19. Turning points in Mankind's Unity
When Baha'u'llah appeared in the world advocating new teachings, these brought the light of unity to shine upon the realms of politics, thought, freedom, religion, nations, races and language.
Enunciation of the principles of unity, oneness and justice began to generate a succession of movements that would continue through to the present day and evolve into a distant future...
In retrospect, some key moments in the process of the unification of mankind stand out.
The League of Nations, first proposed by US President Woodrow Wilson, came into effect on 10 January 1920. Its limitations heightened the need for a yet greater association amongst countries, resulting in the formation of the United Nations on 24 October 1945.
On August 15, 1947 Imperial Japan surrendered, effectively brought World War 2 to an end and spawned a process of decolonization resisting further development of European colonial empires. Despite that, a growing process of 'westernization' began to affect most of the peoples and nations of the earth.
The United States' Apollo 11 moon landing was the first manned mission to land on the Moon, on 20 July 1969. As astronaut Neil Armstrong famously observed; "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Steven Dick, NASA's chief historian commented "Putting a man on the moon not only inspired the nation, but also the world", showing what could be accomplished by all humanity if working as common citizens of one global homeland.
However, exactly 58 years ago this week as I write, and in denial of earlier impulses toward unity, construction began on the Berlin Wall to separate the Eastern side of Berlin from the Western side. People trying to get from east to west were regarded as traitors, and guards were instructed to shoot but not kill, if they attempted to cross. At least 136 did die. The Wall became an international symbol of The Cold War until it fell in 1989. However, the similarly divisive 1945 Demilitarised Zone separating north and south Korea remains, and has been followed by similar walls in Jerusalem and currently U.S./Mexico.
The power of unity also impacted the world of popular music. This very week 50 years ago a music festival, held on a dairy farm in northwest New York city attracted an unequalled audience of over 400,000. Woodstock was billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music", and is now recognised as a pivotal moment in popular music history, and an impetus for an evolving counter culture generation.
However, internal national unity was still being tested. The Tiananmen Square protests were student-led demonstrations held in Tiananmen Square in Beijing during 1989. They went on to inspire a popular national movement, highlighting the growing power and influence of youth which would become a prevalent aspect of future international events even to the present day, as evidenced today in HongKong.
Due in large part to the appearance of the Internet, political and social movements became increasingly global. The ‘Occupy’ movement became an international "global justice movement" movement against the lack of "real democracy". The first to receive widespread attention was Occupy Wall Street in New York beginning on 17 September 2011. By 9 October, Occupy protests had taken place or were ongoing in over 951 cities across 82 countries, and over 600 communities in the United States. By October 2012 there had been Occupy protests and occupations in dozens of other countries across every inhabited continent.
The #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault began to spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag on social media to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace and retains a lesser influence to the present day. These movements, springing up with unprecedented swiftness, serve to underscore the unique capacity of our age to communicate, collaborate and make the formerly impossible possible.
In one of His Tablets ‘Abdu’l-Bahá reveals the following: “In cycles gone by, though harmony was established, yet, owing to the absence of means, the unity of all mankind could not have been achieved. Continents remained widely divided, nay even among the peoples of one and the same continent association and interchange of thought were well nigh impossible. Consequently intercourse, understanding and unity amongst all the peoples and kindreds of the earth were unattainable. In this day, however, means of communication have multiplied, and the five continents of the earth have virtually merged into one.… In like manner all the members of the human family, whether peoples or governments, cities or villages, have become increasingly interdependent. For none is self-sufficiency any longer possible, inasmuch as political ties unite all peoples and nations, and the bonds of trade and industry, of agriculture and education, are being strengthened every day. Hence the unity of all mankind can in this day be achieved. Verily this is none other but one of the wonders of this wondrous age, this glorious century. Of this past ages have been deprived, for this century—the century of light—has been endowed with unique and unprecedented glory, power and illumination. Hence the miraculous unfolding of a fresh marvel every day. Eventually it will be seen how bright its candles will burn in the assemblage of man."