Manifesto for a world state | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 18, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 18, 2008

Manifesto for a world state

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THE World House by Dr. Martin Luther King can be called the manifesto of a world state movement, which is now achieving more momentum, and converting more people to the idea, day by day. This gathering pace of the movement is due to the current disorder of the world led by the US hegemony and absence of an alternative solution. The idea of world state of course is not so new. However, now it has become urgent in the surge of globalisation, which is discriminately tilted to one side.
Globalisation has become the globalisation of the goods, trade and investment of the rich world, making the poor more destitute. Why not globalisation of cheap labour of the poor nations, which they have in abundance? Why are passports and state borders needed, when you know full well against whom these work, if you are so fond of open market and globalisation?
Hypocrisy lies in the rich world's passion for the privileges of nation states and for breaking through the doors of the poor with the open market sledgehammer. The ugliest face of nationalism was seen in the rise of Nazi Germany, though it has, at the same time, been a powerful weapon for third world countries in breaking free of the imperialist shackles throughout the twentieth century. As a weapon, it is still very useful as long as rich states keep their fences in place while tearing away the poor ones' into pieces.
Many in the past ventured to form a world government. Islam, since its inception, has had a vision of bringing the world into a single order, its prophet being a person who dreamt of building a world state, as Jawaharlal Nehru admiringly mentions in his Glimpses of History.
Again, Karl Marx and Engels's view of a non-state world coincides with the view of an earth with one government. After the Second World War, the United Nations was formed to set up a new order in international relations so that conflicts and wars could be replaced by conciliation and peace.
But it has strayed far away from that early dream of world leaders. The impotence of the United Nations was conspicuous in its failure to prevent the American attack against Iraq.
Dr. Martin Luther King cast this age-old thought into a concrete philosophical shape in his essay that begins: "Some years ago a famous novelist died." Among his papers was found a list of suggested plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: "A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together."
This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a large house, a great "world house" in which we have to live together -- black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu -- a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live in peace with each other.
The thought germinated during his Nobel Peace Prize lecture in 1964. King later wrote a book – Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?-- that was published in 1967, which included this lecture in illustrated form in the chapter "The World House."
In it he says: "Together we must learn to live as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools … There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it … The poor in our countries have been shut out of our minds, and driven from the mainstream of our societies, because we have allowed them to become invisible."
The essay concludes with this prophetic warning: "Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilisations are written the pathetic words: 'Too late.' There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. 'The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on … ' We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. This may well be mankind's last chance to choose between chaos and community."
Since King's essay, many books and articles and several manifestos have been written for a world state. However, King's is short, eloquent, broad-visioned, passionate, unbiased and more convincing. But the idea of such a movement is still confined within a small part of intelligentsia, with most of them, naturally, of the west.
The idea has yet not seeped into the mass level, without whose support success is a far cry. Again, the movement for a world state is not a monolith, rather it is full of various contradictory designs and aspirations, which is natural too.
One type of visionary wants to shape the world within the cloak of American domination. There are others who want to form a world where every nation, race and individual will live with all their rights admitted by others, and grow to their full potential without hindrance from outside.
Carrying out movements and strengthening them in the light of King's vision for a world state is an urgent need in the present world if we do want to live together in harmony, and not want to annihilate ourselves in the chaos that is all around us nowadays.
It is high time mankind threw away the hegemonic nationalism and nation states into the dustbin of history, and went forward towards a new horizon of a democratic world state. The road, of course, is too bumpy to stay on course, yet there is no other better alternative to it.

Alamgir Khan is Program Officer, Other Vision Communication, a media organisation.

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