How do we move towards a more inclusive reality beyond the trappings of adversarial partisan politics?

We might want to try these six unity-building principles from the Baha’i teachings. They aren’t answers in themselves, but rather they suggest a new way of looking at the world that can allow for diverse people to contribute to a dynamic process of community transformation.

1. The Oneness of Humanity is a Universal Truth

We as a human race are increasingly coming to recognize our oneness. We are one interconnected human family in the most literal sense: genetic studies prove that every one of us is a distant cousin to every other human being on Earth. We live on one common planetary homeland and share one common biosphere, and we are now living in a moment of intensifying global interdependence. Pollution and war in one part of the world causes ripples that effect every other part of the planet, whether by contaminating a shared water source or by displacing millions of people across borders. We are so deeply connected it is as if we are the cells of one body, and if one part of the human body is sick or distressed, the rest of the body will suffer as well. We need a new model of social organization, so recognizing the fundamental truth of humanity’s oneness is paramount.

2. Humans Have the Capacity for Cooperation

The idea that humans are essentially selfish and must fight for power over others is part of the fabric of the world’s political life. But humans aren’t intractably corrupt, selfish, and aggressive; we also have the capacity for cooperation, reciprocity, and mutual service. What we need, now more than ever, are forums for community development that revolve around consultation and mutual respect. We must seek out new models of governance that reflect the human capacity for altruism.

3. Diversity is Necessary for Unity

unity-handsUnity does not mean uniformity; instead we need diversity to bring new perspectives and innovation to solving our complex problems. Through a Baha’i model, the voices of those who have been historically the most marginalized must be brought to the center. The colonial and imperial projects that have oppressed masses of people over hundreds of years have their legacy in social structures that still value the privileged few. Real social prosperity can’t be realized until we have a framework that incorporates diverse voices from all segments of society into the work of governing human affairs.

4. Social Change Demands Universal Participation

Today people all over the world are mired in a culture of expecting the “experts” to solve our problems: waiting for elected politicians or other community leaders to make things right. How can we empower each other to see ourselves as agents of change within our local communities and focus on the positive change we can each contribute to? How can we break free from the false dichotomies of “the advanced” and “the backward”, the “developed” and the “underdeveloped?” All people must have a seat at the table, because each person is the real expert of his or her life.

5. History can be Reframed

Just like the development of an individual through stages of infancy, childhood, and adolescence, humanity has evolved from a “childhood” of independent tribal societies through an “adolescence” of more complex and integrated national communities. We now stand at the cusp of a collective coming of age: the emergence of a truly global civilization. More and more, we can see the emergence of worldviews that emphasize humanity’s unity and oneness. Some people still cling to the old narratives that say, “it always has been and always will be this way,” but we are living through a time of advancing global interdependence that has never been seen before. Now everyone on Earth has the choice to learn to accept responsibility for the welfare of the entire human family.

6. Humans Have Both a Spiritual and Material Dimension

Our spiritual dimension is as important our material dimension, and we desperately need social structures that provide for the development of both. This is not an assertion of a particular religious ideology. Rather, it expresses the idea that many people do feel love and connection to the Earth, to other humans, and to that unknowable essence that some people call God. Beyond having basic material necessities for survival, people need spiritual healing. People need to feel loved. The development of spiritual qualities such as love, justice, trustworthiness, patience, and gratitude, help us to connect authentically with each other and to contribute to social progress.

Moving Beyond the Political Divide

The solutions to the complex problems we face will not come easily, and they can’t be reduced to simple slogans. The reality of unity will only emerge organically, in relation to how well we as citizens build authentic bonds of trust, conquer our prejudices and establish new forums for true collaboration.

Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, warned us:

How long will humanity persist in its waywardness? How long will injustice continue? How long is chaos and confusion to reign amongst men? How long will discord agitate the face of society?… The winds of despair are, alas, blowing from every direction, and the strife that divideth and afflicteth the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appeareth to be lamentably defective. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 216.

We can consume our time rallying against the continual assaults of a defective model of governance, or we can devote our energies towards promoting a new set of values and a new way of relating.

More than ever, we need to replace outdated modes of thought and behavior with a worldview that recognizes the oneness of humanity.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

16 Comments

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  • Carol Agnew Black
    Aug 03, 2017
    I really love this post. Shared it on FaceBook. These concepts seem "simple" but they are so far from our present reality that they are profound to even state. I like that the solution is up to all of us, not the experts (those in power). It takes daily work to bring about any change. It takes building cooperation from the bottom up, it takes connecting with others around you.
  • Mike Solomon
    Aug 01, 2017
    I like these posts as far as they go. I suggest adding a "For Further Reading " section with articles or books listed where the reader could find more substance. For instance item 2. could use: "See" Religion for Mankind by Horace Holley. George Roland London Chapter: The Root of Struggle."
  • Joyous Messenger
    Jul 31, 2017
    The political divide is getting a bit extreme and ridiculous these days.
    I've even seen divides forming within the third parties of the US along the two-party line, with those in the third party who are more critical of the Republicans finding themselves adversaries of those in the third party who are more critical of the Democrats.
    Even the third parties these days aren't immune from the Left/Right division.
  • Jul 31, 2017
    What I really like here is that you're not just repudiating certain forms of politics. You're starting to build a case that Baha'i principles and methods can provide foundations for new and unprecedented forms of social organization and decision-making. More please!
  • Melanie Black
    Jul 30, 2017
    Hi Misha, I agree with all you say. Now we need to see examples of this model. I have heard of whole communities that flourish under a unified system, but I don't know of a nation that has achieved this. Perhaps you do. Perhaps you have done the necessary research to educate and inspire the readers here. From my own limited perspective, I see this model as something emerging out of necessity when humanity has faltered in the not so distant future. I don't know how it will happen, so I hope someone who has been about in the world ...and has seen more than I can describe people and places that are already working on these unifying principles. And to Mr Gray, I am impressed with your knowledge of recent Western history.
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    • Jul 31, 2017
      Where parties do not exist, criticism of the administration is likely to remain purely an individual matter; therefore the tone of the criticism is likely to be negative, carping, and petty, as it certainly was in the Confederacy. But where there are parties, the opposition group is strongly impelled to formulate real alternative policies and to press for the adoption of these policies on a constructive basis. ... But the absence of a two-party system meant the absence of any available alternative leadership, and the protest votes which were cast in the [1863 Confederate] election became more expressions of futile ...and frustrated dissatisfaction rather than implements of a decision to adopt new and different policies for the Confederacy.
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    • Jul 31, 2017
      But despite heated arguments and no little friction between the competing political cultures of unity and liberty, antiparty and broader fears about politics in general shaped civic life. These beliefs could obviously not eliminate partisanship or prevent Confederates from holding on to and exploiting old political prejudices. Indeed, some states, notably Georgia and North Carolina, remained political tinderboxes throughout the war. Even the most bitter foes of the Confederate government, however, refused to form an opposition party, and the Georgia dissidents, to cite the most prominent example, avoided many traditional political activities.
    • Jul 30, 2017
      In summary, absolute monarchy or countries that aren't quite constitutional monarchies like Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Vatican City are non-partisan places where political parties are banned. With the exception of Vatican City, Arab Spring protests had lack of political parties as one of their grievances. The rare example of a non-partisan republic was the Confederate States of America. The unified system one party state has existed in 3 ambiguous, 1 big tent, 25 left-wing, 60 communist, 8 right-wing, and 67 fascist countries. Basically, unity in a unified system comes at the expense of all ...other values like freedom, liberty, fairness, proportionality, Justice, equality, etc...
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  • Jul 30, 2017
    The top issues are abortion restrictions, limiting private financing of campaigns, legalization of same-sex marriages, universal healthcare, progressive taxation, immigration restrictions, capital punishment, drug legalization, civilian gun control, and non-interventionist foreign policy. Ideologies like green politics with eco-socialism with left-wing populism (Greens), modern liberalism with progressivism with social liberalism (Democrats), libertarianism with classical liberalism with fiscal conservatism (Libertarians), conservatism with economic liberalism with social conservatism (Republican), and paleoconservatism with fiscal conservatism with social conservatism (Constitution).
    • Jul 31, 2017
      None of that specifies how an actual country would work under such a system. When I mentioned totalitarian democracy earlier, it's a system where the electors don't feel and any need to act like representatives. They may be elected and consult on issues, the incumbency effect and having religious beliefs as part of their qualifications both bias them from being representative. Basically, you described something similar to the orginal idea behind Soviet council and their idea of council democracy. The problem is that democracy as formulated would destroy all foundations of liberal society and be totally tryrannical even if individual ...members had no power themselves or outside the council, but an all powerful council would still cause tyranny
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    • Melanie Black
      Jul 31, 2017
      Stephen, I know that Timothy Snyder, in his book "on Tyranny" warns against the one party state. And according to the old model I would tend to agree with him. The Baha'i model offers a democratically elected assembly (voted through a secret election process to avoid campaigning, etc), and the assembly then has representitives at the local, national, and international level. Each assembly member has no more status than any other, and no outside status by themselves. When in chambers, the assembly consults on the different problems presented to it. Consultation is both a spiritual and practical process outlined by ...the Prophet-Founder Baha-u-llah. You can find more info on any Baha'i website searching "consultation".
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  • Jul 30, 2017
    Life issues, gender & sexuality, education & parenting, environment & energy, society & culture, and law & government are the various categories of culture war issues. Each category is nine separate battleground issues each. The problem of how people get represented is the key problem for democracy. Representative are supposed to be delegates to represent an electorate, which is why we have representatives rather than direct democracy. Sometimes people don't think any existing country works, so they create a micronation. Such micronations include Forvik, Hutt River, Liberland, Sealand, and Seborga. It's too soon to see how well they are. Countries ...claiming sovereign territory in them are still problematic.
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  • Jul 30, 2017
    The culture war refers to the conflict between traditionalist or conservative values and progressive or liberal values. Beginning in the 1990s, culture wars have influenced the debate over public school history and science curricula, along with many other issues. The expression culture war entered the vocabulary of politics with the publication of Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America by James Davison Hunter in 1991. Hunter perceived a dramatic realignment and polarization that had transformed politics and culture, including the issues of abortion, federal and state gun laws, global warming, immigration, separation of church and state, privacy, recreational drug use, ...homosexuality, and censorship.
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  • Javier Restrepo
    Jul 30, 2017
    Thank you Misha. The six points are very refreshing. I will love to read your book. I will be sharing this article with some of my friends from work. Allah -u-Abha.