Friday, August 29, 2008

The Natural Results of Global Understanding

Chapter One: When in the Course of Human Events

“When in the course of human events,” wrote Thomas Jefferson to begin the Declaration of Independence. He went on to describe a situation intolerable to him regarding certain unalienable or inalienable rights, depending on the draft or final copy you look at. (I’m guessing from his college background, William wanted it spelled one way, and Mary the other.)

If we look at the population of North America in 1750, around the 7th year of life of Thomas Jefferson, Wikipedia tells us there were two millions of us in North America, where the vast majority were likely native indigenous tribes. By 1800, circa the election cycle for the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson, that number had risen to 7 million, the vast majority of that growth being an increase in the immigrant European communities and 3 million black slaves and indentured servants. Within the incorporated United States alone, the population rose by 1 million between the 1790 and 1800 census.

Using rough math, the growth rate of population for the continent from 1750 to 1800 represents approximately 350% overall, and a per annum increase of 2.54%.

The American Revolution was not the first or last of the wars over the struggle to control that population growth during this fifty year period. From the French and Indian War, which was the North American adjunct to the Seven Years’ War, to the 1795 Northwest Indian War and the other Indian Wars of that century, there was an ever-widening crisis and conflict between European and indigenous control of the continent.

European-heritage cultural governments warred amongst each other between French and British, or British and Dutch, or Germans and English, or Germans and Germanss. The indigenous peoples of the continent warred amongst each other also. Europeans and native American indigenous peoples partnered for mutual benefit and propserity, and at other times competed for control of resources.

All of this competition and conflict was, ideally, for the most advantageous outcome for their peoples. Yet often times these wars were fought for the most advantageous outcome only for a certain select subgroup, such as a locality or network of people, or a class or controlling structure. Some minority of the total number of people were benefiting most.

Thus Thomas Jefferson was compelled to write the Declaration of Independence. The growth of a new continent’s society required the birth of a new nation. Founded upon a synthesis of ancient philosophies which we had somehow strayed from. Natural laws. Basic philosophies of what was good and just. Ironically, tragically, this new nation would be bathed in ideas as ancient as Greece and Roman, and in its own blood for two more future centuries or more before every citizen was truly guaranteed some of their unalienable rights.

The birth of the United States as an experiment in democracy was not concluded in 1776. It was only the beginning. The birthing process continues to this day.

Today, the influx of peoples to the United States, and the flow of peoples around the world continues at rates that would astound the Founding Fathers of the United States. The struggle over resources and control of the fate of the world continues, reflected in wars of culture, of race, religion, philosophy and economic theory.

Beyond the United States, the global population in 1750 was estimated at 791 million. North America had 2 million of that: 0.25%. One of 400 people in the world.

By 1800, global population was 978 million. A growth of 23.64%. The North American 7 million was now 0.72% of the world’s population. It was this small but growing sliver of humanity, the leadership circle of less than 1% of the world’s population, which would spur the birth of modern representative democratic nationstates which would traverse the world over the next few centuries.

What they had solved for was “scalability.” How do you make a new governmental structure for a continental-spanning country? The answer was: with an experiment in democracy.

It worked, to a degree. During Jefferson’s lifetime, the nation’s territory grew from “sea to shining sea.” Yet it would take until the middle of the 19th Century for those territories to be made into separate-but-equal states of the union, like California. Likewise, there was great divisiveness over the means of the employment of humans as property and chattel — human slaves — that meant not everyone who was a biological human was treated as such politically. Women too accutely felt this pain, and were agitating for their own voice in politics. Children and retirees were likewise both the beneficiaries yet the victims of industrialization. Protective laws came into effect to safeguard the newborn and elderly alike.

The concept of a nationstate as a civil society broadened to look out for the welfare of its citizens and total human populace (including non-citizen immigrants and residents, guest workers and tourist visitors). People never before franchised in politics became enfranchized in democratic institutions. One person. One vote.

In the movement towards this goal, by the early part of the second half of that century, a war was fought, state-upon-state, brother-against-brother. The war also recruited into it the indigenous populations of the continent. They called it the War Between the States, amongst other titles — such as the consensus-driven yet tragically ironic American Civil War. For its execution was so often savage, deadly, and uncivilly conducted.

Internationally, Europe by this time had undergone the most devastating Napoleonic Wars, and the democratic revolutions of the 19th Century. In Asia in the 19th Century, the powerhouse of humanity and human labor, the population in Asia would increase by roughly 50%, from 635 millions to 947 million. Colonial empires brought the industrial revolution. Wars were fought over control of the continent, and the consolidation of China, Japan, the Indian subcontinent.

All to bring about a better peace, as St. Augustine would pray.

Scalability of nationstates was the hallmark of industrialization. Yet competition remained fierce. The clash of pre-industrial and industrial societies was bloody. The wars of “progress” often resulted in devastating loss of life and destruction of cultural identity which, to this day, still remain deep wounds on the psyche of nations.

Africa, Latin America, the Indian and Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. To the polar ice caps north and south. The world was awash in a tide of progress and pain. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

While there were many gallant and chivalrous souls who fought on both sides, and many deeds of epic heroism, the cynics and pragmatists of that historic period all-too-often cut down any rational, peaceful, logical debate by harsh reality like a bullet through a lung.

In response to that, humanity invented a new way to stop the worst results of such unmitigated savage destruction and grossly-intent or utterly indifferent human cruelty. To literally staunch the flow of traumatic blood loss, and to encourage the flow of precious blood transfusions to save lives. To save and treat the wounded, to comfort and respect the dying, and to count the dead.

Out of the literal blood shed, for reasons both devastatingly tragic and wholesomely life-sustaining, came International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The idea was born in 1859 in the aftermath of a terrible, now almost-forgotten battle in which 40,000 people were wounded or killed. Out of the mind of one driven person, Henry Dunant, and out of the commitment of others who believed in his vision for a more compassionate world came the Red Cross.

It is an extragovernmental, supernational movement. It is a movement. With physical and philosophical principles. It needed to change, to move, the attitudes of the day. It needed to move physically, the casualties. It needed to move equipment. To move people and organize from one place in the world to another to accomplish its mission. To move to wherever disaster may strike.

It is a human movement, comprised of directors, staff, volunteers, donors, partners in business and governments, and all those committed, interested and concerned citizens around the world who support its ideals. By their concern, their interest, and their commitment to the movement, the Red Cross saves lives and creates good works on behalf of humanitarian principles to this day.

Even when they do not make headlines, they are making the life-and-death difference, and quality-of-life difference, for neighbors all around us. Even when they may fail or fall short of their ideals or donation goals, as a whole entity and as a sum of its member organizations, they ever strive to create a more perfect union of humanity.

This is one service organization of the 19th Century that changed the world. One of many. Yet let it serve as an example of the needs of its time, through today. Its Seven Principles are the ethics that guide it in its mission.

The Red Cross movement sparked the Geneva Conventions. Nationstates became signatories to these standards to which people and their governments hold themselves to ethical and moral account for their actions, even in the conduct of the chaos and destruction of war. Other protocols and conventions, treaties and agreements followed.

The world was aware of its excesses, and sought to curb them. To govern the behavior of the worst, for the good of the many. Karl Marx, in the midst of the traumatic events of 1848, wrote some thoughts about this, which only led to even more bloodshed on how to correct the disparities people perceived in the world around them.

What the Red Cross could not do was to stop the massive wars of its age. They were occurring at an ever-larger scale. Ever more destructive.

Beyond the conflicts of war were even greater and more natural ravages. Hunger and disease killed far more than bullets or bombs did. Both were traumatic, but in different ways. One was chronic suffering. The other form acute. While war can be blamed upon those who wage it, it does little good to rail against nature.

Even with all the bloodshed, starvation, disease, repression and rebellion, by the end of the 19th Century, the population of the world had grown from 978 million to 1.65 billion. A growth of 68%.

Coming through the 20th Century, the population of the world grew from 1.65 billion in 1900 to pass 6 billion in the Year 2000. Not only had we grown, we had grown the growth rate. Approximately +264% absolute population growth. That is about four times the growth rate of the prior century.

Neither capitalist democracies nor those committed to the purest of Communist ideals could stop vying with each other. In the midst of this global conflict between the property and capitalist wealth of Adam Smith and the ideals of common wealth and labor of Karl Marx came the dark underbelly of humanity.

These were nationstates comprised of a fusion of business and government interests, with an ethics born out of racial and cultural identity far beyond the xenophobic, and political orthodoxy that wholeheartedly embraced the zealotry of religious experience. These nationstates were purposefully aggressive, expansive, ultra-patriotic, uncompromising, ruthless, triumphant, tyrannical and domineering towards any group that was in or out of its control. This over-arching dominant, pan-cultural, control-oriented style of life bore many names. For some, it was the Nazi German government. Or Imperial Japan. Fascist Italy.

Yet in the wake of the Second World War, George Orwell wrote in 1948 his novel 1984, about a world turned upside down by the overarching influence of bureaucracy, government, business, and the repression of true and genuine life choices, freedoms, joys and liberty. Over most of the remainder of the 20th Century, his dark vision was given true credence given the repression of the totalitarian dictators of the world, as well as the repressive, ultrapatriotic group think of “free” societies, such as the United States.

The Cold War and the Post-Colonial era led to more wars around the world. Direct conflicts or proxy wars. The term “terrorism” and “asymmetrical warfare” were born. The world went from “3rd Generation” warfare between modern nationstates to “4th generation” warfare, which meant that force-on-force conflicts were replaced by other means of conducting the affairs of nations: psychological and emotional warfare (wars of propaganda and terrorism), economic and social warfare. Anything was fair game now.

The resultant wars of the 20th Century can now in hindsight be seen as due to the pressures of such population growth, and the competition for control of resources, the command of labor, and the ideological sway of the of the masses. They can be seen as dramatically phenomenal and horrific, or scientifically understandable given the conditions of the world.

World War I and II dwarfed anything ever seen before. The power of the atom was harnessed to create a bomb that could cause the deaths of 80,000 to 100,000 people. One one day, one weapon, dropped by one aircrew, in one aircraft, could kill two to three times all the individual missiles and physical harm hurled at the battle that launched the Red Cross. The world had discovered a new definition of the word “scalability.”

Total loss of life, including war-related famine and disease casualties, was approximately 72 million people. The Allies, the political winners of the war, lost approximately 60 million dead. The Axis lost approximately 11 million. The global population of 1940 was 2.3 billion according to UN estimates. Making the total loss approximately 3.1% of the total world population.

If the losses were normalized across the planet, out of every group of 100 neighbors, you would have three die from the conflict of the Second World War. However, instead, the loci of fighting was proximate, while for others it was nonexistent to everyday experience. Some cities were leveled, and whole communities died to the last man, woman, elder and child. In other places, the world went on as if the war never happened.

Out of this carnage, the victorious Allies, comprised of a very mixed bag of democratic, dictatorial, aristocratic, communist and totalitarian governments, founded the United Nations. And from the United Nations came the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

If Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the United States President who helped the United States win the Second World War, it was his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped create a new peace. For it was she, “along with René Cassin, John Peters Humphrey and others,” who drafted the Declaration for the 20th Century.

Mrs. Roosevelt took Jefferson’s work, and took it to the next level. Instead of applying only to the territory and interests of the North American-based United States, at the political level of the nationstate, it was applicable to all the collective territory and interests of the entire United Nations, and all persons resident within. She expanded both its physical coverage of territory, to further define the ideals to be upheld by specific warrant of rights, and the depth of the document, to make it apply personally.

It was a Euclidian expansion of scope on the planes of the real (x), ideal (y), and profound (z) axioms.

You go, girl!

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