PUCL Bulletin, March 2004

A charter for this planet

-- By P.B. Sawant (Former judge, Supreme Court of India)
Pune, 25 December, 2003

When the political philosopher said that the man is born in chains, he had probably two kinds of chains in mind - the natural and social. The natural chains are created by the natural environment in which the man is born, while the social chains are clamped on him by the society in which he is born. Both the chains are the result of the accident of birth, and fasten to him from his birth. He does not choose them, as indeed he cannot choose his parents.

The region, the physical features, the colour of the skin, the family, the language, the class or the strata of the society, the race, the religion, the caste and even the sex are pre-determined for him or her. These are compulsory accoutrements of the individual foisted on him by his birth. They are not acquired traits or attributes. There is, therefore, no need either to be proud of them or to be ashamed of them, or despise others for what they are. If one were born as the others did, one would have had the same traits.

The man’s problems differ, depending on the natural and social environs in which he is born. The problems of the individual born in the cold climate differ from those of the one born in the hot climate. The one born in an affluent family and the one born in the poor family have different problems. The man and woman face different situations. As also different regions blessed with different kinds and quantities of natural resources different races, castes, and religions pose different problems to the individual.

The different kinds and levels of social, political, economic, educational, and cultural development of the different societies also create different living conditions for the growth of the man. The social conditions may also differ in the same society from time to time presenting different problems at different times. The simple life of the past had few problems for the man, compared to the so called advanced life of the present. The so called primitive and modern societies present the same contrasts.

But with all the differences in the problems of man in different parts of the world on account of the local natural and social conditions, there have always been some common problems facing the mankind as a whole. These problems are created either by natural or man made disasters. In fact, some natural disasters are also the result of man’s activities. While the advances in science and technology are enabling the man to prevent, or cope with some of the natural disasters, it would appear that the man has been using the same advances to create disasters for himself.

The problems faced by the man today are six- fold, if not more.
(i) To prevent and/or cope with the natural disasters;
(ii) To prevent man made disasters;
(iii) To enable every individual wherever he/she may be inhabiting, to live with comfort and dignity and with safety and security;
(iv) To create national and international social order based on equity, justice, unity, equality and non-discrimination;
(v) To promote humanism, rationalism, scientific temper and spirit of enquiry and to discourage fundamentalism, blind faith and superstition;
(vi) To promote and preserve natural resources and to prevent pollution and ecological imbalance.

The man has to harness science and technology to prevent the emergence and spread of viruses, diseases, pests and plagues and to cope with storms and cyclones, tornados, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, droughts, famines, and forest fires. These disasters so far as they are the results of the law of the nature, have as yet eluded solution, and though the man has landed on Moon and is planning to land on and habitate Mars, is as yet unable to prevent them. He has yet to make many strides in his quest for their solution. Unfortunately, instead of devoting his resources to prevent these disasters, not only he is diverting them for destructive purposes, but also for creating more and more disasters.

Some of the above disasters are directly attributable to the man’s activities on this planet. The spread of deadly diseases and viruses like Cancer, AIDS, Tuberculosis and Plague are on account of the consumption of unhealthy products and the pursuit of hedonism; while floods, droughts and famines are caused also by the deforestation and erosion of soil by man.

The wars, the production of nuclear, biological, chemical and germ weapons and their use in the wars; the building of unsafe atomic plants and their leakages: and the production of dangerous drugs and products, noxious gases and chemicals are directly responsible for the annihilation and permanent maiming of millions of people, for the health hazards and the creation and spread of deadly diseases, the green house effect, the reduction of oxygen, the thinning of the ozone layer and the widening of the hole in it, the deforestation and the loss of green coverage, the destruction of the non- renewable resources and for the ecological imbalance, the erosion of soil and the pollution of air, water and soil; for the acid rain, the scarcity of rainfall, the depletion of the water level, the water famine and for the emergence of the new viruses and diseases. The list is ever increasing.

(8) The single most fact responsible for all the man made disasters is the economic order which keeps profits above the people and encourages consumption, acquisition and competition. This in turn leads to the loot of the natural resources, the colonization of the weak nations by the powerful, the armament race and wars, their concentration of the pelf and the power in fewer and fewer hands, the social and economic inequalities, unemployment, crime and violence, corruption and criminalisation of public life, and the consequent degradation of the human being.

(9) The need is to organise the economy of the individual nations, and the international economic order on a rational basis abandoning the present capitalist mode of production, the free market economy and the unbridled competition, acquisition and consumption. There is also an urgent need to ban wars and the manufacture of the weapons of mass destruction as well as of the dangerous drugs and products. The production, possession and the use of such arms and products should be made a criminal offence by the international law, and all those directly and indirectly responsible for the same, should be prosecuted and punished.

(10) Every man and woman has an inalienable inherent right to live with dignity which should be the ultimate aim of any civilization worth its name. Unless all the basic human rights, namely, the minimum economic and civil rights are assured to the individual, it is not possible for him or her to live with dignity. The resources of each society have therefore to be harnessed, first to satisfy these basic needs of all the individuals, and if any nation is short of such resources, it has to be aided by supplementing them from the resources of those nations who have then in excess. It has to be remembered in this connection, that the resources created by the mother nature wherever situated, belong to the human race as a whole. The political barriers and therefore the nation-states, are the artificial creation of man .The resources cannot be appropriated by a section of the mankind accidentally inheriting the particular region, and denied to others. Being the property of the entire mankind, they have to be equitably shared and utilized by all.

(11) For this purpose, there has to be a control both over the size of the population and also on the nature and quantum of consumption, in all the nations. As yet, no reliable estimates have been made of the sustainable population of the earth and its capacity to develop further resources, or of the extent to which the consumption level may be raised. However, there is an urgent need to do so.

(12) The above measures can be taken only if, each country as well as the world as a whole, has an equitable and rational economic and social order based on equity and justice. The need therefore is, as stated earlier, to organise economies everywhere on a rational basis by discarding the present capitalist economy which keeps profits, rather than the man, at the centre stage. Once the economy is organised on the non-exploitative, people oriented and just and equitable basis, it will pave way for an international order based on peace, fraternity, justice, equality, and non-discrimination. Such a social order alone will guarantee dignity, security and safety for the man.

(13) The hot and the cold conflicts between man and man on account of the differences in region, religion, race, language, and caste have their origin in the irrational, unscientific, and narrow minded adherence to the respective differences. As has been pointed out at the out set, the race, religion etc are the accidents of birth, and hence it is unwise to owe one’s loyalty to them at the cost of humanism. The human traits are the only natural and real attributes of a human being and they are the same in all humans. There is therefore a natural bond of fraternity in the entire mankind. But the artificial bonds imposed upon the individual on account of the political, racial, religious differences, by the interested forces, have not only kept the mankind divided for centuries, but have also taken the toll of humanity without any gain to the people anywhere, who have served only as the fodder, for the battles of the selfish interests of some. It is therefore necessary to spread the philosophy of humanism, which being rational, humane and beneficial, will alone end the conflicts in the human race, and lead to the permanent peace.

The concept of one world, one human family and universal brotherhood will be realized only through the spread of such philosophy. It will also help us to realize the goal of the just and equitable world social order and of the world Government. It has also to be brought home to the people every where, and as has now been proved also by the science, that the genes of all the human beings whether black, brown, yellow or white are similar. Their external features, whether it is the colour of the skin or the shape of the body, vary because of the climatic condition. The blood, the flesh, the functioning of the body, the intelligence, the feelings and emotions, the motivations, the reactions to the events, of all humans are the same everywhere. In short, it is necessary to impress upon everyone the oneness of the human beings in all respects, and also to expose the games of those who are out to divide them, for their selfish interests.

(14) The question still remains as to why people fall a easy prey to the appeals based on race, religion, region, language, and caste. It will appear that each of them becomes a part of the individual’s life, so much so that it becomes a mark of his/her identity. Apart from the characteristics of the collective to which the individual belongs, they become the ingrained specifically of the individual. An attack of any of them is equated by the individual as an attack on his/her right to live with dignity. To unite the humanity, it is neither necessary nor advisable, to destroy or attempt to destroy the exclusive marks of the identities of the different social groups. Nor is it possible to do so. The unity can be achieved without eliminating the diversities, and may be achieved more easily and securely, if the various social groups are assured that their individual identities will not be threatened. The way to force the unity is to unite the human race for common causes, on a common platform and with a common agenda and programme. The social integration of the different groups without shedding their individual identities is possible and should be attempted, seriously.

(15) Two precautions will however, have to be taken, if the human unity is to be achieved permanently. The first is, no social group should try to denigrate, and assert its superiority over others. In fact, the denigration of others should be legally banned. One may glorify one’s attributes sky-high, but while doing so, there is no need to condemn others. The conflicts breed precisely because one tries to assert one’s superiority over others, belittling them. The second precaution that has to be taken is to discourage the practice of excluding others by treating them as strangers. It is another form of denigration of others though in a subtle form. On the other hand, the individuals belonging to different social groups should be encouraged to come together and the social intercourse should be facilitated. The exclusivism is more observed in the minority groups in each country. It is a psychological defensive mechanism. They are afraid of losing their exclusive identity with the encroachment of the majority on their social space. That is understandable. The majorities in one country are the minorities in another and react there in the same fashion. The majorities in each country should appreciate this phenomenon in a humane manner and respond to it accordingly. The rationalism and humanism lie in understanding the social phenomenon pragmatically and not reacting to it aggressively and adversely.

(16) In addition to the above steps that have to be taken to bring about the social integration without the loss or the fear of the loss of the identity, the other measures such as common housing, common gatherings, common feasts, festivals and celebrations etc. have also to be encouraged as steps towards the long term unity.

(17) The purpose of all the steps that we take to bring about the unity should be to unite the humanity on the basis of their common traits, to promote common causes and to meet the common threats by stressing the common bondage and the common destiny. For this purpose, the accidental attributes whether of race or religion, caste or language should be consigned to the places where they belong viz. the homes, the places of worship, and the gatherings of the respective communities. They should not be permitted to enter or interfere with any domain of the national or international life - social or political.

(18) The obligation on each of the generations of the humanity to make use of the natural resources to the minimum, and preserve the rest, for the generations to come, need not be over emphasized. The resources created by the mother-nature are for all generations to come; they are not meant for any particular generation. Every generation has therefore to use them only to the extent necessary to live with reasonable comfort. The happiness which is ultimately what the Man seeks, does not lie in unlimited consumption. It lies in the enjoyment of what one consumes. The consumption must enable a person to be more of himself as a human. To be more of a human rather than to consume or posses more should be the goal of a human being. In the pursuit of consumption and acquisition the man forgets himself and his creativity. In fact, he has no time to be himself, and to create, and contribute, either to his family or to the society. He becomes a machine and ceases to be a human. Simple living and high thinking was the message given to us by our ancient seers and sages. It meant exactly the same thing. Consume the minimum necessary, and create the maximum possible. The humanism of the human being lies in creation and not in consumption. One consumes to create, and not to destroy either himself or others.

(19) But the consumerism which is being promoted by the present economic system by encouraging acquisition and competition, is doing exactly the opposite viz. the destructive work. It is not only destroying the nature, but also the man himself. It is also for saving the man for and from himself, that the present economic order has to be replaced by a sane, humanist, rational order. The need for an egalitarian social order is therefore, not only to end the present exploitative, destructive, capitalist economy, but also to enable the human race to survive as humans.

(20) It is not possible to realize these goals and solve the present problems confronting the mankind without the management of this planet by a central authority organised and operated on the democratic lines and backed by the requisite force to implement its decisions against the big and small recalcitrant nations. The U.N.O. with all its laudable objectives has failed to deliver the goods precisely because it is neither organized for the policy making and for implementing the decisions on the democratic basis, nor is it backed by the necessary force. The result is, even the decisions to make war and peace are taken unilaterally by the powerful nations and the U.N. finds itself helpless. The old order therefore continues in new forms, but with more disastrous consequences to the mankind, with more destructive means at the disposal of the defying nations.

(21) Unless we soon organise and operate a World body constituted and functioning on the democratic principles and dedicated to promote welfare and happiness of all human beings and opposed to all kinds of destructive activities, it may be too late to save this planet from being converted into a desert.


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