A Drowning Civilization Oblivious to the Life-Raft of the Earth Constitution
Glen T. Martin
The Constitution for the Federation of Earth is our life-raft, our practical tool and lifeboat for bringing humanity out of the hellish ocean of self-destruction in which we are now drowning. Human beings today are feeling “cut off from the future,” as Albert Camus expressed this. We do not see a way forward. We cling, instead, to irrational hates and fears, to irrational religious ideologies, to militaristic national pride. We are not willing, as Camus put it, to commit to a “new social contract” that abolishes nation-state murder once and for all (1986, 27, 48). We are drowning, gasping for air. We are sinking in an ocean of despair in at least four fundamental ways.
First, we are facing apocalyptic nuclear holocaust. The nuclear weapons powers continue to upgrade the speed and usability of these horrific weapons. As many writers since the later 1950s have pointed out, these weapons point not only to a suicidal whirlpool of crises in which the world appears struggling, but to a fundamental insanity that infests the governments and leaders of our world for the past three-quarters of a century. Daniel Ellsberg, in his book The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner calls it “institutionalized madness” (2017, 332).
Second, we are facing cascading climate collapse. A planet whose climate stability that has supported human civilization for the past 12,000 years, has become fundamentally destabilized, and whose instability is cascading toward deep ecological system changes inimical to human survival. David Wallace-Wells, for example, describes this cascading effect in detail in his book The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming (2019).
These first two dimensions of the seething ocean in which we struggle are familiar to most thoughtful people. Our best thinkers have been speaking about these consequences of our planetary system since at least the 1960s. These aspects of the horror in which we are caught are integral consequences of the system itself, a system inexorably leading to climate collapse and/or nuclear war. This system has two dimensions, both together comprising the writhing turmoil within which we are gasping for breath as the waves break over our heads.
Third, a global economic ideology and exploitation system called capitalism, a system in which the imperative of endless growth is built directly into its very foundations. It is a system in which money is not merely a means of exchange but a commodity that multiplies itself indefinitely (for whose possessing it as their “private property”), based on the principle of interest accruing on debt. It is a “closed system” in which the profit for a few means deprivation for the many. Today this system, begun some four centuries ago, has led to less than 1% of the Earth’s population owning 50% of its wealth, while at least 50% of humanity lives in the hell of extreme poverty and deprivation. As many environmental thinkers and economists are declaring today: “you cannot have endless growth on a finite planet” (e.g., Daly 1996; Speth 2008; Raworth 2020).
Capitalism is a failed system and a fundamental cause of both the climate crisis and the threat of nuclear holocaust, the former because the system of interest accruing to money is debt-driven and requires endless growth, and the latter because capitalism funds anything, no matter how evil, that makes the most profits. In Nazi Germany the big corporations and banks welcomed slave labor, poison gas for the concentration camps, and the war system that gave them enormous profits, and in the USA, the big corporations and banks welcome the astronomical military machine, including nuclear weapons, along with world-wide weapons sales, and the endless profits these generate.
Fourth, the system of militarized sovereign nation-states is a failed system. It is a system that institutionalizes competition among nations, competition for markets, resources, ascendency, military superiority, and ultimately war. As thinker after thinker since the 17th century has pointed out the system of sovereign nation-states in inherently a war-system, as Immanuel Kant in the 18th century, for example, definitively underlines. It is therefore inherently immoral, generating the moral imperative for democratic world law to end this war-system (1957, orig. pub. 1795).
Renowned philosopher Raimon Panikkar points out that all these four dimensions of the ocean in which we are drowning are rooted in a mode of consciousness that is strictly temporalized—we think exclusively in terms of linear time (1993, 108 ff.).For several centuries we have believed that we can take control of the present (and dominate nature) in order to determine a better future for ourselves. And that “better future” has been defined in quantitative terms only—more money, more possessions, more experiences, more pleasure, more social status, more power, more “security,” et cetera, without end.
This writhing ocean in which we are drowning has discoverable depths that transcend these four dimensions of this hell in which we appear to be trapped. Since the time of Max Planck in 1900 and Einstein in 1905, science has been revealing for us the holism of our universe and the interdependence of all things with one another and with the whole. And science writers like Gary Zukav (1979) or Fritjof Capra (1975) have shown the connections between the new scientific insights and Eastern wisdom concerning the whole. The universe has also been revealed as an evolving whole, and thinkers like Teilhard de Chardin (1959) and Alfred North Whitehead (1979) have extrapolated the immense implications of this. Ervin Laszlo (2014) and others have shown that this evolving holism, including time and space, is rooted in a quantum plenum in which the fulness of the present generates endless potentialities that become realized through the dynamism of the whole.
These four dimensions of the ocean threatening our survival all draw on a linear concept of history and time, eventuating in the linear concept of powerful nation-states dominating in the world-historical struggle for ascendency and in the linear concept of endless economic growth that somehow (magically, through an “invisible hand”) will end poverty and create a decent planetary civilization. These linear concepts harken back to Newtonian physics: mechanistic, causally determined, and radically anachronistic. Holism supersedes linear time, linear history, linear mechanisms for exploiting nature, and linear economic systems. As economist Kate Raworth points out, proper economics is not linear, but should be doughnut shaped (2020). As philosopher Errol E. Harris points out, if we want to survive on this planet, “holism should be the dominating concept in all our thinking” (2000, 90).
Many thoughtful people today, of course, espouse holism as not only derived from science but also as affirmed by mystics and wisdom seekers from every major religion and many independent spiritual questers. But clearly this won’t do much good unless we have the courage and the insight to change the linear system on which both the sovereign nation-states and the global capitalist economic system are based. This means that a “green capitalism” is a contradiction in terms. This means that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), premised on the system of militarized sovereign nation-states, is a prescription for planetary suicide, for willfully drowning in the seething ocean rather than reaching for the life-raft of the Earth Constitution
The Earth Constitution is holistic from beginning to end. It does not, of course, express the philosophical concepts I am reviewing here. Rather, it unites humanity under the principle of unity in diversity. Unlike both capitalism and the militarized sovereign state system, the Constitution does not look for the ascendency of some part (some nation or religion or ideology). Nor does it imagine that ever-increasing economic growth can somehow magically address global poverty, nor that the key to the climate crisis is some “green capitalism,” initiating a carbon-tax or whatever (such as the carbon-tax proposed by Al Gore in his recent Ted Talk).
This holistic structure, permeating the Earth Constitution from top to bottom, results in a fundamentally non-historical view of our human situation. If human history is the record of struggles, wars, quests for power, and endless bloodshed, then the Earth Constitution represents the end of all that—the end of history. The Constitution is premised on qualitative, nor quantitative principles. The dignity of humanity (its foundational assumption), for example, is non-historical and cannot be quantified (cf. Martin 2021, 132 ff.). The need for food, education, clean water, and economic security are not predicated on some principle of endless growth under the Constitution, but are treated as non-quantifiable inalienable rights. The need for planetary peace, disarmament, and a healthy planetary environment are not predicated on the victory of this or that coalition of militarized nation-states, but are treated as non-quantifiable universal rights commensurate with human dignity.
By presenting us with a holistic world-system design, the Earth Constitution establishes a practical plan for a deep transformation of our relation to the ocean itself, within which we are drowning. It recognizes that the ocean in which we are struggling is not the enemy. It is we who are our own worst enemy. The life-boat within today’s hurricane does not sail us into some other hurricane of the future, but calms the stormy waters of the ocean. For the transition to non-quantifiable values within a practical planetary governance system means that this constitutional framework helps transition us to a transhistorical consciousness (cf. Panikkar 1993, 120 ff.). We will never actualize such a transhistorical consciousness as long as we fail to transform the very system that defeats its actualization.
The Constitution is neither “top-down” or “bottom-up.” It is holistic, a vehicle for making human thought and consciousness also holistic. As philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev rightly declared, we must first solve our most fundamental problems of war, disarmament, human rights, social inequality, and climate collapse if we ever want to expect a new revelation of the “spirit” (1961, 130-31), a new relation with the depths of the ocean in which we flounder. Through uniting humanity under a system designed to address all our interdependent problems simultaneously (“giving the Earth a brain” as I put it in my newest book, The Earth Constitution Solution, 2021) we bring humanity to a new stage of maturity in which we become capable of a new, redeeming openness to the depths of existence.
Solving our most fundamental problems on planet Earth—war, human rights, poverty, inequality, and climate collapse—will free us to be open to the transformative depths of being. The Earth Constitution¸ can and must serve as a life-raft carrying us toward a transhistorical consciousness, a consciousness in which the point of life is seen in the depths of life, in the joy of living itself, not in the historical and quantitative movement away from the present into a future of more—more power, more wealth, more consumer junk filling our lives, our households, and our minds.
As Panikkar expresses this: “The meaning of life does not lie in the future…, but in life itself, lived in its present and actual depth” (1993, 119). When we are in harmony with the depths of the ocean, we will not drown, but gently float within its awesome cosmic intelligence, resonating with the fulness of life and the bliss of being. The Earth Constitution, by addressing the most lethal yet practical problems of our common life on this planet, is the life-boat to carry us toward that cosmic realization—that harmony with the ocean of life.
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