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Jacques Maritain (November 18, 1882 – April 23, 1973), World Citizen Philosopher

In Being a World Citizen, Spirituality on November 20, 2020 at 5:29 PM

By René Wadlow

Jacques Maritain was a French intellectual who spent the years of World War Two in Princeton in the USA. He was a friend of the anti-Nazi German author Thomas Mann who also lived in Princeton. Both men were among the active advocates of world citizenship. When Thomas Mann’s daughter, Elizabeth Mann Borgese, was editing the world citizen journal Common Cause from the University of Chicago in the 1947-1950 period, Jacques Maritain wrote a number of articles for the journal along the lines of his thinking set out in his Man and the State.

At the time that he was writing for Common Cause, he was the Ambassador of France to the Vatican, having been named ambassador by Charles De Gaulle from 1945 to 1948. Maritain had supported De Gaulle during the war when many French Catholics had sided with the Vichy government or were silent.

Jacques Maritain had become a well-known French intellectual in the 1930s for his writings on a wide range of topics but always in a spirit of spirituality in the Roman Catholic tradition. However, he was born into a Protestant family with anticlerical views which were common at the start of the Third Republic in the 1870s.

Maritain was converted to the Roman Catholic faith in his early twenties after a period of depression linked to his search for the meaning of life. He had married young to his wife Raissa, who came from a Jewish Ukrainian family who had come to France due to a persistent anti-Jewish atmosphere in Ukraine. Both Jacques and Raissa converted to the Roman Catholic faith at the same time as a result of intense discussions between the two.

Raissa became well known in her own right as a poet and writer on mystical spirituality, but she also always worked closely on the writings of her husband. Their spiritual Catholicism was always colored by their early friendship with unorthodox Catholic thinkers, in particular Charles Péguy and Leon Bloy. After Raissa’s death in 1960, Jacques Maritain moved back to France from Princeton to live in a monastic community for the last 12 years of his life.

His writing on the spiritual background for creative actions for the benefit of the world community can be an inspiration to us all.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Building Stronger Conflict Prevention Networks

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on November 9, 2020 at 1:44 PM

By René Wadlow

As we reflect on current armed conflicts on which the Association of World Citizens (AWC) has proposed measures for conflict resolution – Nagorno-Karabakh, Yemen, Syria, Ukraine-Donetsk-Lugansk-Russia – we ask ourselves if we are to be overwhelmed by an endless chain of regional wars capable of devastating entire countries or will we help build the structures for the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith. Can we help build stronger conflict prevention networks?

In each of these current conflicts, there is a mix of underlying causes: ethnic tensions, social inequality, environmental degradation, and regional rivalries. In each conflict, there were warning signs and a building of tensions prior to the outbreak of armed conflict. This was particularly true in Syria where there were four months of nonviolent protests and local organizing for reforms before violence began. Not enough was done by external nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to strengthen and protect these nonviolent reform movements in Syria. Given the complexity of conflict situations and the often-short time between the signs of tensions and the outbreak of violence, external peacebuilding organizations have to be able to move quickly to support local civil society efforts.

In each of these four situations, the degree of civil society organizations differs. We need to look carefully at the different currents within the society to see what groups we might be able to work with and to what degree of influence they may have on governmental action. Governments tend to react in the same ways. Governments cling to the belief that there can be simple security-related solutions to complex challenges as we see these days with the current use of police and military methods by the government of Belarus.

There is often a pervading mistrust between the central government and outlying territories. Such mistrust cannot be overcome by external NGOs. We can, however, reflect with local groups on how lines of communication can be established or strengthened.

Preventing the eruption of disputes into full-scale hostilities is not an easy task, but its difficulties pale beside those of ending the fighting once it has started. NGOs need to have active channels of communication with multinational governmental organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). NGOs may have an easier time to be in contact with local nongovernmental forces in the conflict States as both the UN and the OSCE are bound by the decisions of governments.

Growing resource scarcity and environmental degradation, the depletion of fresh water and arable land played an important role in exacerbating conflicts in Yemen. The armed conflict has made things much worse. There is now a growing world-wide recognition of the environmental-conflict linkage. Thus, groups concerned with the defense and restoration of the environment need to become part of the network of conflict resolution efforts. There is much to be done. Building stronger conflict prevention networks should be a vital priority.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Velimir Khlebnikov (November 9, 1885 – June 28, 1922): The Futurian and World Citizen

In Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Literature, Poetry, Spirituality, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on November 9, 2020 at 1:02 PM

By René Wadlow

Let Planet Earth be sovereign at last. Planet Earth alone will be our sovereign song.

Velimir Khlebnikov.

Velimir Khlebnikov was a shooting star of Russian culture in the years just prior to the start of the First World War. He was part of a small creative circle of poets, painters and writers who wanted to leave the old behind and to set the stage for the future such as the abstract painter Kazimir Malevich. They called themselves “The Futurians”. They were interested in being avenues for the Spirit which they saw at work in peasent life and in shamans’ visions; however, the Spirit was very lacking in the works of the ruling nobility and commercial elite.

As Charlotte Douglas notes in her study of Khlebnikov “To tune mankind into harmony with the universe – that was Khlebnikov’s vocation. He wanted to make the Planet Earth fit for the future, to free it from the deadly gravitational pull of everyday lying and pretense, from the tyranny of petty human instincts and the slow death of comfort and complacency.” (1)

Khlebnikov wrote “Old ones! You are holding back the fast advance of humanity. You are preventing the boiling locomotive of youth from crossing the mountain that lies in its path. We have broken the locks and see what your freight cars contain: tombstones for the young.”

The Futurian movement as such lasted from 1911 until 1915 when its members were dispersed by the start of the World War, the 1917 revolutions and the civil war. Khlebnikov died in 1922 just as Stalin was consolidating his power. Stalin would put an end to artistic creativity.

The Futurians were concerned that Russia should play a creative role in the world, but they were also world citizens who wanted to create a world-wide network of creative scientists, artists and thinkers who would have a strong impact on world events. As Khlebnikov wrote in his manifesto To the Artists of the World We have long been searching for a program that would act something like a lens capable of focusing the combined rays of the work of the artist and the work of the thinker toward a single point where they might join in a common task and be able to ignite even the cold essence of ice and turn it to a blazing bonfire. Such a program, the lens capable of directing together your fiery courage and the cold intellect of the thinkers has now been discovered.”

The appeal for such a creative, politically relevant network was written in early 1919 when much of the world was starting to recover from World War I. However, Russia was sinking into a destructive civil war. The Futurians were dispersed to many different areas and were never able to create such a network. The vision of a new network is now a challenge that we must meet.

Note

1) Charlotte Douglas (Ed.) The King of Time: Velimir Khlebnikov (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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