In Northern Ireland, we sometimes tell the following joke. A man was traveling in his car and lost his way. He asked a farmer, the way to the town. The farmer replied, “If I was you I wouldn’t start from here.”
I believe, we the human family, like the traveler, have lost our way. We are on the wrong road. Our government’s international policies, particularly those of the United States of America , are taking us down a dangerous road. Most of us wish that we did not have to start from here, but we have to face the facts of where we currently stand.
Policies, such as: ongoing wars, pre-emptive strike, unilateralism, increased militarism and nuclearism, invasions, occupations, imperialism, erosion of civil and political liberties, ignoring the United Nations and humanitarian and international laws, government sanctions of murder (Pentagon’s SAP – special-access program), state sanctioned systematic torture (Abu Ghraib prison, etc.), unethical corporate globalization, and run-away capitalism
Not only will such policies take us around a cul-de-sac of counter-violence, but they may also take us well over the cliff of total destruction.
We need urgently to move onto a new road. We can choose to do this individually, by seeking truth and living our lives with as much integrity as possible. But in order to bring about the enormous changes necessary, we have to demand our Governments change those current national and foreign policies, which are destroying the lives of millions of our brothers and sisters on the planet, and damaging the earth itself. We have to challenge our governments to abolish these policies and take a different road to where we want to go, as a united human family.
I suspect when Mr. Gorbachev initiated Perestrojka, it was because he recognized that the Soviet Union and the world were on the wrong road. His courage in initiating reforms, and his vision, not only brought about great changes such as the ending of the Cold War, but in that period of history, he gave hope to humanity. Millions
of us were high on Hope. We were aflame with unlimited possibilities. We too shared his vision of stopping the nuclear and arms race. We believed that everyone could share in the Peace Dividend. We too wanted stop the madness of such huge military spending, and spend it instead on tackling the real enemies of the human family, poverty, diseases, etc.,
Alas, it is for historians to record why so many Governments and people, never took the different road. But we don’t need historians to tell us what we now in our hearts – the World missed a ‘golden opportunity’ to demilitarize, denuclearise, and unite together as the human family to tackle the enormous problems, which no one nation can solve alone.
Well, maybe we are slow learners. However I believe this generation is now being graced with another opportunity to make, yet again, new and better choices. But will we.?
Yes, I am convinced we will. One great hope lies in the fact that there is a new consciousness in our World, particularly among young people. We recognize we are inter-connected as the human family, and Global Citizenship is upon us. In this increasingly multi-cultural, multi-faith, pluralist world citizenship, we are challenged to build Unity in our diversity.
However, with this new consciousness, comes too the realization that the old structures, institutions, and ways of doing things no longer work, nor do they meet the needs of our struggling into birth a united world. The Organization, which represents us all, the United Nations, is I believe much in need of re-financing, renewal and reform, but we do not have, to date, world institutions that are truly democratic, and which would constitute genuine World Government.
These, we are challenged to build, both across the international level, but also downwards, and on a local level. We have to do both. Politics begin where people live, in villages, communities, etc., so empowering people at a local level is most important. Economic, political and social restructing starts at a local level but is necessary also on an international level. We can all play our part, as village and world citizens, in building what Martin Luther King called, “the beloved community.”
Change, can only be built by each one of us, and joining together as a United People of the World. By rejecting violence and war, and adopting a local and international ethic of nonviolence, we can start to reshape our own lives, our communities, our countries, and our world. It must be done person-to-person, group-to-group, building nonviolent and truly democratic societies from the ground up. There is no alternative, but slow hardwork, which each of us must do.
There will be no quick fixes. We are on a long journey, but at least if we change onto a new road now, and insist our governments do likewise, we can travel together united as the human family, celebrating the gift of life, the gift of each other, and the joy of simply being alive. For the journey we gain inner strength by following our own spiritual paths, but also from the example of others whose courage and self-sacrifice uphold and uplift us.
Speech by Mairead Corrigan Maguire At 5th World Summit at Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome 10-12 November, 2004