Falling Apart

Competition and individualism are forcing us into a devastating Age of Loneliness.

George Monbiot, October 14, 2014

What do we call this time? It’s not the information age: the collapse of popular education movements left a void now filled by marketing and conspiracy theories(1). Like the stone age, iron age and space age, the digital age says plenty about our artefacts but little about society. The anthropocene, in which humans exert a major impact on the biosphere, fails to distinguish this century from the previous twenty. What clear social change marks out our time from those that precede it? To me it’s obvious. This is the Age of Loneliness.

When Thomas Hobbes claimed that in the state of nature, before authority arose to keep us in check, we were engaged in a war “of every man against every man”(2), he could not have been more wrong. We were social creatures from the start, mammalian bees, who depended entirely on each other. The hominims of East Africa could not have survived one night alone. We are shaped, to a greater extent than almost any other species, by contact with others. The age we are entering, in which we exist apart, is unlike any that has gone before.


Confucian Statement on Ecology

This is the full text of the statement prepared by Professor Tu Weiming of the International Confucian Ecological Alliance (ICEA) and announced at the ARC (Alliance of Religions and Conservation) meeting in Trondheim, Norway in July 2013.

I. A virtuous, responsible and caring life

Confucian humanism sees its primary role to be the promotion of education designed to enable people to become truly human. Its purpose is the cultivation of a virtuous, responsible and caring person. Learning to be genuinely and fully human is an end in itself. Simultaneously it is also a dynamic and transformative process of self-realization, social engagement and cultural creativity.

As Confucius said:

“Even though you have only coarse grain for food, water for drink, and your bent arm for a pillow, you may still be happy. Riches and honours without justice are to me as fleeting clouds.”


Noam Chomsky, UN Speech, October 21, 2014

In U.N. Speech, Noam Chomsky Blasts United States for Supporting Israel, Blocking Palestinian State. The event in the hall of the U.N. General Assembly was hosted by the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

It’s a pleasure to be here to be able to talk with you and discuss with you afterwards.

Many of the world’s problems are so intractable that it’s hard to think of ways even to take steps towards mitigating them. The Israel-Palestine conflict is not one of these. On the contrary, the general outlines of a diplomatic solution have been clear for at least 40 years. Not the end of the road—nothing ever is—but a significant step forward. And the obstacles to a resolution are also quite clear.


Christianity in the Middle East

A Paper by Georges Dorlian, Dean, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, University of Balamand, Lebanon, presented at the 12th Rhodes Forum on September 27, 2014

The Christian presence in the Middle East has created, throughout centuries, a unique phenomenon which grew on the margins of non-Christian States and among them. It is worth mentioning that the Christian presence was neither incidental nor recent, for its roots date back to the time before Islam had appeared as a religion which later became a vastly expanded State.

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Gandhi for Today: Self-Rule, Non-Violence, Struggle for Justice

A Paper by Fred Dallmayr, Co-Chairman of the World Public Forum, presented at a Plenary Session of the 12th Rhodes Forum on September 26, 2014

The central topic of this session is the work of Gandhi (and at least one of the thinkers who influenced him: Leon Tolstoy). Gandhi’s work is sprawling, it comprises over 100 volumes. These books deal with a great variety of themes; I want to focus here on one area of his life and work which, however, is central and overshadows the rest: the area of politics and political action. I title my talk: “Gandhi for Today”—because it is not enough just to know about Gandhi as a historical figure, but to follow Gandhi, to enact his teachings in our time.

The subtitle of my talk is “Self-Rule, Non-Violence, Struggle for Justice.” The Indian terms for these notions are: swaraj, ahimsa, and satyagraha. Swaraj tells us what is democratic government; ahimsa tells us how to achieve and practice it; satyagraha tells us about the goal of politics: pursuit of truth, justice, and the “good life.” These are the ideas we have to re-learn today. Gandhi struggled for Indian self-rule or “home rule” against the mighty British Empire (where the sun did not set). Today, many people struggle for self-rule against a mighty world-empire, and against many other forms of domination. Gandhi struggled for Indian self-rule mainly non-violently. Today, many movements aiming at independence or freedom resort to violence (virtually as the only and preferred method). Gandhi struggled for self-rule with the aim to establish a rule of justice, non-domination, and ethical rightness. Today, many movements seek self-rule only in order to establish a new form of domination and exploitation (their own domination). So, we have to re-learn a lot from Gandhi.


Gusi Peace Prize to be Awarded to Professor Hans Köchler

President of International Progress Organization again honoured for his civil society initiatives.

Manila / Vienna, 22 October 2014

In an official communication addressed to Prof. Hans Köchler, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Gusi Peace Prize International, Amb. Barry Gusi, announced that Professor Hans Köchler, President of the International Progress Organization, will be awarded the Gusi Peace Prize for 2014. According to the Chairman, Prof. Köchler receives the prize in recognition of his contributions, as philosopher of law, to the peaceful solution of international conflicts. The awarding letter also emphasizes Köchler’s activities as Founder and President of the International Progress Organization, his contributions to the dialogue of civilizations and the impact of his ideas on the global debate on international democracy and United Nations reform. The letter concludes: “All your significant accomplishments and achievements have made you a living paradigm for others to emulate, not only in Austria, but throughout Europe, Asia and the international community.”


The Musical Olympus Festival Returns to Berlin with the Motto “Music – for Peace”

On November, 14, 2014 the Musical Olympus Festival will present its participants on stage of the Chamber Music Hall at the Berliner Philharmoniker. Last time the festival’s participants performed on this stage in 2011.

On the gala night one of the best concert halls in Germany will host the stars of the Musical Olympus: Igor Yeliseev (double bass, Russia), Marc Bouchkov (violin, Belgium), Rémi Geniet, (piano, France), as well as tenor Mario Chang (Guatemala).

All performers are prize winners of prestigious international musical competitions and participants of the Musical Olympus festival in St Petersburg.


Helsinki and Paris – a New Security Architecture for the Euro-Asia Space

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

1. Europe’s new schism?

The continual crisis in Ukraine is perpetuating an East-West schism that was never overcome after the end of the Cold War. Even if there is no all-out war between the major powers involved in the Ukrainian conflict, Europe faces the distinct prospect of a permanent divide at its very heart. The EU increasingly looks like an annex to the United States, which has historically oscillated between isolationism and interventionism. Indeed, since 1893 Washington has practiced regime change (especially in its own ‘backyard’), [1] but it has also periodically retreated from international affairs – whether in the years prior to 1917 or indeed by refusing to participate in the League of Nations during the interwar period. Today the US is once again meddling in European affairs while at the same time pivoting away from the Euro-Atlantic space to the Asia-Pacific rim in order to shore up its interests against the rising power of China (a theme to which I will return shortly).

Meanwhile, Russia has been repeatedly rebuffed by the West in the 1990s and early 2000s, especially in relation to common security arrangements, and it has had to confront an increasingly aggressive brand of Western liberalism – as John Mearsheimer has recently argued in an article in Foreign Affairs [2]. In response, Moscow has turned its attention to Central Asia and the Far East, tightening relations with Eurasian neighbours and other partners as part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). However, there are risks that Russia might become excessively dependent on supplying cheap resources to China. Meanwhile there are signs that Beijing is much more interested in consolidating its own sphere of influence than forging a strategic alliance with Moscow, which it tends to view as a junior partner rather than an equal ally.

For all these and other reasons, the EU and Russia risk finding themselves on the margins of global geo-politics rather than at the forefront. After more than 500 years at the centre of international affairs, the whole of Europe seems increasingly bereft of ideas and incapable of acting as a force for good.