Living World Constitution: the proposal

Posted on 08 April 2019

Eleanor Roosevelt and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

We only have a few years within which humanity must order its house. The 2018 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report has given us until 2030 to turn things around, in order to mitigate the worst we have created for ourselves in the way of environmental disaster. Make no mistake, these are life or death concerns.

Our cultures have led us to a literal dead end. Humanity has achieved so much good for ourselves because of our ability to be social creatures. Together we build shelter, grow and distribute food, find cures to diseases, and more. Humanity has created so much suffering and destruction for ourselves and this world because we have allowed ourselves to value status above social bonds. We find clever ways to manipulate one another, kill one another, and sterilise the planet for our own ends.

Currently, we are substituting attention for friendship, wealth for peace, and individual status and security for collective well-being. Attention, wealth, status: none of these will create a world where we experience contentment.

We must gift ourselves with at least one moment where we imagine what it would be like if everyone got along, if all our needs were met, if we all had the opportunity to do those things that give our lives meaning, and we lived in harmony with all living beings on this planet. With that moment of insight it becomes easier to shift priorities.

What does it matter if we are ordinary when we have our needs met, people who love us, and a society that actively seeks to support its members in order to create peace. When everyone is struggling to be extraordinary, that means we live in circumstances where people are terrified and casting around for what will give them an edge in survival. You should only ever have to be yourself in order to be nurtured by your community and recognised as of worth.

Our institutions have been corrupted by our culture of status, which leads to a culture of domination. Many of those institutions had creditable foundations, but they needed to be better understood and over time better evolved. Instead they have come to be tainted in ways that will require significant intervention, if we are to save ourselves.

The institution that must take precedence in our actions to create change is the government. Power attracts those seeking higher status. Power often corrupts those who achieve status, then lose connection with their own humanity and the humanity of others. Part of the point of democracy is that by sharing power, we create a certain amount of checks and balances to those who lose their focus on representing their consituency and the well-being of their nation. However, as the price-point for entering politics rises ever higher, we are living in a world by the rich for the rich. The rich then enhance their power by forming parties where all opinions converge in order to force through particular agendas. Individual members are discouraged from representing their electorate so much as representing their party.

Yes, governments have let us down. But governments are how we cooperate. When speed is of the essence, governments are a means by which we can make broad sweeping changes while protecting the people and the environment for whom these changes are being made.

My suggestion is that we hold a Constitutional Convention. Australia has held four such conventions, the last of which was in 1998. This is nothing new or unusual for our country. All delegates to this convention would be voted for by the people. The resulting document would then be put before our citizens in a national referendum.

The main focus of this convention would be the addition of three documents to the Australian constitution:

  • A charter of human rights
  • A charter of environmental rights
  • A charter of economic rights

Within those three documents will be included governmental reforms that will ensure a greater amount of democracy being made available to the people of Australia.

As a former writer of political policy, I have put together proposals as to what can go into our updated national document. These can form grounds for discussion. Over the next few weeks I will share my proposals and why I believe they are critical to our national welfare.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine Phelps
BA (Hons), MFA, PhD

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