Unity in Diversity

Global Transformation from Deep Violence to Deep Nonviolence

Glen T. Martin

Radford University

(Paper presented at the Global Nonviolence International Conference, April 2007,

 James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia)



            The paper below considers four main topics.  First, in what ways nonviolence is the essence of religion; second, the several forms of the deep violence that characterize our world disorder; third, where religious violence fits in this scheme and what are its causes; and finally, how we can create a nonviolent world order based on the insight that nonviolence is the fulfillment of the historical process itself.


1.  Religion and Nonviolence

            Nonviolence and universality radiate from the heart of authentic religion and from all the great world religions.  Religion flows from a diversity of sources, all of which have emerged with the maturation process of human beings since the Axial period in human history during the first millennium BCE.   All sources of authentic religion point toward nonviolence, just as they point toward planetary maturity (Martin, 2005a).  Here I will mention four fundamental sources of authentic religion.

            First, spiritual awakening points forward to planetary maturity and world unity.  All thought and language arise from the deep silence that permeates the universe, as thinkers as diverse as Meister Eckhart (1980) and Max Picard (1952) have articulated.  The mystical realization of this silence leads to a direct awareness of the oneness of others with myself, the root of nonviolence.  In much of Buddhism and Hinduism, this transforming compassion is extended to all sentient beings.  Both the way of life directed toward moksa or nirvana must be nonviolent and the way of life consequent upon moksa or nirvana is nonviolent.  Means and ends are inseparable.

             Second, to adapt the philosophy of religion articulated by Paul Tillich (1987), the prophetic openness to the word of God is a consequence of a participation in the infinite power of being characterized as agape, the transforming love consequent upon the experience of grace, the saving power that grasps us when we participate with authentic ultimate concern in the infinite ground of our being.  The result is a love that rejects no human being and ultimately rejects the idea of violence against any human being.  To be established in the love of God, Jesus proclaims in Matthew 22: 34-40, also establishes us in the love of our neighbor as ourselves.

            In response to the question “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan (Luke (10:25-37).  The Samaritans were looked down upon by Jesus’ Jewish audience, yet the essence of obeying God’s commandment to love is embodied in the Samaritan who exemplified the simple life of agape, loving others as oneself.  “When you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren you have done it unto me” expresses the source of authentic religion insofar as we participate with love and openness in the ground of our own being (Matt. 25: 40).

            Third, authentic religion fulfills itself in nonviolence as a result of the historical process of development of religious consciousness and understanding.  As human beings grow historically to planetary maturity, they understand the structure of the universe and the real from which nonviolence flows ever more fully.  For example, the structure of consciousness, of our minds, reflecting as this does, the fundamental organizing principle of the universe, points to human apperception as conscious unity in diversity.  Science in the twentieth century has discovered the absolute oneness or unity of the universe that constitutes an evolving whole diversifying itself in ever greater forms of complexification and organization (see Harris 1992, Ch. 1).  Similarly, since Kant, many have understood that the synthetic unity of human apperception constitutes a single organizational principle that comprehends the multiplicity of the universe within an all-embracing unity (Ibid).  Once again, we see that the other cannot be alienated from us as a fragment over and against our own being.  Our very ability to relate to and know the other requires the all embracing unity characteristic of both the universe and human consciousness.  The other person, nation, race, or religion cannot be separated from me as a fragment contradicting my own being.  The very possibility of my encounter with the other presupposes this all embracing unity.

            Fourth, this unity in diversity of human awareness may be the source of our sense of our universal humanity, the sense that we are human beings first in ways that cannot be separated from our respective individual identities.  This sense functions as a ground for the concept of universal human rights.  Marx called it our “species-being,” our fundamental oneness as human beings expressed, for example, in the moral principle fundamental to all religions: do unto others as you would have them do unto you (see Miranda, 1986).  The recognition of the humanity of the other, as philosopher Leonard Nelson has pointed out (1956), is also an immediate recognition of the others rights vis-à-vis myself.  Once again, I am not free to do violence against my neighbor.  This principle, as expressed in the words of philosopher Immanuel Levinas, involves the recognition of the “infinity in the face of the other” and includes an immediate claim upon me that says “thou shall not kill” (1985, 89).

            Each of the great world religions and many of the minor world religions such as the Baha’i religion, the Oomoto religion, or Unitarian Universalism proclaim the universality of God, Allah, Brahman, Tao, or Dharmakaya.  Their origins often involve the famous scandal of particularity.  They originated under particular circumstances within a particular culture but the message is one of a universal sacred principle available to all human beings and recognizing the sanctity of all human beings. 

            This message is most simply formulated by all of them as some form of the golden rule.  The consequence of the golden rule is nonviolence, just as the consequence of Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative is nonviolence: always treat every person as an end in themselves never merely as a means (1964).  If persons are treated as ends in themselves, they cannot be legitimately killed in any form of military or violent conflict.

            What all these sources of authentic religion have in common is the inseparability of myself from the other within a diversity embraced by a unity that cannot be dissolved but makes possible affirmation and recognition of that diversity.   The alternative to this, and the root cause of violence in my view, is fragmentation: the human mind, out of touch with its epistemic or metaphysical ground, objectifying and alienating the other as an opposite, as a contradiction to my being, as evil, or as enemy.  This is both philosophically and religiously false, and ultimately denies its own being which cannot be affirmed apart from its unity in diversity with the being of the other.  Below, I will return to practical ways that we can promote the unity in diversity of human kind.

2.  Four forms of violence in today’s world

            If the source of nonviolence flows from our oneness as human beings, then violence is everything that structurally, economically, socially, politically, or personally denies this principle of unity in diversity.  Violence is what violates the personhood of other human beings, whether using them without their consent, manipulating them, coercing them, or harming them physically, economically, socially, culturally, or personally.  The heart of all the great religions is the respect for the diversity of each person as an end in his or her self, and a concomitant affirmation of the unity of all persons that makes this respect possible.  From this principle, I have derived the following description of the deep violence of today’s world disorder in terms of both extent and significance. 

            Four categories of violence are outlined below in order of their pervasiveness and significance:  first, structural violence (primarily poverty and deprivation) and the process of creating ever-more structural violence, second, the imperial violence of nation-states that extends and maintains this structural violence, third, the nihilistic violence imbedded in weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons, and, fourth, revolutionary and rebellious violence that reacts to the first three forms of violence, often with religious, ethnic, or sectarian identities that inspire more violence. 

            First, the central form of violence on our planet today involves the dynamic of structural violence that results in the impoverishment of the vast majority.  This structural violence is an historical consequence of the system of the private accumulation of wealth that has been imposed upon the world for the past several centuries.   Today, half the world — more than three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.    Nearly a billion people entered the twenty-first century unable to read a book or sign their names.  Less than one per cent of what the world spends each year on weapons can put every child on Earth into school.  The poorer the country, the more likely it is that debt repayments are being extracted directly from people who neither contracted the loans nor received any of the money.  The developing world now spends $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it receives in grants.  Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished.  30,000 children die each day due to poverty.  2.2 million children die each year because they have not been immunized. Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.  The slice of the economic pie taken by the richest 1% of the world’s people is the same size as that available to the poorest 57% of humankind.  The Gross Domestic Product of the poorest 48 nations (i.e. a twenty-five percent of the world’s countries) is less than the wealth of the world’s three richest people combined. (These global statistics are found at http://www.globalissues.org.)

            The second form of violence after structural violence involves the imperial violence of nation-states working to enhance, enforce, and control the populations subjected to structural violence.  This system of sovereign nation-states was first formally recognized in the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia (see Philpott, 2001).   These early imperial centers proceeded to divide the world among themselves, appropriating for themselves the cheap slave labor and resources of the majority of humankind who were organized as colonies of these imperial centers of power.   The imperial powers controlled this system under their ideology of sovereign nation-states and claimed imperial rights of domination over their colonies.  The imperial nations all adopted the ideology of Adam Smith “free trade” as a cover for their nationalistic competition to control the global wealth-producing process in their own interests (Smith, 2006, chs. 1-4).  They affirmed the ideology of unlimited capital expansion (at the expense of nature and the poor) as the only possible route to development and prosperity but attempted to channel this process of expansion to the ruling classes of their respective nation-states.

            This system of exploitation and domination in the name of both ruling classes and imperial nations was firmly rejected by Mahatma Gandhi.  Gandhi spoke of Athe organized violence of economic exploitation@  (Jesudasan, 1984, 120).  A world order in which these conditions of political domination and economic exploitation prevail is inherently violent for Gandhi.  AEconomics that hurt the moral well-being of an individual or nation are immoral and, therefore, sinful,” he wrote.  “Thus, the economics that permit one country to prey upon another are immoral@  (Ibid).   ATrue economics,@ he said, “stands for social justice, it promotes the good of all equally including the weakest, and is indispensable for decent life@ (Ibid).  Gandhi placed nonviolence in an historical perspective in which human beings, in real time, came to understand their unity in diversity and simultaneously to repudiate the dominant economic system and imperial nation-state system as inherently violent.

            With decolonization (which largely took place within the twentieth century), many of these former colonies become wretched basket-cases of nations, impoverished financially, culturally, technologically, and structurally, and subject to manipulation, overthrow, destabilization, or outright domination by one or the other of their former colonial masters.  They also became subject to financial control by the World Bank and IMF.  Hundreds of millions of poor now live in these countries as in prison camps, unable to leave and utterly unable to improve their own condition – controlled economically, politically, and militarily from abroad.

               The structural violence of enforced poverty and misery is not an accident.  It is a direct consequence of the imperial conquest and exploitation of the world by the European nations and their imperial heir, the United States, from the time of Columbus to the present.  Today, despite decolonization, that system of domination and exploitation is continued in the global economic system in which the military might and political power of the imperial nations, under the leadership of the United States, globally enforces this system of structural violence and death with its military, economic, and political might, in the service, as throughout its history, not of its people but of its ruling class and their powerful transnational corporations (Parenti, 1995).

            The world continues to move toward conditions of global totalitarianism under the control of the gigantic transnational corporations protected and promoted by the military might of the first world and the economic might of the World Trade Organization, World Bank, and IMF.    The Director-General of the World Trade Organization in the 1980s wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal that began with the sentence “Globalization is a reality of our time.”  This globalization, as Vandana Shiva has pointed out, is a prescription for the dispossession of 80% of the planet’s population (1997b, see Shiva 1997a).  This “reality of our time” is not an accident, any more than the colonial exploitation and impoverishment of the majority of humankind was an accident, any more than centuries of slavery and violence against peoples of color was an accident.  It is a carefully planned and constructed process of the most powerful economic and political forces in the world to convert the economies of the world to serve their own interests.

            The rules of world trade require of nations (under the threat of severe economic penalties) to export and import the goods needed for their survival.  The engines of globalization imposed by the World Bank and the IMF impose structural adjustment programs on economically weak nations, forcing them to open up to the exploitation by the transnational corporations and to convert from subsistence, self-sufficient forms of production, to dependence on international markets and the dominant transnational corporations.  These principles, like powerful new rules of world intellectual property rights, were worked out in secret meetings between the giant corporations and the ruling elites of the most powerful nation-states and then imposed upon the rest of the approximately 120 nations within the WTO at the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).   Both structural adjustment programs and the rules of world trade formulated for the WTO were coercive instruments forced upon the poor of the world by its ruling elites.

            If I have poor women utterly dependent upon me as their employer or slave owner and I demand sex from them, I am guilty of violence against them even if I never use overt violence.  Exactly the same principle operates if I force structural adjustment upon poor nations or impose globalized trade rules upon them about which they have no choice.  Globalization in the service of the world’s powerful corporations and economies is a rape of the poorest 80% of humanity.  It is a dynamic of violence pure and simple.  GATT trade rules are coercive rules that demand of poor countries that they open their economics to foreign economic investment under the threat of economic retaliation and punishment (Mander and Goldsmith, 1996).

            Part of the mechanism by which this is done also includes what I call “spiritual violence” (see Martin 2005, Ch. 3). Spiritual violence is the violence of lies and deception in order to foster my self-interest at the expense of others.  We saw above that authentic religion in all its forms affirms love of other human beings as oneself.  We saw that this is essentially the same as Kant’s categorical imperative that requires treating others as ends in themselves never merely as a means.  Lies and deception in the service of domination and economic self-interest violate the personhood of others and are therefore a form of violence.

            There are many examples of this that could be given from the ideological arsenal of the globalizers, for example, the concept of “free trade” itself is such a lie.  There is nothing free about this trade.  It is coerced from the very beginning and forced upon the majority of humankind.  It is structured for the advantage of the ruling classes of the world at the expense of everyone else.  If human beings are ever to find real freedom for themselves, it will have to include real democratic freedom for all, including sufficient economic prosperity to allow the freedom from disease, suffering, and early death (see Martin 2005b, Ch. 4).

            At the International Food Summit in 1996, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced that the U.S. would never accept food as a right because this would constitute an unacceptable interference with free trade (Shiva, 1997). People in the world today have no right to water, to healthcare, to sanitation, even to eat, unless some set of global corporations can profit from their basic human needs.  This denial of the right to exist outside of the control of the powerful is not an inevitable or “natural” development of trade; it is a planned and coerced construction of the global economic system for the benefit of the few. 

            Under WTO rules, corporations can now sue governments if laws enacted by those governments restrict their “free trade,” cutting into their profit margins.   The only forces capable of controlling the rapacity and destructive power of corporations, governments with enforceable laws, are now superseded and capable of being attacked by the very forces that only government can control.  Civilization has undergone centuries of political struggle by citizens longing for freedom in order to create the principles of democracy in which governments are responsible to their citizens and laws are required to be made for the common good of all.  All this is today being wiped away by the economic elite of the world and their agents in the imperial nation-states.  The destruction of democracy and the authority of government to control the domination and exploitation of the wealthy classes could not have taken place except through violence, precisely because democracy is the essence of non-violent and non-coercive decision making for society. 

             But the violence thus imposed upon the world has been significantly the violence of deception.  Let us take one more example of the spiritual violence of lies and deception by which this dynamic of structural violence continues in today’s world. Vandana Shiva describes the development of the concept of the “production boundary” that defines productivity according to WTO rules in today’s globalized economy (1997b).  The production boundary is an arbitrary definition created to define growth and trade between nations.  It was decided that if people consume what they produce, then they are not producing.  Only what is produced and traded on the global market is defined as production and entered into the economic calculations that measure economic growth.  This decision is obviously wildly stipulative, but it is not arbitrary.  Its intent is very clear.

            With this definition, the hard productive work to survive and live of most of humanity simply disappears: all the subsistence farming and production that goes on throughout the third world, all the work of women inside the home, all the care-giving and sharing that defines and honors the humanity of the poor majority is counted at nothing (Shiva, 1997b).   In other words, what makes us human, our cooperation and hard work to give care to one another within our families, communities, and nations, is counted as zero in the institutionalized violence that is globalized trade.   It all simply disappears with intellectual lies and ideological distortions such as this concept of the production boundary.  Not only do such lies constitute a vicious spiritual violence against our humanity, their institutional consequences in the form of suffering, death, and disease are immeasurable.

            When the poor are hurt by globalized trade policies or by structural adjustment programs, they often rebel.  Their rebellion may take the form of trying to democratically elect or create programs that counter these imposed economic policies, or they may take the form of guerrilla warfare in an attempt to take control of their societies from the imperial forces of domination, or they may engage in acts of social or political violence, often called terrorism.  Such rebellion is an obvious and expected consequence of economic globalization. This expected consequence of the system of planetary exploitation has led the imperial powers to redefine the role of governments to adapt to the new neocolonial imperial system.  Governments no longer protect their people and act for the defense of their people and the common good.  In fact, as we saw, this power is being taken away from them since corporations now have the right to sue governments that restrict their economic exploitation within host nations.  

            Governments are now being redefined as security forces for multinational investors.  Their responsibility is no longer to consider their citizens’ basic needs, nor to provide essential services or utilities, nor to foster the common good.  All these functions are now placed in the hands of multinational corporate investors.  Rather, these governments are now to be solely concerned with their police and enforcement functions. Their military and police are being trained by first world imperial military forces to put down internal rebellion and subversion and to protect foreign economic assets within the host nations.   As political analyst Michael Parenti puts this: “Since World War II, the U.S. government has given over $200 billion in military aid to train, equip, and subsidize more than 2.3 million troops and internal security forces in some eighty countries, the purpose being not to defend them from outside invasions but to protect ruling oligarchs and multinational corporate investors from the dangers of anticapitalist insurgency” (1995, 37).

            The imposition and protection of this global system of exploitation and death goes far beyond mere training and funding for police repression of the poor worldwide.  Every empire in history has used massive systematic terror inflicted on dominated peoples to appropriate their land, labor, and resources.  The U.S. led global empire of today is no different.  The proper definition of the overwhelming quantity of violence to which the poor of the world have been subjected is “state terrorism.”  Compared to state terror, the private terror of weak and marginalized groups is a drop in the bucket.  It is not a major problem in the world.  The major world problem is global structural violence protected and enhanced by massive nation-state violence.  Michael Parenti writes:

            U.S. leaders profess a dedication to democracy.  Yet over the past five decades, democratically elected reformist governments in Guatemala, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Syria, Indonesia (under Sukarno), Greece, Argentina, Bolivia, Haiti, and numerous other nations were overthrown by pro-capitalist militaries that were funded and aided by the U.S. national security state.

                The U.S. national security state has participated in covert actions or proxy mercenary wars against revolutionary governments in Cuba, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Portugal, Nicaragua, Cambodia, East Timor, Western Sahara, and elsewhere, usually with dreadful devastation and loss of life for the indigenous populations.  Hostile actions also have been directed against reformist governments in Egypt, Lebanon, Peru, Iran, Syria, Zaire, Jamaica, South Yemen, the Fiji Islands, and elsewhere.

                Since World War II, U.S. forces have directly invaded or launched aerial attacks against Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Libya, Iraq, and Somalia, sowing varying degrees of death and destruction.  (Ibid. 38)

            In Vietnam alone, the U.S. genocidally wiped out the civilian population through massive saturation bombing of their villages and cities, causing the deaths of three to four million persons.  Private terrorism is a blip on the screen compared to the massive state terrorism of our world disorder led by the United States.   This is not an accident.  Vietnam was not a “tragic mistake” as the propaganda system would have us believe.  It was part of the dynamic of global imperial domination in the service of capital exploitation of the cheap labor and resources of the entire world.  No where on Earth is safe from attack if the people of some small nation want to take their economic destiny into their own hands.  The U.S. invasion of the tiny island of Granada under President Regan was not about nutmeg, as President Regan himself proclaimed.  The economy of that country had zero significance for the U.S. economy.  But the invasion was a message to every Caribbean and Latin American nation that if you try to control your own resources in the interest of your own people this is the kind of terror you are inviting upon yourselves.

            The invasion of Iraq and utter devastation of their society and destruction of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives was not only about oil.  It was also about geopolitical control of the Middle East, indicated by the building of four gigantic, permanent U.S. military bases on Iraqi soil.  There is no intention of ever leaving Iraq, and the Democrats in Congress, that majority who are representatives of the ruling class, know this very well.  Yet there was still another purpose to the terrorist destruction of the Iraqi society and its people: the military “shock and awe” devastation of that country in a matter of days was intended as a public demonstration of the U.S. capacity for state terror.  It was intended to send a message to the entire world that if you oppose the empire of the United States you will be subjected to your own total destruction through a similar “shock and awe” inflicted by the superpower.  This is the very definition of terrorism: the use of violence for political or social purposes.  Every imperial nation in history has used massive violence to achieve its political and social goals.

            The third form of violence in today’s world involves the development, production, and deployment of weapons of mass destruction, primarily nuclear weapons.   Nuclear weapons have no military use and have been declared illegal by the World Court in 1996 and repeatedly in sessions of the Provisional World Parliament from 1982 to the present (found at www.radford.edu/~gmartin).  The utter nihilistic violence indicated by the very existence of weapons of total destruction underlies the intrinsic violence of our world disorder.   Since none of these weapons have any legitimate military value (assuming for the moment that there can be legitimate military action), and since they are intended for nihilistic destruction of entire cities and populations (here incarnated in a human-made machine form) these doomsday weapons are violence pure and simple: nihilistic, absurd, and absolutely criminal violence. These weapons could not exist at all if there were even the slightest respect for human beings or for God. 

            They exist because there is no such respect, as evidenced in the structural violence imposed upon the Earth’s majority by the few who also develop these hideous weapons.   Like the hatred of life and human beings evidenced in the system of structural violence and state terrorism in the service of structural violence, these nuclear weapons evidence the ultimate demonic hatred of God’s creation and human life.  Whether they are used or not is not relevant to this point.  The deep violence of today’s world disorder is a violence permeated by the nihilistic criminality of all the nuclear weapons possessing nation-states.

            But this value nihilism is merely the final result of the negation of our humanity by the imperative of capital accumulation.  When all human values are negated – love, kindness, cooperation, sharing,  the value of people as ends in themselves – by an economic system that turns people into commodities whose labor is exploited in the service of capital expansion, and by the military might of nation-states who place themselves in the service of capital accumulation by their respective ruling classes – then all values eventually appear to be relative and the result is nihilism on the part of the ruling classes.  As political economist Istvan Meszaros expresses this:

From capital’s uncritical self-expansionary vantage point there can be no difference between destruction and consumption.  One is as good as the other for the required purpose.  This is so because the commercial transaction in the capital relation – even of the most destructive kind, embodied in the ware of the military/industrial complex and the use to which it is put in its inhuman wars – successfully completes the cycle of capital’s enlarged self-reproduction, so as to be able to open a new cycle.  This is the only thing that really matters to capital, no matter how unsustainable might be the consequences.  (2007, 26)

The inhuman construction of weapons of mass destruction, like the endless manufacture of bombs and others weapons and their use in wars for control of the wealth producing process, count, in the twisted economic calculations of capitalism, as economic health.  The result is value nihilism with its concomitant systems of violence and death.

3.  The fourth form of violence: religiously motivated violence

            In theologian Paul Tillich’s analysis, all people are religious (1987, Ch. 2).  That is, all people attempt to deal with the anxiety of finitude and pending death by grasping for a meaning in life though faith in something larger than themselves (1957, Ch. 1).  For Tillich, this grasp of a lebenswelt, a life-world, defines our very identity as persons.  Tillich’s analysis is useful for our purposes because it allows us to contrast the nonviolence of authentic religion with idolatry of all forms: the worship of power, the nation-state, wealth, one’s ethnic group, or one’s religious sect.   In Tillich’s analysis, to invest faith in something finite and limited is to court the disaster of idolatry, for the finite will always fail (1957, Ch. 3).  All forms of religious fundamentalism fall prey to this.  Yet faith in the nation, wealth, or power also attempts to escape the courage and doubt of authentic faith through the substitution of some worldly, finite institution in which one can invest one’s life.  The dominators of the world clearly do this, manifesting a hatred of human beings and life that borders on the demonic.

              The infinite, as the object of authentic religion, transcends the opposition between subject and object found on the finite level and hence encompasses all beings in its love.  Love is the power of being to sustain and redeem, the power to integrate and unite what is separated (1987, Ch. 16).   Faith in a finite idol such as wealth or power places one in opposition, deep existential opposition, to those of different idolatries, clinging to different finite gods.  It also places one in deep opposition to the loving power of being itself.  Hence, its demonic quality. This is what is happening all around us today, not only in what is called religious political violence but also in the idolatrous violence of economic imperialism and globalization.

            When people feel insecure and threatened, or when they feel damaged or violated, they regress to ever-more virulent forms of idolatry.  They bond in group solidarities to defend their identity, their culture, their lives, and their life-meanings.  Religious sectarian identities (Shiite versus Sunni), national identities (Iraqi or Iranian), religious resistance identities (Al-Qaeda), or  fundamentalist group identities (Taliban) are all instances of this phenomenon.  Christian groupings show the same range of solidarities and identities.  When I was a guest of Libya last April, at the 20th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Libya in 1986, one Libyan official recited in his speech the atrocities committed by the U.S. against the Palestinians, the Afghans, the Iraqis, the Libyans and others and then shouted at the audience: “This is war! This is total war for our very survival!”

            His point is easily understandable.  Threatened and violated people instinctively stand together against their violators and cling ever-more tenaciously to their collective identities, in this case their identity as Arabs, as Libyans, and as Moslems.  During the 1980s, the CIA callously used this instinctive tendency to arm and religiously motivate the Taliban in Afghanistan to fight with terrorist and guerrilla tactics against the Soviet army that had invaded their country.  The strategy, of course, invited blowback, as all such evil and violent strategies do.  Once the Soviets had been driven out of Afghanistan, the Taliban turned its attention to the other “Great Satan” of the world.

            What we call “terrorists” are often weak, oppressed, and angry groups who construct improvised bombs and attempt to set these off clandestinely or suicidally.  A terrorist, therefore, is someone with a bomb but not an air force to deliver it.  Those who have tens of thousands of more destructive bombs and sophisticated aircraft to deliver them are not labeled terrorists.  The latter activity is innocuously called “self-defense.”  Again, we see that lies are integral to the deep violence of our world order.  Social Scientist James Petras describes the increase in Islamic religious violence as follows:

            In the minds of the chaos, violence, dislocation, pillage, and occupation of a country, a whole people are adversely affected.  As they reach out to respond, to protest, to survive, they seek protest movements and institutions that have some resources, a modicum of power.  In the past there were powerful nationalist, socialist, and communist parties, dynamic trade unions and peasant movements.  In a few countries these are still active and a force to be reckoned with.  In many regions, however, they have been decimated by US client regimes, local secular or “religious” dictators, and by the disintegration of the Communist parties.  Under harsh conditions requiring clandestine activity and mass support, many secular activists have joined politically-oriented religious movements, which embrace anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, and social welfare programs.  The catalyst for secular “conversion” to Muslim-inspired movements is politics, not religion.  (2006, 150-151)

            In 1986, the nations of the world through the U.N. General Assembly attempted to come together cooperatively to fight terrorism.  They wanted to develop “measures to prevent international terrorism, to study the underlying political and economic causes of terrorism, to convene a conference to define terrorism and to differentiate it from the struggle of people for national liberation.”  The vote in the General Assembly was 153 for this effort (unanimous), and 2 against it (the U.S. and Israel) (Blum, 197).  Naturally, it was vetoed by the U.S. in the Security Counsel and did not happen.  The reasons the U.S. is against real measures to prevent international terrorism and differentiate it from the struggle of people for national liberation are twofold and quite obvious to impartial observers.  With the fall of the illusory threat of Communism, the U.S. needs a new implacable universal enemy as an ideological cover for its wars of imperial domination.  Second, to distinguish terrorism from authentic struggles for liberation would expose the U.S. global support for the violence of domination and exploitation, and much of what is now called terrorism would be seen as legitimate resistance to the violence of empire.

            Nevertheless, my fourth category of violence, violence stemming from fragmentation of the human community and the idolatry of finite identities or forces, encompasses not only what is today called religious violence but the three previous forms of violence, discussed above, as well.  If Tillich’s analysis has cogency, then not only is religious violence a form of idolatry but the dogmas of capital accumulation and imperial expansionism are forms of idolatry. Philosopher Enrique Dussel in his book, Ethics and Community (1988) defines the contemporary hegemony of empire in service dogma of capital accumulation as a supreme idolatry, demonic in quality, violating the integrity of persons and attempting, like the devil himself, to replace God with its own glory and eternity.

            It should be clear that an analysis of violence in terms of the dynamics of idolatrous religion is inadequate unless it is supplemented by a systems analysis and a class analysis (Ibid., see Miranda, 1986). The system of capitalism, the system of class exploitation, and the system of nation-states are integral to the immense deep-violence of today’s world disorder.  All three of these involve institutionalized and intentional fragmentation of the human community and the consequent violence that this fragmentation entails.   From the point of view of authentic religion, one could say that these phenomena are not only idolatry but the demonic rebellion against God pure and simple: the ultimate godlessness of base violence, exploitation, and dehumanization of the majority of humankind by the few.  Religiously inspired terrorist and guerrilla violence are primarily reactions to the exploitation and domination of a godless and demonic world disorder.

4. A nonviolent political and economic order for Earth

            A nonviolent order for the Earth cannot be premised on the system of sovereign nation-states. A nonviolent order for the Earth must be one based on the movement within historical time to ever-fuller awareness and understanding of our human situation.  There are 193 sovereign nation-states at present all competing with one another economically, politically, and militarily.  In this anarchic condition, the big fish will dominate and devoir the little fish.  Violence is intrinsic to this system.   Similarly, violence is intrinsic to the globalized economic system of monopoly capitalism.  You cannot create gigantic institutions like multinational corporations whose sole motive is profit for their investors and expect any form of justice, wide prosperity, environmental integrity, or democratic governance to be the result.   As American philosopher John Dewey insisted, the democratic ideal cannot be realized under capitalism, which always places an oligarchy of the rich into effective power.  Democracy can only be realized under some form of democratic socialism (1993, 148-152).

            A nonviolent order for the Earth can only be brought about through nonmilitary democratic world government under a system such as that articulated in A Constitution for the Federation of Earth (Martin, 2005b, Ch. 5). The nation-state system is intrinsically a war system, and monopoly capitalism is intrinsically a system of structural violence and dehumanization.   The Constitution for the Federation of Earth establishes the unity in diversity that we have seen as fundamental to authentic religion.  It does not establish religion, but the political and economic unity of humankind to the point where authentic religion can begin to flourish unimpeded.

This general idea was also affirmed by Mahatma Gandhi who envisioned a world federation premised socialist equality and freedom for all people.  AThe structure of a world federation,@ Gandhi wrote, Acan be raised only on a foundation of non-violence, and violence will have to be given up totally in world affairs@ (1987, 460).  “If there were no greed,” he said, “there would be no occasion for armaments.  The principle of nonviolence necessitates complete abstention from exploitation in any form” (1958, 112).  “I would not like to live in this world,” Gandhi stated, “if it is not to be one world” (1958, 112).

            Today, we have seen, the system of imperial nation-states promoting and violently protecting the system of global monopoly capitalism, activates in their victims worldwide a hardening of identities as forms of resistance to the anxiety and threat of violation and destruction.  People cling to fundamentalist religious identities for the very survival of who they believe they are as Moslems, Jews, Christians, Kurds, Palestinians, Iranians, Tamils, Serbs, or Bosnians.  The establishment of political and economic unity in diversity would go a long way to relax this instinctive process of hardening identities and promote the universality in uniqueness that is the dual glory of every human being.  We are all human beings who owe one another respect and nonviolence.  Precisely because we are all one, our individual integrity must be respected.  But this principle cannot be realized on Earth unless it is institutionalized in a planetary political and economic form.

            The Earth Constitution establishes itself firmly on the principle of unity in diversity.  All persons are united under the unity of one Earth Federation that represents not only their individual interests but the common interests of all people.  Their unity, interdependency, and interconnection is structurally affirmed.  But the Constitution also protects their individual identities as persons and as communities.  It establishes the Earth as a federation in which the units of the federation govern themselves in conformity with the universal protection of human rights guaranteed by Articles 12 and 13 of the Constitution.  Diversity is affirmed and protected precisely because it is not fragmentation but rather embraced within the larger unity of a world order affirming the equal validity and oneness of all persons on Earth.

            The only way to institutionalize nonviolence is through authentic democracy that embraces all in a unity (of rights and responsibilities) while providing procedures for decision making for social and political change that abjure violence.  Gandhi said the same thing, and that is why he was a democratic socialist who understood that there can be no democracy, when, as he put it, “the few ride on the backs of the millions” (1958, 115).  Neither sovereign nation-states nor global monopoly capitalism can give us authentic democracy for both ultimately defeat the liberty, equality, and freedom of all people who live upon the Earth.

            Democratic world government draws upon the crucial distinction between all forms of militarism and civilian police.  Under the Earth Constitution all militaries and weapons of war worldwide would be abolished and destroyed.  All enforcement of the law would be done by civilian police whose charge is not the destruction of a designated enemy as in the military but the apprehension and arrest of individuals suspected of violating the law, using the minimum of force necessary and with utmost care not to harm innocent bystanders. 

            The theory and practice of nonviolence is not in the final analysis simply an ad hoc technique for dealing with violence outside of the civilized relationships fostered by law under the democratic state.   Rather nonviolence is a manifestation of a planetary maturity that must permeate the political, legal, due process, and economic processes of the state.  It must be understood historically, as the growth of human beings to planetary maturity.  This growth is simultaneously spiritual, economic, social, and political.  Spiritual growth toward nonviolence is meaningless if it ignores economic, political, and social growth.

            Government can and should be converted to conscious nonviolence.  Police can be trained in substantially nonviolent techniques of apprehension and arrest, and the weapons they are allowed to use can be similarly non-lethal and non-injurious.  Courts can operate on the principle of restoring unity with the whole rather than fragmentation and violent punishment.   Government can abolish all forms of militarism and war-making capacity.  The Earth Federation will make conflict resolution for groups, nations, and individuals worldwide a fundamental initiative of its global government.

              There can be no peace without unity and there is no unity for the world without nonmilitary democratic government.  The violence of our world has its deepest roots in fragmentation: egoistic fragmentation, class fragmentation, political fragmentation, religious fragmentation, nation-state fragmentation, and economic fragmentation.  The creation of political and economic unity will allow people to relax their hardened religious identities and open themselves to the influx of the spiritual dimension of life that is the real heart of religion as well as nonviolence.

            The epistemic structure of a human being, as Immanuel Kant demonstrated, involves a spontaneous synthesis of apperception in which a unique individual person confronts the universe as an integrated totality of mutually related parts (Harris, 1992, Ch. 1).  Each of us encounters the world through a structure of unity in diversity.  Twentieth-century science has revealed the dynamic evolving unity in diversity of the entire cosmos.  From the initial conditions of the big bang, from the micro to the macro levels, the universe is a differentiated unity specifying itself in ever-higher levels of complexification up to human self-consciousness and the construction of integrated systems of human knowledge (Ibid.).   The historical development of science confirms that every level the universe is a dynamic confluence of unity in diversity. 

            Yet human history on planet Earth has mirrored neither the structure of human intelligence as unity in diversity nor the structure of the evolving cosmos that is a series of ascending levels of unity in diversity.  Human beings have remained mired in fragmentation, primarily today the fragmentation of global capitalism and the system of sovereign nation-states, and massive planetary violence has been the consequence of this failure.  If we ascend to the maturity of a democratic Earth federation, we will have overcome the fragmentation of today’s world disorder that is the central root of violence.

            The overcoming of fragmentation in economic, social, religious, and political life does not result in some faceless domination of a “superstate” where diversity is sacrificed to a totalitarian unity so feared by those in today’s first world who deny their complicity in the present global system of totalitarian domination.  The result, rather, is a federation in which people participate in government on many levels, from local to regional to national to world levels.  There is no peace without the ascent to democratic world government, which will necessarily mean the overcoming of fragmentation with its concomitant violence. 

            This ascent will not automatically restore the maturity of authentic religion to humanity.  For this requires the free opening by human beings to the sources of grace and love and spirituality that flow from the foundations of the universe. But it will provide the necessary and sufficient conditions for the ascendancy of an authentic religious life for humanity.  The historical ascent to a nonviolent world order necessarily includes a complete conversion of our world system to nonviolence, as Gandhi pointed out.   Economics and political organization are just as fundamental to nonviolence as spirituality.  With the ascent to a nonviolent world order, religiously motivated violence with disappear of its own accord, since it is, most fundamentally, a result of the fragmentation of our contemporary world disorder.


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