Welcome to the
President of Soka Gakkai International,
Peace Proposal 1992
A Renaissance of Hope and Harmony
In commemoration of the 17th anniversary of the SGI
- Surveying the historical tendency to view the Russian Revolution as an extension of the modern progressive current that began with the French Revolution.
- Emphasizing the importance of inner generated spirituality and calling for a new humanism centered around a movement for "human revolution".
- Examining of the promise of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Brazil and urging a dramatic new approach to the problems of poverty and overpopulation.
- Suggesting the establishment of a "UN Disarmament Fund" whereby a portion of the savings realized through disarmament could be directed toward environmental protection.
- Proposing that Japan take the lead in regional disarmament and promote the transfer of environmentally sound technologies in the region.
Opening with the outbreak of the Gulf War and coming to a close with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, 1991 was a year of violent transition and change not often witnessed in history. Within the tune of change we can pick out the approaching footsteps of an age of democracy. But that is not all. Underlying the stirring fanfare announcing the dawning of a new age, is a deafening, frightening roar, produced as the familiar systems making up our world order are torn down forever. Examining the Intensification of ethnic confrontation and strife, it is impossible to gauge how large last year's aftershocks will be, or how long they will continue. It is even feared by some that the tectonic historical movements of the past few years may turn out to be merely the preliminary tremors to an even greater principal shock, a catastrophe that is yet to come.
No one living in these times can escape facing the momentous historical issue of how to create a new universal order out of the chaos of the final years of the twentieth century, even as we turn to welcome the twenty-first century.
The Gulf War focused renewed attention on the existence of the United Nations, as well as its limitations (John Kenneth Gaibraith and others claim that the real protagonist in the Gulf War was not the United States, but the United Nations). However that may be, the most glaringly apparent element in that affair was the ambition of a single dictator who thought nothing of trammeling the conventions of international socIety. In that sense, the war should be concidered a transitory event rather than a built-in factor inherent in the historical process.
A Reassessment of French, Russian Revolutions
In comparison, the breakup of the Soviet Union is without question a history-making phenomenon of global importance, with a constant and universal significance that will dominate events for centuries to come. This is because the Soviet Unions demise clearly marks an end to a historical tendency characteristic of modern civilisation as dominated by Europe. The essence of that tendency, simply stated, is the Enlightenment version of rationalism, which has held sway since the eighteenth century. It has taken on many forms, such as historicism and idealism, which argue that history progresses and develops in accordance with prescribed laws. It has also manifested as political radicalism, which postulates that history is necessarily propelled by violent revolutions. The end of the Soviet Union has also meant the end of the Russian Revolution, and though it may not yet have sounded a death knell (a term which, ironically, Marx used in reference to the inevitable defeat of capitalism) for such rational, progressive and optimistic thought, it certainly has served as a serious warning.
Immediately after the abortive coup d'etat in the former Soviet Union last August, the French historian F. Furet described the circumstances in symbolic terms when he commented, "The French Revolution has been finished by the Russians." Within the context of the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of class struggle, the French Revolution was a bourgeois revolution that the proletarian Russian Revolution extended and developed. From the standpoint of that view of history, the death of the Soviet Union and the disbanding of its Communist Party Is tantamount, in the final analysis, to a denial of the significance of the original French Revolution, or more precisely, a denial of the interpretation of the French Revolution based on the theory of class struggle. Because the historical flow from the French to the Russian revolutions had always been painted in the single color of "progress", it was obstinately argued that the tumultuous unfolding of events has followed the path of "historical necessity". Furet continues: "They (the Russians) want to do the French Revolution of 1789 all over again.... They don't want to follow the example of the French Revolution, they want to start over again on the same principies In a sense, you could say that they have completed the French Revolution." Needless to say, the "principles" referred to are liberty, equality, and fraternity, as well as concepts concerning human rights. They have never been fully realized, however, within the context of French to Russian revolutionary history.
Certainly, nothing has been so dominant, especially since the Russian Revolution, as the historical view of the French Revolution heavily colored by the leftist view of class struggle. The theories expounded by Lenin. Trotsky and many other revolutionary leaders in Russia - that is, the vanguard of a small number of elite, their exercise of power on behalf of the proletariat, and a dictatorship maintained by violence and terrorism-all were constructed with an image of Robespierre and the Jacobins in mind. In addition, it cannot be denied that reaction against the growing contradictions in world capitalism made the theory of class struggle more attractive. Thus Bolshevism was naturally considered an extension of Jacobinism, and was thought to demonstrate history's "inevitable" progress and development, a view once popular not only in the Soviet Union but also in France, Japan, and other countries.
It seems, however, that the class-struggle approach has gradually lost steam over the last twenty years, no doubt influenced by the sagging fortunes of the socialist camp itself (The Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia, incidentally, occurred just twentyfour years ago.)
During the debates centering on the two hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution that took place during the storm unleashed by perestroika, it was clear to everyone that Marxism's class-struggle approach had fallen from its position as the dominant interpretation of history. This was confirmed inarguably by the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union three years later, which brought a history of seventy years of socialism to an end, and blew away the illusion of "progress".
If we stop to think about it, it seems miraculous that Bolshevism, which from its very birth was marked by violence and terrorism, could come to an end without a bloody holocaust. Furet comments that the peaceful outcome was a "great, unmitigated surprise, against all expectations." No one would dispute. however, that this miracle was due in large part to the existence of Mikitall Gorbachev, and to his unfailing faith in perestroika.
Of course, one can consider perestroika a failure, since its goal was to reform the system without dismantling the Soviet Union. And it is sadly true that very few people in the former Soviet Union, burdened with years of resentment towards party bureaucrats and suffering under rapidly worsening economic conditions and other domestic problems, mourn Gorbachev's fall from the seat of power. But if we step back and take a calm, long~range view we see that, despite a great deal of triai and error, events unfolded with dramatic speed. So quickly, in fact, that not one of the many seasoned experts who watched and analyzed the Soviet Union was able to predict the reunification of Germany, or any of the other events associated with the seven years of perestroika. This is a fact that cannot be overlooked. Who among mortals has the qualifications to chastise Gorbachev, who never once abandoned his original vision of a better world, even when he had nowhere to turn, buffeted by the tide of events that overtook him? I believe that later historian's will corroborate the assessment of Czechoslovakia's current president, Vaclay Havel, who wrote, "Gorbachev took hold of his office as a typical Communist apparatchik; he resigned from it as a true democrat".
The Roots of Communism's Failure
The short essay by President Havel is an emotionally warm yet clear-eyed requiem worthy of this extraordinary poet-statesman, in which he examines the legacy left us by that extraordinary philosopher-statesman, Gorbachev. In it I found the following passage:
The roots of the failure of communism lie in the intrinsic character of this most ambitious of ideologies, namely in its claim to explain anything and consequently in its efforts to control everything. Communism has striven to become a probably impossible system of thought - conflict-free and complete at the same time. This has led to its most notable trait, the totalitarian character.
I cannot emphasize too often or too strongly my agreement with the intrinsic message of these observations. That message is related to the perennial theme of human arrogance, which prompts us to try to order things exactly as we see fit, and to believe that such ordering is possible.
It is commonly recognized that in modern times our pride and arrogance have clothed themselves in a guise known as "faith in reason". This faith has resulted in an innocent, even simpleminded optimism with regard to history, which we perceive as a steady progression towards some earthly utopia, with our deified reason leading the way. Although our modern rationalism aims at the same kind of "conflict-free and complete" system of thought described by Havel, what it actually invites is a grotesque and bloated version of "faith in reason", which, as the Seventy-year history of the Soviet Union's Communist Party attests, bears no resemblance whatever to utopia. The paradox of desiring good but doing evil is not unique to the Bolsheviks. It also found concentrated embodiment in Jacobinism, as we learn from the writings of Chateaubriand, who originally supported the French RevoluTIon, but later, horrified at the guillotine's blood-drenched blade, became a staunch royalist. In indicting the Jacobins, be called their creed "that notorious system of perfectionism," an epithet that bears an uncanny resemblance to Havel's "conflict-free and complete" system of thought referred to above.
Another Frenchman, the philosopher Gabriel Marcel, characterized this kind of pride in reason as the disastrous result of the "abstract spirit" and spent his life in "constant, persistent battle" with it. From a very young age, Marcel perceived that the fanatic egalitarianism hiding behind the abstract slogans of "liberty, equality, and fraternity" was inextricably linked to terrorism. Therefore, no matter how beautiful the slogan,, Marcel never sympathized with the bloody drama of the Revolution, nor did he hesitate to assert that the shortcomings of the ancien regime were better than the crimes engendered by a government of terror.
In a way, Marcers stance seems extreme. The many rights so loudly heralded in the Declaration of Human Right are finally, at least in theory. becoming the common property of all people. The French Revolution's contribution to this process it beyond question. But we must not forget that this is only a very recent triumph, achieved nearly two hundred years later. As recently as twenty-five years ago, leftist ideologues were still furiously arguing that the Russian Revolution was the legitimate heir to the French Revolution. It hasn't been that long since we awoke from the drunken frenzy of ideology, Including fascism, that raged through the twentieth century,
The Evils of an "Abstract Spirit"
In that sense, Marcel's constant and consistent criticism of ideology is worth scrutiny. In his book, Man Against Society he includes a chapter entitled, "The Abstract Spirit, a Factor of War", where he elaborates as follows:
From the moment that one (be it the State or a party, a faction or religious sect) claims to agree with me that I am committing an act of war on other beings whom I must be ready to annihilate, it is utterly necessary that I lose awareness of the individual existence of the being I may bring into submission. To transform him into a whipping boy, it is absolutely necessary to convert him into an abstraction, such as the communist, the fascist, or the non-facist, etc.
This certainly seems reasonable. whether at war or not, people are not so easily drawn into committing violence against others it they sense the others' concrete, personal existence. This Is especially true among people who know each other well, and live near each otber. Once. In my lecture at the University of Bucharest in Romania, I quoted the following lines from the masterpiece, Descult (Barefoot). They are the words of a Romanian farmer who, against his own wishes, was forced to fight a Bulgarian neighbor.
What have we got against them [the Bulgarians]? They're our friends! It's a good thing Ioan and Stoian died in the battle. If they were alive, we'd have to face them on the field. Can anything be as shameful as this? God, God! Why should we have to fight and shoot each other?
From the earliest times. the simple humane feelings we naturally share have formed the bonds that link all people. Marcel's "abstract spirit" above all else, forcibly cuts (rather than religiously transcends) that natural flow of feeling, replacing compassion with malice, enmity, jealousy, and other twisted passions that induce people to commit acts of fanaticism. It is interesting to note in passing that the word "nature" is a key term in that bible of conservatism, Reflections on the French Revolution (1790), by the English political thinker Edmund Burke. For Burke. who lived through those times, the radical character of the French Revolution went against nature, and was therefore destined to degenerate into something anti-human. Burke's gradualist, quintessentially British approach, as well as his patterns of thinking, are not subject to pre-existing ideological categories such as "conservative" vs. "reformist," and deserve fresh evaluation today.
It is certainly true that abstract thought is one of humankind's inherent abilities, without which we could not live even a single day. But we must constantly verify our abstractions in terms of concrete reality. If we lapse, and our abstract concepts are given a life of their own and allowed to run wild, they can leave scars on people and society that might never be healed. Sadly, It seems the time has come for us to face up to this bitter lesson: that the glorious legacy of the French and Russian revolutions, which has continued to be extolled so colorfully throughout the world, also possesses a dark, painful side that came about as a result of the abstract spirit. The once dominant conception of history that interprets the terrorist governments of the Jacobins and Bolsheviks as radicalized forms of class struggle, that attempts to cover up the lamentations of countless human victims with abstract concepts and that gives precedence to ideology over individual human beings is bound to fade away as a relic of the past, joining in obscurity the Red Flag of the Soviet Union that has at last been lowered from the Kremlin's tower.
We have discussed how easy it is for evil to arise from good intentions, and how attempts to gain control always result in one's being controlled. To further examine these tendencies inate in all of us, I would like to briefly mention two literary works that vividly describe what can happen when people find themselves at the mercy of the unchecked abstract spirit. One is "The Gods Are Thirsty" by Anatole France; the other is "Dr Zhivago" by Boris Pasternak. Within my limited reading experience, these two works are preeminent in their unforgiving portrayal of the dark, negative sides of the French and Russian revolutions, with which they respectively deal. I am convinced that, unless we heed their accusations, we cannot hope to correctly inherit the legacy of both revolutions (although opinion will doubtless be divided as to just what that legacy is).
In "The Gods Are Thirsty", young Evariste Gamelin is appointed juror to the Revolutionary Tribunal. Burning with revolutionary zeal. He passes his harsh judgments, putting aside all his personal feelings, and sends many of his enemies to the guillotine. But his own turn comes, and eventually he himself is beheaded, along with his mentor, Robespierre.
Like many revolutionaries, Gamelin was not born a cold-blooded human being. Quite the contrary, he was a gentle and compassionate young man who couldn't stand to see a starving mother and child, and calmly shared his meager bread with them despite the hunger in his own belly. He was pure and giving, ready to sacrifice himself without a trace of regret. The frightening thing is that the purer and more idealistic a young person is, the more susceptible he tends to be to the spell of the "abstract spirit". The author describes what goes on in Gamelin's heart as he listens to a speech by Robespierre:
Listening to the voice of the sage [Robespierre], he (Gamelin) discerned many higher and purer truths. He conceived of a revolutionary metaphysics, which lifted his spirit far above the level of crude coincidence to the realm of absolute certainties, sheltered from the failings of the senses.... Gamelin tasted the profound joy of a believer who has learned the word of salvation and the word of ruin. Henceforth, the Revolutionary Tribunal, like the inquisitions of the past, would recognize absolute crime as well as crimes of words. Because he had a religious spirit, Evariste greeted these revelations with dark rapture. His heart was uplifted and rejoiced at the idea that henceforth he would possess a symbol that he could use to distinguish between innocence and guilt.
This passage paints the birth and development of fanaticism as clearly as a picture. With ghastly vividness, the author details the process by which fanatic egalitarianism, controlled by an abstract concept, becomes one with terrorism. It is a theme deeply related to that of Dostoevski's "The Possessed", a work inspired by the Nechaev Affair, In which a young revolutionary in Czarist Russia was murdered by his comrade. Needless to say, such paradoxical and tragic incidents are not limited to Gamelin or to the French Revolution. They often occur in the height of student or youth movements.
Anatole France borrows the mouth of his alter ego in the novel to condemn the arrogance of people who too easily attempt to judge other; and to denounce the pride in reason that underlies it. (The Jacobins actually held "festivals of reason" in Notre Dame.) In one instance he derides them as "You Jacobins, rushing around for our edification". In another, he is even more explicit: "Those petty lawyers, who in their rage condemn us to the guillotine so that we may be instilled with virtue and wisdom, so that we may worship a sublime existence".
The Violence Inherent in Radicalism
In a way, it is easy to revise the laws and reconstruct the system in such a way as to bid farewell to the ancien regime. But it is a far different matter to attempt the reconstruction of human beings. To put it in plain language, in human affairs you just cannot push things too far at a time. To rush matters is to force them on people through violence and threats. This is why political radicalism is virtually always accompanied by the dark shadow of violence.
The protagonist in Dr Zhivago makes no attempt to hide his hatred for this kind of radicalism. To the eloquence of a young, pure-hearted Bolshevik ideologue, who is just like Gamelin, Zhivago retorts as if to spit out his disgust:
You can all go to the devil. The people you worship go in for proverbs, but they've forgotten the proverb, "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink", and they've got into the habit of liberating and of showering benefits on just those people who haven't asked for them.
For Zhivago, a doctor and a poet possessing a rare and exquisite sensibility, the uniform ideological education of the Bolsheviks reeked of self-righteousness, and he had nothing but contempt for the smirking young men who preached it. The essence of Pasternak's masterpiece is found in Zhivago's exasperation at the lack of human sensitivity shown by these young zealots, who, with insolent politeness, unilaterally pressed their inorganic logic upon him but made absolutely no attempt to engage in true dialogue.
Certainly, it seems impossible to doubt their sincerity. In fact, Lenin's wife Krupskaya and other key people involved with educational theory during Bolshevism's early stages were exceedingly well-intentioned optimists who served in the cause of natural education as espoused in Rousseau's Emile. But unless a person thoroughly confronts his own egoism, there's no telling when his simple good intentions will be transformed into a desire to rule, a desire that seeks approval by clothing itself in the fine costume of ideology. D.H. Lawrence wrote in "The Disciple" (published in Apocalypse) that he instinctively perceived a desire for power behind the good intentions of Lenin. And it was also the hidden evil of the "abstract spirit" that angered Zhivago:
Reshaping me! People who can say that never understand a thing about life, they have never felt its breath, its heartbeat, however much they have seen or done. They look on it as a lump of raw material that needs to be processed by them to be ennobled by their touch. But life is never a material, a substance to be molded. If you want to know, life is the principle of self-renewal, it is constantly renewing and remaking and changing and transfiguring itse1f, it is infinitely beyond your or my obtuse theories about it.
I have mentioned this passage on other occasions, and believe it to be one of the best examples of Zhivago's critical view of ideology. The well-intentioned Bolsheviks make no attempt to listen, and tirelessly spout a dogma that sounds as if it comes from a grade-school primer. Only one more step is needed to turn such insolence into coercion perpetrated on stubborn unbelievers.
In this respect, it seems somehow significant that soon after Krupskaya's time, a counter-current arose in the Stalinist Soviet Union in the form of Makarenko-style controlled education, which was based on human distrust and on an educational theory designed to establish effective control over other people. As we all know, the "effort to control everything" described by Ravel went on to produce legions of arrogant people known as the nomenclatura.
In the preceding passages I have made some attempt to delineate the evil that results from the "abstract spirit, quoting passages from "The Gods Are Thirsty" and "Dr Zhivago". The primary cause of that evil lies in the tendency of the "abstract spirit" to attempt to impose order upon the human spirit from the outside, often by means of external pressure. As Zhivago so subtly observes, human life "is the principle ot self-renewal; it is constantly renewing and remaking and transfiguring itself". Real progress or reform in the human condition cannot be effected unless it develops spontaneously through internal urges and internal strength. At most, external forces are mere secondary factors that serve to arouse the internal process. Nevertheless, those possessed by the "abstract spirit" have utterly neglected internal factors as being idealistic. They have gone to the extreme, trying to squeeze everything into the premolded framework of an external ideology.
The landslide collapse of socialist society the world has witnessed over the past few years is testimony to the bankruptcy of this unreasonable attempt And the spiritual desolation that was revealed once the disguise of ideology was torn away has demonstrated with horrible clarity just how cruelly the "abstract spirit" wreaks destruction in the human heart. What is needed now, therefore, is a way to resurrect an inner-motivated or internal spirituality. within ourselves and our society, that will serve as the mark and proof of our humanity.
This is precisely the point I consistently emphasized in a speech entitled, "The Age of 'Soft Power' and Inner-Motivated Philosophy", which I presented in September of last year at Harvard University. Happily, the speech was well received by many, includbg Harvard Professor Harvey Cox, one of America's foremost religious scholars. Professor Cox stressed that the lack of internal spirituality is not restricted to the former communist sphere, but is a conspicuous phenomenon in the United States as well. He thus emphasized that the theme I took up in my speech, on how we should go about reviving the internal motivation that was so abundant during the American Renaissance, is an urgent issue today.
An "lnternal" Renaissance, Spirituality, and the Mission of India
Regardless of the system, we at Soka Gakkai International (SG1) wish to put all our effort into the renaissance of internal spirituality that is now becoming a major task for human civilization. What we call the "Soka Renaissance" is just another name for the same process. If religion goes no further than doctrine and liturgy; it remains nothing but a kind of "hard power"; But when, through the training of the human spirit, religion succeeds in stirring the growth of an internal spirituality, it blooms for the first time as a "soft power". It is precisely here that the essence of the religion we advocate, the "Religion for the People", truly shines. And it is here that the Buddhism of Nichirea Daishonin takes its rightful place as a world religion.
In this context, let me mention a word about India. I will soon visit that "Great Country of Spirituality"; which I have not seen for thirteen years. On this occasion, which corresponds with the fortieth anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between India and Japan, I plan to conduct multilateral discussions concerning Indo-Japanese relations and conditions throughout Asia. But the thing that concerns me most is India itself, because it seems to me that of all countries, India is the most richly endowed with the internal spirituality that is the very antithesis of the "abstract spirit".
The mention of India Soon brings to mind such giants as Gandhi and Nehru, and it we look at the political paths those two followed, we find that they are vastly different. Gandhi's thought was indigenous and deeply influenced by the tradition of Hinduism. In contrast, Nehru was a modernist, with a close affinity to socialism. But it seems that these two thinkers had one thing in common: they both eschewed the political radicalism that characterized Jacobism and Bolshevism. In their similarity I perceive the workings of India's continuous tradition of inner motivated spirituality.
Among Gandhi's famous words are the following:
This socialism is as pure as crystal. It, therefore, requires crystal-like means to achieve it. Impure means result in an impure end... Therefore only truthful, non violent and pure-hearted socialists will be able to establish a socialist society in India and the world.
This penetrating insight hits directly on the true nature of socialism. To be sure, socialist theory espouses beautiful ideals that have an abstract kind of logical consistency. For that very reason, people urgently press forward to realize those ideals in concrete form. Obviously, if something is known to be good, the faster it is put into practice the better As a result, people are in too much of a hurry to reform the system, and tend to neglect human beings, who are the most important part ot the reform process. The fatal flaw of socialism, therefore, lies not in failed efforts to nurture "truthful,nonviolent and purehearted socialists", but rather in the total absence of effort to nurture such people. It appears that Gandhi, and even the modernist Nehru, were both illuminated by the magnificent traditions of India, and dearly perceived the evil of the political radicalism that arises from the "abstract spirit". I believe that their insight is a precious legacy not just for India, but for all humankind.
As Gandhi observed, all changes, all reforms, require people perfectly suited to implement them. The humanism we advocate is no exception. It serves as fin irreplaceable marker for the present age1 which finds us waking at last from the nightmare of ideology. Therefore, this year as well, we would like to walk fearlessly along the great path of humanism, with human revolution as the axis of our movement.
In any case, the age of Cold War confrontation, which long divided the world into Eastern and Western camps, has come to an end. What we must do now is prepare a clear blueprint for a new global order that is based on the massive changes that have already occurred on the world map, and concentrate all our wisdom on achieving that order.
Several years ago, I engaged in comprehensive discussions about the environment with Dr. Aurello Peccei, a co-founder of the Club of Rome, and these were published in a book called "Before It Is Too Late". There was a long hiatus in The Club of Rome publications following Dr. Peecci's death, but last fall they published a new report entitled, "The Final Global Revolution". In it, the authors stress that all of humankind's wisdom must be brought together immediately it we are to survive into the twenty-first century. I agree this must be done, before it is too late.
UN "Earth Summit": Outlook Grim, Hopes High
Now that the icy standoff between East and West has thawed, it is more crucial than ever that we seriously address the many long-standing problems that face us on a global scale, such as poverty, the population explosion, and environmental destruction. In particular, this year is likely to be an extremely important turning point in our attempts to solve our global environmental problems, In June, the heads of state from many countries and representatives of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) will meet in Rio de Janeiro under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), the so-called "Earth Summit." Although I share with others a hope that the results will be positive, the outlook leaves little room for optimism.
The Earth Summit was organized to commemorate the twentieth anniversary since the UN Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm In 1972. Many action plans were adopted at the Stockholm conference, various treaties were later signed, and new bodies were created to implement them. The result of all this, however, has not been an improvement in curcumstances. On the contrary, we have witnessed the deepening of the environmental crisis, and the exacerbation of North-South tensions.
The reason for this is clear. In the past twenty years, the industrialized countries have pursued material wealth to the virtual exclusion of all other concerns, racing down their chosen path in the firm belief that the doctrine of economic growth is supreme. The prosperity of one's own country has come first, and concern for the Earth's environment has been considered secondary, Economic assistance to developing countries has continued, but it hasn't been tied directly to improving the people's standard of living. The problem of poverty and its attendant issue of explosive population growth have been left unaddressed. In the end this approach has led to environmental destruction within the developing countries, the accumulative effect of which has contributed to the degradation of the global environment.
Another issue that must be addressed quickly is the rapid population growth. The world's population has reached 5.4 billion, and has grown by 1.6 billion in the twenty years since the Stockholm conference. Continuing at the present rate, there will be some 10 billion people in the world by the year 2050, far more than the Earth can support. And nearly all of that growth will occur in the developing countries. This fact gives substance to the common saying that "the poor have many children." Part of the reason is because the infant mortality rate is so high in poorer countries that mothers do not try to limit the number of children they bear, as a result, the rate of population growth is highest in the very regions where poverty is most extreme. It is clear that no solution will be found to the population problem until poverty is alleviated.
The Close Relationship Between Population, Poverty and the Environment
At the same time, poverty and population growth have a direct, adverse effect on the natural environment as people, struggling to survive, destroy forests through their reckless slash-and-burn agriculture and in their haphazard search for fuel.
The three monumental problems confronting humankind~lobal environmental destruction. population growth, and poverty-are inextricably linked, and we are therefore confronted with the extremely difficult task of finding a simultaneous and comprehensive solution.
It goes without saying that effective assistance from industrialized countries is essential if developing countries are to escape from poverty. Ultimately, however, success depends on the internal efforts of the poorer countries to develop themselves, and the key to this lies in education.
Educating people about birth control is one of the factors necessary to contain population growth. The important thing is finding a way to increase general educational opportunities for all people in developing countries. In particular, it has been demonstrated statistically that providing women with educational opportunities speeds up society's advancement and reduces the number of children born.
The issue of how to rectity the developmental imbalance between the North and the South can truly be considered an aporia confronting humankind today. To do our part, we sponsored two exhibitions, chiefly through the efforts of the Women's Peace Committee of the Soka Gakkai, that were organized in support of United Nations activities. The UNICEF-approved "What're Children's Human Rights Exhibition" and the "UNICEF and the World's Children Exhibition" were presented throughout Japan and enjoyed a tremendous response.
At this moment, 150 million children are starving. As many as forty-thousand young lives are lost every day because of inferior medical treatment and natural disasters. Our exhibitions were promoted with the intent of stirring people's imaginations and deepening their consciousness of this worldwide crisis. They were a unique attempt to deal with an extremely difficult problem: how to go about building, within the context of our daily lives, a spiritual solidarity as citizens of the world among people in both industrialized and developing nations Although I was only peripherally involved in this effort, I gladly gave it my full supporL
The main point I wish to emphasize again and again is that, unless we find a way to effectively address the problems of poverty, starvation, and population growth before the end of the 1990s, it may well be too late.
Another prominent problem of the nineties is the plight ot refugees, whose number has already swe11ed to some seventeen million people. In addition to ordinary refugees, who leave their homelands and flee to nearby countries to escape the ravages of war, we are also seeing a sharp increase in the number of people pouring into industrialized countries to escape poverty, as well as victims of ethnic strife, who wander homeless within me confines of their own countries. As an NGO of the United Nations, SGI recognizes the seriousness of this international problem, and has earnestly undertaken refugee aid activities.
It would seem that the 1990s have ushered in an era of pressing choices that demand our immediate response. The choices we make now could well determine the survival of the human race, By their very nature, the global problems confronting us call for the combined efforts of all people, with no distinction between North and South. But in reality, as we prepare for the Earth Summit to be held in June a huge rift has become apparent between the Industrialized and developing nations, creating a source of great anxiety.
The primary goal of the summit is the concrete realization of the concept of "sustainable development," which integrates development with the protection of the environment "Development" in this case does not mean the wastefull squandering or natural resources of the past, with its concomitant environmental devastation. Rather, we are groping for a kind of balanced development that ensures environmental preservation The goal is development that looks directly to the future, that protects the interests of future generations, and yet meets the basic needs of the present generation. But the disagreement between the North and the South concerning precisely how sustainable development is to be achieved is far from resolved.
Specifically, there seems to be a rising clamor among developing countries that the unbridled consumerism of the industrialized countries is the primary reason the environment became so degraded in the first place. In addition, the North's developmental policies are coming under increasingly harsh criticism, because they have not contributed to the betterment of living conditions in the South, and have proved incapable of preventing environmental destruction.
It is certainly true that, far from alleviating the poverty of developing countries, the developmental policies of the industrialized countries have instead succeeded only in placing a huge burden of accumulated debt on the South, thus robbing them of any leeway even to think about environmental preservation.
Calls for Linking Aid with the Weapons Procurement Policy of Recipient Countries
We must reconsider why the economic assistance provided thus far has not been put to effective use. It is estimated that military expenditures in developing countries have grown to as much as US$200 billion per year. We must do something immediately to remedy a situation in which much of the funds given to developing countries as assistance are actually used to procure weapons Although this raises the issue of interference in individual countries' internal affairs, we will be able to help stop increases in military spending if the aid-giving countries and international organizations can establish a system in which the decisions to provide economic assistance are dependent upon a comprehensive assessment of the military expenditures and weapons procurement policies of the recipient countries.
Unfortunately, bitter confrontation is not limited to disagreements between the North and South. Even among themselves the industriatized countries have failed to agree on a coordinated plan, a fact that casts a dark cloud over the prospects for the Earth Summit.
For example, distinct differences are apparent between Western Europe and the United States concerning the summit's primary issue: the adoption of a treaty that can serve as a framework to stop global warming. One of the chief causes of global warming is carbon dioxide emissions, and the Europeans are anxious to reduce the amount of this gas that is allowed to enter the atmosphere. The Americans. on the other hand, have doubts concerning the mechanism of global warming and, worried about possible ill-effects on their economy, are less enthusiastic about restrictions.
Confrontations between North and South, as well as among the industrialized countries themselves, have given rise to an extremely complex and difficult situation that some believe threatens the success of the UN conference.
It goes without saying that the essence of our environmental problem is how we should go about creating a society that can exist in harmony with the natural ecosystem. For this reason, it is a compound problem that transcends the boundaries Of politics, economics, science and technology. The environmental issue concerns the fundamental problem of how human beings live, including all fields of endeavor which range from their sense of values to the nature of culture in future societies. This is an issue that cannot be successfully solved only from the political or economic viewpoint of individual nations. We must instead proceed with a reformation of the consciousness of all the Earth's people, a task that renders the need for internal spirituality all the more acute. In the coarse of my earlier discussion of the "abstract spirit" the issue of environmental destruction was on my mind constantly. Regardless of the system that embodies it, the "abstract spirit" has continued to wield the same deadly sword over the environment as it has over humanity itself. The horrible environmental devastation in the former communist countries, going far beyond anything we had dared imagine, is still fresh in our memories. Surely, the reformation of our internal consciousness, as citizens of the Earth who share a sense of crisis, is an issue that bears on the entire course of human history.
Parallel to this, we are also commanded by the urgent need to build a new international system that can cope with the grave plight of our planet.
Now is the Time for a Radical "UN Renaissance"
With the end of the Cold War and the end of confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, there are some who envision the reactivation of the United Nations in a kind of "UN Renaissance". It is certainly true that the UN is now free of the functional paralysis it once suffered as the result of the Security Council members' indiscriminate use of their right to veto. However, the United Nations in its present form is ill-equipped to deal with global problems of the kind represented by the environmental crisis. It is well over forty years since the United Nations was established, and world conditions have changed dramatically in that time. Global crises such as we face today were not foremost in the minds of the UN founders; not surprisingly, the environment was not even considered an important issue.
For these reasons I believe the time has come to effect real and radical reforms in the United Nations, by which I mean the establishment of an international organization, suited to the new age, that can cope with global problems. With the weight of East-West confrontation having been removed, this is an opportune time for the new start that was previously impossible.
About thirteen years ago, I proposed the establishment of an 'Environmental United Nations" in the conviction that, in the near future, such an organization would be absolutely necessary. In an extension of that proposal, I suggested last year that the UN Security Council be divided into two bodies through the establishment of a new "Environmental Security Council". I have been greatly heartened by the fact that this proposal has met with strong approval among concerned people both in Japan and abroad.
I believe the opportunity for such reform is steadily opening. We have already entered a new age where flve great powers are no longer able to monopolize the Secutity Council and lead the rest of the world by the ear. It seems that proposals are being made by some prominent intellectuals to divide the Security Councii into several subgroups that would address such problems as the environment and food. I sincerely hope that the UN leadership will show a flexible response to these suggestions, in keeping with the new requirements of the times.
I remember a fascinating plan for UN reform offered by that great Scandinavian authority on peace studies, Dr Johan Galtung, with whom I have exchanged opinions throughout the course of several enjoyable meetings in Japan. Dr. Galtung suggests that the United Nations be divided into upper and lower houses, with the upper house retaining the present system of one nation, one vote, and the lower house reflecting actual population ratios.
What interests me most in his suggestion is the complete change in concept that the bicameral idea represents. Setting aside for a moment the issue of whether or not a bicameral structure is appropriate, I am convinced that conditions in the world today require a similarly dramatic kind of reform.
By this I mean that the current organization of the Economic and Social Council, with its attendant Conference on Trade and Development, its environmental plans, population funds, and development plans, is inadequate to effectively address the global problems we face. In view of this, perbaps we should consider dividing the United Nations itself into two independent, radically strengthened bodies, one to engage in peacekeeping activities and the other to deal with such global problems as the environment, the economy, development, population, food, and human rights.
The first could be called the "United Nations Of Security", and the second the "United Nations of Environment and Development". Such an arrangement would do away with much of the criticism aimed at the current UN: that it functions disjointedly. with little lateral cooperation between agencies, and that there is too much overlap in its activities, resulting in waste. Fully seventy percent of the UN's fiscal and human resources are presently devoted to developmental aid and humanitarian activities in developing countries. Clearly this demonstrates the current need for the establishment of a new "United Nations of Environment and Development". And, just as the "United Nations of Security" would have a Security Council, so this new organization would have an "Environment and Development Security Council".
A "United Nations of Environment and Development"
Would Need Decision-Making Authority
The reason I propose founding a new institution rather than restructuring and strengthening the existing Economic and Social Council is that we must give the "United Nations of Environment and Development" enough power to make truly international decisions. We must not be content with a simple international forum.
As many are aware, the limitations of the present United Nations lie in its organizational form-a collection of soverelgn states. The interests of each member state necessarily come to the fore, making it difficult to reach independent decisions from the standpoint of the general good of Earth and humanity. The new institution I envision would be strong enough to overcome these limhations with some degree of compelling power.
The permanent and temporary member states of the "Environment and Development Security Council" would be selected on the basis of such factors as their GNPs and populations; care would be taken to represent all regions of the world, so that the Council reflects a balance between Northern and Southern points of view.
I realize that many hurdles must be over come before this concept can be actualized, including the question of financing. Presently, the United Nations is hard pressed for funds: some might argue that it is impossible to consider establishing an entirely new organization on the existing financial base.
But if we consider the seriousness of the crisis confronting the Earth, it becomes apparent that efforts to gain financial support for international organizations that are trying to solve the crisis must be approached from a global, rather than national, perspective. The United Nations current annual budget is approximately US$2.3 billion. Compared with the estimated US$1 trillion the world spends on defense each year, this is woefully inadequate, especially in light of the crucial role of the United Nations in today's world.
Of particular concern is the contention that the UN does not have the financial resources necessary to systematically promote the kind of sustainable development that sufficiently takes environmental preservation into account. For example, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEF) has a meager annual budget of Us$40 million. which is just half, I hear, of the budget of one of the more powerful private environmental protection gronps in the United States.
It is true that, with the exception of Japan, many industralized countries are suffering from recession and high unemployment, In addition, the countries comprising the Commonweaith of Independent States are facing an economic crisis, and are now on the receiving side of international economic aid programs. All of this might lead to the conclusion that few countries can now afford to offer financial support to International organizations. That is precisely why I believe the time is now. The end of the Cold War has given us an opportunity to embark in a totally new direction. We have no choice but to slash bloated military spending and allot the money saved to increased financial support for the United Nations. It should be obvious that there is no longer either reason or leeway to continue military investment.
Proposals for UN Financial Woes
It will take an enormous amount of money to adequately address the many large-scale environmental problems we face, such as global warming and the preservation of Earth's biodiversity. Recently, in preparation for the June summit, the Conference Secretariat calculated how much will be required to protect the environment over the eight years from 1993 to 2O00. Their estimate is US$125 billion per year. If this is indeed the required annual expenditure, where will the money come from?
The only possible answer lies in the dramatic termination of the world's estimated US$1 trillion annual expenditure on the military. As one concrete proposal, I suggest that each country set aside a portion of their military expenditure and contribute it to a "United Nations Arms Reduction Fund" dedicated to the protection of the Earth's environment.
However, raising capital for environmental protection should not be left entirely to national governments, local governments, and other public agencies. As part of an overall drive to raise people's consciousness concerning the environment, NGOs from all countries should also be prepared to do their part. I suggest we all pool our wisdom and expertise to provide the United Nations with financial support through various activities, including fund raising.
Many NGO's from all over the world will gather at the United Nations conference in June. Never before, it is said, has their participation been looked forward to with such expectation; we must take advantage of the opportunity to thoroughly discuss practical issues such as those mentioned above. As an NGO of the Economic and Social Council, SGI has continued to support the United Nations, and we plan to make a positive contribution to the Earth Summit. Specifically, we are planing, with the cooperation of the Conference Secretariat and the Bureau of the Environment in Rio de Janeiro, to promote environmental consciousness-raising activities that center on an exhibition tentatively entitled, "The Environment and Development".
The realization of my concept of a "United Nations of Environment and Development" depends upon whether or not each country is willing to give priority to the Earth's interest-meaning the survival of the human race and this planet itself-over its own national interests. Each country must abandon its long-held belief in the primacy of national sovereignty and be prepared to transfer part of its authority to the international body.
The accomplishments of the European Community (EC) might prove instructive in this respect. The EC countries have resolved, in the near future, to abolish their own separate currencies and go ahead with their plan for economic and monetary union based on a single currency. They also seem prepared to coordinate their diplomacy and defense policies to achieve political union. This means that each country's sovereignty will be greatly reduced, or else delegated to the larger organization. One issue of interest will be how international organizations will be modified to reflect this trend towards "transnationalism".
For example, one scheme that has gained recent attention is the idea of an international tax. Already, the Conference Secretariat for the Earth Summit has proposed the creation of a usage fee levied on all nations that develop or use the oceans, the atmosphere, or any other common resources of the international community. The money raised would go into a United Nations fund for environmental protection. If such a system were realized, we would not only succeed in raising the funds needed for the protection of the Earth's environment, but also take an important step towards sweeping away the absolutist view of national sovereignty. Now that fundamental questions are being raised about national sovereignty, as evidenced in developments in the EC, constructive discussion is needed to realize such an international tax.
The NGOs may well prove invaluable in overcoming the limitations inherent in international organizations that are comprised of sovereign states. They have demonstrated their effectiveness in many fields, including the preservation of the environment, the protection of human rights, and developmental cooperation, how to put their constructive energy to use will be an issue of considerable importance. Our task is to create a new framework that will accommodate not just governmental bodies but also grassroots NGOs, and indeed all major international actors. For this reason, the Charter to be written for the proposed "United Nations of Environment and Development" must be based on the ideals of global democracy, and should point the way into the twenty-first century for humankind.
In 1995, the United Nations will celebrate it's fiftieth anniversary. As that event approaches, let us make every effort to promote global discussion on how the United Nations can be radically reformed.
Asian Trends: The Korean Peninsula and Cambodia
Next, allow me to make some observations concerning new conditions in Asia. In the proposals I made on the fifteenth SGI Day in January of 1990, I predicted that demands for freedom and democracy originating in eastern Europe would eventually have repercussions in Asia as well, I also expressed my heartfelt hope that we would see improvements in relations between North and South Korea, whose division had become seemingly permanent. Happily, the enormous changes we have witnessed in the past year have truly developed in the way I anticipated.
Three epochal events occurred last year relating to peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula: the simultaneous admission of North and South Korea into the United Nations; the "Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, and Economic Cooperation and Exchanges"; and the 'Joint Declaration on a Nonnuclear Korean Peninsula."
Not only are these developments the most important historical events to occur for both Koreas since their partition, but they also have great significance as a means of reducing tension in Northeast Asia and strengthening the foundation for world peace.
Of these, the simultaneous admission of North and South Korea into the United Nations has been instrumental in breaking down the previous structure of confrontation. Although the hope of representing the Korean people through a single UN seat has had to be postponed, the two-seat solution has become a symbol of the new "Age of Peaceful Coexistence".
The second breakthrough was the "Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, and Economic Cooperation and Exchanges", which was adopted in the middle of last December at the fifth North-South Korean prime ministers' conference.
In 1985, in a speech I gave commemorating the tenth anniversary of the founding of SG1, I expressed the opinion that opportunities were growing for dialogue in Asia, and strongly emphasized the importance of holding a summit meeting between North and South Korea. The following year I pursued this theme further with the plea that the top leaders from both countries meet directly and sign an agreement of "Mutual Nonaggression and Renunciation of War".
The Agreement we have today clearly includes the commitment to "mutual nonaggression and renunciation of war" that I proposed. In addition, my assertion that the demilitarized tone should serve as a focal point for peace and culture, as outlined in the proposals I gave on the occasion of the eleventh SGI Day, has found its way into the Agreement, which states that the two Koreas will explore the possibilities of peaceful uses for the demilitarized zone.
The third breakthrough, the "Joint Declaration on a Non-nuclear Korean Peninsula", should be welcomed as a measure that will give further impetus to nuclear disarmament, both in Asia and throughout the world.
For all intents and purposes, the blueprint for peace has already been drawn up. what we must do now is find a way to implement it and make peace a reality. It is my sincere and fervent hope that the non-aggression and non-nuclear agreements described above will be faithfully observed and concretely realized. In their respective New Year addresses, President Roh Tae Woo and Chairman Kim Il Sung both expressed their strong desire for peace and reunification. As the next step, I strongly hope that direct dialogue between the two leaders can take place as soon as possible, based on the agreements that have already been reached on the governmental level. At the press conference held by President Roh at the beginning of the year, he indicated his desire to engage in direct talks with Chairman Kim Il Sung, and said prospects were good that this could be "achieved in the not-so-distant future". It is a matter of the utmost importance that the two leaders meet and talk directly, so that the agreements reached by their governments are strengthened, and the content of those agreements realized.
Having watched this historical ground swell towards peace on the Korean Peninsula over the past year, I feel very strongly that we are approaching an era of momentous change. Of all the world's nations, Korea has sacrificed the most to war and national strife, and confrontation has seemed like the unalterable fate of the region.
We must not let this chance slip by. The people of both Koreas, who for most of this century have suffered through the ravages of war, foreign invasion and domination, and the partition of their state, should be given the chance to enter the new century in prosperity and true peace. This is the heartfelt wish of those of us who have lived together in the twentieth century.
Another topic I would like to address is the situation in Cambodia. In comments I made on SGI day four years ago, I discussed conditions in Cambodia from a humanitarian perspective, and expressed the hope that the extended civil war there would be resolved as quickly as possible.
Happily, last year marked the civil war's end after thirteen years of conflict, and I am delighted to hear the footsteps of peace approaching. Distrust among the four fighting factions has not entirely vanished, and the road to political stability and economic reconstruction is strewn with many difficulties; but we must gladly welcome the fact that the first steps towards national reconciliation have been taken.
I might mention that the person specially appointed by the UN Secretary General to head the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), Yasushi Akashi, is an old friend of mine. As a fellow Japanese, and as a Buddhist who desires peace in Asia, I pray that he will be successful in his task, which is said to be the most difficult in UN history.
UNTAC is charged with running all aspects of Cambodia's government until a new, elected administration takes Over next year. Never before has the United Nations become so fully involved in the reconstruction of a single country. It will be a valuable experience in peacekeeping operations, proving that the role of the UN is now held in high esteem, and that trust in the United Nations itself is on the rise.
On a more personal level, my intense interest In Cambodian affairs stems in part from meeting Prince Sihanouk in Beijing in April 1975£ He now heads the Supreme National Council, which is regarded as a symbol of the people's reconciliation.
Top priority must be given to the happiness of the Cambodian people. I am hoping that on the basis of the wholehearted support ot the United Nations and with every possible cooperative effort extended by Japan and other countries, the road to the construction of a new Cambodia will be opened up smoothly.
Japan's Role In a New Order
Various debates continue on how Japan should contribute to the international community; This discussion should not be limited to the issue of participatlon in UN peacekeeping operations VPKO)~ but must extend to the consideration of how we can help build a comprehensive framework for peace throughout the world.
Now that the threat of nuclear war has receded. the environmental crisis that threatens humankind bears down all the more heavily. While respecting the developing countries' "right to develop," we need to create a new global system of coexistence that also guarantees the economic development of the industrialized countries. This is precisely where Japan can contribute.
Daisaku Ikeda President Soka Gakkai International
January 26, 1992
Copyright Soka Gakkai
Each year since 1983, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) President Daisaku Ikeda presents peace proposals on behalf of the international lay Buddhist organization, to which Soka Gakkai belongs. In them, he articulates Buddhist ideals and philosophy as a framework for addressing the manifold problems our global society faces in its efforts to realize human security and world peace.
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