The word “alchemy” implies a process and a method for transformation. Ewing argues in this book that global challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic and climate change demonstrate that humanity needs to make new choices about its collective behavior if it is to create a peaceful world. In her previous books, Ewing made concrete recommendations on ways to create a new system of global governance leading up to a world federation in order to tackle specific problems associated with climate change, energy distribution, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In this book she posits that humanity is unlikely to adopt these ideas and take these necessary steps unless it first changes the lens through which it understands and interprets what is going on in the world today, such as the tremendous suffering caused by the pandemic, the global economic recession, and social injustice. She argues that the biggest danger facing humanity is a paralysis of will caused by a sense that we are at the mercy of events and therefore feel hopeless, despondent, and anxious.
The special contribution of this book is described in its subtitle: “Six Essential Shifts in Mindsets and Habits to Achieve World Peace.” Ewing analyses certain prevalent mindsets based on false assumptions, limiting beliefs, and interpretations as “inner blocks” and certain habits as “outer blocks” that are preventing us from creating both a peaceful and just world and the conditions that allow individuals and the human family from realizing their potential. Just as individuals pass through stages of infancy, childhood, and adolescence on the way to maturity, Ewing believes that humanity can leave its current stage of adolescence and achieve full maturity if enough people reject negative mindsets and old habits and adopt new ones in their stead.
The first mindset that needs correcting is that we humans are evil or sinful by nature and that we are inherently aggressive and selfish. This leads to the conviction that we are condemned to abuse and violence. Another self-destructive mindset is the belief that we are victims of uncontrollable events and purposeless suffering. This belief promotes helplessness. A third mindset that needs to be changed is that humanity has irrevocably failed. This leads to disillusionment and paralysis.
Because of these mindsets, many individuals and political leaders believe that we are doomed to suffer from problems like climate change and the pandemic and that there is not much we can do about them. They therefore do very little to solve these global problems. Yet, she posits that there is hope that we will make better choices. “We are slowly learning that our only hope of surviving the pandemic and the global economic crisis is to collaborate, consult, and act collectively.” (p. 34)
A fourth mindset is the tendency to blame globalization for our troubles. Many people hold that globalization weakens national independence and national sovereignty. Consequently they resort to nationalism to protect their interests. Ewing observes that this mindset against globalization also fosters old habits of isolationism, xenophobia, tribalism, and polarization. According to Ewing, “what makes nationalism so pernicious is that one seeks to advance the interests of one’s own nation, particularly at the expense of others, in the mistaken belief that to survive and thrive nations must remain in perpetual competition with each other with some winning and others losing.” (p. 70) But the real problem, Ewing argues, is that globalization has made us inextricably interconnected
and interdependent and therefore more prone to systemic risks as evidenced by our global susceptibility to the effects of climate change, the pandemic, and the threat of nuclear war.
A fifth mindset that needs correction is the belief that the ends justify the means. Some national leaders have followed this mindset in their justification of torture and “enhanced interrogation techniques.” This mindset has led many people to only think in terms of short-term benefits for themselves or their nation instead of considering long-term consequences for all of humanity. Ewing proposes replacing this habit with a principled approach to tackling global challenges that requires universal consensus around a shared set of global ethics.
A sixth old mindset is the attitude that we cannot trust people in positions of authority. A consequence of this mindset is our dysfunctional habit of electing unfit leaders. In order to solve global problems in the service of humanity, we need to start electing leaders who do not exhibit corruption, prejudice, dishonesty, incompetence, and a lack of courage. Ewing argues it is time we choose a new habit of electing leaders on the basis of their qualities, motives, and record of service.
Ewing proposes a new habit of creating a viable system of global governance to meet the needs of the 21st century. She explains why the United Nations Organization does not fit the bill because it is a confederacy of national governments that does not have the power, authority, or tools to solve major global problems for several reasons. The General Assembly is not democratic because it is not directly elected by the citizens of the world and because each nation has one vote regardless of its population. In addition, it can only pass non-binding resolutions and lacks the authority to pass international binding legislation. In the Security Council, any one of the five permanent members can veto a resolution about restoring or maintaining peace. The International Court of Justice lacks compulsory jurisdiction and the ability to enforce its decisions. Moreover, the U.N. system is based on international treaties, not laws. Nations do not have to sign treaties, can withdraw from them, and they are often unenforceable. Ewing examines the weaknesses of the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Paris Climate Agreement and adduces them as evidence that we need a World Parliament with the authority to pass binding international legislation in these areas.
Because global problems are not being solved under the confederal U.N. system, Ewing says that we need to develop new habits of collaboration and cooperation and build the necessary global institutions for collective decision-making and enforcement. Our old methods are no longer able to solve our major pressing problems.
She further posits that the peoples of the world need to create a world federation that can create and enforce world laws. The world federation would include a world parliament that is democratic and representative of the peoples of the world. It would have the authority to pass binding legislation on all nations in arenas that affect all of humanity. Ewing says that the world parliament should create laws that are based on the principles of justice and equity.
The world federation should follow the principle of subsidiarity in which problems are solved at the lowest possible level. So local and national governments would continue to enact laws for their particular territories. But nations must cede all rights to make war. Nations would only need those arms necessary to maintain internal control within their national borders.
Under this new global system, conflicts between nations would be resolved by a world court that has compulsory jurisdiction and its decisions must be enforceable. A world executive would be able to enforce the legislation passed by the world parliament as well as the judgments of the world court.
Ewing talks about the need for the creation of some sort of international standing force to support the world executive. She also talks about the need for “collective security”: nations must agree that “if a nation takes any actions that threatens or breaches the terms of the international agreement on peace and security, they will all arise as one to bring down that government and replace it with one that can work as a peaceful member of the community of nations. To achieve this, the community of nations must have an international standing force at its disposal.” (p. 146) But many other people who advocate for a world federation argue instead that the concept of collective security applies to the current confederal United Nations charter but should not apply to a future world federation. In a world federation, there would be no standing army or international military force that would invade countries or overthrow governments. The role of the world police would be to arrest individuals, including national leaders, who violate world laws. After arresting such individuals, a world court would prosecute them and if they are found guilty, then they would be sentenced to a world prison.
Another way in which Ewing’s ideas differ from those of other proponents of a world federation concerns how to fund the many operations and agencies of the world federation. On p. 108 she writes: “Just as many of us pay taxes at the local and national levels, we would also all be required to pay taxes for this international fund.” Instead of suggesting that everyone pay taxes to promote the decisions of a world parliament, other world federalists have suggested that the workings of a world federation could be funded by taxing only those individuals and corporations that use the common areas of our planet that are not part of any nation’s territory (atmosphere, oceans, Antarctica). Another suggestion for funding a world federation without taxing individuals is to charge each national government 0.1% of its gross national income.
Throughout this important book, Ewing clearly draws inspiration from various sources including ideas from the fields of psychology, political science, core energy coaching as well as the teachings of her Baha’i Faith that include the oneness of humanity; the oneness of nations; unity with diversity; the law of love; the independent search for truth; and the nobility and equality of every human regardless of race, gender, faith, education, means, or class. References to all of these sources can be found in the endnotes and the bibliography.
I highly recommend this book to all who are interested in learning about the mindsets and habits that must be eliminated and the new attitudes, behaviors, and institutional infrastructures that we can choose to develop in order to transform our current chaotic world and ineffective international system into a peaceful world that is founded on a federation of nations.