Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

A Postscript Chapter, Part IV

From protectorates to a New Order

How did organized collectivities formalized themselves from a matrix of "welter and chaos" (Ideal of Human Unity, pg.586), at first into clans and tribes, then later as kingdoms and empires that paved way afterwards for nations and States and finally catapulted on the United Nations? The first groupings were more protective in nature, preventing the disruptions of provisional unities. Sri Aurobindo remarks that this phenomenon to form viable collectivities that would function as protectorates for "larger or smaller masses of civilization and order which were in danger of crumbling or being shaken to pieces by attacks from the outer chaos was the first attempt at cosmos successfully arrived by the genius of humanity". (Ibid) The protectorates also became expansionist in nature and egoistic in outlook triggering off discords and wars with attempts to dominate and possess. It was logical therefore that an extension of that trajectory that was initiated at the very beginning of human history should culminate in an international system "with the elements of what could be called international law or fixed habits of intercommunication and interchange which allowed the nations to live together in spite of antagonisms and conflicts, a security alternating with precariousness and peril and permitting of too many ugly features, however local, of oppression, bloodshed, revolt and disorder, not to speak of wars which sometimes devastated large areas of the globe." (Ibid)

Ostensibly, Sri Aurobindo was referring to the movements that were initiated in the last decade of 1800s and first two decades of 1900s when progressive reformers joined older bourgeois peace groups to work for arbitration and in a visionary approach increasingly added and stressed on the importance of disarmament and the necessity of an international organization. Such movements became significant as war and peace had been changing their denouements since 16th and 17th centuries. Medieval wars between princes and their allies were usually limited to retribution for wrong committed and compensation for costs and damages of the war. In contrast, the second generation war was the legal war (bellum legale) or formal war (bellum solemne) when the formal declaration of war grew into substantial documents. It would be an official war whose laws superseded the laws of peace. Peace treaties were also meticulously prepared to regulate to end the state of war and to restore peace. All these movements started to occur at a time when the Reformation caused half of Europe to reject the canon law and jurisdiction of the Pope and Church. (In The Oxford Handbook of the History of: International Law edited by Bardo Fassbender & Anne Peters, Oxford University Press, 2012, Uk).

It was the peace treaties that led to the establishment of the League of Nations and International Labour Organization) in the aftermath of the First World War.

The present international system (of the United Nations) with all its imperfections arrived as a game-changer. Though it is a provisional arrangement that can always be improved with "constant evolutionary or revolutionary changes", there was no reason it could be replaced one day by a more refined arrangement -- by a "true system" that would usher a real unity. (Ibid, pg.585-586)That is the idea and hope raised by the "indwelling deity who presides over the destiny of the race" -"the hope of a new order" that would usher "permanent peace and well-being" in the globe. (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg.586)

Sri Aurobindo was emphatic that it was imperative for the citizens of today and tomorrow to create a firm ground of peace and harmony so that the cherished ideal of human unity proved to be realistic and not chimerical, paving way for "the perfectibility of the race, a perfect society, a higher upward evolution of the human soul and human nature".(Ibid)

Sri Aurobindo also warns that a disregard or postponement of the ideal of unity would be fatalistic for civilization:

"For, too long a postponement or too continued a failure will open the way to a series of increasing catastrophes which might create a too prolonged and disastrous confusion and chaos and render a solution too difficult or impossible; it might even end in something like an irremediable crash not only of the present world-civilization but of all civilization". (Ibid)

At the same breath, he showed how an evolution in consciousness would be the saviour:

"A new, a difficult and uncertain beginning might have to be made in the midst of the chaos and ruin after perhaps an extermination on a large scale, and a more successful creation could be predicted only if a way was found to develop a better humanity or perhaps a greater, a superhuman race". (Ibid. pg.586-587)

In fact, peace practice became qualitatively even more different with the two world wars. The outlawing of war in the Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928) and the UN Charter caused decline in formally declared "legal wars". The concept of peacemaking or peace building expanded to include the protection of human rights.


Date of Update: 15-Feb-21

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu