The Critical Moment of 2014
An Era of Conscience is the Framework
for a Sustainable Future
President of Federation of World Peace and Love
Vice-President and Member of Advisory Board of AWC,
NGO in Consultative Status with ECOSOC and Associated with the UN DPI
Zhang-men-ren of Tai Ji Men
August 28, 2014
Mankind’s continued existence is at risk due to the impacts of changing climate patterns
and degradation of the ecological system resulting in reduced harvests and food supply shortages. Unequal distribution of resources and economic inequality lead to difficulties in achieving regional integration and maintaining geopolitical stability and world security. The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have yet to be fully achieved. Development beyond 2015 should be based on the positive experiences and mistakes of MDGs over the past decade and set objectives based upon the principle of human-centered development. The world is more inter-related than ever before, a small spark in one place is capable of causing a ripple effect impacting another continent. It is difficult for any plans or actions to meet the diverse interests of different parties. Only when conscience and righteousness are at the center of strategic planning will we be able to create a world where human beings and Mother Earth coexist peacefully, allowing us to usher in sustainable development to defuse the risk of systematic collapse.
Order is the foundation of all things. No matter how the elements are arranged, order can still be observed. Order, therefore, constitutes the harmony and stability of human society. However, as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, the harmony seems to be lost. The repetition of history is rooted in the loss of love and conscience. An ancient proverb goes: “A crooked stick will have a crooked shadow” and “Followers follow leaders as grass follows the wind.” In the age of accelerating dissemination of information and explosion of knowledge, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish good from bad. People are confused and in a state of bewilderment because of the lack of a common intellectual framework and the loss of order.
A gun shot, an airplane crash, or an explosion is not just random coincidence. We have to understand the causes behind the incidents in order to avoid the effects. In this chaotic time, conscience is particularly important. It’s like the ringing morning bell that awakens the intuitive kind soul and righteous courage embedded in everyone’s heart.
The world needs heroes of conscience
The aspirations for peace, justice, and admiration of heroes should not be limited to works of fiction. Heroes can be found in real life. The heroes could be heads of the state, governmental officers, elite leaders from different professions, and of course, any world citizen. We must greatly respect the values of being a human and try our best to develop and fully utilize our gifts to achieve missions in life, which we were born with. Those with foresight and awareness can lead those who are slower to catch on, and influence those who are unaware. Heroes are not exempt from failure; however, with each failure, they learn how to press forward and never give up. Heroes are not gifted with supernatural powers, but they accumulate experience from diligent efforts.
The establishment of the United Nations is a crystallization of mankind’s noble aspirations and fine virtues. However, it takes collective support and endeavors of NGOs to realize the ideas of the UN. The collaboration of NGOs acting as think-tanks to propel the UN forward will provide insights as we debate ideas, execute objectives and promote development goals. With genuine intent, joy and will, anyone can be a hero of conscience in today’s society. These heroes persevere in doing the right thing and taking the right path, much like medieval knights serving righteous kings, angels assisting the Holy Spirit, and apostles witnessing the miracles of God. In light of today’s extremely challenging and difficult times, the world needs capable people with conscience. As Mencius said: “When Heaven is about to confer a great office on any man, it first tempers his mind through suffering, and strengthens his sinews and bones with toil; it exposes his body to hunger, and subjects him to extreme poverty. It confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens his nature, and supplies his competency.” As able people contribute themselves selflessly in one accord, their joint efforts can benefit mankind. Members of NGOs are true leaders of conscience, as they influence policies and clear the way for others to follow.
Virtues last with conscience at heart
Chinese philosopher Mencius once said: “Little separates man from the lower animals. The mass of people cast it away, while the nobles preserve it.” The statement asserts that man’s inherent drive for goodness originates from within. There is not much difference between man and animal, but this small difference of ethics and conscience makes all the difference. Ethics is intrinsic, and when properly nurtured and developed, it will foster the qualities of a noble person; on the contrary, if ethics are cast away, one can descend into pettiness. “Dao” stands for good methods and the right path, and “De” represents a persons’ character and the qualities of the united.
Conscience-driven ethics is the key to solving issues on sustainability. Take Germany, for instance. After the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, publicly reversed her previous pro-nuclear stance at the parliamentary meeting, urging politicians to take responsibility to avert such a crisis in the future. The pledge she made will eliminate all nuclear reactors in Germany by 2022. According to statistics provided by Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft (BDEW): Renewable energy production stood at 27% of total energy production by the first quarter of 2014. Due to the joint collaboration of the government, business and civil societies, all of Germany’s electricity will be from non-nuclear energy by 2022. At the same time, Germany has laid out a clear plan to have at least 80% power generated from renewable energy for the long term.
The Ethics Commission on a Safe Energy Supply, comprised of 17 members from Germany’s elites in sociology, religion, economics and philosophy concluded in their final report that “Ethics should be placed above technology and economic development.” Germany started a new chapter on renewable energy – formulating a comprehensive plan, committed to the research and development of technology that will lead to cost reductions. They also adopted a holistic approach that combines technology, economics and politics. Increased expenditures on energy, reduced corporate margins and higher costs of research and development are envisioned in the short-term. This grand policy will bring better protection to the Earth, enhanced national competitiveness and a higher standard of living. This example shows that ethics is not mumbo jumbo. It is instead good business and with it, we can overcome the crisis of development and reach a higher level of sustainability.
Balanced conscience leading to peace
Wars raging across the globe that claim countless numbers of lives arise from imbalance in people’s hearts. Whether in the name of ethnicity, beliefs, resources, or the pretense of national security, wars are merely extreme greed and selfishness masked with excuses. Wars are like a boomerang. They go out and when they come back. they hurt you. Wars only destroy lives and leave no one a winner. From the dawn of human history, wars have never ceased. However, the destructive power of war has been made far more devastating by technological advancements and the ever-evolving sophistication of weaponry. With today’s technology, a war is capable of wiping out the entirety of humanity. The peace and balance of the world is hanging by a light thread. As Albert Einstein, one of the founding fathers of the atomic age, said: “I don’t know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” The degradation of mankind back to the Stone Age is a ticking time bomb. Everyone can feel the ripple effect of heightened inter-connectedness. Just as a single finger can destroy every living thing in the entire world, a finger can also save the entire world. If more world citizens participate in the Era of Conscience movement and promise to spread the positive influence of conscience, through the power of networking, a positive wave of caring and reconciliation will rush across nations, races, and cultures. Diverse interests will be made possible. Staunched positions guided by self-interest are not the key to reconciliation; reconciliation requires the mindset and workings of a selfless conscience. By finding a balanced point through consensus and mutual benefit, there is hope for peace. When the scales of conscience reach a balancing point, the glimmer of hope will be seen.
Conscience the wellspring of love and peace
From the perspective of the Earth, resources are limited; from the perspective of the entire human race, wealth is also limited. Resources and wealth can’t be created out of thin air. They are only consumed and redistributed. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the way to solve fundamental global imbalances or disputes. The key to save the world is to appeal to the hearts of the people. More kind hearts, good words, caring, and benevolence will lead to better protection of the environment and more security for world citizens.
The constant cycle of interaction between mankind and nature generates a symbiotic food chain. We are at a critical juncture that requires the whole of humanity to protect this symbiotic chain! This initiative will require the heads of states and elite leaders to center policies around this endeavor by instituting education of human rights, virtue and world view. In the meantime, global leaders will have to lead civilians to fight for the continued existence of humanity, not with weapons but with wisdom and conscience.
Love and peace is the common aspiration of all mankind. Conscience is the source of love and peace. Only when nations are united together, utilizing love and wisdom to solve disputes, will human beings be given the opportunity to overcome difficulties. In the search for the best solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, global leaders should work together to exchange information and wisdom. Participating and promoting An Era of Conscience is a practical way for everyone to contribute to love and peace.
Turning the wheels of the world requires perseverance and steadiness of belief. The foundation of our global village must be based on love and balance. The most beautiful aspiration of human civilization enables all forms of life to grow freely by finding common ground. This can be achieved through embracing elements of fine cultures such as music and dance, which can be understood with the heart, rather than relying on communications through words. The common ground could be the goals of humanity, such as the longing for love and peace, which is a reflection of the goodness of humanity and exists across all races and ethnicities. Once human beings learn to appreciate and respect the differences among people, rid themselves of thoughts of evil and selfishness, and embrace thoughts of goodness, together we will enter the true age of conscience and achieve a sustainable future.