Picture a soccer game with 22 players and no referee. I’m not talking about the lazy Saturday afternoon kick-about with a bunch of friends and bags in place of goals — I’m talking highly-competitive, international football. How exactly would that work out we may ask ourselves?
Now picture this scenario: we have one young player on the team, going by the name of Zim, who has been committing fouls persistently throughout the game (in full view of everyone). This carries on for a while, everyone sees it but feels powerless to do anything because, well, none of them are referees, nor do they consider it their job to intervene.
Eventually it goes too far, Zim commits one foul too many and everything boils over. Two of the older players, call them Britain and the United States, charge up to Zim and start yelling and gesticulating. “Get your act together and play by the rules!” they shout, to which Zim impetuously shrugs his shoulders and responds: “Who are you to tell me what to do? I’ve seen the two of you committing plenty of fouls yourselves. Besides, it’s no secret that both of you have fouled me in the past.”
Along come two more of the senior players — China and Russia — and they join in the fray: “Leave him alone,” they say, “It’s not our job to sort this situation out, nor has he fouled any of us, so basically we have nothing to gain from intervening!” They argue back and forth on this theme for a while, neither party giving an inch, until eventually they turn to Zim’s best friend hoping that maybe he can do something about it.
And, as if things weren’t divided enough, South Africa has worked out his own strategy: “Don’t worry, I’m talking to him. All he needs is a bit of encouragement. I hope that at some point he will play by the rules, but in the meantime we’ll just have to tolerate him.” So, after wasting the whole afternoon arguing, they carry on playing with nothing resolved.
The question of Zimbabwe is merely the latest in a whole catalog of decision-making failures at the international level, and as people scratch their heads for answers yet again, one wonders when the penny will finally drop. Will it require another major crisis, on the scale of a world war, for leaders to realize that their priorities are worn and outdated? That the days of selfish nationalism, of excessive patriotism, of stubbornly clinging to the perceived good of one’s own nation instead of sincerely caring for the good of the whole, are well and truly over. Well over a century ago, Baha’u'llah stated:
The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.
And with every passing crisis, with the increasing complexity of modern-day issues, the truth of these words becomes more and more evident. What’s more, (and I apologize for using the football analogy again), it becomes increasingly apparent that the game of politics can’t keep being played without, at the very least, a base set of laws that all will adhere to. Nor can it continue to be played without a referee who has everyone’s full backing, not only to make decisions, but more importantly to ACT on those decisions. Although, perhaps “referee” is the wrong term to use here (after all, history has repeatedly demonstrated how excessive centralization has a tendency to promote despotism). Anyone who has watched a game of football knows how frustrating it can be when the ref makes one (unchallengeable) decision and video replays confirm he got it totally wrong! A “refereeing panel”, or world parliament backed by a formidable international force, is more like the answer, according to the Baha’i Writings.
The Baha’i International Community, in a fascinating document entitled “Turning Point For All Nations“, broadly surveys the political landscape in the light of past and present happenings. In addition, the document offers several compelling suggestions on how to advance towards the goal of lasting peace. For example, in addressing the question of which of the myriad political systems to choose as a model for world governance, they write the following:
Furthermore, in devising a specific framework for the future international order, leaders should survey a broad range of approaches to governance. Rather than being modeled after any single one of the recognized systems of government, the solution may embody, reconcile and assimilate within its framework such wholesome elements as are to be found in each one of them.
For example, one of the time-tested models of governance that may accommodate the world’s diversity within a unified framework is the federal system. Federalism has proved effective in decentralizing authority and decision-making in large, complex, and heterogeneous states, while maintaining a degree of overall unity and stability. Another model worth examining is the commonwealth, which at the global level would place the interest of the whole ahead of the interest of any individual nation.
Extraordinary care must be taken in designing the architecture of the international order so that it does not over time degenerate into any form of despotism, of oligarchy, or of demagogy corrupting the life and machinery of the constituent political institutions.
So federalism has proven it’s effectiveness in uniting diverse groups within a flexible framework, and is a possibility, as is the idea of a world commonwealth. Well, what next? The temptation exists to simply file these thoughts away and worry about the future when it happens, playing the role of passive observer. Wrong approach. In the atomic age it is clearly dangerous to ignore such questions for too long. What the world desperately needs right now is a critical mass of people who share the same vision of unity — and who will strive their utmost to promote it.
While we believe this formulation of a world government is at once the ultimate safeguard and the inevitable destiny of humankind, we do recognize that it represents a long-term picture of a global society. Given the pressing nature of the current state of affairs, the world requires bold, practical and actionable strategies that go beyond inspiring visions of the future. Nevertheless, by focusing on a compelling concept, a clear and consistent direction for evolutionary change emerges from the mire of contradictory views and doctrines.
(Baha’i International Community, 1995 Oct, Turning Point For All Nations)