Power and Solidarity
Before I start, I would have to say this is one of the more challenging topics I am attempting to tackle and write about. With only cursory information on world politics and world economics, and with a handful of books I’ve read about public leaders and novelists like Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Benazir Bhutto, Hillary Clinton, Indira Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau, Al Gore, along with my experience as a full-time organizer working for 2.5 months at the Bay Area/Berkeley Chapter of the Committee for South Africa Solidarity , and with a solid mathematical understanding of market economics and a basic legal understanding of our constitution and policy-decision and management, I am attempting to put forth an agenda and vision from a philosophical basis on how powerful and smaller nations alike should think about negotiating global and domestic affairs in relation to the greater good and benefit towards humanity.
Like many in the world, I am a religious person with a humanist outlook. While I cannot prove the meta-physical aspects of the religion I believe in and come from, Jainism, I believe the system of morality that this religion describes has suited me well in my journey to reconcile the better and worse aspects of our world in a unified scope of understanding and acceptance. I also am deeply and greatly inspired by the legacy the proponents and profounders of this religion have left behind, namely Mahavira, and by extension and similarity, the Buddha. At some point, as I have done in my most previous writing piece, ‘Walk with Me’, I will continue to explore more deeply the details of this legacy and what it has meant to me and what it has potentially meant to the world from a historical and progressive politics perspective.
In this post, however, as I’ve described in the first paragraph, I want to dive more deeply into the modern makings of our global society, and the philosophical aspects of our foundational motivations when we come to the table to make decisions regarding our future, both personally and publicly. In this case ‘publicly’ does not just mean politically; it also can imply decisions in one’s work or business life — any choice that involves the public display and impact of a decision one takes.
A fine place to start is with Martin Luther King’s famous splicing of the world into the forces of love and the forces of power. King argues that these two forces have always existed, and historically, during times of great reforms in civil, economic, and political justice these two forces have worked together and in symbiosis, and in times of great peril, warfare, hunger, poverty, and civil, economic, and political chaos, these forces have occupied two poles of close distance but opposite attraction. King goes on to famously say, in reference to the periods where love and power worked in symbiosis to increase the arch of human value and human justice, that, “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”
King warns about the impacts of isolating these forces on their own: he stated that at its core power was unconscious and brutal, its only purpose to move and transform energy; he also stated that at its core love was intangible and anemic — love required a life force, namely power, to channel its energy into productive action, gains, and outcomes.
The problem, King argues, is that these two forces often have a difficult time understanding one another. The weight of power cannot be consumed by love, and the appeal of love cannot the satiate the needs and desires of power. An individual who is rich does not run for individual dollars, but an individual who is poor crawls even for individual pennies, for in his or her respective country, even pennies can change outcomes. King was a relationist and a moral relativist: he always wanted us to see the other side of the world, of the country, of the globe, of the coin. In his touching piece, “The Other America”, he describes exactly this: what we, as middle class and upper class Americans, may miss on a day-to-day basis — the suffering, the poverty, the ignorance and hate that exists even in our world-class country.
Politically, King focused his work around civil justice, but internationally, King focused on becoming a champion for all basic rights, human, civil, political, economical. King, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, believed that perspective building was a powerful agent and helper in bridging the gap in understanding between love and power, and in connecting the two forces to a more common agenda. King himself built great perspective: he visited India in his earlier years and incorporated much of Mahatma Gandhi’s work and philosophy into his own civil work in America; in his college years, he was inspired by philosophers and essayists white and black alike, individuals like Henry David Thoreau and his professors during his time at Morehouse college and during his theocratic post-graduate studies. King also built political perspective — he studied Marxism, Socialism, and Capitalism and came to the conclusion that the most effective societies balance the needs of both the individual and collective. King, eventually becoming a rich and well-known individual, focused his life’s work on helping and championing the poor and suppressed classes in America.
In this great struggle, in this great debate, between two unbending forces, namely the forces of love and power, comes a great opportunity : an opportunity for cooperation, an opportunity for understanding, an opportunity for nations and individuals alike; an opportunity for solidarity. The prescription I follow with is applicable to three categories of nations: the wealthy and powerful countries, the countries that occupy the “middle class” of wealth and power, and the poor and underdeveloped countries.
1)Wealthy and Powerful Countries
On a scale of power, these countries lie in the top 10–15 %. Countries like the United States, China, India, Germany, Western Europe, Russia.
These nations, due to their enormous amount of power, are the primary arbiters of world and global affairs. Their decisions affect millions and billions of lives. Therefore, they must be extremely careful in all actions and decisions they take that will affect lives. One of the key aspects of leadership, I believe, that the leaders, representatives and common people of these countries need to cultivate is an empathy and concern for the poor, suppressed, and suffering. These nations too often can turn a blind eye to the critical needs of the large masses of the world and of large masses within their own countries, simply because the political structure of democratic capitalism at its core does not provide any protections for those that genuinely struggle within the system or sanctions against those that benefit within the system. Of course, many constitutions that apply this structure do by the will of their congress provide such sanctions and protections. But these sanctions and protections are also maintained by the congress, and in times of corruption, pollution and corrosion of greedy elements within the governmental structure, these protections can be broken and undermined. We see this kind of behavior and pattern occurring in some of the largest and most powerful countries on this planet, including the United States, China, Russia, and India. Common people should never be mistaken that they are disempowered to take action, even in the midst of corrupt elements in the representative and congressional society — democratic structures, at some basic level, always allow for the common people and individuals to share their voice and pursue their goals in helping their local and larger communities.
2) Middle class countries
On a scale of power, these countries lie in the mid 30–40%. Countries like South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Argentina.
Countries in this category have a greater power and purpose in shaping the forces of this world: neither are they too powerful to get constantly scolded by the international conglomerate, nor are they too under-resourced that would otherwise prevent basic functioning of their governments and societies. Some countries in this category, like South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, and Argentina are doing their bests to use this power for good : countries like these have become independent centers for innovation, growth, business development, and political solidarity. Mexico, while in many parts is still ridden by corruption and cartels, and Argentina in their big and major cities have become major centers for trade, business development, and international meetings. South Africa has strong hopes and goals to build political and economic solidarity not only with powerful countries like the United States, but also within its own continent through the African Union ( AU ) by appealing to a cultural tie across the many diverse African communities. The South African government hopes to celebrate these diversities as opportunities for cooperation and unity, rather than reasons to create conflict and strife, as we have often seen in the greater part of the 20th century into the 21st century.
Countries like Saudi Arabia, conversely, have seemed to be using this middle power to push their own agenda onto the world, while neglecting the responsibility and necessity to develop its own domestic structure with regards to progressive political and economic policies. While their has been progress, the legacy of the country since the discovery of its abundant oil-rich resources, through biased channels like the organization of OPEC, has been marked by a tendency to perpetuate the exploitation of natural resources for the unfair economic gain of only a minority wealthy class of its country, while keeping the rest of the country socially and economically behind, especially in regards to women’s livelihood and women’s rights.
On a scale of power, these countries lie in the bottom 60–45%. Countries like the Congo, Bangladesh, some Eastern European countries, Greece, Zimbabwe, North Korea.
These countries need to focus on finding all possible ways to engage in political and economic solidarity with wealthy and more powerful nations, including the middle class nations. These countries cannot afford to have internal strife block their engagement with the outside world. Isolation is the true killer in regions like these : these countries too often isolate themselves into negative and mistrustful thinking of the outside world — this causes cultural and tribal biases to encourage a fallback to more primitive ways of thinking about society and solutions to the real needs of these societies. Countless societies have predicted armageddon to have doomed the world many years before our current date, yet we still live and breathe. Countries in this category need to understand the importance of being scientifically and morally driven in order to increase the chances of their society to be competitive in the modern world. Psychologists, scientists, activists, humanists, need to frequently visit these parts of the world, of course when it is safe to do so. Education is a key foundational tenet to bring these societies into the modern world. Wealthy countries have to bring individuals from the young generation and youth of these countries into exchange programs where these individuals can be exposed to highly functioning societies and democracies — they need to be able to study at world-class universities to bring back modern knowledge, motivation, innovation and action to their respective societies.