Essential Global Concerns to Concentrate On
What should be the most essential concerns of our world at this time?
Regarding risks and also opportunities
(by Helmut Schwab)
051511 - 032812
Click on “Download” to obtain the essay in Word format for easy print-out
3.1. A Brief List of Human Concerns
3.2. Detailed Discussions of Human Concerns:
3.2.1. Terrorist Attacks with WMDs (weapons of mass destruction)
3.2.2. Poverty, Global Economy/Employment, Social Balance, Prosperity
3.2.3. Governance, Political or Religious Governance,
3.2.4. Global Structure, Global Dominance or Cooperation, Veto Rights
3.2.5. Unchecked Population Growth
3.2.6. Scarcity of Resources, Including Usable Water
3.2.7. Migrations, Immigration
3.2.8. Drugs and Drug Trafficking
3.2.9. Education, for Usable Knowledge and Values
3.2.10. Social Problems, Social Balance
3.3. Some Other Concerns
The attention of the political leaders of our world is absorbed by an endless sequence of daily emergencies. They must direct all of their energies toward the immediate need for ever changing fast responses. Little time and energy remains to discuss and possibly define the basic direction which our human society pursues or, actually, should pursue – where our problems and our opportunities are – and then act upon it.
Political leaders concentrate too much of their effort on their own reelection or the maintaining of their power. Any effort to arrive at global coordination fails with the veto power of merely a single country at the UN Security Council.
There is a need for better global coordination in the setting of strategic priorities – then for appropriate action.
What actually are the essential global concerns?
Which ones should one concentrate on?
2. Nature-Caused Concerns:.
“Global Warming”, if confirmed in the severity of its consequences, must be seen as the most essential global concern at this time – especially when aggravated by environmental damage caused not only by warming, but also by business interests or population growth. The consequences would be much higher cost or unavailability of food and, consequently, hunger, suffering, and larger migrations, combined with significant social turmoil.
The generation of gases or particles leading to global warming by various countries is similar to the problem of overfishing. Each fisherman claims that he is merely taking a very small percentage of the total. What he is not taking, another fisherman will. Saving fish for future generations is difficult while each fisherman has to provide for his own family and the education of his children now.
Ozone layer depletion in the atmosphere is a somewhat lesser environmental concern, with already some countermeasures becoming effective.
A deadly pandemic should be seen as another very serious and not unlikely concern for mankind. The frequency of new diseases appearing, the speed of global disease spreading, and the time needed to develop countermeasures were demonstrated by HIV/AIDS, more recently, by the H1N1 (Swine) Flu, and by the newly discovered importance of the NDM-1 gene – or newly discovered laboratory-produced variations of a deadly flu.
A very large meteorite cannot be excluded at some future time – of the size which some scientists see as the cause for the extinction of most life on Earth 65 million years ago.
Actually, a somewhat smaller and possibly still divertible meteorite is expected near Earth within the next 30 to 50 years and a bigger one in 2182. Examples of the past: The Arizona Crater and the Noerdlinger Ried Crater, Germany, where the ejecta reached 70 km out.
A super-nova explosion closer than 300 light years, terminating all life on Earth.
A volcanic up-welling from deep within Earth when occurring with such extreme volume and intensity as the one having caused the formation of the Daccan Traps in India during that same time period as the general extinctions of 65 million years ago – and in Northern Siberia 200 million years earlier (and at four other times since the origin of higher forms of life 600 million years ago) always resulting in extensive extinctions of life on Earth.
A gigantic volcanic collapse, as occurred upon the formation of Lake Toba in Northern Sumatra, at Krakatau, and on Bali, or as caused the gigantic caldera in the Yellowstone area (which area is lately showing some slow buckling again), or the volcanic ex- and implosion at Thera (at “Santorini” in the Greek islands) in ancient times – all threatening the survival of many people in their respective geographic area – or even of all of mankind. Just imagine a similar collapse of a volcano in Northern California, Oregon, or Washington State – or of one of the European volcanoes (near Naples or on Sicily) – or of Mt. Fuji!
An unstable island may slide back into the ocean, as the island of La Palma in the Canaries. A sliding back into the ocean of a large part of that island would trigger a gigantic tsunami ravaging the American East coast with such extreme violence that the city of New York and quite a few others could be destroyed.
The preoccupation with such concerns would be that much more valid as their appearance could be accurately predicted a short time before their occurrence and some complex and costly countermeasures devised – or as limited survival appeared possible but only in certain specific areas on Earth. The competition to be among the survivors would heat up – where to have property on Earth, where to be a citizen, and how to be protected against others attempting to stream in – all horrible visions!
3. Human Cocerns and Opportunities:.
3.1. List of Human Concerns:
1. Extremist Terrorist Attacks with “dirty” bombs or bio-chemical material
2. Pervasive Poverty in too many places on Earth
3. Governance, serious problems with political or religious guidance or governance
4. Global Structure, Race for Military Superiority, Cooperation if not Governance,
5. Unchecked population growth
6. Increasing scarcity of resources, including usable water
7. Migration, Immigration
8. Drugs and drug trafficking
10. Social problems, Social Balance
- Global modernization leading to more freedom and less corruption
- Restraint of ever growing consumption – yet, viable economies
- Cheap and clean energy resolving resource problems: water and others
- Reaching of another historic period of mental progress and well-being
11. Aging of some populations, mainly in Europe, Russia, and China
12. Lead the Underdeveloped Countries into the Future
13. Information Control
14. Formation of a new international “World Culture”, possibly an opportunity
15. Morals, Ethical Values; Are “health/happiness/family/faith” enough?
16. Commercialization of everything
17. Unhealthy Life Styles, smoking, obesity, unsafe driving, drug usage
3.2. Detailed Discussion of the Main Concerns.
3.2.1. An extremist terrorist attack with a “dirty” bomb or bio-chemical material.
The most dangerous situations in our time may possibly result from a combination of religious Muslim extremism or of a country with rogue governance with terrorist violence (presently Iran, Pakistan under Taliban rule, N. Korea, and others) – to a lesser degree from a combination of drug trafficking with corruption and violence – or from historic tribal search for independence (the Kurds, various Arab tribes, or others) leading to regional warfare, then igniting larger conflict.
Religiously or ideological based intolerance combined with imperialism and a preference for violence has already existed in historic and also more recent times – from the Spanish conquest of America, to the Nazis, to Chinas conquest of Tibet, and the establishment of Israel by way of not-compensated violent expulsions, then settlements and roads in Palestine). Historic tribal search for independence and warfare can be seen in the Basque or Kurdish violent struggle for freedom and its suppression – now also in parts of the Arab Spring – and in other conflicts.
The restraint of extremists from dangerous violence – even if these extremists amount only to small minorities – has proven to be an almost impossible “military” task, see the war in Afghanistan (see also the excellent book “Managing the World Towards Peace” by Angelica Kohlmann Kuepper). The struggle against the Anarchists prior to the First World War was already futile. The Anarchists disappeared only when they were taken in by the Communists.
Historically, the first potent terrorists were the Assassins of Persia and Syria, established as a Shia Ismaeli sect by Hassan-i-Sabbah. Religiously radicalized young men were secretly sent out to commit spectacular suicide-murders of political enemies, believing to thereby gaining instant access to paradise. They committed their first spectacular assassination in 1192 and many more thereafter. Only as the invading Mongols conquered the sect’s headquarters, the fortress Alamut, in 1256, and killed the then leading Imam, did the killings stop (except lesser contract killings by remaining followers – until the Inquisition stopped that). Osama bin Laden (and now the Haqqanis, see below) exactly copied this approach from their North Waziristan base! More attention should be paid to this phenomenon!
The only viable approach against Taliban violence would require a change of thought, preaching, and behavior by their and all other Muslim religious leaders (including all the owners of radical Islamist Madrasa schools). They are the key leaders who would have to provide strong counter-violent guidance in the Muslim world. Our global community and each Islamic country should strongly and clearly challenge Muslim religious hierarchies to provide non-violent guidance!
A special situation is presented by the Haqqani clan, father Mawlawi Salaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, copied by smaller Taliban leaders. They prosper on drug smuggling from Afghanistan to Russia and Europe. This business requires dominance of the poppy culture in Afghanistan and the commercial path of the drugs out of Afghanistan to markets, presently via Pakistan. Therefore, the Haqqanis established their headquarters in the unruly tribal areas of North Waziristan in Pakistan (whether they actually live there or not). They use the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan under the cover of radical religious motivations merely for their own dominance in the areas of interest to them – imitating the Assassins. Would a conquest of Waziristan and the killing of the Haqqanis be a simulation of the Mongol-accomplished end of the assassins? The Mongols would not have hesitated!
The recent increase of abductions for ransom in Pakistan (about 450 per year), preferably of rich businessmen and foreign aid workers is another such example and also based in North Waziristan!
The UN pressure on various nations to stop violence has proven to be inadequate. A better global mechanism for the preservation of peace and prevention of terrorist violence (with the suffering of so many innocents) must be found.
3.2.2. Pervasive Poverty in too many places on Earth:
When traveling around the world, the pervasive poverty and fruitless search for gainful employment by large portions of mankind are a prevalent impression – while often in the same geographic areas or nations small elites enjoy comfortable lives. Some inner cities or slum districts in the wealthy Developed World look exactly like that, too.
Social imbalance is definitely reached when the now famous (or infamous) “1%” of the population have everything and the “99%” suffer. There are too many countries where there actually is some national income, but where only the rulers and the elite get rich, while the majority lives in abject poverty (example: Nigeria with its oil wealth, Zimbabwe with its diamonds – now, increasingly also Afghanistan). Hunger, lack of water, inadequate medical care, and inadequate education are all aggravated, if not caused, by bad governance, corruption, and the lack of law and order.
Further analysis lets many see the problem of unemployment as related to at least three factors: lack of economic growth, inadequate basic qualification of the population in global competition, and deficit in culture (as inadequate education and out-of-control or irresponsible propagation). In some areas, these problems are augmented by excessive immigration from surrounding areas hit by their own problems, natural or man-made. Too many times, poor governance is found at the bottom of most of those problems.
Is there actually enough work for all people on Earth? How can large numbers of jobs be found or created and then maintained? Even if jobs are found initially, our economic system is geared to increase productivity by means of automation or rationalization, thereby eliminating jobs in order to arrive at higher profits or stock value (see Private Equity Companies like Bain).
By now, there is worldwide competition for employment opportunities! Employment opportunities can be warped internationally by currency manipulations, as those by China. Global commerce, global communication, and the low cost of transportation put everybody in competition with everybody else. Since efficiency counts – often being a matter of culture and of law and order – too many countries are not able to compete with China or other Asian cultures. How can the recent Arab Spring or other revolutions suddenly bring well-paid jobs to their people in global competition – rather than a further disturbed economy?
Economic growth cannot continue forever. Will human society learn to live with only limited economic growth in the future?
Politicians may have to learn to find and agree on suitable approaches for socially responsible economic growth – with benefits for all and protection of the innocently needy. Is there adequate and secure Social Security and affordable medical care – as being emotionally discussed within the USA and other countries with over-extended financial conditions at this time?
Global trade and charitable organizations (NGOs) are expected to help. The excellent Gates Foundation, supported by Buffet, can do only so much (their chosen area is the elimination of killer diseases). Other foundations have done good things in the past (see the Rockefeller and the Ford Foundations). But in other cases, the liberal help provided charitable organizations through the supply of imported food and consumption products has contributed to economic weakness in the receiving countries – by ruining local agriculture and manufacturing.
China’s international investments in underdeveloped countries are guided by business interests and are leading to exploitation of natural resources in those countries. Since qualified and dependable local help can often not be found, China sends with the investment also their own more efficient and politically more controllable Chinese labor forces and supervisors, while paying off the local political elites – thereby reducing job opportunities and potential well-being for the local populations.
Is there enough basic qualification among all poor populations for global competition to attract business investments? It is politically “not correct” to assume ethnic differences in qualification – only differences in education. One could assume, however, that there are ethnic differences (as among human individuals in general) which would provide different optimal suitability for some ethnic groups for different gainful occupations.
Where can one search for solutions for local or national unemployment? In historic times, the nascent United States used steep import duties (up to 45%) to start a local manufacturing economy in competition with Great Britain. In more recent times, Spain had tried this approach after WW-II. China still relies on substantial preferential benefits for the local economy (including artificial exchange rates) to let its own economy grow.
In general terms, each economic unit has to export as much as it wants to import – whether nations, families, or individuals. For individuals, the most common “export” is labor. There are more options, though. There could be the export of ideas (bringing patent royalties), of innovation leading to top-jobs being retained even if manufacturing is out-sourced, of art, of resources (when living on an oil patch – or being the owner of a business or feudal lord of an estate), or touristic exploitation of scenery – and more.
For too many people on Earth, none of those options appear to apply – whether for some Indios in remote parts of the Andes, for some Africans in remote areas of that continent, for too many good people living in corrupt countries, or for some socially misadjusted families in the big cities. Can good governance and better education help in each case? What else is needed or possible? What shall one do with the remaining poverty?
Furthermore, the economic rising of whole layers of a population is never fully balanced. Some always get richer quicker. Many of those then hold everybody else in bondage. Social instability should be inhibited or resolved – by progressive taxation and other regulations or by social programs. Even in the USA of today, the superrich and large industries use lobbyists to prevent fair taxation on income and inheritance and to limit competition. The US form of democracy must be repaired, too!
Economic developments have the additional problem of being unbalanced, resulting in oscillations. Successful periods have the tendency to lead to excessive risk taking by the investors and to underperformance of the “spoiled” young generation (which for too long drifted toward fast money at Wall Street or to self-expression in joyful arts in music or dance). Bubbles occur, as the past “dotcom” bubble in high-tech investments or the recent bubble in real-estate mortgages. The onset of a recession brings everybody back to reality and the need to work and provide true value – even to excel in practically useful performance – in order to obtain a share of shrinking opportunities. Painful cutbacks must take place – sometimes exaggerated in their own way. Recessions clean out the weak areas of industry – often with cruel consequences for older employees and investors – and correction of the “weak” distractions of the young generation (see 1968 and the following recession). Is there a vision of a healthy world without employment opportunity oscillations?
3.2.3. Governance: Political and Religious Governance, “Rogue Governments
Bad governance is definitely the key problem of poverty in many parts of the world. Corruption and the absence of law-and-order hinder business development and prevent investments in underdeveloped countries. In too many cases, the money earned by the needy is channeled back to the pockets of the elite. Heads of state and their support groups plunder the revenue from natural resources and the work of others. In some countries, drug trading groups willfully destroy governance. Even in the developed countries of the West, failure of governance can lead to catastrophic problems with underfunded Social Security and social health care for all citizens in an aging population (also in China), especially when national financial conditions go through a crisis.
“Rogue Governments”, evil dictators or dangerous religious leaders (as presently in Iran and as historically in various countries) and their support groups present a special problem as a threat and burden to humanity. The definition of “rogue” is not very clear – generally indicating governments which become a danger or burden to the world, to their neighbors, or to their own people, often combined with violence (as North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, also Syria and, as seen by their neighbors, also Israel, possibly also Pakistan under increasing Taliban influence). Does Iran actually have a “rogue government”? Not in the opinion of most Iranians – possibly not in the opinion of most Muslims – especially not in the opinion of the Shia ones!
So far, the world community has no way to control the risk to regional or world peace or merely their own populations presented by unrealistic governments. The UN ultimately fails in the Security Council. The USA always protect Israel. With China and Russia on the United Nations Security Council, intervention is systematically blocked by their veto in view of their internal situations of suppression of minorities.
Then, there are the violent splinter groups seeking recognition or independence – from Northern Ireland to the Basque provinces of Spain, the Tamil on Sri Lanka, and the Kurds of Turkey, Iraq and Iran – more so the Tibetans or Uigur of China , the Chechnians in Russia, and more. Should they not receive support in their search for freedom? – at what cost to international stability? Where the Southern States of the US at the beginning of the great Civil War justified in seeking independence?
There is a typical pattern for the appearance and continuity of dangerous dictatorial governments. Many result from a generally unstable situation in a population, as occurring in the formation of astronomical structures out of clouds of dust in the universe. One individual may, by circumstances, charisma, or skill, attract a core following. This core group sees its own benefit in further supporting that central individual in order to attract more followers. Once in a certain position of power, this core group ruthlessly eliminates its adversary. A secret police and similar terror keeps the masses of the population under control. Occasionally, segments of the population (often the military) or some tribe (the one of the dictator) obtain special favors in order to maintain their special support of the dictator and core group. Personality cult, sometimes with religious undertones, and skillful propaganda cements this situation – as does the fear by the central group to be held accountable for their misdeeds should their system collapse. The rise of Cromwell, Calvin, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Gaddafi of Libya, the North Korean leaders, Mobutu in Zimbabwe, and Assad in Syria may be compared to this description. Often, the death or elimination of the central individual may be the only solution to dissolve a Rogue Government.
Danger arises for the whole world when such rogue governments obtain great power – at worst nuclear capability. Interestingly, the highly skilled middle class – scientists and engineers – keep diligently working for rogue governments, see Nazy Germany, North Korea, or Iran – either out of political fear or from instilled nationalism – or simply for own benefit.
Religious governance by specific religious hierarchies can be equally dangerous and become an essential global concern. This was the case with the Catholic Church in the times of the Inquisition and is still with its teaching against all practical forms of birth control and all abortions. The efforts of those religious hierarchies should rather be extended to reduce drug usage and trade, so prevalent in the Catholic countries of South America or in the Muslim countries.
Especially dangerous in our time became the religion of Islam as it provided the justification for terrorism – where the innocent suffer. A reform of Islam is urgently needed – but inhibited by its own teaching of being above any reform.
3.2.4. Global Structure, Global Dominance or Cooperation, the UN Veto Rights:
The weakness of the UN is evident. The question of a more desirable future “global” structure of humanity should be considered – derived from an overview over a longer evolutionary time scale and on a wider historic-sociological horizon – and with different degrees of realistic manageability.
The evolutionary voyage of mankind through historic time appears to approach a new level of organization in our time: In the ever progressing “natural” evolution, large parts of nature actually remained on or close to their original level. Bacteria, fungi, simple plants, and some insects still form by far the major part of the biomass on Earth. Merely a select few organisms were able to evolve into higher forms of complexity and organization – with “emerging” new characteristics – commensurate with larger brains. Not only organisms gain in complexity, also the structure of human society continues growing toward greater coherence – from family units to clans, tribes, nations, and, now, the United Nations.
Following the example of “uniting” the inhabitants of various Alpine valleys into the Suisse Federation in the 13th century and, much later, the unification of 13 small British colonies into the United States of America, the European nations recently proceeded with some unification within the European Union.
Besides these voluntary unifications, history shows a number of forced unifications accomplished by the empire-building ambitions of great leaders or nations. Examples are Rome, Russia, China (with their vast “colonies” formed by the subjugated Tibetans, Uigurs, and other people), and some modern composite nations resulting from colonial borders of former African or Asian colonies, including Pakistan and Afghanistan.
On the other hand, the instability and continued internal unrest of larger political units has led to break-ups (Rome, the Ottoman Empire, recently the Soviet Union). China cannot totally suppress the Tibetans and Uigur. Spain still struggles with the Basques.
At this time, it still appears impossible that the nations of the world will accept the directive or corrective power of a superior united-world government (“United Nations”).
In our time, the exhaustion of certain globally distribute resources (as clean air or food from the oceans) as well as, mainly, faster or cheaper communication (via the internet) and the lower costs of fast transportation have led to global interconnectivity of all nations on Earth. Consequently, not only global opportunities appeared for business; also global problems occurred as never before. This is most clearly demonstrated by the threat of global warming, the global appearance of infectious diseases and, more intensely so, by the recent interconnected economic recession in all parts of the world.
Global interconnection is also demonstrated by fads and fashions of modern life, in music and dresses, but also including moral standards – especially among the young.
The need arises for another evolutionary step of society – toward a global coherence under beneficial coordination or some guidance and, if necessary, restraining central governance. Actually, all governments on Earth should be subject to an approval process – which would be revocable upon an unfavorable development!
Such organizational step requires a certain base on a commonly shared vision. Occasional international, intergovernmental coordination meetings may lead to a common vision in certain areas and, at best, to the definition of regulations. Those are, however, not enough – especially if they are not followed up by responsible action by all, as in the case of air pollution (or whale hunting) – including the problem of ongoing monitoring/detection and the general enforcement of given regulations.
For example, the United Nations have passed a nuclear non-proliferation treaty – which was promptly not signed or neglected by several nations – Israel, India, Pakistan – now also North Korea and Iran. In the case of air pollution, there are free-riders – sitting on the side line, possibly profiting from the present status, and waiting for other nations to do their part. Examples are the oil producers (Saudi Arabia, Venezuela) not chipping in to carry the cost of pollution reduction in the poor countries – or the rural slash-and-burn expansion of agricultural production (with enormous smoke clouds) in Indonesia and Brazil.
A possible approach to forming global guidance and governance could be the formation of a “Guidance Committee”, adjunct to the United Nations, consisting of recognized world leaders – for example, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Helmut Schmidt of Germany, the Dalai Lama, and some others (possibly including Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell and others).
Will such a committee be able to look after or care for the independence seeking splinter groups – Basques, Tamils, Tibetans, the Uigurs, Ossetians, Berber, and more? Can the possible split of some countries be considered (Bolivia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and several others)?
Will a transnational governance ever be accepted by all? No subgroup of mankind wants to give up its culture, resources, or territory and be told by others what to do or not to do – or lose competitive advantage. No politician ever wants to give up any power. In contrast to possible general guidance by a long-distance vision for mankind, all resources in all nations are always allocated by short-term national political considerations.
Is there an obligation to mitigate social imbalance between nations when there is no right for interference to influence the causes for poverty in any one of them? Among nations, the additional question arises what obligation to assume when facing large scale corruption as so prevalent among poor nations and due to organized crime (or from drug trade) in the government of needy nations. In the case of social caring within a group of people or a nation, the question arises what to do with the lazy, the undisciplined, or willfully abusing ones.
3.2.5. Unchecked population growth:
What can the world do about unlimited propagation – mostly among the poorest and least educated? What to do about the diminishing propagation of the intelligent and educated (see the attempts in Singapore to induce those groups to have more children)? What to do about the propagation of the genetically and inheritably diseased or inheritably handicapped? Is physical handicap related to human value? Is the having of children an unlimited privilege for all? Do we want the government to interfere with our intimate life and family building? Is unlimited family building a basic human right? How about the Chinese one-child policy? How about the Catholic stand against contraceptives?
As a matter of fact, some see the basic mechanism of all natural evolution – unsustainable propagation, struggle, and subsequent survival or success of the fittest – as an irresolvable natural problem for mankind in general – implying permanent poverty in the fringe area of humanity forever.
The question of population increase arises specifically in quickly growing, poor countries – several of them in Africa. Not enough is done to provide a reasonable and humanely acceptable approach to family planning. Christian fundamentalists and also some Muslim hierarchies attempt to interdict all reasonable family planning.
Population contraction, on the other hand, brings the severe problem of caring for the then proportionally increasing group of the oldest.
3.2.6. Increasing scarcity of resources:
Limits of energy and water availability, careless exploitation of the world’s resources, and consequences for the environment are all essential global concerns, each requiring analysis.
Immigration from one underdeveloped area into another (most recent examples: From Sudan to Darfur or from Somalia to Kenya) – as caused by tribal territorial conflict or climate variation – raises very serious problems – since the receiving areas are not equipped to handle such influx of many poor people from abroad. Mostly, large camps are set up by international charitable organization and supported for an indefinite period of time. A better approach has not been found so far.
Immigration to the more developed parts of the world – especially illegal immigration – raises other complex questions. Obviously, fairness is demanded by and within the countries the migrants reach (granting of asylum). But with ever higher border fences, the benefit for migration goes mainly to those who can still jump over (or be smuggled around) those fences, neglecting the possibly more needy ones – and neglecting all the immigration causing and often severe problems faced by those left behind. If the fences where lowered or dropped, a hundred million people from South-America and several hundred million people each from China, India, and Africa would quickly arrive in the USA and in Europe, some in Canada and Australia, outnumbering the natives (as the whites once did with the native American Indians).
Not only the poor would come, but also the young and college trained ones who cannot find jobs in their own countries. But the already jobless or underemployed young ones and their parents in the native local populations of the developed countries would not accept such immigration without resistance. Even recently arrived Hispanic groups in the USA turned against unlimited immigration from their own countries of origin.
Financial support or contributions not to the immigrants, but for the alleviation of poverty in the immigration causing countries, would bring much larger benefit.
What is fair and what is practical?
3.2.8. Drugs and Drug Trafficking:
The pervasive consumption of drugs brought significant secondary problems: the drug trade and its consequent violence, corruption, and loss of law-and-order in an increasing number of countries. This should be seen as an “essential global concern” for the world, now and, unfortunately, also for the future.
What shall one do about the addicted, disorganized, undisciplined, or lethargic drug users or largely unconcerned people or governments around them?
3.2.9. Education, for Usable Knowledge and Values
In a free society there is freedom to pursue the education one wants and can afford.
Too often, people search education in fields with limited opportunities – seduced by the fact that very few get very rich and famous while the majority cannot earn enough for a decent living – as so prevalent in the arts.
Are all countries doing enough to improve adequate education of their populations for global competition? Specifically, not enough is done for education to qualify the population for competitive work performance and for the rise to better paid employment.
In education, the ethical “values” of nations should not get overlooked (public service, charitable work, volunteering, the utilization of resources and also of time).
In many countries and also in large parts of the “developed” countries, education should not only relate to the gaining of knowledge, but also imply useful values – as job dedication and work performance (to be always at work on time, to be dedicated to job performance, to learn on the job for promotion, to possibly be inventive).
3.2.10. Social Problems, Social Balance:
A special problem in some parts of the world and also in some areas of the inner cities in developed countries is a culture of low work performance and lack of financial responsibility. This problem arises already among some of the young at school age (gangs) and among adults within certain groups which, thereby, form mini-cultures of low performance. Alcohol or drug addiction adds to the problem. When criminality sets in, future employment is further limited. Hopelessness for future economic gain contributes to this problem.
On the opposite side, many cultures allow the rich to gain ever more while the poor are kept poor, leading to social imbalance.
Socio-economic polarization occurs when social status is derived from financial success, even when merely inherited or stolen (money creates heroes). Too many of the best of the young people go to Wall Street instead of going into engineering, agriculture, the sciences, or social services in order to improve the world. It is partially for this reason that the US lately did not develop sufficiently.
There are religious, cultural, and economic inertias to improve the social problems.
3.3. Other Essential Concerns
3.3.1.: Aging of some populations:
Presently, unbalanced age distribution of their population presents a special concern to many underdeveloped countries, where families have many children. Those will look for jobs and will bring the desire for consumption as they grow up – on limited land and with limited job opportunities in industry.
More importantly, in the developed countries of the West, a large percentage increase of old people must be expected – to be taken care of by a proportionally smaller young population – as occurring in Russia, China, and several European countries.
3.3.2.: The future of underdeveloped countries:
How can one lead the underdeveloped countries into the future? Often, their social structures appear frozen (Pakistan, Afghanistan, N. Korea, much of Africa, Saudi Arabia), see Robert Kaplan “The Coming Anarchy”. Many are not interested in the American model – Max Weber’s ideas (1904) of Protestant Work Ethics)
3.3.3. Information control
How much control should there be, by whom? Will there be dangers for the world from the ever increasing and difficult to control flow of communication, information, and technological controls, e.g. via the internet (see such an indication recently by a German politician, by a Chinese college teaching “hacking”, another one issuing a thesis investigating the vulnerability of the US power grid – and the recent events in the Arab world)? Not only benevolent groups or activists but also violent “terrorists” extensively use the internet to propagate their objectives. In historic times, first the Communists in Russia, then the Nazis, now the rogue governments of the world exceed in presenting only selective political information, “propaganda”, to keep the masses in a trance and under their control.
. The recent struggle of the Chinese government to suppress the freedom of Google in China indicates the importance seen in free communication for the stability of society. Free communication can instigate unrest and revolution (see the recent Arab uprisings) – even the destruction of law and order.
The counter argument presents the astounding progress resulting from modern worldwide communication – possibly preventing destructive behavior by some governments and facilitating life’s improvement for all.
Therefore, the future development of information flows and communication should be seen as a global concern. Vision and guidance would be needed.
Directed and controlled communication for proselytizing and control was already used in historic times in establishing the Christian faith and church in Europe – more so in the following religious wars – and in expanding the world of Islam (see the recent attempt to build Minaret towers on the many mosques in Switzerland).
“Propaganda” became an almost scientific art in modern totalitarian political movements – the Nazis (Goebbels) and the communists (Lenin-Stalin, Mao and more).
That much more do the Western democracies cherish freedom of speech and of the media.
On the other hand, from th times of democracy in ancient Athens it became known that groups of people, tribes, and hole nations are sensitive to the persuasive power of demagogues – possibly leading to the most dangerous behavior. The definition and restraint of dangerous demagogues is and always will be a major essential concern for mankind – also in the developed countries of the West! Demagoguery is an inherent problem of Western democracy – especially when generously supported by vast amounts of unregulated money via lobbyists and not transparent support groups
3.3.4. Formation of a new international “World Structure” and “World Culture”
Some of the Essential Global Concerns arise from the international social imbalance between rich and poor nations. Some fair balance must be reached in the availability of food, healthcare, and education – also for energy, water, clean air, and other resources.
The internet brings all people on Earth closer together – leading to the formation of a “World Culture” – beginning with the ideas and aspirations of the young – seeking freedom and opportunities for self-development beyond historic norms of their culture (for example, women in the Muslim world). If these goals are not at least somewhat approached, social unrest will increasingly occur – at high cost to all.
3.3.5. Morals, Ethical Values – “Health- Happimess-Family-Faith” are not enough
There is an increasing need to find back to values after the corruption of bad governments, the rule of drug lords, or the cruelties of wars – too often neglecting or overlooking the poor. The prevalence of violence and sex in the media must be restrained.
“Ethics” (ethical behavior) actually developed early in the course of natural evolution to facilitate the upbringing of the young and to form effectively functioning groups of individuals as among animals living in groups or “packs” (e.g. wolves) – to accomplish larger tasks than an individual alone could entertain – the territorial defense against other groups, the hunting of large animals, later in human history, large scale irrigation as in Mesopotamia and ancient Peru. Groups with such internal efficiency as provided by certain forms of ethical behavior had better chances for survival and expansion. (It should be noted, however, that the “personality” or behavior of an individual depends upon both, naturally given ethical behavior and the formative influence of a surrounding “culture”).
Such ethical behavior was neurologically supported not so much by thought, but by evolving “emotions” – of friendship, caring love (“agape”), empathy, sympathy, and feelings of satisfaction in self-sacrifice. This evolution already started early in natural evolution among animals living in packs, more so among primates, and, now, especially among humans.
Also in our time, the coherence and functioning of society depends largely upon the prevalent ethics in our communities.
Ethics, though of natural evolutionary origin, too often became tied to religions – by seeing and projecting ethical standards as the “will of God” – consequently too often under the control of the priests and their hierarchies. (It is surprising that religions/priests often also took unchallenged control of hygienic laws and dress codes, some also in the name of God).
Throughout history, some horrible atrocities were committed under the guidance of religions – whether by the Aztecs in ceremonial slaughtering of thousands, during the endless wars between the Christian Byzantine empire and the Muslim world, by the Christian church in the time of the inquisition in many countries, or now by Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the name of Islam.
The religious prohibition of birth control and all abortions can be seen in a very negative light.
Equally dubious was and still is the code of “honor” and price in many civilizations (possibly a side-product of the natural striving for rank in society) – leading to cruelty and killing in the West as it still does to honor-killing of women in Islamic societies. There is some indication that “pride” and “shame” already exists among higher animals.
In our time, the religious and ethical fundamentalists or extremists on all sides present substantial challenges and dangers to the security and the balanced functioning of governance.
As the acceptance of religions diminishes in our intellectual time, the acceptance of ethics depends upon leading individuals as role models (the Obama effect) and the formation of common opinions – “cultures” – as expressed in the modern, now strictly secular legal systems!
In contrast to religions and faith, the so-called “scientific” thought of communism developed by Marx and Engels, once accepted with great hopes, actually brought enormous suffering to Russia, China and other societies, where it first conquered society and then degenerated into suppression and mass killings.
At this time, Europe and North America seem to have found a benevolent direction in ethics – between extremes – basically formed by Christian, expanded by democracy and science-based secular thought.
In international relations, occasionally, there are risks of over-aggressiveness – see George W. Bush’s starting of the Iraq war. Sometimes, however, there is the risk of idealistic weakness – leading to dangers in self defense.
Many countries search for a new ethical path –see China – for stability and progress.
Where ethics are not longer defined and controlled by religions, the natural valuation of ethics results in the formulation of civic laws corresponding to and enforcing basic ethics.
The natural evolution that brought forth positive ethics also brought forth the negative variants of ethics – as in the emotion to seek revenge – possibly leading to counter-revenge – and continuing on in a destructive chain. When an individual in a pair (friendship) or group connected by “ethical” cooperation feels offended by another individual or group, too often the need for retribution (revenge) is felt (“an eye for an eye”). In more advanced cultures, the violent retribution is replaced by compensation.
Where “law and order” reigns, legal punishment is demanded – and, interestingly, also an “apology” – a symbolic form of positive retribution.
Actually, modern knowledge and analysis indicates that punishment is an emotional reaction of very limited value – except for abhorrence. More useful is reeducation of the failing individual – but necessarily combined with a change to a different surrounding “culture”! In pathological situations, confinement is necessary for the protection of society.
3.3.6. Commercialization of everything, the commercialization of all cultures
3.3.7. Unhealthy life styles – Drug usage, smoking, and obesity
3.4.1.: Global connection leads to more freedom and less corruption:
The most important “Opportunity” arises from the fact that the global communication flow and modernization leads to a world-wide modern desire of all people around the world for more freedom and less corruption. This could lead to better governance, fair laws, administered by a non-corrupt judiciary and police – if actually implemented.
3.4.2.: Greater well-being:
Can global well-being occur without an ever increasing amount of per-capita consumption? Answers to this riddle, to be solved by academia in the field of Economics, should lead to the next Nobel price! Much of our middle- and upper-class expenditures go for items that did not even exist 150 years ago and which still are not needed by groups dedicated to a modest life (e.g., the Amish or Mennonites): cars, vacation travel, some of the appliances, electronic devices of all kinds, and more.
3.4.3.: Replacement of scarce resources:
Specific material scarcities threaten our future – but the finding of substitutes may solve these problems. Even the scarcity of water can be solved by desalination – with future availability of cheap and clean energy.
3.4.4.: Another historic period of general progress:
Material and mental progress combined with balanced well-being is attain able. There were several periods of mental and economic progress in the Western world. These periods were connected with little or no religious or political restraint and they recognized the significance of progress, sometimes providing encouragements and practical incentives for innovation.
The first known one of such periods occurred in ancient Greece after Thales of Milet offered a new explanation of earthquakes based not on divine action but on natural causes. Free and creative thought became an indication of mental and also artistic excellence, leading to fame and wealth. This golden period reached beyond the conquest of Athens by Rome and, afterwards, continued somewhat reduced in the Roman culture (e.g. Augustan Peace, aqueducts and roads) – until the imperial governance crumbled and barbarian invasions set in.
The Renaissance in Italy brought wealth and well-being to the diverse Italian city states – and to many cities throughout Europe along trade routes – based on new thoughts in all endeavors (including banking, discoveries by Galileo and Columbus, and the Reformation) and the beginning of a new world view, rewarding exploration and international trade.
Based on the earlier “Enlightenment”, the rather peaceful time in Europe between 1814 and 1914 (excluding some regional wars and the 1848 revolutions in France, Germany, and Italy) – most importantly, with limited religious or ideological suppression of mental freedom or progress, but with continued general “law and order” – produced the period of fastest economic growth, learning, understanding of our existence, and health improvement in the history of Europe and the world. In future times, this period of 1814 to 1914 may be seen as more important than the earlier period of “Enlightenment”.
This favorable period lasted until the all-too-avoidable World War I was started – by actually criminal misjudgment and emotions by the leaders on all sides! Should that not lead to an essential concern regarding the need for and the opportunities resulting from better global guidance, for the benefit of our global stability, for our security, mental freedom and progress, for all mankind when given the opportunity to live within “law and order” (if the laws are good ones and the “order” not corrupt or suppressive)?
The period following World War II may possibly be seen as another area of beneficial growth for mankind – this time bringing the novel dimension of global coherence in low cost transportation and electronic Internet communication!
A most essential opportunity for humanity can be found in establishing and continuing beneficial periods of social and cultural development.
4. Priority Setting and Action:
A consensus on problem definition and, mainly, on problem priorities may be the precondition for problem solutions and actions.
This essay seeks to mainly define problems – specifically since priorities are viewed quite differently among different regions and different groups of people in the world.
Possibilities for action to reach solutions may primarily depend upon governance, reduction of corruption, introduction of law and order, education, and more – in many parts of the world presenting a multiplicity of problems.
Does the world really become more secure when many previously weak countries become stronger and, consequently, the USA and Europe relatively weaker?
Who should and who will pay for problem solutions – see the arguments by developing countries regarding climate stabilization at international meetings meant to bring solutions? Will there be support for solutions and, mainly, for covering their cost from the average citizens? Very few people anywhere have money to spare – most people have unmet needs!
One must notice that humans and human societies are not always efficient in assessing risks (see the start of World War I or others) or opportunities (see the surprising and un-anticipated economic benefits resulting from the age of the equally un-anticipated electronic innovations) – especially if such risks or opportunities are of novel nature or are distant in space or time.
“Economics”, an academic field well suited for such complex considerations, has developed a number of concepts to treat these concerns: the “cost/benefit” consideration or the “net present value”, “discount rate” in time assessments – since costs usually occur sooner and benefits later – and the concept of “trade-offs”, the relative evaluation of various alternatives against each other. Children have very steep discount rates for the future, politicians have them specifically up to the next election. Only older people think of long-term benefits for their offspring. Usually, people are more concerned with those types of events as may have most recently occurred.
There may occasionally be some obsessed people with extreme concerns for specifically their own “cause” – at worst forming activist “vocal minorities” with political impact.
Equally, there is a discount rate in space. What happens to your neighbor is less important than what happens to you. What happens on the other side of the world is even less important to you.
In sum, in spite of all the Essential Concerns of human society, further progress toward a better world, with further mental progress and greater well being, may very well be the future of mankind on Earth!
5. the Basic Vision
What could be the motto for a desired future world? New political units – especially those formed recently and in freedom – occasionally have the desire to formulate their basic commitment – as a vision of their future society.
Starting with the motto of the French revolution of 1789, “liberté, égalité, fraternité”, the motto of the United States of America became “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. The validity of each term can be discussed – “life” is questioned in the case of self-defense or wars deemed or presented as being defensive – “liberty” must be limited within moral and neighborly constraints – and “happiness”, a very individual matter, is the least defined term of all three. Still, a vision of a future America was established and is still pursued today!
The motto of the British Empire became “Law, Order, and Good Government” – much appreciated by most middle-class citizens, but also used to suppress disruptive, revolutionary activities.
In China, the priorities for the Secretaries of the Communist Party doing the actual administration of the country are (as explained to me by one such Secretary) “Social Stability, Improvement of Basic Services, and Economic Development” – the first one forming the foundation of suppression of unplanned developments and mental freedom.
Should a future world order use a motto of “Reduce Suffering, Improve Opportunities Fairly for All”?!
Could one talk about a motto of “Rights, Obligations, and Aestetics”?
Beyond the securing of an improved level of well-being for all, progress should occur in the building of a culture of mental growth and personality improvement, service to fellow men or society, combined with stewardship of nature, and the joyful appreciation of the arts and all the beauty in this world. Job opportunities along these lines are needed.
Could there be a motto of “Growth, Service, and Culture”?
Last review: “/Specials/Legacy/L-7-Global-02-24-12”