congress and call for urgent action on Darfur, and on the Congo as well. It's a matter of life or death.
Alas, Darfur is not the only urgent problem facing our planet. There are so many that one is tempted to throw up one's hands in despair at the sheer magnitude of the tasks before us. "How much can a single person do?" one might ask. The answer almost always is "more." Few of us, this writer included, are doing as much as we are capable of doing. And it is a mistake to suppose that we are acting alone. There are coalitions of citizens to address every one of the problems that confront them, among them our own organization, Citizens for Global Solutions. Become active. Silence and inaction amount to complicity. The world needs you.
Citizens for Global Solutions-Minnesota Chapter
(formerly World Federalist Association)
17350 West 67th Street Circle
Eden Prairie, MN 55346
info at globalsolutionsmn.org