E S S A Y S , A R T I C L E S A N D R E V I E W S
From Our Deepest Allegiance
"From space I saw Earth indescribably beautiful with all the scars of national boundaries gone."
-Muhammed Ahmad Faris, Syria
"The first day, we pointed to our countries. Then we were pointing to our continents. By the fifth day we were aware of only one Earth."
-Sultan Bin Salmon al-Saud, Saudi Arabia
The astronauts who recorded these sentiments in their private diaries were among the hundreds of early space explorers from over fifty nations who experienced the first awesome vision of Earth from a vast distance outside it. Like others, they were in awe and wonder with the overwhelming loveliness of our blue and white home planet from some 250 miles above it. Their experiences have changed our lives as well.
The following reflections represent the shock and anguish of a small group of people who have struggled to find a response to the tragedy of September 11th and its aftermath. We are the participants and staff of Genesis Farm, a small Earth Literacy center in Blairstown, New Jersey. We are trying to give voice not only to our anguish but to the seeds of hope that might be fostered by a deeper understanding of the Universe. This understanding is what draws us to work and study here. Over our lifetimes, we have worked, studied, and taught in Africa, Asia, Australia, South and Central America, the Middle East, Europe, and North America. In all these places we have witnessed time and again how humans are capable of expressing the deepest compassion and the most inexplicable cruelty.
Everyone is saying: "The world has changed. It is in crisis. It no longer makes sense." We, too, feel the anxiety and uncertainty of these times. But one of the reasons we are here at Genesis Farm is because we believe that long before September 11th, the Earth was in crisis and what humanity was doing already did not make sense.
It is an unspeakable tragedy that so many innocent and helpless people have died or suffered at the hands of an extensive network of angry and violent fanatics. It is a tragedy that innocent and helpless people in Afghanistan are dying in order to obliterate this fanaticism. It is a tragedy that Earth's land, waters, air, and creatures are suffering in the process. These tragedies are all connected. While we have no clear answer to resolve them, we do believe this: that the direction of our human ventures must be set within a larger context of our human existence, our past and future, and within a common embeddedness in the planet Earth's evolutionary process.
But first we must grieve.
We grieve the horrible slaughter of innocent people and the loss to families, communities, businesses, and properties on September 11th. This was a crime against humanity. It was brutal, indiscriminate. We offer our sympathy to everyone touched by this terrible tragedy. We rely on all the systems of law enforcement within and among the communities of nations to bring the perpetrators of this crime to the court of law.
At the same time we must ask ourselves: Why is it that people are prepared to give their lives to destroy the symbols of American economic and military power and kill innocent people? Why is American power so violently hated? We must listen to and reflect on the reason for this hatred even as we grieve. Without understanding the roots of violence, even justice within courts of law will be a hollow and short-lived victory.
We grieve the ongoing bombing and destruction of the innocent peoples and land of Afghanistan. We have responded to violence with violence. War is not a legal response to a criminal act, however heinous. The bombing of Afghanistan and the proposed expansion of the combat to other countries violate the democratic principles for which countless Americans have fought and died. A lack of accountability and the prospect of continuance of this violence for an indefinite period of time are unacceptable. We grieve this violation of the norms for accountability and full disclosure.
We believe that we dull our own moral conscience when we use the very tactics we deplore in the other. To terrify, to kill innocent people even as "collateral damage" is not acceptable. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth does not represent our fundamental religious principles. The end does not justify the means. Innocent people cannot be designated as collateral damage anywhere. This response will only result in an increased hatred toward the United States and Western powers with unpredictable ramifications. We call on the United States, Britain, and all allied governments not to continue such a retaliatory response. Not in our name.
We need not be blinded or paralyzed by the atmosphere of anxiety spreading daily. We believe a free press demands full access of journalists to the military activities done in the name of the U.S. people. And if this activity is done in our name, we demand to know what we are doing and decry the control exercised over the sources of our information. We deplore the surrendering of our fundamental rights to privacy in our homes, workplaces, and communication systems. Misguided systems and policies hastily set in place but inconsistent with our democratic principles will take years, decades to undo, and at great cost. Now more than ever we need to create not simply peace but the basis on which an enduring confidence can exist within and between nations.
We grieve the devastation of our home, our Earth. The wars of the last century have caused unspeakable destruction to the fragile web of life. Earth is a single, living system. Earth is one. It transcends our national, ethnic, and political boundaries. It is not only the victim of our senseless acts of military warfare but it is assaulted on all sides by the violence of many of our daily activities. Our economy, our technologies, our choices relentlessly devastate and pollute it in times of human peace as well as war!
Our reflection, study, and immersion in the realization of the unity of Earth and of the Universe out of which Earth, life, and humanity are derived has moved us to offer this simple but positive twofold response:
I. We will promote the Earth Charter
Since 1987, hundreds of people from around the world have shaped the first ever "people's charter" as a document reflecting our common sense understanding of what is needed to sustain life into the future. It is a truly global, grass-roots document meant to inform and influence political leaders. It seeks to inspire in all peoples a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family and the whole community of life. The Earth Charter will be submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations for endorsement in 2002.
The Charter offers to us today a positive way to focus our energies as we confront violence in every sphere of life. We endorse it as a statement that expresses many of our values and can help to shape a viable future.
II. We will promote the image of Earth as the most inclusive and sacred symbol of our times
This image inspires our deep reverence. It has altered our consciousness of ourselves and of our place in the unfolding miracle of life.
Displayed on posters and flags, the image of the whole Earth announces our care and concern for people of all nations, all living beings, air, soil, and water. It also reminds us of our desire to live in a world where all of life in its diversity is celebrated, reverenced, nurtured, and where hatred and injustice find no home.
It is to Earth's life and well-being, embracing all, that we give our allegiance, our love, our commitment. We hope these two actions might support you in these difficult times.
Genesis Farm staff and participants, Fall 2001:
Maire Bhreatnach, Assumpta Butler, Gina Cawley, Vera Dumont, Jean Edwards, Larry Edwards, Wally Falkler, Lori Gold, Marya Grathwohl, Evelyn Greene, Lara Greenspan, Eleanor Joyce, Janet Lewis, Mary deCourcey MacDonell, Miriam MacGillis, Marcellina O'Sullivan, Magda Polkowska, Peggy Ray, Mary Ann Smith
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