The Path to a Future: LOVE Thy Neighbour

If we are to make the urgent progress that we need to on The Path to a Future, we need to do it together. Areas of blight and conflict will be a drag on all of our progress, because they will suck resources away from more effective uses. The people in conflict are unlikely to participate in the global initiatives needed, such as tackling climate change. We need a coherent policy structure that protects the progress of those that are already building The Path, and provides on-ramps to The Path for the victims of oppression and conflict today, but who will join us tomorrow.

One of the more curious spectacles of our time is the apparent futility, cluelessness and impotence of the world’s governments, especially of the richest countries, in developing coherent strategies toward so-called “rogue states” or “failed states”.

Continue reading “The Path to a Future: LOVE Thy Neighbour”

The Path to a Future: Middle East Peace

The touchstone or the tombstone of modern politics, depending on your perspective. Finding a solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, and for peace in the region more generally, has been the avowed intention of many a politician, inside and outside the region, for many a year. But as I write this, the arc of this particular history seems to be bending further and further down.

To quote an editorial leader in one of my favorite political magazines du jour, although quite frankly this could be found in just about any piece written anywhere about the Middle East, “only a negotiated agreement between strong and unified leadership on both sides can provide the security and peace that the Palestinians and Israelis deserve.” Really? A top down solution? I guess if either side really had a strong and unified leadership then maybe they would be able to negotiate a peace, but the reality is that neither side does, and they haven’t and quite possibly, now they can’t. But if we set ourselves up with an insurmountable barrier at the start, how do we expect to make any progress?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an example of a situation that is repeated in many parts of the world, and perhaps that is why it holds such a fascination for so many. The migrations and movements of people are inevitably accompanied by tensions around the matters of political control and resource allocation; this is especially so when they happen in a short period of time, and are accompanied by military might. So finding a solution in the Middle East also provides a guiding light for solutions in many other parts of the world.

Probably the reason that there hasn’t been peace in Israel or Palestine is because the obvious solution is not in the interests of any of the parties, except the people that actually live there. There are also many factors that result in external actors having their own interests in the outcome. These distortions have resulted in almost every single state in the entire region having a dysfunctional power structure, and some of those states are also deeply threatened by the obvious solution for Israel- Palestine.

So what is this obvious solution? Democracy. Not 20th century Western-style democracy, the solution here has to be super-democracy. Super-democracy has a multi-layer structure based on the foundation of Community constituencies. Each Community is fundamentally and constitutionally in complete command of its destiny. Each Community voluntarily associates with other Communities around it to form the larger constituency of a Region, which provides a mechanism for collaboration and sharing. Regions have their own elected governments, and also voluntarily associate with other Regions to form States. All of this is spelled out in a universal constitution adopted by all constituencies.

This solution requires that everyone agrees that peace is the supreme objective. Peace is necessary for our mutual survival, but if we cannot steal ourselves to promote it to the top of our agendas, we cannot have a solution.

The solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is for the people to first divide their land into Communities. Then each Community conducts their own election and forms their own government. Each Community is a voluntary association of residents and must be geographically reasonable (meaning with a population of about 10,000; but not greater than 100,000 or less than 1,000). It can only include land actually inhabited by residents, or land which is closer to a resident than it is to a resident of any other Community. No Community has the rightof- way through any other Community, nor any authority over the people of another Community. All this must happen within the framework of the rule of law so that the use of violence or force is impossible (here is a role in which parties external to the conflict can provide useful assistance as guarantors of the peace, by staffing a “peace force”).

This brings us to the first contentious issue: defining who is a resident. This is a key factor in the resolution of these kinds of situations, and must reconcile the desire to make progress immediately, while avoiding the reward of recent aggressions. If a principle is established that recognizes recent displacement, it only encourages displacement in other conflicts. So we pick a date that does not reward recent changes in population placement, and does not seek to redress history. This is known as the Determination Date (D-Date). All those displaced between the D-Date and the current time can claim residency at the place they were on the D-Date. For Israel-Palestine, 1st January 2000 would seem about right, as it reflects the last deadline from the last major peace negotiation, Oslo.

There is a subtlety to this process that we should note explicitly. Those with legal residency of a place as of the D-Date, are those who have the right to select their membership of a specific Community. This does not mean that others currently living there have to move immediately. D-Date residents define the boundaries of each Community, and are automatically citizens of the new Community. As citizens, they are the only voters in the first election for a Community assembly. Once the assembly has been elected, it has authority over the recognition of residency, and the criteria for citizenship. Under the Constitution, residency and citizenship cannot be revoked once established or granted.

Once elected, a Community assembly may grant residency to anyone they wish to, provided they can supply the basic services to them, as is their responsibility under the Constitution. At this point those living within the boundaries of that Community but without residency, will have to move to a Community willing to accept them. Let’s pause for a moment and imagine the state of the process at this point. All the land that is currently defined by the borders of Israel and the Palestinian Territories is operating as a suspended state with a caretaker administration. That administration is charged solely with the maintenance of vital infrastructure and social services, with the aim of minimizing the disruption of people’s ordinary lives. Over the caretaker administration there is a “peace force”, consisting of Israeli, Palestinian and international forces charged with the enforcement of law and order, and the prevention of violence. So the people are effectively living in a suspended political environment that will last until such time as Community, Region and State elections have been held. This period of suspension should be less than two years.

As Community boundaries are defined, those Communities proceed immediately to the election of their assembly. As soon as the Community governments have been elected they can assume control of policy within their boundaries. One of the first matters that the assembly has to attend to is the business of establishing their Regional affiliation, bearing in mind that they must be geographically contiguous with any Region they wish to be a part of. Each Community can start making decisions about what aspects of law they wish to retain unto themselves, and what they want to promote to higher layers; as well as establishing a court system and local police force tasked with the maintenance of basic law and order inside that Community.

Within a few months it should be possible to draw the boundaries of Regions based on the self-determined, voluntary associations of the Communities. Once Regional boundaries are established, there can be Regional elections to form Regional governments. At this point the Communities and their Regions can begin the important work of building their infrastructures, and assuming responsibility from the caretaker government for the provision of core services to their constituents. Much work can be done on formalizing the Variable Law structure so that, by the time that state elections are scheduled, each Region has clarity about those aspects of law that have been promoted to them by their Communities, and therefore which aspects they have the option of promoting to their State. This is important because what the States will have authority for will be critical in shaping the manifestos of candidates for the State assemblies.

At this juncture, the Communities will be in control of their own environment; including the definition of their migration policies, and responsible to their constituents for the safety and functionality of their Community. The Communities have made their initial selection of Regional association, although they are at liberty to change that association at their own election. As each constituency elects its own government, and assumes control of its specific area, the role of the “peace force” will be diminished. It becomes solely the guarantor of peace between Regions, until such time as State elections have been held.

This devolution of power and control down to the individual Communities will greatly empower the large majority of the population that seeks peace and sustainable prosperity. Admittedly, there is likely to be a concentration of those people that would seek to impose their worldview on others into certain Communities of like mind; however they will be dependent on the cooperation of surrounding Communities, and this is likely to influence their positions over time. This process does not force any Community to change its mind or take up any particular position, so those who wish to maintain extremist or isolationist attitudes will be free to do so, within the constraints of the rule of law and the Constitution.

Eventually there will be State elections. Each State will cover an area defined by those Regions which choose to associate into that State; this may be a single state, it may be two states or it may even be multiple states. By this stage in the process, the Communities and Regions will have determined for themselves those aspects of power and control that they wish to retain unto themselves, so the eventual governments of whatever States are formed will have a much narrower remit than we see in the typical nationstate of today.

At the end of this process of building up layers of enfranchisement, starting at Communities which self assemble into Regions, and then Regions which form States, there will be democratic institutions in place which can assume the full range of governmental responsibilities from the caretaker administration. The final map will not be drawn until after the final State election. Even then the map will remain fluid, as Communities and Regions retain the right to change their associations at the behest of their citizens.

The next logical step would be for the States to form a Transterritory with other States in the region; however this will require that those other nations go through the same enfranchisement process that the peoples of the former Israel- Palestine will have completed.

It’s not a particularly bold solution, nor is democracy a new idea. What it is, is the determined application of a system that is inherently natural and just – that is the hallmark of The Path. The two greatest challenges are likely to be restraining the violent tendencies of those who would rather not be subject to the rigors of democracy, and restricting the interference of external actors of every hue, from every corner of the world. The solutions to problems in an area must be developed by the people living in that area. This is a plain, obvious and unavoidable fact. Those outside the area must accept the consequences of true democracy.

Does this solution require that Israel and Palestine have “strong and unified leadership” today, before they embark on this process? I don’t think so. Only to the extent that it is necessary to make the decision to start down The Path. One of the beauties of the super-democratic path is that it removes the need for small elites to negotiate extremely complex and intricate resolutions to the many and specific problems on the ground. It does this by devolving those responsibilities down to the individual communities most affected. They are the ones most able to arbitrate the minutia contextualized in the benefits of the peace that they seek most urgently, and will feel most keenly.

The basic question that is resolved through this process is: “Does this piece of land belong to that country or this country?” It’s really a nonsensical question because, of course, the answer is: it belongs to the people that live there, and it’s up to them to decide what country they want to be part of. All that the superdemocratic process does, is provide a mechanism that allows people to determine their own future, their own identity and to make their own associations.

There are those who call this solution naïve. They point out that on the extremes of both Israeli and Palestinian opinion there are those for whom peace is not the ultimate objective. They are right. The question is whether we wish to be held hostage by the shortsighted. There must be a solution that leads to the cessation of hostilities and provides the opportunity for all to focus on the future, because we are all mutually dependent on reaching that destination. What this solution does is emphasize the dignity of self-determination, and in so doing provides a path out of the quagmire. It does not pretend that today’s reality is anything other than what it is and it does not describe a way forward that will not have difficulties, challenges and complications. But this is a realistic framework that builds on the humanity of individuals in their communities to create a structure that allows differences to live next to each other. For surely, a way forward must be found and it must be found now. Inaction and despair are not solutions. There are children in every corner of the land who will thank their forebears for persevering through the clouded landscape to bring peace to their lives today.

On a wider note, it is almost inconceivable to believe that the enfranchisement of Israeli and Palestinian communities to determine their own futures will not have ramifications for surrounding states, and perhaps the entire world. Those who are interested in navigating The Path to a sustainable future must be ready and willing to help those states, their governments and their people, make an orderly transition to super-democracy themselves.

Everybody everywhere in the world should live in a super-democratic system, and if we’re serious about reaching the destination of a sustainably prosperous future, we need to set about making this a reality where we live… now!

 


Part 18 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

 

The Path to A Future: Landscape Lessons

So what can we glean from this brief review of the features (conflict, traditions and morality) we must navigate on our path?

• First, all those features do exist and must be navigated. We cannot wish them away.
• Second, they have formed naturally. That is to say that they represent some basically natural aspect of our collective makeup that we must individually own up to. They are not aberrations that we can dismiss as unfortunate. They are simply possibilities that we can seek to exclude from our future, by choosing different aspects of our nature. The difficulty of our passage through them can, and should, serve as a reminder to us about ourselves.
• Third, they are unavoidable and natural, so it behooves us to seek a path that is in harmony with the landscape, which takes advantage of the natural slopes and shelters in the coves eked out by the passage of time. The Path must get across the landscape in order to deliver us to our final destination, and it serves no one to make the journey about flattening mountains or filling valleys. Passage is the password and having built the Path, it will allow everyone to travel along it, from wherever they are now.

In summary, there are three aspects of the world we live in that our path of change has to accommodate: conflict, traditions and morality. These are all reflections of perfectly natural aspects of our human nature, and to fight against them is both futile and fatally distracting.

We have to remember that our purpose is to reach our destination. To do that we need only define a path that navigates the landscape. We need conflicts to be calmed, to reduce their senseless waste. We can allow traditions to fill their role, so long as they do not stifle progress. Morality can continue judging, if it is not harming. To do other than these is to try to change our natures, and that is not the purpose of The Path. The goal of The Path is to show us the way to a sustainable and prosperous future, with, if necessary, all our imperfections unremedied.

So if we’re not going to change these features, what will we do about all the people who have come to identify with them?

Carry on building.

When The Path is mapped all the way to its destination, when they can see the value of the destination and the holistic coherence of its route; their aspirations will trump their old attachments and they will travel with us on the same road.

Fear not!

There is a path across this landscape. We can determine its course, and we can build it.


Part 14 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

The Path to A Future: The Quagmires of Morality

The most dangerous of the landscape features that need to be navigated are the bogs and swamps of the lowlands. These seemingly flat and vegetated expenses are the premature terminus of many a journey.

Offering the delusion of easy passage, their self-reflecting pools and slippery sod are the perfect traps for fools. Seen from a distance they show neither the steep ascent of mountain ridges nor the obvious cut of valley grooves, and would seem to represent a clear distinction between the hubris of the high and the laments of the low. In reality, these are the mosh pits of morality.

Quagmires are the places where we lose sight of our real purpose, and get caught up in the attempt to assert our moral standards over and on to others. Being right is not the objective, getting to our destination is.

Without delving into moral judgments about morality, let’s consider what happens when attempting to cross a quagmire: you get bogged down. Endless effort is expounded in simply moving from one pit to the next, and soon the entire endeavor becomes focused on navigating the swamp; forgetting that there is a destination beyond there.

Path building is an intensely practical task and there is much ground to be covered. It is a service to all beings on the planet and does not discriminate between opinions; we have neither the luxury of time, nor the surplus resources, to engage with matters less practical than reaching our goal of sustainable prosperity.

Because we often have difficulty identifying quagmires from a distance, we must develop our sensitivity for recognizing when we are entering one. As soon as we find the ground shifting beneath us, we must turn and seek the firm ground that surrounds the swamp. Don’t worry, there is always another way; a course for The Path that is lit by the lamp of freedom.


Part 13 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

The Path to A Future: The Mountains of Tradition

Towering over the landscape we can also see the great icy peaks of mountains formed out of the chance encounter of great land masses, rising up faster than the natural forces of erosion can soften their edges. Their peaks are cold because they rise up to where the air is thin, and the clouds gather around their shoulders to obscure their view of the land beneath.

It is in the nature of mountains that they are unaware of their shadows, as they bask in the light that strikes them. The taller they grow, the more inhospitable their peaks become; places from which the beauty and gentleness of the land below becomes almost impossible to recall. They find their identity in the height of their tops. They are jealous of neighbors and oblivious to the violent weather, freezing temperatures and thinning air that surrounds their highest accomplishments.

Beheld from a distance their majesty is clear to see, but up close their inhospitability is keenly felt. Unaware of the simple fortune that created them, and their final destiny as the sand on the shore, they are both dividers of lands and peoples as well as bringers of rain and nourishment.

These mountains represent institutions and traditions of every kind; from the monolithic mega corporation to giant government departments, from established religions to superstitions and legacies laced through every culture. They started with a useful purpose and many still serve valuable roles in our societies, so it is better that we see them for what they are, acknowledge them and then move on.

In navigating the Path, the mountains of tradition are better skirted than summited, tunneled than toppled and appreciated than admonished. For they know not of their origins, their shadows or their value, they know only of their height and the weight of their ice.


Part 12 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

The Path to A Future: Valleys of Conflict

One of the most recognizable features of our landscape today are the valleys of conflict that cuts across the view, trapping people and resources into separated schisms covered by whirling fog. These are the conflicts which obsess our headline writers and dominate our news. They are not most people’s everyday experience of life, but they obscure our view and add so much to the difficulty of navigating across the land that we have no choice but to build the bridges necessary to unite the different sides. We must bring the light of day to all those enured in conflicts, so they can see the view from the outsides of their chasms.

Conflict entraps all those who are touched by it, innocent or not, perpetrator or victim; they are compelled to look in instead of out. The irony is that many of these valleys were dug out purposefully, by some group expecting to improve their view by placing another group out of sight. Not unnaturally, those forced into the valley resist and start to climb out, at which point the original creators of the valley return to dig wider and deeper, until they find themselves living in the same valley with those they sought to displace.

While conflicts originate with an intention to hoard resources, they act like valleys and inevitably develop watersheds that divert resources from all around to flow down their course. The resources (approximately $3,000,000 a minute as of the time of writing this) consumed in conflicts are stolen from their better uses, be they people or materials, ideas or energy, they have been diverted from their alternative application.

Whatever their origins, we must clear the fog and build the steps that will allow those inside and outside the valleys of conflict to look up and move forward.


Part 11 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

The Path to A Future: The Landscape of the Path

Before we build our Path we should understand the nature of the landscape we intend to cross: the state of the world today. We need a clear view of reality, so we can determine the line our Path should take.

We live in a world that is still ravaged by many conflicts, and where the disparities between wasteful over-consumers and the desperately poor grow wider every year. For all our good intentions, we are not living within the bounds of the resources available to us; and the vast majority are not free to enjoy the passage of their lives in peace and security.

The good news is that we do not have to achieve the impossible to remedy our situation – we will not have to fix everything. We do have to change the way we organize our societies and the structure of our economies, and we have to change them pretty fundamentally. Along the way we are going to be challenged, distracted and tempted by our attachments to old ways of doing things. But making fundamental changes, and staying the course through difficult times, are the hallmarks of our greatest moments. Our ability to be flexible and resolute in the face of adversity are natural features of the human landscape, and therefore of you too.

The Path to a Future is all about finding a way from where we are today to a prosperous, sustainable and peaceful future. The Path will not remake the landscape as we find it, it must negotiate the landscape as it is; and that includes us as we are.

Some of the greatest barriers we will have to cross are our own assumptions about what is possible, about what others will do and about what we really think is important. To get started down The Path we’re going to have to open our own gates, step out and get a clear, fresh view of the landscape.

Take a walk with me and let’s have a look at the lay of the land. Using the analogy of a physical landscape, we can examine the contours of our cultural and emotional world. We can get some perspective on the challenges we face, and assess the most effective way through them.


Part 10 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
If you want to get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.