During a youth conference I attended at the United Nations in 2016, an assistant to the Secretary General of the United Nations told us about his personal journey that took him from being an Argentinian medical doctor to becoming an official for the United Nations. According to the gentleman, medical doctors and health professionals only deal with the symptoms of the causes behind illness, whereas a career in politics or international relations offers the opportunity to deal with the actual causes of illness, which are war and poverty. Chaos, extinction, and illness are merely symptoms of war and poverty.
Although war and poverty are less widespread than they were decades ago, there is still no clear-cut cure for these two maladies in the international system which threaten the very existence of the human race. Various world systems have been constructed to address the issues of war and poverty, such as Liberalism, Marxism, and Populism. Even religion has been put forth as a prescription to resolve issues such as war and poverty that have not fully disappeared from our planet. These systems in turn reflect various ontological states in their most basic sense. There is a profound reverence for science in the case of liberalism. Skepticism is embedded in the very essence of Marxism. Culture provides a sense of safety and stability for those who resort to populism to overcome social turmoil. Nature and romanticism are at the core of what is known as natural religion.
However, there is no consensus as to what system works best to solve the issues of war and poverty, and thus the international system is in a state of disarray. We are still searching for a cure. There are reasons as to why the credibility and legitimacy of the basic ontological states and world systems are under scrutiny. For one, liberalism has experienced a number of external shocks in recent years that have undermined its viability, such as the financial crisis of 2008 as well as the recent coronavirus that exposed the immense fragility of the international liberal system. Moreover, the fragile state of liberalism as a system based on peace and security, low taxes, and small government has been shattered by basic human nature which is driven by the desire for empire. The post-2001 global hegemonic project and hyper-militarization that took place in the past two decades has led to the expansion of government in violation of the basic precepts of liberalism and in turn has led to liberalism’s demise. Andrew Bacevich exposes the motives of statesmen in the past two decades:
“The chief responsibility was to preside over a grand project of political-economic convergence and integration commonly referred to as globalization. In point of fact, however, globalization served as a euphemism for soft, or informal, empire. The collapse of the Soviet Union appeared to offer an opportunity to expand and perpetuate that empire, creating something akin to a global Pax Americana.”
Bacevich adds the following, which is perhaps even more profound than the previous statement: “A political elite preoccupied with the governance of empire paid little attention to protecting the United States itself.” According to Bacevich, most Americans caught on to what was actually going on in their government, and reacted by electing Donald Trump to wreak havoc on the system:
“By 2016, large numbers of ordinary Americans had concluded, not without reason, that the post-Cold War consensus was irretrievably defective. Globalized neoliberalism, militarized hegemony, individual empowerment, and presidents elevated to the status of royalty might be working for some, but not for them. They also discerned, again not without cause, that establishment elites subscribing to that consensus, including the leaders of both political parties, were deaf to their complaints and oblivious to their plight. By turning their country over to Donald Trump, those Americans signaled their repudiation of that very consensus.”
Embedded within the liberal world system is a weltanschauung based on what one could call “scientism.” According to this particular outlook, if you follow a certain scientific method of distributing wealth in a top-down manner while applying a set of “laws”, war and poverty would decrease. The reality, however, is far different than what is being suggested. According to the late Hans Morgenthau:
“Since the balance of power is the essence and the stabilizing factor of international relations, the distribution of power is here never permanently settled but always precarious and subject to continuous fluctuations. In the international sphere the reduction of political problems to scientific propositions is never possible; for the problem of distribution of power is ever present and can be solved only by political decision and not by scientific devices.”
In fact, the set of “laws” forged after World War II in the form of the United Nations Charter and its corresponding institutions have been largely ineffective in addressing the issues of war and poverty since the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was one of the leading architects of the UN. Development is ultimately an indigenous process that cannot be exported from one country to another, according to William Easterly, a development economist based in New York University (NYU).
Liberalism is the latest of a set of major world systems to falter and fail in addressing the issues of war and poverty through the course of human history. The failure of Marxism to sustain itself as a preponderant world system stems from the fact that Marxism is in fact a reflection of Liberalism in the sense that both systems create a corrupt elite class that directs the fate of regular people towards doom and gloom, according to the late Ali Shariati. Populism stems from shrewd individuals who are self-interested and cunning and in turn are able to capitalize off the frustrations of regular people for personal ends and at the end abandon those very people who served as a vehicle for their acquisition of power.
Based on the findings of Edward Luce in a book titled “The Retreat of Western Liberalism,” the 800 or so richest counties in the United States voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, whereas the 2400 or so poorest counties in the United States voted for Donald Trump. Romanticism and a reversion to a natural state as suggested by Rousseau is seen as the solution to the world’s ills, but is impossible to attain when taking into account the history of Romanticism and its failure to become a permanent state as outlined by Rudiger Safranski. According to Safranski, both liberal and populist ontology serve as a basis for a realist condition that is pervasive in almost all societies.
With the proliferation of failed states around the globe, any solution that is put forth for bringing people out of poverty will have to be global in nature. Therefore, what should be proposed is a global safety net of sorts where individuals who are in need of economic assistance have to meet certain conditions to become beneficiaries of the global safety net. The Islamic tradition proposes that the following conditions be met in order to be a beneficiary of this global safety net, otherwise known as the “Zakat” system:
1)Those without the essentials of food, clothing, and shelter
2)Those without food and clothing
3)Those who have dedicated themselves to collecting revenues to sustain the global safety net
4)Those seeking to be freed from slavery, servitude, and prostitution
5)Debtors who have incurred debt while attempting to satisfy their basic needs such as food or health care
6)Those who are in debt while seeking education
7)Travelers who are trying to reach their final destination but need financial assistance
8)Those who have dedicated themselves to inter-religious dialogue and unity
One could argue that the absence of such a global safety net is what drives many around the world into a state of anxiety and mental instability. At the moment, the United States is cutting down on social services and its government is not equipped to address the issue of inequality. Government is designed to tax citizens, pocket some of the tax revenues, and spend the rest on militarization projects. The advent of a global safety net that reduces anxiety and mitigates mental instability is long overdue. And if America were to withdraw its defense subsidies for places like Europe and East Asia, there are many individuals in these places who would need to tap into such a global safety net.
In traditional societies, war and poverty are seen as virtues that signify courage and humility. War and poverty are seen as remedies for corruption rather than maladies. However, in a modern and postmodern world, war and poverty are unsustainable and cause more corruption and harm than good. But there are now major profits involved in peddling war and poverty, and when there are profits involved in what drives chaos, extinction, and illness, the result is a hellish state created by none other than people themselves. As the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote: “Hell is people.”
In this day and age, living a Walden Pond style of life based on the essentials such as food, clothing, shelter, and books to pursue the actual objective of life, which is spiritual health, is becoming more difficult due to pressures brought on by profiteering from war and poverty that leads to ever more taxation in order to sustain the war machine that has only been slowed down recently by the coronavirus epidemic. This coronavirus outbreak is the latest bust in the boom-bust cycle that is inherent in the global capitalist economic system. The pause in fighting and the focus on the coronavirus pandemic prompts an important question: could there be a deep restructuring of social, economic, and political life due to the coronavirus that in turn would enable a reversion to a green lifestyle and the pursuit of spiritual health that was commonplace in the early days of our republic? In other words, as counterintuitive as it may seem, could the coronavirus pandemic be the cure for war and inequality?
One could also suggest that rather than ruminating on a bygone era, we can prompt an evolution in a long-standing lifestyle through technology and the internet. Life-long learning, which is known to the Germans as “Bildüng”, is merely the means to a spiritual end, and when we take art and entertainment as examples, there are leitmotifs in every exhibition of art and certain modes of entertainment that can now be learned by both the elites and the masses. As a result of technology and the internet, economic deadweight is being dropped for a leaner, information-based life that will inevitably prompt a spiritual awakening (“Schumpeter’s Gale”).
Global education enabled by technology and the internet is the mechanism that will enable the creation of a “New World Order” based on mental health, economic stability, human security, and the proliferation of information that will transform commonplace perceptions and in turn bring about social changes that were once thought to be impossible due to cultural conventions. We may not be able to create a utopian world in our lifetime, but we can spur progress by acquiring and sharing information that would improve primarily mental health, increase truly scientific awareness, establish human security, and solidify economic stability for vulnerable individuals and groups. All these goals have become easier to attain due to advances in technology and the ubiquity of the internet in today’s world. Personal encounters and relationships now develop through technology and the internet.
But with everything comes a certain amount of risk. As the sociologist Emile Durkheim found in his research, the higher one’s education, the higher the probability one commits suicide. “Ignorance is bliss” and as a result the discrepancies remain strong between the elites and ordinary people. But there are reasons as to why ordinary people remain intransigent to calls from the elite to adopt their programs. For one, much of the frustration with the mainstream media on the part of ordinary people is that the mainstream media is actually correct in framing global problems such that they are unsolvable scientifically.
But at the same time, the mainstream media does nothing to shed light on the osteopathic solutions for the world’s ills and insists that allopathic means of treating the world’s ills are the only means available. It is why the historian and humanist G. Lowes Dickinson considered the mainstream media to be one of the ten major causes of war (for the other nine causes, I refer you to my first blog post, titled “The Quantumization of U.S. Foreign Policy: A Proposal). Wars usually start over petty issues, and the mainstream media capitalizes off this very fact. As far as inequality is concerned, Aristotle argued that wealth is determined by nature for each individual. All that is needed is a global safety net to absorb external shocks to the global economy like the one we are experiencing today with the coronavirus.
It is believed that homo sapiens came to life approximately 200,000 years ago, and with the advent of our species came what is known as a “cognitive revolution” in the words of Yuval Noah Harari. Basic human cognition prompts two particular behavioral traits that are crucial to progress: the acquisition of food and information that is to be shared between people. Perhaps we are experiencing yet another cognitive revolution as a result of technology, internet, and the coronavirus.
This social revolution is one of many stemming from a single cause that has prompted the chain of events. This view of history where a single cause prompts the entirety of a chain of events is known by some historians as “verticalism” and by others as “determinism.” If we were to abandon a scientific view of history and adopt a spiritual narrative, the reason for why the world exists is a simple one. Everything exists to serve a small group of people who are known as “spiritual poles.” If spiritual poles ceased to exist, everything in turn would cease to exist.
Spiritual poles are distinguished for their spiritual health, and they have acquired spiritual health by virtue of their rejection of power and luxury. It is a tacit acknowledgment on the part of spiritual poles that the desire for power and luxury is the main driver of war and thus poverty in the international system.
With spiritual health comes spiritual energy, which the Chinese call “Tao.” According to the Chinese, only those who have acquired Tao can change the world. Once Tao is acquired through the acquisition of knowledge and spirituality, one becomes what the Islamic tradition calls “The Universal Man” who is able to resolve the issues of war and poverty that no one else seems to be able to solve.
This prompts a question: is it even humanly possible to become a universal man through the acquisition of knowledge, spiritual energy, and spiritual health and in turn resolve the issues of war and poverty? According to “science”, the answer is no. After all, science cannot explain why some cigarette smokers die of lung cancer and disease while others don’t. All knowledge and information, including scientific knowledge and information, stands on shaky epistemological grounds. Knowledge and information is everything; therefore, everything is an illusion that stands on shaky epistemological grounds.
On the surface, there is no scientific remedy for war and poverty. What is manifested is actually a non-manifestation of ‘Tao” and the absence of global unity, transcendence, and immanence of a truly global leader. As Schopenhauer argued, there are no cures for the world’s ills, but the individual can overcome angst and anguish for themselves by adopting an eastern form of spirituality. Emerson wrote that the Sun will rise from the East. What is bound to occur is what the American historian C. Wright Mills called “turning private problems into public issues.” What Mills called for will probably be undertaken by tomorrow’s leaders.
Nevertheless, the main conclusion of realist theory is that whether the conclusion is reached through inductive or deductive inquiry, it is that there is no scientific remedy for war and poverty unless there is a divinely appointed leader who has attained spiritual energy and health through the acquisition of knowledge and the rejection of luxury and power and in turn is able to resolve the issues of war and poverty. The divine appointment of a leader is what the Chinese call “The Mandate of Heaven.”
Without a mandate from heaven, people in government will continue to counteract one another and cancel each other out, and in turn no progress will be made. These realities led Ernst Kantorowicz, an early 20th century political philosopher and professor at Princeton, to adopt the belief that enlightened monarchy is the only credible and legitimate form of governance. Kantorowicz happened to be a mentor of the famous George Kennan, an American diplomat and strategist who was the author of “containment” during the Cold War. There is an Afghan proverb that proves timely at this point: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man rules all.”