Way Forward II

Living Intelligently

Living IntelligentlyI expect to pass through life but once. If there be any kindness I show, let me do it now, as I shall not pass this way again.”  William Penn (1644–1718).

Trees bear fruit for the sake of others, rivers flow for the sake of others, cows produce milk for others. This body is (only) for doing good to others.” Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, South India.

In studying the perennial philosophy of human evolution, we become so amazed as to the important and unique trait or endowment or ability that separates the humans from all other beings. This is called “freedom of choice”. Human beings are the only choice makers in most departments of life – within the broad extremes of both positive and life enriching, or negative or destructive.

It is a fact that while living, we need to relate to the world; there is no choice. But, there is choice for a human beings in what we decide to choose, e.g. living intelligently or otherwise. This choice business also includes some “no choice” situations, like one has no choice in deciding to breathe or not, if one wants to live.

Also, we can reasonably visualize the state of the world if every living being, not just the humans, has been endowed with the freedom of choice. It will be a big mess and we will have a world packed with fighting beings – not just humans but every other living beings fighting in regard to choice of space to occupy, food, clothing, cars, TV, color, games to watch, etc . etc.!

Fortunately, nature has done a wonderful engineering in that all other living beings arrive on this planet “pre-programmed” to live and function and finally disappear in a natural order. Even when we see some kind of apparent dichotomy or “disorder” in relating to those other beings or in knowing their roles in the scheme of things on the earth elements, we soon realize the inevitable matrix of our eco-system and see a definite kind of “order” even in what we initially perceived as “disorder”.

As the world moves into the second decade of the 21st century, our lives are confronted by three key problems or challenges: spread of terrorism that respects no life’s values; right management of global economy; and safe-guarding the environment; all of which seem connected with and also causes for human greed.

As one thinks deeply about these three key challenges, it becomes clear as well that all are inter-related and to an extent inter-dependent. Though initially the terrorism was looked upon from the religious-ideology angle, funded and weaponized by money-bag fundamentalist groups and regimes, a deeper reason for this scourge points to other fundamental socio-economic-political issues like economic disparities, widespread inequity, closed mindset and lack of choices in life. It is indeed a state of absence of our living intelligently and without knowing the purpose of life.

Keys to Intelligent Living

For me, the two important keys to intelligent living are: health and education, the rest of the infrastructure requirements – social, economic and geo-political – are only supportive elements of life on earth for its forward evolution. Health and education are the real sources of power to understand life’s meaning, engine of growth and potential for intelligent living.

These two essential factors lay the foundation of a civilized community that promotes sharing common values, concerns, goals and being in existential and creative interaction. Such a living will have the power to transform the stranger into someone known as neighbor; the so called rival into partner; making unaccepted situations into something acceptable or tolerable.

No wonder, these two elements form the crux of the universal human rights and the attainment of these rights will become springboard of empowerment, development, progress, wealth creation and general wellbeing everywhere.

Let our youth and younger generation understand the importance of functioning properly both physically and mentally, and more so, emotionally as well. Unhealthy habits and stressful working and living conditions can affect our health, as well as our ability to remain productive and useful in a civilized society.

The importance of education is basically due to two reasons. The first is that the training of a human mind is not complete without education. Education makes a human being a right thinker. It tells him/her how to think and how to make decision in relation with the world outside.

The second important reason for education is that only through our learning can we become enabled to receive information from the external world; to acquaint with past history and receive information regarding the present, and finally to appreciate the situation in the proper context. Without education, man is just a closed room in an island; with education, he finds himself in a place in life with all its windows open towards outside world.

Health and education can flourish in an enabling environment of trust between the giver and given on the one side, and the user and beneficiary on the other.

Developing Trust and Trust-Worthiness

If one were to describe trust, I cannot think of anyone other than a new born baby or a very young child who clings to mother in “total trust”. Of course, that trust is seen to be born of its helplessness and lack of resources to survive on its own. Even so, the child exhibits the power of its relationship to make his/her mother totally “trust-worthy”. However, as things develop and the child finds inconsistencies in the relationship with mother having so many other priorities and preoccupations, the child feels deprived and the erosion of trust begins. With the erosion of trust, sense of insecurity grows.

Does this make me think of the state of affairs comparable to our United Nations born with great hopes and trust, grew with unending challenges and now, faced with its need to re-discover itself in order to tackle the three main challenges of the present day world as mentioned earlier: (1) terrorism in its global dimension; (2) systemic problems out of the global economic and financial crisis of 2008/2009; and (3) still unknown, still largely un-understood and under-appreciated global environmental challenges resulting primarily from human greed and human un-intelligent life styles over time in the name of progress and modernity.

None of these challenges are going to go away without human efforts, including our restraints. Thus, for a re-discovered and “reformed” UN to become the true captain leading these endeavors, the key building blocks are its staff – intelligent staff in all portals and departments who are totally trust-worthy and committed to the standards of conduct and behavior of international civil service. It is a fact of life that such a commitment does not come without an enabling environment fully alive and vibrant with human dignity, equity, fairness and justice. A simple litmus test to find if such an environment exists is to see if the internal justice system works, how it functions and what happens to its decisions, orders and judgments. Right now, no one seems to know beyond what is put out in the incomplete, unimpressive and malnourished website: www.un.org/en/internaljustice.

Assimilation of Values

Anyone who had a chance to visit the colorful UN website on the “Rule of Law” is immediately stuck by the range of topics and world behaviors deemed essential to make this earth a truly a place of sanity and hope for all its inhabitants – humans and others too. Yet, out in the world theater, there are unending conflicts resulting from all kinds of outward differences – religious, ideologies, cultural variations, ethnicities, political dogmas, sex, color, creed, etc etc. The greatest democracy in the world – USA – betrays its open callous cynicism and misguided anger even when good things (e.g. health care reform outreach) are being done by a committed and intelligent President; just because of the color of his skin is not white.

The reason for such unending conflicts among us is the absence or lack of proper assimilation of values that look wonderful on paper and good to keep on library shelves. The value of a value is to be understood in order not to cause conflict – basically such conflicts arise out of our likes and dislikes and our own sense of self-fulfilling prophesies.

To live life well in the physical dimension, one must incorporate regular physical exercise into one’s life style; take care of one’s diet and food intake; get an adequate amount of sleep and rest; and lead a balanced life style, including our ability to welcome and manage anger. This is the ability to enjoy inner space to have a two-step response in our relationship with the world – accept the situation as it presents and do the inner engineering efficiently before coming up with the right response.

Most of the problems in our relating to the world come out of certain lack (it could be lack of understanding, lack of appreciation, lack of knowledge, etc. etc.), but as it gets manifested it is mostly a result of inner anger and inner deprivation. The solution to this unwelcome and unanticipated “anger” cannot be my resolve that I am NOT going to get angry anymore. This wouldn’t work, because anger does not arise or come with invitation or with prior warning. It just comes most unexpectedly and often without any warning.

We also know that the final result of any anger would not be wholesome even though one may have gained some advantages for the time being. But there is no guarantee that anger will solve all problems all the time.

There should be another intelligent way of handling “anger”; it can be an attitude to welcome “anger” if it arrives, but with a studied determination that I will not victimize anyone because of this anger, including myself. We may call this a two-step-response.

First step is to observe the situation and receive the inputs without any pre-judgment and without any impulsive reaction. Use the space of self awareness and the time between the input and your response to understand the subject in objective manner. This ability to understanding is a learned behavior that can be developed from young age and provides you with the empowerment to know your role in a given situation and your ability to “play” the relevant role responsibly.

When one looks back on the failure of COP15 (Copenhagen Climate Summit of 2009), it is a clear case of actions and impulsive reactions all the time in a very large theater of theatrics. There has been a total self-non-acceptability, more of one-upmanship and a total dis-harmony of ideas in action. The real purpose of their coming together in “Hopenhagen” was forgotten; all these world leaders came, sat and talked as if they came from different worlds of their own; there have been no change in the behaviors whether they were scientists, specialists, climatologists, diplomats of G20s, Group 77 or Group 80, all shapes and sizes of NGOs, developed, developing and emerging economies, et al.

The only “achievement”, if any, could be that these countries and divergent groups came to the COP15 at all. Of course they all came with their only agenda of self-interest, with no inner space for self-awareness and accommodation to make the only planet earth as inclusive as the place for every being and meant to be caring and sharing.

The COP15 debacle should be an eye opener for the UN to realize that in spite of its age it still lacks emotional maturity, lacks trust-worthiness and falls behind in the intelligent parenting of its member States.

What can the UN do to change its image?

First, the UN should internalize the reality that it represents a world full of diversities, disparities, inequalities, different thinking, orientation, ideologies, etc. etc. And, YET, the survival and sustainability of all these different groups depend only on one factor – a safe planet earth and its endowments of natural elements. Nature and its elements always maintain a sustainable natural “order” and it needs friendly understanding and appreciation of people who came to live with it and in it.

The solution is for the main body of the UN – especially its Security Council – should obviate its lop-sided representation of global interests with its veto powers, and should truly represent the vast diverse humanity as equal partners and demonstrate true understanding of this planet and responsibility for its sustenance and maintenance.

Second, having succeeded in its formative years to describe its key objectives in the form of UN Charter and then the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its continued failure to translate those great principles into actionable programs and projects remains the biggest failure and drag in the UN system.

For example, even after 60+ years, the newly reformed internal justice system is still to prove its mettle. Despite intelligent and independent judges, the system is bound to face formidable challenges because of its functioning under the established and corrupt hierarchical over-lordship, with all the support system including financial and other resources coming out of the same inept bureaucracy.

Again, the UNDT and UNAT decisions, orders and judgments are still to be implemented by the same bureaucracy and the judges have no independent power to enforce their orders, decisions or judgments. With victims of the system – staff and retirees at large – unable to seek remedies outside of the system (thanks to all conventions and immunities of UN bureaucracy), the international civil service could turn out to be a form of loyal service to a disloyal organization. If this big lacuna is not removed immediately the whole justice edifice will likely be ineffective and buried alive.

Finally, in the writer’s opinion, the assimilation of values is not yet complete. Allowing it to remain as such will only result in serious indigestion problems that can develop into malignant ulcers and carcinogenic cells that may prove fatal.

Can we hope that there are people in the UN leadership who listen intelligently and want to live intelligently?!

V. Muthuswami, Chennai, south India.
Joint Appellant of the Common Cause Appeal # UNAT 2009-001.

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