Blog at International Environment Forum
The Oneness Principle and 4 Other
to Eradicate Extreme Poverty
The first step in meaningfully addressing extreme poverty is a conceptually-sound framing of the question. The end of extreme poverty in our world would signal the culmination of a massive ‘projet de societé’, a transformation of human relationships far more fundamental for mankind’s evolution than that which could be accomplished be an optimal outlay of policies and regulations, even if they were powered by sufficient financial and technical resources. It would take a much broader effort and "buy-in" across the planet than which any enlightened group of development professionals could conjure up. To obtain the desired response, we have to first have the proper ‘ask’. It is not a first person singular question, but rather a second person plural one: What can ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ (in the broadest sense) do to put ourselves on an accelerated poverty eradication trajectory that would not be limited to any specific geopolitical region and/or leave any significant vulnerable group behind.
‘WE THE PEOPLE’ here does not mean just those that are fortunate enough to not have been born into extreme poverty or forcibly dragged into it by natural or man-made disasters. The rural and urban poor cannot be simple objects in this process. There are tremendous untapped resources hidden in those living well below subsistence levels. FPIC aside, the dramatic required shift cannot occur and/or be permanent without harnessing these latent resources. On the opposite end of the wealth scale, the comfortable middle and upper classes must also realize that their immediate and mid-term wellbeing depends on dealing meaningfully with the drivers of poverty that also drive extreme conflict, as well as environmental degradation. Extreme climate change, as well as water and air pollution and resource depletion are all part of the same equation with extreme poverty. For those not engaged in a daily struggle simply to survive, breaking the cycle of extreme poverty must rapidly become as natural and as pressing a priority as ensuring that their own children and grandchildren have what is fundamentally required to grow and develop.
This targeted historic realignment of human priorities has to be the ‘affaire de tous’. The generality of mankind, including its key private and public institutions, must all ‘be in the game’. This historical paradigm shift cannot happen until a critical mass of people of all means and backgrounds gets involved. For example, sub -Saharan Africa is home to a large percentage of the world’s population that lives in extreme poverty. To rapidly reverse the sad legacy of 50 plus years of failed conventional aid in Africa (although the development community is not the only one accountable for these failings) and foster a tidal-wave-like drive to resiliency, there has to be an overwhelming groundswell of concern and action worldwide from all quarters.
So how does mankind move from indifference, alienation/exclusion and conflict to compassion, inclusive governance and reconciliation? The heart of the answer lies with the following key premise. The foundation for building this new, just and caring environment that facilitates the creation of sustainable, sufficient, wealth for every one’s basic needs is the oneness of mankind: that we share the same basic nature, needs and capacities and that we all live on one small planet. This can be referred to as the Oneness Principle. The inception point of the much desired drive to resiliency for all is the moment when a critical mass of individuals in all regions of the world (developed, developing or chronically under-developed) accept this inherent oneness as a key part of the human condition and a self-propelling oneness revolution is thereby spawned. This acceptance of the Oneness Principle is the second fundamental step to getting humanity on the ‘nexus of history’ road to resilience for all. Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie’s song, ‘We are the World’, in response to the 1985 Ethiopian famine, echoes well the Oneness Principle: ‘there is a choice we’re making, we’re saving our own lives!’
For any group to achieve a major, pivotal, goal, it is important first for them to have a good grasp of their inherent capacities, not just those that have already been demonstrated. To reach most new goals, we have to step outside into new territories and use latent skills never used before. For this gigantic world endeavour, we really need to know the upper limits of what is truly humanly possible. If, for example, a group believed that they did not have the potential of going to the moon and back, they would not embark on a very expensive program to build an elaborate spaceship. One could argue that a poor, fragile, community’s journey from desperation to resiliency and self sufficiency is an even greater challenge or step up. It requires the attainment of a level of social cohesion and solidarity within this poor, fragile, community that is often as hard as making it to the moon and back. However, if the dominant belief is that our real inner nature is fundamentally so egotistical that no real, inner-driven, cooperation is possible, then we simply set minimalist goals that are limited usually to conflict avoidance and not conflict resolution and reconciliation. Such low expectations lead usually to even lower results, as witnessed within societies that have and maintain deep, non-reconciled, historical grievances and the related high levels of political violence that comes with them. With this mindset, such a community does not do what it can inherently do, and subconsciously remains trapped within the accustomed pattern of behaviour. These chains of fatalism that are, in large part, due to our inability to grasp human potentialities, have to be broken for mankind to put extreme poverty permanently in the rear view mirror. This is the third key prerequisite/condition for mankind to embark on an accelerated, extreme-poverty-reduction, trajectory.
To help us break out of our collective ignorance on human potentialities, a fourth key step/prerequisite would involve a major shift in world learning curricula and educational systems. Institutions of higher learning around our planet need to develop a better understanding (through sound science) of human potentialities: more precisely, how we are actually hard-wired for compassion and have the inherent ability to go beyond short-sighted pursuit of self interest and actually cooperate at a high level. This reality needs to be determined and effectively woven into world curricula.
The ability to think independently and critically would also be a key learning outcome of new, oneness-focussed, global education systems. Truly critical comprehensive thinking is still the exception and not the rule and grasping the reality of the Oneness Principle requires the ability to think clearly and independently. Social and political science, due to the complexity of human nature and human social systems, tends to struggle to understand and explain human social phenomena coherently. There still is a prevailing tendency in many schools of political science to over emphasize our adversarial nature and heavily discount evidences of cooperation. Our value systems and world views are not as irreconcilable as they are often portrayed in existing curricula (both western/Judeo-Christian and Islamic militant and/or moderate schools of thought). Understanding our ability and urgent need to cooperate does not mean that science does not continue to try to characterize and explain our adversarial and egotistical side. As to the concern that religious extremism presents an insurmountable barrier to the acceptance of our oneness and the need to foster unity in diversity, one needs to reflect on what really drives and allows these extreme views to be propagated. Is it not the scarcity of justice, combined with the ignorance of the Oneness Principle that allows violent ‘us against them’ views to find a sufficient number of adepts to keep the hatred cycle alive? Darkness is not a material reality. It is an absence of light.
This inherent human ability to cooperate must rapidly be harnessed in a world encompassing manner. This is the fifth major requirement. The world has already developed sophisticated infrastructures that support high levels of economic, technological and cultural integration across almost all geopolitical boundaries. This social and technological infrastructure must be further enhanced to work synergistically with the above-mentioned curricula enhancements so to speed ground-up cooperation and assist its universal application, thereby strengthening concerted, harmonized, efforts to accelerate the drive to resiliency for the billion or so people that presently live well below subsistence levels. The intensity of investment and its alignment with a oneness-driven revolution has to measure up to the huge challenge in front of it.
The key to getting the roadmap to complete resiliency and self sufficiency right is to realize, at the outset, that it can only come from a real revolution in ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ thinking, attitudes and motivation. However enlightened the UN General Assembly and/or national governments can become, we must understand that legislative and regulatory framework reforms alone are not sufficient. Without these five, above-mentioned requirements being met, it will be a rough and tumble, unsustainable, ‘business as usual’ ride. The proposed project scenario here is not a utopia, but the baseline is.
Yogi Berra, the Yankee baseball player who had only a primary school education, once wisely summed it up: “If you don’t know where you are going, you probably won’t get there”. We have no choice but to travel the route of the 5 steps described in this essay if we ever hope to eradicate extreme poverty and everything else in that difficult equation, which would mean nothing less than the emergence of humanity from a prolonged period of adolescence.
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Last updated 26 May 2014