Survival Issues Need Big and Basic Changes

Bharat Dogra

In recent years increasing realisation of two trends has been a cause of great concern and rightly so. The first trend is that issues which threaten the life-nurturing ability of earth (such as weapons of mass destruction, climate change and related several environmental problems) have clearly emerged in a big way and are acquiring a stronger and more sinister presence with the passage of time. Secondly, the ability of the existing national and international governance systems to check these problems in time before it is too late is increasingly in doubt, based on past performance, present preparations and future prospects as seen from the prevailing situation.

Those with an understanding of these issues know how serious the situation is, how soon things can get out of hand and present as well as future generations may be exposed to unprecedented dangers and difficulties. So, the next question we need to ask is how the existing governance systems have lived up to the expectation of resolving the critical survival issues in time, and what are the real alternatives before us?

In the context of weapons of mass destruction, the aim ultimately is to have a world entirely free of such weapons. This raises several questions. Is it possible to realise this aim within the existing system of five leading nuclear powers also being permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations with veto power? Is it possible to resolve this question as long as there is a race for military dominance and accompanying arms race? Is it possible to resolve this issue as long as people and leaders of many countries regard these weapons as essential for their short and long-term protection from enemies, or have a strong inclination for using these to dominate others?

If the answer to these questions is clearly in the negative then what are the alternatives we need to work on? Is it possible to move beyond the concept of sovereign nation states and think of an international governance system or a world government with a limited mandate which is able to take decisions at least on a few critical survival issues which can be acceptable all over the world? For example if a such an international government system or limited world government decides that there should be no nuclear weapons (beyond perhaps about 2 percent of existing stocks to be maintained by the world government to prevent any threat from terror groups acquiring such weapons) then all existing nuclear weapon countries simply have to agree to eliminate their nuclear weapons.

Another question is whether any strong worldwide base for eliminating such weapons can be created without changing the existing value system of economic and military dominance and narrow nationalism which pushes for such dominance? Is it possible to come out of the grip of the military industrial complex which is the strongest lobbyist for highly destructive weapons.

Clearly on the one hand big governance reforms are needed, and on the other hand very basic changes in people’s thinking and attitudes are needed before they can mobilise for such governance changes. This is again possible in conditions of a strong, broad-based peace movement with continuity and also conditions of vibrant democracy which provides all the space for broad based, continuing people's peace movement.

Again, in the context of climate related and other catastrophic environmental problems, we need to ask if these can be resolved within the existing framework created by the United Nations?  Are solutions possible within the existing framework of sovereign nation states, or else a limited world government with the power to take decisions for the entire world on certain critical environmental issues is needed? Is it possible to resolve such critical environmental issues on the basis of present-day dominant value systems, or else very different value systems based on simplicity, frugality and equality are needed?

Again, it should be very clear that we need big changes in governance, as well as in value-systems, both changes being supportive of each other.

To make possible such achievements in time, very big efforts of deep commitment and dedication are needed. With growing understanding of such issues, the number of people dedicated to such tasks of the great importance should increase rapidly.

The writer is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements and initiatives.     

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Aug 18, 2019

Bharat Dogra [email protected]

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