People Power

Global Activism: Individual and Collective

Compassion is a spontaneous movement of wholeness. It is not a studied
decision to help the poor, to be kind to the unfortunate. Compassion has a
tremendous momentum that naturally, choicelessly moves us to worthy action.
It cannot be cultivated. It is simply there when the wholeness of life
becomes a fact that is truly lived…Compassion requires a plunge to the
depths of life where oneness is a reality and division is merely an

Vilmal Thakar *

We live in a world climate of unprecedented opportunity for human
initiative, with the declining power of states, the rise of participatory
democracies, diverse educational opportunities, and free-market policies.
Awareness and sensitivity to the inner and outer life increase along with
regular practice of some form of contemplation. Simultaneously there is an
increase in innovative skills in action, concern and bonding between
cultures, and a movement from self-will to universal will by individuals,
groups and social movements. Identification as a world citizen continues to
increase as the world becomes more accessible.

When ego needs are met and individualization has taken place, there is a
natural organic movement towards increased compassion for all life. Gandhi
spoke of this as Satyagraha and Havel called it the “inner truth.” In our
Journal, Spirituality & Reality: Our Global Future, we are now offering
stories of remarkable individuals who have made a significant difference
through their effective and compassionate global concern.

The shadow side of the ability of individuals to make a significant
positive difference is the increase in individual and collective acts of
terrorism. Suicide bombers and radical fundamentalists take matters into
their own hands and have an enormous impact on global culture. Global crime
and drug cartels flourish and expand in a global atmosphere as well as
movements for peace and justice.

The Internet has provided the means for collective global activism never
before possible. The essential role of individuals and collective action in
changing history is now recognized as the key to global transformation.
When Civil society Organizations at the United Nations asked Maurice
Strong, a consultant to Kofi Annan, why governments were not discussing key
issues like the pollution from military maneuvers, his reply was, that
governments’ hands are tied because of competing interests while civil
society is free to lobby for and demand the changes that enhance the life
conditions of billions. Our distinguished contributors to S&R emphasize the
need for people to rise up and demand what is best and good and healthy for
all beings – whether that is through education, media, religion, the
government, or the law. There is no power stronger than the determined
will of the people. The “people” tore down the Berlin Wall, protected
Jewish peoples during the holocaust and removed Milosevich from power.

At the United Nations the 2600 civil society affiliates are a dynamic force
and influence in global deliberations, policy making and in shaping world
public opinion through the media. Exposed to the every day realities of the
global institution, they lobby for democratic participation and
transparency in setting global policy. Examples of influential civil
society organizations that have made a difference are the Red Cross, Green
Peace, Amnesty International, and the World Social Forum. The Spiritual
Caucus, Values Caucus, Earth Values Caucus, the Religious NGOs, United
Religions Initiative and the Committee on Freedom of Religion and Belief
are groups within the UN bringing global spiritual values into the

Transforming our world into one of peace and justice requires the
participation of all of us. The future of humanity itself depends on the
mobilization of the people to change the direction of a wounded planet,
currently on a trajectory towards disaster. Jonathan Schell tells us about
the prime importance of collective global action in Spirituality & Reality,
Fall/Winter 2003.

We are witnessing the initiation of an increasing number of global
celebrations that bring humanity together with the promise of creating a
more integrated community based on shared global values. The International
Day of Peace, September 21, is designated as a ceasefire day by the General
Assembly of the United Nations and is celebrated worldwide as a global day
of peace. Anti-War demonstrations are global now with the worldwide protest
against the war in Iraq War and for peace. Celebrations of the Earth
Charter are global as well.

When we support these efforts we build solidarity and bonds across borders.
Our global future will emerge from such participation.