LIFE MATTERS: The Moral Order Challenged


By Dr. Dencio S Acop

What is happening to the world today? Global peace and order once again seem headed toward the precipice of another world war. What brought us to this? While mankind has developed unprecedented technology for its benefit, it also appears to be losing its soul. The established moral order is today challenged by the race for power that is rooted in materialism. This article will argue three points along this line. First, nations on the side of authoritarianism are challenging the established liberal world order for their own national interests. Second, liberal nations are organizing to defend the established order also for their own national interests. And third, while the ensuing battle between these two contending forces challenge world peace, the real battle that must be won first lies in the hearts of men which transcends narrow material interests for the glory of God. 

The first point of this article is that while authoritarian nations may have the right to pursue their nation’s interests, do they have the right to pursue these by force which is against the principles of the established liberal order? Gone are the days when nations of old would simply invade other nations to plunder and pillage. Rules have been established and these rules have allowed the nations of the world to flourish in peace. Even the authoritarian nations benefited from this era of peace. Today, however, Russia and China, both communist nations, are beating the drums of war once again. In invading Ukraine and taking offensive actions in the South China Sea, each of these countries has fomented a growing world war once again. Each has nuclear weapons which makes the threat to global peace an even greater worry. The fact that each has done so baffles a world which thought that such reckless acts were a thing of the past. The big question is why. And when we take a look, the basic reasons are both tangible and intangible. There is pride in a desire to not play second fiddle any longer to a reigning power which is the United States. There is material gain both for the party leaderships and peoples of these nations. These are articulated as necessary for survival although it is bewildering at times to see the paradox in the articulation since war annihilation does not seem to augur much for survival. There is also the justification of moral ascendancy or equality, mostly by the leaders, for their acts pointing to the adversary’s having done the same acts in the past (so they should play that game too). In this regard though, one item that probably needs to be pointed out is this: Is the decision to go to war for whatever reason the will of the governed as well? This is a valid point to make because in authoritarian regimes, the governed populations do not have a say; the leaders ‘dictate’ what are supposedly good for their people. It is a very valid concern not just for these domestic populations but the rest of the world who may perish in the event of war especially a nuclear holocaust. 

The second point is that while liberal nations are organizing to defend the established order and world peace, are they aware that they too may have a part in causing the problem? To defend their actions, China and Russia cite both historical facts and recent acts by the United States. For its part, China, despite having benefited from its ‘Most Favored Nation’ trading status with the US, claims to defend itself from the United States which has threatened to convert it into a democracy. Russia, in fact, shares the sentiment of China. Both take pride in their past histories as great nations out to reclaim their heritage and not play second fiddle to the United States. The sentiment is perhaps even greater with Russia which ‘lost’ the Cold War to the US resulting in the break-up of the once mighty Soviet Republic. Putin, in fact, has been trying to regain Russia’s lost empire with the annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine. China, on the other hand, resents what it claims to be the hand of the United States in dominating the world’s finances, economy, politics, and influencing the affairs of other nations through regime change and alliances. The Chinese justify their acts claiming they are merely doing the same things as the Americans but only in their ‘own way’. The US has often been accused of hypocrisy too in not being fair with everybody. Truth be told, it is very difficult to navigate through all factors in play in order to satisfy everyone. This is a truism across any endeavor in life. The reality is that prioritizations have to be made by those mandated to make decisions on behalf of their constituents. The only question lies in the integrity of the process used, and in the honesty to come forth relative to all stakeholders involved. These principles of honesty and humility are what uphold the moral order adopted by the liberal system until now. The main objection therefore of the authoritarians which they use to justify their current actions is the claimed hypocrisy of those who do not always adhere to the substance of the liberal order but merely to its letter. Which makes us wonder if their proposed alternative order of adherence merely to themselves but not to their governed publics would fare any better. Since authoritarianism prioritizes the leaders first before the people, and their country first before the rest of the world.

Finally, while the ensuing battle between authoritarianism and the liberal order challenge world peace, the essential battle, it seems to me, really lies in the hearts of men which transcends narrow material interests for the glory of God. Saint Augustine once wrote the City of God in which he glimpsed at the effective possibility of lasting peace on earth if only men knew the absolute truth of God’s plan for mankind. In this eternal city, men are not divided by their religions, political beliefs, material needs, and pride. Why would they be? A common belief in the one, true God sees earthly life as a beginning of heavenly life. The liberal order, based on the Judeo-Christian moral code, was the closest to this City of God. It was based on the core principle of mutual respect and dialogue as ways and means to conflict resolution. This core principle negated the need for war since it arrived at a win-win end state for competing actors. The United Nations, created after World War II, was the world organization established to ensuring world peace to prevent another world war. The win-win was possible because it appealed to always upholding the human rights of all peoples living in each of the countries of the world. I argue that the only thorn at the side of this almost utopian set-up miraculously arrived at in the world is authoritarianism which is based upon the selfish preferences of unelected leaders whose agenda it is to perpetuate themselves in power. Whichever way the wind blows across world affairs, it is only the utilitarian principle of causing the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ that must prevail. The liberal order was out to achieve this. But, paradoxically, the enemies of this principle could only see the malice in the authors of this liberal order but not its benefits to all regardless of differences. Therefore, we ask: Who’s the real enemy?     


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