Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

World governance based on human dignity and human rights

The key premise


Since Ancient Greece poetry and philosophy together have addressed the need to integrate the stranger into society and to treat him not any different from an ordinary citizen. In reality, discriminatory practices were used to divide those who belong and those who do not. The delineation meant borders were drawn just as inner and outer power circles were created to make power functioning for the whole. Priority was given usually as to what needs to be upheld even though one wonders about this due to all the irrational decisions taken to either seize power or else to consolidate it.

Altogether it meant a search was going on for 'human reason' to prevail and for a resistance which included the ability to stand up, if negative forces were about to assume power over the entire society. This search meant as well trying out and seeking new forms of governance.

Sabine describes in his book about the history of political ideas how law making was conceived in different periods of time. Always this was in accordance with changes in reality. Obviously a hunting society would differ from an agricultural one and still alter once entering the industrial age. The difficulties of the present world is that no one is sure anymore what form of governance is best for everyone since no one is sure anymore of having a role to play in this 'virtual' society.

Linked to the question of governance is the need to identify what tasks lie ahead. Once that becomes clear, priorities can be set while politics adjusts policy tools accordingly. The task should be linked to the ethical spirit expressed best by the wish to bring about a just society. As this is not impossible but also no easy task, measures for the tasks ahead can be developed, in order to mediate between vision and practical steps possible in reality.

Since identity is linked with memories, more needs to be said about this topic. There is the thesis that memory itself is imagination. Hence the concept of living together with others entails also what everyone can imagine to be doing in such a context. In the United States, that has become the 'American dream', but in reality such a lived imagination incurs many contradictions and unresolved problems (see James Boggs, the American Revolution).

Involving the imagination to find and to realize identity would entail something real and at the same time something imagined beyond that given reality. Identity would have to be linked to these searches while live and move in the tension field between the possible and impossible. To imagine how life could be differs from what can be realized oneself. An extension to the other is therefore an answer to the question what one would do if under the given circumstances of the other e.g. someone in Pakistan and under threat by forces ready to commit genocide. If empathy and 'intercultural dialogue' do not necessarily facilitate this, and human solidarity more than a campaign of collecting signatures, something else must be added to how information about immanent threats or atrocities already committed can be responded to. For besides the need to validate the information, there are as well the risks of even false projections leading to wrong endorsements with even worse consequences. How to motivate everyone in a conflict situation like Afghanistan to go a step further and to embrace fully the peace dimension, that is a task way beyond mere negotiations and power deals. Especially young people who imagine strongly what they can do when older and in a position to do something, want another kind of certainty before they put down their weapons (both mental and physical ones).

The imaginative self does not remain in the present reality but goes beyond to see what lies ahead. Here the link to culture becomes vital. For culture has the capacity to understand changes while anticipating what lies ahead. It means already a lot if empathy for the others is at work. This empathy without the imagination is inconceivable. But as said if empathy is not enough, then human reasoning becomes an even harder task as it would have to allow the questioning of ideologies, in order to let 'practical judgement' speak up.

Any identity suffering under deprivation of empathy will feel lost, shut out of society and not know how to question reality. Some of the worst forms of punishment children and youth experience is love withdrawal and therefore understanding by their parents. It can be continued by teachers unable to give individual recognition to let the person develop according to his or her measures. By the same token, it is clearly a challenge to let personalities unfold while knowing that 'practical judgement' cannot be taught.

Imagination is needed to go further in this inquiry about 'nation and identity'. When making interviews with people of different ages, an effort should be made to find out what people imagine themselves to do in different situations. As this might facilitate a comparison between what people imagined then and remember today, continuity of identity in different situations shall be touched upon. Special attention should be given to when this continuity is broken, or when it becomes impossible for the 'I' to follow everywhere the imagination.

Since this reminds of a saying by Kant, 'ich denke ich kann überall hin meine Vorstellung begleiten' (I think that I can accompany my imagination everywhere), something more has to be said to this. Once it is impossible to uphold this continuity everywhere, contradictions in identities have to be brought out by a nuanced understanding of the self with regards to society. This is not a mere matter of the 'I-we' relationship, but more so how society and its individuals is governed by a state. The latter uses as pointed out by Zygmunt Bauman the military, education and culture along with other means to define the nation.

The sense of belonging to a nation implies the identity takes on shape under concrete conditions. This includes forms of self-understanding. Without having thematized further this sense of belonging, the notion of love enters when discussing forms of Nationalism and Patriotism. If it is claimed that a country or a state cannot be loved but only persons, then the form of Patriotism would extend that love from people to what kind of country these people have created due to their attributes and abilities to give shape to a specific way of living together. Here would be brought out the meaning of Patriotism compared to Nationalism.

Since the Kreisau circle envisioned a life together with others beyond the nation state, this links up with the question as to what sort of life previous generations imagined would lie ahead? It is possible to reflect upon these thoughts articulated then, during Second World War, and today, that is in the twenty-first century with the European Union in 2012 challenged by many trends and problems, including the financial crisis and the need for a debt restructuring if the member states of Europe are to survive as a union.

As the thoughts of the Kreisau Circle differ from what people imagine today lies ahead, that difference will provide further insights into what changes shall affect relationships between people. This is especially the case the moment they conceive of themselves no longer as strictly citizens of only one nation state, but open up to new models of governance, in particular to world governance.

Given Europe and the kind of governance being practiced by making sure national states by themselves no longer determine governance, a real wish of Habermas is important to be repeated here. Just as citizens emancipate themselves from ethnocentricity, so Europe has to become free of Eurocentricity.

There can be imagined a new kind of identity building process linked to a culture which does emancipate itself from states and nations. Another constitution shall be needed to ensure this can be realized in freedom. Moreover human and cultural rights are to be linked to the search of people for a life in dignity.

To find a new model of an identity capable of constituting itself in a field of praxis within a global world, three questions have to be answered:

  1. What does human dignity entail and which is included, as would Habermas argue, in the concept of human rights?
  2. How to deal with both populism and new forms of Nationalism?
  3. What sort of governance can be envisioned to make possible a politics based on an ethical vision of mankind?

These three questions are not at all easy to be answered. This is because human dignity is often confused with pride and which leads too often to misunderstandings, if not to feeling insulted and therefore conflicts, if not war.

Brendan Kennelly in his epic poem 'Judas' explains why prejudices, once converted into convictions, leads to perceiving challenges as threats and by becoming defensive no longer able to recognize that the opinion of the other has equal validity as one's own. Instead of being open, the feeling of having been insulted prevails.

Thus one crucial task when creating a new model, is to find reflective and culturally substantiated ways on how people recognize each other as human beings. That is linked to human rights and human self consciousness. It would also imply that Human Rights and Human Dignity shall be observed world wide so that someone ready to torture people can be stopped from doing such an inhumane act. This is only possible if convinced that the other people are human beings and deserve all the respect, so as to preserve human dignity within the community of man.

Contrary to law, and therefore in human terms, living consciously one's human dignity means to know how to become creative. By contrast, the formal law is linked to the right to punish, if that law has been violated. Critical is that most of the times it seems as if only a certain part of the people is being punished, while those who commit real crimes against humanity go too often unpunished. Most of the time this is because their crimes are covered by going to war which excuses in turn all kinds of atrocities committed, and even is included in the 'expected' when at war. Habermas adds this sobering thought that recognition of human rights is too often accompanied by war and revolutions.

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