Whitford, Philip; Whitford, Kathryn (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume 74 (1986)
Technology, institutions, global economy and world peace, pp. 14-18 PDF (2.6 MB)
18 Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters [Vol. 74 nations today must see their own policies in a similar light: it is not a question of whether their policies should serve their own national purposes, that must be taken for granted. But the real question is whether national policies also advance, or at least do not conflict with, the broader international public purposes. In our increasingly interdependent world, self interest must be reevaluated constantly. Following a course of narrow self interest, whether at the individual level or that of the nation state can be self defeating and destructive. We must learn to extend our sense of community to peoples in far away places with customs and beliefs quite different from our own. Extending and identifying our self-interest within ever-widening contexts is a basic ingredient of human history. For most people the nation state was the latest of these extensions. But these urgent global issues now require that we extend our empathy to other people around the world. Achieving this is the fundamental role of new institutions. This, of course, requires a positive effort on all our parts to understand other peoples and their cultures, their languages, their history and their aspirations. We are born into a world of going concerns and established institutions. We essentially inherit a system and take its governing institutions pretty much for granted. Most of us do not get involved in creating new institutions. At best we help to reshape the ones we inherited, and then usually only marginally. Creating new transnational institutions to deal with truly global issues, whose rules and procedures provide mutual benefits and mutual restraints for the weak as well as for the powerful will be an immense task. We must not underestimate the difficulties involved. But neither can we withdraw and fail to address these issues—in our schools, at our universities, in political debates. It does, perhaps, call for a new type of citizenship, where the responsibilities of citizenship are defined in a broader context. We must be ever conscious not only of the lives and the needs of other humans on this space ship earth—this global village. We must also be increasingly sensitive to the protection of the natural systems which sustain us. In closing, I should like to quote from a 1922 book by L. P. Jacks entitled Constructive Citizenship. We human beings are apt to think our race the only object in creation that really matters. We have developed a kind of class-consciousness in presence of the universe. The human race is all-important in its own eyes: nature is there to be ruled by us; her forces are meant to turn our wheels; her materials to be exploited for our enrichment; her laws to provide for our comfort; and the very stars in their courses must be yoked to our wagons. We have still to learn that the human race is tolerated in the universe only on strict conditions of good behavior. If we neglect our citizenship there, or think that we can play fast and loose with the laws that are written there, laws that were not voted into existence by us, those other citizenships will come to grief. This human class-consciousness in presence of the rest of the universe is not a good thing. It is a dangerous thing. Unless we bear that in mind, our study of the rights and duties of the citizen is not worthwhile (Jacks, 1922). REFERENCES Cleveland, Harlan (1985), "The Passing of Remoteness," HHH Institute Newsletter, University of Minnesota, May, Volume 8, No. 1. Commons, John R. (1924). Legal Foundations of Capitalism, MacMillin Company (republished in 1957 by University of Wisconsin Press). Jacks, L. P. (1922). Constructive Citizenship, London: Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd. Schuh, G. Edward (1985). "The International Capital Market as a Source of Instability in International Commodity Markets," paper given at the XIX International Conference of Agricultural Economists, August 26-September 4, 1985, Malaga Spain. Wilson, Thomas W. Jr. (1985). "The Global Environment and The Quest for Peace: A Revolution In The Scale of Things," Social Education, March.
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