Global Turbulence and Good Governance for Prosperity & Sustainable Peace

Every nation is faced with the challenge of striking a proper balance between the liberty or freedom of an individual and the needs of the society as a whole. The rights of every citizen to act as he/she wishes can never be absolute.

Global Turbulence and Good Governance for Prosperity & Sustainable Peace
Global Turbulence and Good Governance for Prosperity

Throughout history, periods of turbulence have presented opportunities to redefine collective values and the assumptions that underlie them. So, too, does the present moment in a number of countries that held their general elections and those that are still in the process of electing their leaders for a new term as per the country’s constitutional norms.

Often times sweeping changes that occur in a nation or society are characterized by a range of emotions and spur of the moment behaviour. For members of the Bahá’i Faith, what humanity is experiencing are the death pangs of an old Order, now obsolete and bereft of any vitality to take us to next stage in our collective evolution and at the same time the birth pangs of a new Order. Humanity is in the grip of deep systemic change—a change the like of which humankind has never witnessed. It is in such times of crises that we are forced to go beyond the tangible and find solace and answers through our trust in the Divine. How may one orient oneself on finding one’s purpose? How may one respond in times of personal tests, and in finding one’s place in the path towards reintegration as the old world disintegrates around us? In the Writings of the Bahá’i Faith we are told: "The more we search for ourselves, the less likely we are to find ourselves; and the more we search for God, and to serve our fellow-men, the more profoundly will we become acquainted with ourselves, and the more inwardly assured. This is one of the great spiritual laws of life."

Worldwide, a growing chorus of voices is calling for decisive steps forward in our collective trajectory toward enduring, collective wellbeing cessation of hostilities, conflicts and wars and sustainable peace. In our country the implications for our collective behaviour must now give rise to a coordinated movement toward higher levels of social, political and economic unity. Whatever benefits have accrued from the past ten years, present-day challenges demand a far more holistic and coherent approach to understanding global turbulence and decision-making. What will be the implications of domestic policies in a coalition governance structure? What choices would contribute to shared prosperity and sustainable peace within the country and with immediate neighbours? The followers of Bahá’u’lláh are constantly reminded that, “true peace and tranquillity will only be realized when every soul will have become the well-wisher of all mankind.” The perils of divisive tendencies can only prolong the suffering of the vast number of the marginalized and helpless citizens. The government will have to consider the impact of policies before them, they will need to give thought to what so many might term ‘the human spirit’—that essential quality which seeks meaning and aspires to transcendence. These less tangible dimensions of human existence have typically been views as confined to the realm of personal belief and lying outside the concerns of policymakers and administration. Because simply evaluating progress on the basis of GDP growth if divorced from spiritual and ethical advance does not reflect real development of all sections of the society.  Bahá’is are enjoined to obey a just government. It is justice, indeed, that Bahá’is believe should be the goal of every law. Every citizen should willingly accept the rule of law, and help to build a nation where unity of thought and unity of action is strengthened. Only by ensuring that material progress is consciously connected to spiritual and social progress can the betterment of the nation be fulfilled.

Every nation is faced with the challenge of striking a proper balance between the liberty or freedom of an individual and the needs of the society as a whole. The rights of every citizen to act as he/she wishes can never be absolute. Bahá’u’lláh cautions us against unbridled freedom, which He states, “in the end, lead to sedition, whose flames none can quench.” Because as one of the three protagonists—individual, institution, and community--that has to contribute to the wellbeing of society every citizen “must submit himself or herself to such restraints as will protect that individual from his own ignorance, and guard him against the harm of the mischief-maker.” Excessive freedom causes individuals “to overstep the bounds of propriety, and to infringe on the dignity of his station. It reduces that person to the level of extreme depravity and wickedness.” Regardless of the political affiliation every government must ensure that no situation of political injustice is perpetrated. Every minority would have its rights guaranteed and there would be fair-play at all levels of its administrative structure.

With such a worldview the Bahá’i communities strive to promote and build capacity for the ideal of world citizenship and demonstrate through word and deed the concept of the oneness of humankind. For, Bahá’is believe that the human race has passed through the evolutionary stages of infancy and childhood and is now in its turbulent adolescence approaching its long-awaited coming of age.

Bahá’ís further advocate that religion has a positive role to play in fostering good governance. The golden rule, found in each religion, is that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. The moral codes of true religion have lost their impact due to indulgence by its leaders in divisive partisan politics. Therefore, the focus of the members of the Bahá’i communities around the world is to inculcate values of loyalty and good governance. According to the Bahá’i Writings, when the light of religion is dimmed, the “perversion of human nature, the degradation of human conduct reveal themselves, under such circumstances, in their worst and most revolting aspects. Human character is debased and the voice of human conscience is stilled, the sense of decency and shame is obscured.” In this light, religion, as a dynamic system of knowledge and action, has to fulfil an essential purpose: expanding the bonds of unity among the peoples within each nation and the whole world by transforming people’s inner character and outer life.

It is the firm conviction of the Bahá’i that the newly elected or re-elected leaders, and arbiters of human affairs, whether in India or elsewhere will take heed of Bahá’u’lláh’s poignant appeal: “Let them take counsel together and, through anxious and full deliberation, administer to a diseased and sorely afflicted world the remedy it requireth.” “Words must be supported by deeds, for deeds are the true test of words.”


by Dr. A. K. Merchant :

The author is a social worker, independent researcher and a member of the Bahá’i Community of India. Views expressed are personal.