I’m Siddhartha from India, member of the Dialogues in humanity global network. Together with other men and women that represent networks which act at global level, I’m part of the experiment of a Council of Wisdom of the Earth’s Peoples. This is an experiment that began on May 29th, 2021, proposed by the Multiconvergence of Global Networks, which it setting up a Parliament of Planetary Citizenship within the Networks, with two chambers, the Council and the Assembly of Planetary Citizenship. The next meeting will be on July 31th. You can find the history of the process and ideas of this experiment here.

By Siddhartha (Dialogues for Humanity Global Network)

We live in a very difficult time.

There is both hope and despair on the horizon.

Never before has humanity experienced several crucial problems together, of such great magnitude. Two significant ones are Social Justice and Climate Change.

On the justice front we find, all over the world, that the rights of people (women, peasants, indigenous peoples, religious and other minorities, human rights activists and intellectuals, and others) are being infringed upon or suppressed regularly. Sadly, some of those who suffer injustice, are co-opted by the very leaders whom they follow blindly. Furthermore, adding to the list of authoritarian governments, we also witness the ruthlessness of regimes who claim to be socialist.

On the Climate crisis there is a spectrum of people that ranges between the incremental-change advocates, and others who emphasize the Sixth Extinction. Whatever be the case, it seems certain that things are only going to get worse, if unchecked. (Recently, temperatures in Western United States and Western Canada wavered between 45º C and 50º C. Death Valley even touched 54º C. Those who believed that Canada would remain largely untouched because of its proximity to the Arctic, will now have to rethink. Climate Change will affect every citizen on the planet, wherever she is.)

For some of us there was the fervent conviction that structural changes would be necessary to usher in an era of peace and justice. That conviction is even more valid today.

However, a few did not pay enough attention to the values and attitudes, and the accompanying behavioral changes, that were necessary to bring about the structural changes that were so necessary. Needless to add, many of us have for long been critical of the tendency that implied: ‘structural changes first; changes in values and behavior later’.

Another important point to underline: In my experience social activists rarely talked about the personal dimension: how they feel (both hope and despair, confusion about future strategies, burnout etc.) and the tensions of being ‘human’ within the often-contradictory logic of institutions and movements etc. It was even thought that it would be embarrassing to bring up these personal issues for discussion, fearing they might be misconstrued as ‘incorrect’ behavior that could weaken the goals we wish to achieve.

Time is probably running out. I often use the analogy of a ship that is about to wreck. Everybody concerned must do their best to prevent the ship from sinking, by pumping out the water, repairing damage, getting the electricity working etc. This is not the time to figure out if there are flaws in the design of the ship, whether a better design might have prevented an impending tragedy. But to an objective observer it is clear that the passengers must be saved first. Building a ship with a better design is important, but can be considered later.

It must be likewise with our goals that are dear to us. We need both the short term and the long term. (Some might even add a mid-term). While we must continue to work on our goals and vision from the long-term perspective of ushering in alternatives, so dear to us, we might also consider short term goals for staving off a shipwreck. One such strategy is to also look for spaces and openings outside our usual horizons, wherever they exist, which may allow us to build connections with people, not similar to us, to bring about changes. We need not agree on everything but can still move ahead to achieve specific results. While it may not always be easy, would it be possible for us to dialogue with a few on the other side on issues like the water crisis, or the dangers of pesticides to health, or the need to quickly increase the use of renewable energy etc.

To mention one area: a section of people from all the major religions have issued declarations on combating climate change. Could one interact with more leaders as well, who may not completely share our values and beliefs, to meet us midway to deal with the climate crisis… or for promoting interfaith conflict resolution and transformation?

To continue this point further, apart from the long-term goal of fostering a parliament of citizens we might also contemplate a number of short-term goals that lead to dialogue and transformation, that help us cross borders and boundaries without losing convictions. When one meets someone over a bridge, with different views, one may listen, talk and, if things turn out right, reach a provisional understanding. Neither one has to cross over to the other side, but both can meet in the middle.

So, might it be possible to consider a number (4), which leads to realizing short-term targets through dialogue, negotiation and advocacy, in addition to holding fast to the long-term goal of the Citizens’ Parliament? Many of us in this group will not live to see 2045 (year of the UN centennial). But we can work towards it, while simultaneously saving the ship from wrecking in the short term. Of course, these short-term goals will have to be worked out in close collaboration with our specific movements that are dealing with subjects like water, food security, gender relations, youth leadership, interfaith conflict resolution, indigenous peoples’ rights etc.

We are clearly committed to nonviolent communication and action. As my friend Ivan Maltcheff often says, we must also learn to genuinely listen to the other side. This is a prerequisite. I, for one, often find that I am carried away by my own voice, and do not often listen. I find that I do not have the inner quiet to arrive at clarity in my actions and my interpersonal relations. Sometimes I find myself feeling better, and acting better, when I do some pranayama (breathing meditation) a few minutes every morning. At other times I chant, and it seems to help. I am not religious, but I see any kind of secular spiritual practice as valuable to provide a measure of inner calm. I have friends who are inspired and motivated by the ‘liberative’ religious convictions they hold. I also realize that for some secular activists and thinkers this might not be necessary, that they already have the gift of natural self-awareness and compassion (I mean this genuinely).

By ‘acting’ we remain in the here and now of Hope. We are doing the best we can. As the Hindu notion of Nishkama Karma says, we must act now, without being attached to the fruits of our action. It is imperative and ethical to act now, even if we do not live to see the results of our actions.

These are a few thoughts I would like to share with all of you. We can discuss this if time permits at the end of July.