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14.06.2008 June 09, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

THE "DECALOGUE XXI" INITIATIVE

The Ten Commandments and the new principles of international relations

THE CONCEPT

At the recent meeting of RP-Club, convened on the initiative of the Russian Entrepreneur Foundation, the members raised the idea of application of the Ten Commandments to the political and social-philosophic context of today.

Decalogue XXI is devised not as a theological interpretation of the Ten Commandments but as a collection of secular conceptual compositions. In the last century, such an approach was used by the largest nations of Asia which used crucial principles of Buddhist religion, expressed in Pancha Shila concept, for substantiating a common political platform.

Pancha Shila is a set of five commandments that are to be observed by any Buddhist: 1. Avoid killing, or harming any living thing. 2. Avoid stealing. 3. Avoid adultery. 4. Avoid lying, or any hurtful speech. 5. Avoid alcohol and drugs which diminish clarity of consciousness. In 1954, India and China formulated five principles of bilateral relations under the name of Pancha Shila that suggested, respectively: abstention from aggression; respect towards sovereignty and integrity of the neighbor country; non-intervention into domestic affairs; legal equality and mutual benefit; and sobriety in relations. In 1955, the political interpretation of Pancha Shila was adopted by the Movement of Non-Aligned States at the founding conference in Bandung, Indonesia.

The "Decalogue XXI" initiative is addressed to an even broader audience, involving all the nations of the globally extended European, predominantly Christian civilization.

 

THE PRINCIPLES

Decalogue XXI is designed as a collection of essays, each of them interpreting a particular Commandment of the Bible. In brief, the major points could be identified already at this moment.

1. Do not have any other gods before me.

Despite the latest wave of aggressive secularization, religious values still constitute the ethic fundament of social life. Abandoning these values is likely to lead the civilization into a blind alley and predetermine a moral and political crisis developing into a global catastrophe. Ethic values in countries with a democratic political system are under an especially challenging pressure. "Not a lot of probity is required by a monarchic or despotic government in order for it to sustain and maintain itself. The force of the law in the one, the arm of the prince, forever lifted, in the other rules or contains everything. But in a popular government, we require another resource, which is virtue", reminded Charles de Montesquieu.

2. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

No secular doctrine, no kind of "-ism" should be idolized by a society or state. Ideas of exceptional value of ethnic superiority, free market, or class struggle do not substantiate a durable and harmonious political system. At the same time, the fetish of consumption, becoming an idol for the population, reduces its thinking to primitive, essentially biological instincts. This degeneration can be prevented by a system of universal spiritual values disclosing the unique destination of human life. Deterioration of transpersonal values in public conscience inevitably results in moral decline of an individual. Transpersonal values emerge from apprehension of traditions of particular societies, the experience of particular nations, and the historically shaped assumptions of public morality, and their application to priorities of development, chosen by a particular nation and involving supreme achievements of the global civilization.

Development of this set of super-individual values is the subject of joint endeavor of the political, clerical and scientific community of a nation, and the success of this endeavor is determined with the ability of these three elements for synergic cooperation.

Apprehension of the popular tradition and national experience does not suppose idolization of a particular political model. Even in case a particular model has been successfully reproducing itself for two centuries, it should not be imposed as an obligatory pattern to other nations, especially those having a much longer history.

3. Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.

The life of a society should have a sacral dimension. New prospects of a nation and ways towards progress should be chosen in accordance with supreme absolute criteria of common good. Cultivation of criteria of good and evil in the public conscience suggests a permanent and deliberate educative effort, involving not only broad and available historical and religious education but also veneration of religious and historical sanctities of the community, as well as elements of other cultures, constituting a part of it. Deliberate extermination of these sacred objects, as well as other forms of desacralization of public conscience, represents an assault on the identity of the particular society, as well as on the ethic basis of the whole human civilization. For instance, destruction of Christian sanctities in Iraq and Kosovo, desecration of Buddha's statues in Afghanistan or the historical mosque in Ayodhya, India, inflict irreparable damage not only to the relevant society but to the whole mankind.

4. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Political interests should not be pursued with speculation on religion. Collisions between political forces, states, economic alliances and military pacts should not be described in categories of inter-confessional conflict, also in case religious leaders intervene in the confrontation. In fact, even a state with a strong secular tradition needs to address the religious community at the face of trouble.

Attempts to substantiate claims for a global hegemony and relevant efforts to get rid of rivals with reference to a religious mission are exceptionally reprehensible. Political messianism, suggesting the right of one state or a group of states to impose a political design on others with use of military-political coercion, is an assault on the spiritual basis of the mankind.

5. Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Consistency in foreign policy and respect of the mankind's political experience, accumulated for over 7000 years of the human civilization, is provided with unconditional recognition of the result of life of the immediate ancestors, even in case the activities of their generation were proven historically unsound and deviating from basic principles of ethics. The integral contribution of a generation should be judged upon the final result, while achievement of global stability, paid by the lives of this generation, is sanctity of the whole civilization.

Therefore, the Yalta and Potsdam systems should be viewed as indispensable cornerstones of global stability, and their dismantlement cannot be substantiated with any expedience of the moment, especially in case that implies risks of a new global conflict. The inviolability of the result of World War II, regardless from domestic political changes, extends also to the spheres of culture and media, where their revision, as well as desecration of war memorials, should be regarded as an assault on the historical conscience and higher ethics of the humanity.

6. You shall not kill.

Protection of human life should become the greatest priority of global policy, given the destructive capabilities of modern weapons. Military aggression should be regarded as an unjustified method of solving political, ideological, or economic contradictions. The tragic examples of Vietnam and Afghanistan, as well as today's practice of "humanitarian interventions", indicate that military intervention usually does not reach its goal but multiplies death and suffering of innocent people. Military aggression for the purpose of changing the political system of another state is unacceptable even when another state endangers its neighbors. The only justification of a salvific intervention into another state is a rare case of massive physical extermination of the domestic population, undertaken by the political regime of that state (in XX century, Kampuchea). Military intervention for the purpose of overtake of mineral resources, disguised with humanitarian pretexts, is an assault on the basis of global ethics.

7. Neither shall you commit adultery.

Basic values of universal ethics suggest that a human being, as a unique creature with a capability and predestination, different from any other biological species, requires the institution of family for bringing up the posterity. The state that is concerned of consistency of both morality and culture in it population, has a right to use measures of preventing destruction of the family as an institution. Political pressure on sovereign states for the purpose of revision of marital laws, adopted by relevant traditions, contradicts to universal ethics.

8. Neither shall you steal.

The system of global economy that divides nations and continents into categories of "advanced", "high-tech" economies of services and "backward" economies of cheap extraction and manufacturing, contradicts to the definition of every human being as an image of God, and spawns the sentiment of diffidence, envy and hate across the globe. Attempts to destroy the economic basis of sovereign states for introducing unequal conditions of trade, as well as political pressure on behalf of international corporate circles, is incompatible with basic ethic principles.

9. Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.

The role of mass media in ignition or fuelling up international conflicts has coined the term "information war" in the XX century. Mass manipulation by means of deliberate discrediting of particular nations, creating "negative images" to justify political and economic sanctions or, eventually, military intervention most usually implies the appetites of corporate interests that frequently control both mineral and media resources. This kind of forgery, involving most of the earth's population, is most blatantly incompatible with international ethics.

Karl Popper, in his Munich lecture of 1988, insisted that mass media learn "to find out and tell the truth, to be aware of the damage they can bring, to promote self-criticism, and to correct themselves. They haven't yet got used to that. Meanwhile, the annual toll of damage inflicted by them is enormous".

10. Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Claims of one country on the land, the marine or aerial space of another of another country creates a pretext for a devastating war. Resolution of complicated international contradictions, involving debates over a territory regarded by two or more communities as their native land, should be based on self-identification of the population, in order to prevent disastrous local ("surrogate") wars and sacrifice of innocent lives. Attempts to resolve such issues without regard of the expression of will of the absolute majority of the local population, contradict to universal ethics.

 

THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The history of the XX century, replete with international conflicts with mass extermination of innocent human beings, was so tragic largely due to the fact that the basics of international law were followed only to the extent of commitment of major powers to fulfill their obligations. Meanwhile, the decision-making in major powers were determined by the thinking of elites, influenced with political and economic crises, and manipulating their nations through mass media. The political choice as such was frequently determined with egoistic considerations and tactical circumstances of the moment that supersede the fundamental considerations of ethics, recognizing only geopolitical expedience.

This practice has generated a pattern of so-called "rules of the game" that has frequently usurped international law, neglecting the will of other sides, as well as the view of major international bodies.

Similar "rules of the game" are used, in particular, in the attempts to doubt Russia's right for sovereign use of its national resources and sovereign distribution of relevant incomes. This "rules-of-the-game" approach is exemplified with the efforts to impel Russia to sign EU's Energy Charter, or with the proposal to use NATO's military forces against Russia in case it refuses to sell natural resources to particular countries. In case the issue is formulated in this way nowadays, what are we going to expect tomorrow? Is the issue of food is going to be raised? Or maybe, the issue of communications, and eventually, the right to use the domestic territory?

Most regrettably, the bias against particular countries motivates influential political figures to reshape the whole architecture of international balance – for instance, by replacing the United Nations by a "league" of self-proclaimed democracies (the idea expressed both by Al Gore and John McCain). Are such kinds of "leagues", concentrating around large-scale corporate interests, going to emerge next day as an instrument for arbitrary demolition of sovereignty or selection of countries entitled to "humanitarian intervention"? In case the ex-Secretary of State allows himself today to contemplate whether it is fair that Siberia belongs to only one country, what "rules-of-the-game" arguments will be raised the day after tomorrow?

The bloody practice of the XX century has demonstrated that international aggression, undertaken for egoistic purposes, eventually hits the aggressor and his people. Still, these lessons are obviously not properly learnt, and therefore, preconditions for a new, more devastating global conflict, are persisting. That is why we have decided to initiate the discussion on ethic values in international relations, referring to the axiomatic principles of the Old Testament.

The Organizational Committee of the "Decalogue XXI" initiative


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