We need more than the obvious!
Comment by Wolfgang Behr
dedicated to the International Herald Tribune
(25.5.1999, the NATO-campaign against Yougoslawia had not yet ended!)
THE most of us are just spectators of the great historical movements, which happen around the world. Of course a lot of people are given by liberal democracies the possibility to be rather independent of these movements or even to profit of them and we should appreciate this. When we are talking, however, about the idea of free markets, which has survived the crisis in East-Asia, in Russia or in Brazil and is even stronger than before, we should understand this fact not as a sort of victory but as a great, renewed task.
Liberal society doesn't exist at a worldwide scale. Hundreds of million people are still living without freedom and without a real chance for prosperity. The stage of the free world markets is rather the "gold fever" - a few people are earning great fortunes in short time -, than it is, what it should be: One of the modern institutions, which help the people to manage their life in a self-determined way.
Nearly nobody really wants to go back to protectionism and to closed societies. But the economy doesn't cover the whole human existence. If we want a free world without the stubborn walls in people's heads and - made of bureaucratic rules and barbed wire - in the landscapes, we are tired of, we have to do another step beyond establishing free world markets.
Though the so called western world is based on individual rights, it is still divided in big nations and in powerfull lobbies. By pointing at these facts other parts of the world, other cultures or nations allow themselves to ignore the individual fundaments of the western culture - they ignore the human rights as well as the chances of developped liberal economies. For shure, they are one-sided. Nevertheless, what we need even within our own western societies, is a new start, a clear and unambiguous change of paradigm from the collective to the individual, which cannot be denied, because it effectively devalues all sorts of power agglomerations.
WHAT the yougoslawian state has committed in Kosovo by its police, military and paramilitary troups, is far beyond any acceptable human standard, which we should take as normal for a future world society. So it was indispensable to act, to intervene as the NATO has done. But why the world still has found itself in a situation, which isnīt so far from what happened 60 years before? Why once again a regime in Europe could recruit criminals and other people, who are ideologically misguided enough to commit atrocities, which we usually see as a sign of the Middle Age, but which are in effect one of the main signatures of the passing century?
In a more general point of view we ourself have to take a big part of responsibility for that. We have to accept, that our modern world is still not convincing, not strong enough to outdate the sort of politics made by Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and others. We need a new run up, a new frontier. Modernity should be defined as the conclusive capacity of all members of our societies to find the means, material and immaterial, they need for a self-responsible life.
BESIDE of national and international institutions founded on the rule of the law, beside of all organisations, which support the people, the free economy stays indispensable for achieving a civil world society. Historians say, that it was the money, which helped democracy breaking through in old Greece, because it shifted the opportunity of gaining a fortune from the landowner, the nobility, to all citizens (except women and slaves at this time). But in the attempts for transforming the fissured world in a peacefully interacting community a new universal institution is necessary, which should extend the great invention of the Romans - everybody has the same right facing the law - into the sphere of concrete politics. This only can be done by the institution of the political independence of the individual, of the citizen - an institution, which does not replace liberal democracy and the existing states, but completes them in the meaning of a world constitution, which has priority. That institution has to be established nominally by an extraordinary world-political act at first and then filled with life - a process, which will last a few decades, a few generations even in our galloping world civilisation.
Only by such an empowering of the single persons there is a chance to definitively deprive of power all sorts of metaphysical, myth-loaded collectives, which always in history have been hungry for blood. As universal institution it could have as well an important function as a lodestar, which gives the simple and poor people, who still represent the biggest part of mankind, the concrete hope, that their children or at least their grand-children will have a good and satisfied life. Modernity or history itself would irrevocably come to the level of normal people.
THE NATO-campaign against Yougoslawia had not prevented the exodus of the ethnic Albanians, the wiping out of their villages and the crimes committed in Kosovo. It inflicted collateral terror and death on innocents and let well up anti-western resentments. All this is much too ambivalent, too conflicting to the values of the western world iself for not demanding severe and unrelenting self-criticism. What political, what strategic or economic mistakes, what failures have been made in the years before the fall through of Rambouillet? In not taking the escalation for all, the question occurs, if the bombing and the massive destruction of civilian infrastructure is really adequate to the good and moral intentions invested by NATO? These questions don't want to allocate blame, they just demand for more political sophistication in the future by the one, who get paid for it.
Now the campaign in Yougoslawia once started has to be finished, perhaps even with ground troups, though no good results are any more imaginable. The pain and the desperate situation of the refugees will not be over for long time - even, when they are back in their destroyed country. And the serbian people have paid an absolutely unbearable price for their earlier incapability to get rid of Milosevic. Therefore, beyond all necessities of the day and beyond all inevitable toughness and intransigence against violent regimes like Milosevic's we have to recall again and again that a civil world only can be established by civil means!
The occidental culture, which is since its start in classical times orientated on the whole mankind (f.e. in the Bible), will find the most effective balance between its power and its actions, when being concentrated on a new key task: the comprehensive authorization of the individuals, of the citizens - which includes not at least the sense of honour and of positive self-esteem! The convincing realization in the western nations and everywhere should be the best argument for it. In this scenario it is up to the globalizing economy to learn that the extent of prosperity on a world-wide scale is more important as indicator than the Dow Jones and the Nikkei - as well for the turnover, on the long run.
The author is philosopher and founder of STRING, a project to establish world politics for individuals by innovative new institutions.