Book presentation with Dennis Redmond, Greg Mello, Tony Robinson and Guillermo Sullings on March 30th at the LGBT center in NYC.
“At the Crossroads of Humanity’s Future” gives an analysis of the global situation in several fields such as: disarmament, the global financial system, the environment, democracy, human rights, immigration and the media among others, and identifies a number of proposals that civil society could develop in order to avoid the yawning abyss that is opening up in front of us if current trends continue in straight lines.
Video: Signing of Guillermo Sullings’ Book in NY
Text of the presentation given by Tony Robinson – Co-director of Pressenza.
I’d like to start my presentation with an important confession.
I tried to be part of the system, I really did! When I was 17 I decided I would join the Royal Air Force but they wouldn’t take me, at the age of 19 before going to University I worked in a private bank in a British tax-haven, and then at the age of 21, after leaving University, I applied to be a corporate lawyer in the City of London, and they wouldn’t take me either! So you see I have tried to get rid of my inconvenient idealism. Somehow the system didn’t want me.
In between all of that though, I did become inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and specifically the plight of Nelson Mandela who was at that time in prison in South Africa. The great injustice of a people without a right to vote moved me very deeply and I wanted to do something about it. Then I came across a very small, insignificant political party with a handful of members in the UK called the Humanist Party and they talked about the equality of all human beings, the need to create social change through nonviolence, and to accompany that process with a simultaneous process of personal change to resolve the violence one suffers in one’s personal relationships and in society at large. They talked about a new economic system based on cooperation and not competition and they valued human rights so much so that in their first international congress that I had the great pleasure to witness in Florence, Italy, they adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a founding document. This was what I was looking for.
This world that humanists wanted, this utopia, this paradise, compared to today’s world, is an image that has been working within me ever since. And today, this image has become even clearer with the publication of Guillermo’s book.
An important predecessor to this book, is the wonderfully foresighted analysis written by Silo in his book from 1994, Letters to My Friends on Social and Personal Crisis in today’s world.
To quote that work he says:
Humanists are internationalists, aspiring to a Universal Human Nation. While understanding the world they live in as a single whole, humanists act in their immediate environments. Humanists seek not a uniform world, but a world of multiplicity: diverse in ethnicity, languages and customs; diverse in local and regional autonomy; diverse in ideas and aspirations; diverse in beliefs, whether atheist or religious; diverse in occupations and in creativity.
Humanists do not want masters, they have no fondness for authority figures or bosses. Nor do they see themselves as representatives or bosses of anyone else. Humanists want neither a centralized state nor a para-state in its place. They want neither armed gangs nor a police state in their place.
But a wall has arisen between humanist aspirations and the realities of today’s world. The time has come to tear down that wall. To do this, all humanists of the world must unite.
The Humanist Movement that I worked in since that book was written made many attempts to humanise the Earth and all of them ended in failure. And as the world seems to go from bad to worse with the passing of time since the end of the Second World War, despite the enormous advances in science and technology, it is not at all surprising that many idealist friends formed in the sixties, seventies and eighties have given up trying, resigning themselves to powerlessness in the face of such a seemingly strong monolithic system: an economic-military-political and media complex that shows no sign of releasing its grip on the destiny of every human being on the planet.
And of course, it is not only efforts by humanists that failed. Anti-war organizations, anti-poverty organizations, anti-climate change organizations all have failed to change the direction the world is going in. And as the economic system has indebted and impoverished the younger generations I have a feeling that this generation doesn’t have the energy to hold onto its idealism out of a need to eat. Despite incredible situations such as the Occupy Movement a coordinated mass movement in the West doesn’t seem to have emerged, and a promising 15M movement in Spain has somehow experienced many setbacks since initial successes in the political arena.
It is true that women have advanced in their enjoyment of human rights a great deal in recent decades, and in some countries the LGBT community has also taken great steps forward, but in terms of our basic human needs expressed so nicely in the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” I think we’re going backwards. The generation today is the first that will find it harder to live than their parents.
Guillermo in his book analyses the situation in several fields. Greg has commented on various aspects. But Guillermo sums up the situation well when he says:
Human Rights in general won’t be respected while large numbers of human beings are subject to the discretion of concentrated power. No one can expect the right to life to be respected while wars are a methodology of action for those who try to dominate the world and maintain the profits of the military-industrial complex. No one can expect the right to a dignified job, healthcare, education and housing to be guaranteed in a society in which concentrated economic power excludes increasing numbers of people. And no one can expect the most basic of rights to be respected while societies remain as passive spectators in front of the lack of future of those who seek to migrate to other countries, crashing time and time again against the walls of selfishness and indifference.
We can’t allow the manipulation of human subjectivity through the media which operates as a function of economic power to go on, whether this manipulation be to strengthen the consumerism of those who feed their profits, or to manipulate the electorate and thereby have sympathetic governments, or to keep the population hypnotised so that they don’t rebel. The technological advances in communication is humanity’s heritage and doesn’t belong to a few who take advantage of it in order to manipulate.
The ravaging of natural resources and the environment, growing ecological disaster and contamination that affects human and natural life are the consequences of the irrational exploitation of our planet. And all of this is the responsibility of Capital’s greed and government complicity.
More specifically in the section on the media, Guillermo explains:
Previously, an individual was more at the mercy of the bias of the formation they received through education, either in the family home, in education centres or in religious environments, while now an individual is faced with numerous choices, and they feel that they have more freedom. Nevertheless this very sensation of freedom that makes people feel like the media is a window on the world, a window on life, something through which they can see everything that exists and can opt for whatever they prefer, this sensation is what converts them into a victim of a much subtler manipulation. Because when someone becomes accustomed to looking through a window, they no longer notice the window, they only see what the window lets them see, and they see this as reality itself and never question the window. They only form opinions about situations they can manage to visualize, and so they accept that opinion as their own.
This analysis creates enormous problems for small independent media such as Pressenza as you can imagine!
Importantly Guillermo concludes from this:
We must understand that it won’t be possible to change one part without changing everything, because every part responds to the logic of the greater system that it is contained within. It’s no use thinking about every part separately in order to generate a monster like Frankenstein’s that was only able to come alive in fiction. This is why the project of the Universal Human Nation, although it seems paradoxical, is more realistic than projects that change only one part and insert it into the present system.
But what is this Universal Human Nation that both Silo and Guillermo have referred to? Guillermo describes it beautifully as:
a world without borders, a Confederation of Humanist Nations, without wars, without violence, without hunger, without discrimination, with social justice, with Real Democracy, with environmental balance, with solidarity and, above all, with an open future.
Who here is not moved when they hear such a description? Who here is not able to close their eyes and imagine such a world and to feel a strong emotion rise within themselves at the thought of it?
For all us activists in the world, we have to start to see this bigger picture. It is imperative that activists in all fields start to interchange about the world they all want because it is only in this heart-felt interchange that anti-nuclear activists will truly understand that their struggle is the struggle of women’s rights, is the struggle to stop climate change, is the struggle to fully enjoy human rights, is the struggle for real democracy, is the struggle for so many other worthy and important causes that a fragmented body of activists is working so hard for. It is also the same struggle to find internal peace, it is the same struggle to be able to connect with the most profound aspects of human existence and it is the same struggle to connect with a deep and simple spirituality that is expressed as treating other people the way you want to be treated.
I won’t extend this personal presentation much further than saying that Guillermo has, with this book, relit my idealism, the shine from which was starting to dim. His 120 steps to the Universal Human Nation are not easy and it is clear that hundreds and thousands of smaller steps are required if we are to make it happen, but by dividing it into steps one can see a path up the mountain. And if we remember our own history we know that historical paths don’t go in straight lines and when you least expect it, the steep path suddenly flattens and you can run.
Let us remember that no one in the early 80s was predicting the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Empire. I, for one, was fairly convinced by 1985 that we were all doomed to die in nuclear war.
That scenario isn’t yet off the table despite the work this week at the UN, but there is a path to the Universal Human Nation and my profound hope is that Guillermo’s valuable work inspires millions to take up this task in an act of convergence in solidarity. I for one will be there to contribute.
Greg Mello – Executive Director of the Los Alamos Study Group in New Mexico.
Since 1989, the Los Alamos Study Group community has consistently provided leadership on nuclear disarmament and related issues. Their work includes research and scholarship, education of decision-makers, providing an information clearinghouse for journalists, organizing, litigating, and advertising. They place particular emphasis on the education and training of young activists and scholars.
Since September 11, 2001, their work has increasingly placed nuclear weapons in the context of aggression abroad and the militarization of our society at home.
Greg is currently in New York to follow the developments at the UN where negotiations are currently underway to write a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons.
Tony Robinson – Co-director of Pressenza International News Agency.
Has been active in the Humanist Movement since 1989 and worked to promote social change and personal change through a strategy of active nonviolence in diverse fields such as politics, overseas development, disarmament and journalism in this time.
Having become aware of the issues of nuclear disarmament in 2006, Tony has become a passionate advocate for the elimination of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, participating in the 2009 World March for Peace and Nonviolence and subsequently raising awareness through the space given to the subject in Pressenza, an international news agency that specialises in journalism for peace and nonviolence.
Tony also translated the book being presented today from Spanish to English.
Guillermo Sullings – Economist and author of “At the Crossroads of Humanity’s Future: the steps towards the Universal Human Nation”
Guillermo Sullings was born in Argentina in 1954. He graduated as a public accountant from the Faculty of Economic Sciences at the National University of Lomas de Zamora. Since his teenage years he has been a follower of Universalist Humanism developed by the South American author, spiritual guide and nonviolence activist, Silo.
In May 2000, he published the book ‘Beyond Capitalism: Mixed Economics’ as a proposal for an alternative economic system to those of capitalism and communism. Since 2002, he has written several essays on social, political and economic matters and in 2003 he was the presidential candidate for the Humanist Party in the Argentinian elections. Subsequently Guillermo spent time qualifying networks of nonviolence activists around Latin America.
Guillermo currently works on the development of Real Democracy methodologies.