Earth Civilization Manifesto

by Tarık Günersel    /  August 2, 2013  / No comments

Tarık Günersel suggests some points for developing an integrated global society.

Monument for Pythagoras

A visual poem by Tarık Günersel.

I Earth and Humanity: An Affair in Crisis
We humans have been damaging our home planet to the point of self-extinction. We need to transcend this crisis.

  1. Wor(l)ds in Danger, a<br />
column by Tarik Günersel
  2. Life is words in action, literature is action in words.
    Humans are about to destroy their spaceship Earth. Some of them are aware of this and they try to change the course of events. Will they succeed? Will more humans be alarmed and do something?
    Literature is vital and translators are messengers of world peace.
    Though I shall focus on the literary scene in Turkey and its problems regarding freedom of expression, I shall not omit the other parts of our planet. Today local is global and vice versa.
  3. Tarik Günersel
  4. Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia.

II Utopias
i. Why should we limit our imagination to what we assume to be facts and present-day possibilities?
ii. A utopia is a mental construct without a constructable bridge to the present. We will probably always need utopias, but we also need something more functional.
iii. If the term “realistic utopia” seems contradictory, we can use the word “project.”

III Need for an Umbrella Project
Is there an umbrella project that can serve as a guide for most of the people on Earth? Here is at least one: Earth Civilization Project, which is at its initial stage and for which there is a website in progress.

IV Initial Steps
Voluntary interaction needs to be multicultural if we are to move toward Earth Civilization. Most—if not all—political trends and world-views can interact and even cooperate fruitfully. Of course, some tensions and conflicts are deep and serious, but we are all on the same spaceship and the modern version of Noah is nobody but ourselves.

V The Glass is Half Full:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an asset to the project. So are the United Nations, UNESCO, UNICEF, and the International Labour Organization (ILO). There are also other important international organizations such as PEN International, the International Human Rights Association, and Greenpeace.

VI The Empty Half Can be Filled:
Neither the “glass” nor the “water” are static, and Earth Civilization (EC) will never be a finished product. EC is a work-in-progress that began a long time ago. But there are still so many things to do. For example, there are many effective international organizations (like the ones named above), but do they cooperate or communicate with each other? Wouldn’t it be better if they did? The goal of Earth Civilization could be useful in their communication—even collaboration.

VII Democratic World Federation
A Democratic World Federation (DWF) may be worth considering. Right now, no country is “fully” democratic. While republics and kingdoms co-exist, what can be demanded is their democratization. Secularism is vital in this process. Earth Civilization could flourish under such circumstances, and reciprocally, certain steps of EC could contribute to the formation of unity in diversity. Note: A Democratic World Federation is not an ideal in itself, but it is a reasonable step forward.

VIII Invitation to the Future—and Therefore, the Present:
The idea of evolution is not a guarantee for the future. Hoping that we are not too late, we can combine our efforts and produce more fruitful contributions. The rest consists of enthusiastic interaction, with more and more concerned earthlings and steps in various directions.

IX An Inspiring Example: Gezi Park Resistance
The recent protests and demonstrations in Turkey’s Gezi Park have been the manifestation of a youthful and mature environmentalist and human rights movement. Additionally, the movement quickly widened beyond Istanbul through acts of solidarity, not only in Turkey, but in other parts of our planet as well. Since the first brutal police attack (early June 2013) against the peaceful demonstrators who wanted to preserve Gezi Park, freedom-seeking people have provided brilliant examples of peaceful and creative protests. The same individuals also took part in direct-democracy experiments in public parks. If only the government’s foolishly despotic decisions had not resulted in police brutality and deaths, illegal use of tear gas, lost eyes, prosecutions, and imprisonments without convictions! Now journalists and columnists who dare to criticize the present government lose their jobs. Everything the government does clearly shows its undemocratic nature. Having won an election does not guarantee automatic legitimacy until the next election. A government must work in harmony with the rules of democracy and human rights in order to remain legitimate.

X A New Type of Fascism
This type of fascism is reluctantly multi-party in appearance, in an attempt to save face before the world’s public opinion. Typically, I refrain from idealizing the concepts of “democratization” and “civilization,” but I still find them useful enough. And, really, do we have the luxury of dismissing them? The rise of a global neo-fascism is not merely a dystopia. It is an alarming likelihood unless secular and democratic forces become more efficient through international solidarity. We need concerned people from all walks of life who are brave enough to express what the authorities dislike and who enjoy liberating themselves as active world citizens.

XI Philactosophy
Philactosophy” is a neologism I suggest: It means love of wisdom-related action. Only an idiot or a megalomaniac would claim to be wise. Still, wisdom is a concept that needs to be revisited, especially as storms of information become our new normal.

XII An Alternative Turning Point in History
Though the seeds of EC were born a few million years ago, I claim that the EC Project was born in 6013 AW (i.e. After the invention of Writing—my modification, used as a sign of respect for human creativity and labor). The more comprehensive form of this date is XIV6013, which reads fourteen billion sixty thirteen, and rounds up the figure 13.7 billion, or the age of our universe, which I assume to be a product of nature’s creative properties.

XIII Wars and Peace
The so-called peaceful periods of our history have usually been ceasefires during which preparations for forthcoming wars have taken place. We must achieve a real peace on Earth. Otherwise, not only humanity, but also the whole biosphere might soon come to an end. Currently, I think we are in World War V. The Cold War was WW III. It ended when the Berlin Wall was demolished. Did peace come? World War IV began with the collapse of the Soviet Block in 1991: The USA became the undisputed heavyweight champion and started to use force in a more carefree way—until 2008. Once again, a capitalistic financial crisis became a turning point in history. Since then, with China and Russia nearly catching up, we have been in WW V. It is mostly cold, but it can easily turn into a hot one—a “real war.” I prefer to think this way because accepting the situation can help us struggle more effectively.

XIV A Symbolic Step
I have recently selected names from various cultures and added them to my name. Would you like to select names and add them to yours? Choosing names from societies that had (or have had) conflicts with yours would be a nice move in terms of empathy, leading to a better understanding of history and life—and thus to better (inter)activity.

XV “A formula…
… should be as simple as possible, but not simpler,” Einstein said. In the promising chaotic complexity of life, I have invited some friends from various parts of the world, whose acquaintance I owe mainly to PEN International, Sampsonia Way Magazine, and Christopher Merrill and his project related to Rumi. At this initial stage, I have painfully postponed including the names of my family members and some close friends, though I have consulted them on these ideas. Aiming for simplicity, I have refrained from adding more than one person from each corner of our planet. Those who reply positively will be the signatories of the first group declaration of Earth Civilization Project. Optimistically. Not in the sense that the future will automatically be better, but that it can be better if we do something about it.

About the Author

Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia. He has recently initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the support of several intellectuals from various parts of the planet.

View all articles by Tarık Günersel

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