The new civilisation – arising from our neighbourhoods

The next civilisation is emerging from our neighbourhood. And the movement will be led by our young people. It won’t be centred around a nation state; It will be a global civilisation.

In the past, the new civilisation came over a hill on horses or over the sea in ships. The spread of civilisation and invasion went hand in hand. Might was right.

You may have already seen this video on this blog. Jeremy Rifkin tells us how our true nature is to be empathetic and our destiny is to “extend our empathy to the entire human race as an extended family, and to our fellow creatures as part of our evolutionary family, and to the biosphere as our common community”. Many believe that our true nature is to be selfish and warlike, but Jeremy Rifkin puts this down to the continued suppression of our natural empathic drives. When it is suppressed by societal and institutional dysfunction, secondary drives of “narcissism, materialism, violence and aggression” surface. Our collective destiny is to establish a just global civilisation based on our collective unity.

Earlier, in 1985 The Promise of World Peace by the Universal House of Justice articulated similar sentiments.

On the one hand, people of all nations proclaim not only their readiness but their longing for peace and harmony, for an end to the harrowing apprehensions tormenting their daily lives. On the other, uncritical assent is given to the proposition that human beings are incorrigibly selfish and aggressive and thus incapable of erecting a social system at once progressive and peaceful, dynamic and harmonious, a system giving free play to individual creativity and initiative but based on co-operation and reciprocity.

…Dis- passionately examined, the evidence reveals that such conduct, far from expressing man’s true self, represents a distortion of the human spirit. Satisfaction on this point will enable all people to set in motion constructive social forces which, because they are consistent with human nature, will encourage harmony and co-operation instead of war and conflict.

A civilisation fit for a new age

Circumstances are propitious. We now have a world where the fundamental human condition is changing. We have been conditioned by millennia of conflict and the subjugation of the will of the masses to the rule of the few. Some of the changes in us, that will break the age -old patterns of subjugation include:

  • the spread of universal education

  • increasing gender equality

  • our acknowledgement of our common humanity

  • the development of global institutions

  • global and increasingly democratised communication technology

  • the release of the young from rigid control by their seniors.

Youth at the vanguard

Times are a-changin’.  We are told that Generation Y want meaningful work and opportunities to learn. According to, “they value teamwork and seek the input and affirmation of others. Part of a no-person-left-behind generation, Generation Y is loyal, committed and wants to be included and involved”. This is the type of thinking that typifies the extension of empathy described by Jeremy Rifkin.

Generation Y are not going to join armies to fight other people’s wars. The new civilisation arises from neighbourhoods, partly because invasion is no longer the instrument of domination. No one profits from war any more.

Could it be that our young people are becoming more enlightened? Surely not, after all, it is common practice to find fault with the young.  In Book III of Odes, circa 20 BC, Horace wrote:

It is common for the older generation to bemoan the young. Our sires’ age was worse than our grandsires’. We, their sons, are more worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more corrupt. (from Mental Floss)

The Universal House of Justice, the elected leaders of the Baha’i Community worldwide, portray a different picture of our young people.

While global trends project an image of this age group as problematic, lost in the throes of tumultuous physical and emotional change, unresponsive and self-consumed, the Bahá’í community—in the language it employs and the approaches it adopts—is moving decidedly in the opposite direction, seeing in junior youth instead altruism, an acute sense of justice, eagerness to learn about the universe and a desire to contribute to the construction of a better world. Account after account, in which junior youth in countries all over the planet give voice to their thoughts as participants in the programme, testifies to the validity of this vision. There is every indication that the programme engages their expanding consciousness in an exploration of reality that helps them to analyse the constructive and destructive forces operating in society and to recognize the influence these forces exert on their thoughts and actions, sharpening their spiritual perception, enhancing their powers of expression and reinforcing moral structures that will serve them throughout their lives. At an age when burgeoning intellectual, spiritual and physical powers become accessible to them, they are being given the tools needed to combat the forces that would rob them of their true identity as noble beings and to work for the common good. (The Universal House of Justice 2010 Riḍván message)

In different contexts around the world, young people are indeed working for a better world. Following the Canterbury earthquakes in New Zealand, University students in Christchurch mobilised the Student Volunteer Army to help with relief efforts. More recently the courageous young Pakistani girl, Malala is making a stand for education for girls in the face of violent extremism. In the Bahá’í World young people are studying and working together to improve their own lives and conditions in their communities. And while the advances in conditions outlined earlier are more apparent in developed countries, it is in the more challenging environments of poorer communities where their efforts are most noteworthy.

There is a global revolution happening that will create a better world. This video from the International Bahá’í Community highlights some of the changes.In the same song that Bob Dylan talked about the rising waters, he gave some advice for parents – to either help building the new world or to get out of the way.

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land.
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand.
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.
Your old road is rapidly agin’.

Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.