||CHAPTER 8: WORLD-HISTORIC CONSCIOUSNESS VS. SECTARIANISM||Page 23|
World-historic consciousness requires what Helen Caldicott has called, "a global view of reality and a sense of moral responsibility for humanity's future." Jane Addams called it "a new consciousness, a nascent world consciousness:"
But whether we care for it or not, our own experiences are more and more influenced by the experiences of widely scattered people; the modern world is developing an almost mystical consciousness of the continuity and interdependence of mankind. There is a lively sense of the unexpected and yet inevitable action and reaction between ourselves and all the others who happen to be living upon the planet at the same moment. Perhaps no presentation is so difficult as that which treats of the growth of a new consciousness....this nascent world consciousness....
As Emily Balch puts it, this global view of reality is not a view of what already exists, but a "trend of development" toward "a planetary civilization:"
In looking back over the years, I have not the feeling that our efforts have been unreasonable. On the contrary, I have the impression that although the world was not ready to realize them, the trend of development runs obviously and unmistakably toward the end that we have sought - a planetary civilization.
In the development of a world-historic consciousness, one important factor is world travel in which the travel is used as a means to study and reflect both upon the direction of world events and the means of achieving social change at home. As DuBois recalls:
The most important work of the decade as I now look back upon it was my travel. Before 1918 I had made three trips to Europe; but now between 1918 and 1928 I made four trips of extraordinary meaning: to France directly after the close of the war and during the Congress of Versailles; to England, Belgium, France and Geneva in the earliest days of the League of Nations; to Spain, Portugal and Africa in 1923 and 1924; and to Germany, Russia and Constantinople in 1926. I could scarcely have encompassed a more vital part of the modern world picture than in those stirring journeys. They gave me a depth of knowledge and a breath of view which was of incalculable value for realizing and judging modern conditions, and above all the problem of race in America.
World-historic consciousness is a result of struggle on ever-widening planes of significance, as the development of the individual becomes increasingly enmeshed with the development of all humanity. In describing the development of Martin Luther King Jr., his wife, Coretta, compares it to a scroll unfolding:
When Martin got the Nobel Prize...then, when he made the statement on Vietnam, I had the strong feeling that this was the beginning of a larger work for him which would develop into something greater than we could conceive at the time. All along in our struggle one phase had led to another. As the years unfolded, it was like watching a scroll unfolding, you see more and more as you unroll it. There was a pattern and a process at work for the development of mankind.
For King, there was a progression from one plane of work on civil rights on behalf of Afro-Americans, to a broader plane for justice for the working class (he was killed in Memphis where he was speaking on behalf of the garbage workers strike which he characterized as "not a race war, it is now a class war"), to the broadest plane of all, his opposition to the Vietnam War and advocacy of peace and freedom for all the peoples of the world.
King's tribute to the world-historic consciousness of DuBois, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, could as well have been a tribute to King himself:
In conclusion let me say that Dr. DuBois' greatest virtue was his committed empathy with all the oppressed and his divine dissatisfaction with all forms of injustice. Today we are still challenged to be dissatisfied. Let us be dissatisfied until every man can have food and material necessities for his body, culture and education for his mind, freedom and human dignity for his spirit...Let us be dissatisfied until our brother of the Third World - Asia, Africa and Latin America - will no longer be the victim of imperialist exploitation, but will be lifted from the long night of poverty, illiteracy and disease. Let us be dissatisfied until this pending cosmic elegy will be transformed into a creative psalm of peace and "justice will roll down like waters from a mighty stream."
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