The Fire Next Time

Pope Francis made an intriguing statement a few years ago, when he said: “If no one can be held accountable, then everyone will be held accountable.” As mentioned before, accountability – along with transparency, truth, and justice – are byproducts of generalized and unitive knowledge. In turn, generalized and unitive knowledge are byproducts of philosophy and religious knowledge. And in the end, the philosopher and religious person oversees and manages the global division of labor and the international system, as was suggested by Adam Smith.

            Thus, part of overseeing and managing the global division of labor – and thus the international system, given that the international system is shaped by the global division of labor – is telling the truth. Although truth telling may not sit well with certain people in the system, truth telling is one of the only means available by which the system can function and operate properly. Without truth, nothing can be sustained, and everything will die out. Moreover, there are personal rewards for truth telling, such as psychic income and having what you want in life. Thus, even if no one else steps forward to call for accountability, transparency, truth, and justice, the one who actually steps forward to call for these things with a specific outcome or target in mind will avoid the greater accountability that Pope Francis highlighted.

            Avoiding the greater accountability that Pope Francis highlighted and forewarned us about is the immediate task of people with a conscience, considering all the upheavals and turmoil that have generated from within the international system over the course of the last two decades. First, there were a set of unwarranted wars that did not size up with the “Just War Doctrine” or “Just War Theory,” followed by a global financial crisis which served as the impetus for Donald Trump. Then, all of those things were capped off by a coronavirus that may now evade the immunity provided by vaccines because of the “Omicron” variant that has emerged out of Southern Africa over the past few days.

            Thus, the 21st century began and has continued to be underscored by a set of disasters which have generated a state of chaos and turmoil on a global scale. The first step towards putting a lid on the chaos and turmoil and transitioning towards order and peace is to find the few individuals responsible for this situation who in turn need to face the accountability that Pope Francis had highlighted. Without this accountability, the disasters may continue, and in turn the chaos and turmoil that has generated within the international system over the course of the last two decades may intensify over the course of the next few years and perhaps the next few decades.

            Beyond ideals and virtues such as accountability, transparency, truth, and justice, there is an ideal and virtue that stands above all others: love. As the Franco-Iranian philosopher and scholar Ali Shariati wrote:

“Love is a power, a heat that is not produced by the calories or proteins I ingest. It has an unknowable source and can inflame and melt all of my existence; it even impels me to self-denial. Love grants me values higher and more sublime than expediency; and no physical, material, or biochemical account can comprehend it. If love were taken away from man, he would become an isolated, stagnant being, useful only to the systems of production. He might become an engineer or doctor, but that quality of being a man, that extra-material energy – through which men have made history and have forged the great revolutions – would die within his nature, and that burning would cease.”

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