Unification News for July and August 1998

Committee Session Two: The Family and the State

by William D. Lay

Committee Two took up the discussion of the Family and the State.

Committee chairman Dr. Aziz Sidky, former prime minister of Egypt, observed in introducing the session that the speakers at the morning plenary sessions had touched extensively on many aspects of the relationship of the family and the state, including laws regulating marriage, divorce and other domestic relations; taxation; regulation of media and communication; and other areas of the state/family interface.

The family is the creation of God, Dr. Sidky noted, and while customs and conditions may vary from one country to another, the family is the family everywhere. The family is the basic cell of human society, and human social health is dependent on the health of families.

In essence, he said, our task is to bring the family back to what God originally wanted it to be.

In that vein, the first speaker, Mr. Claude Durand-Berger of France, quoted Holderlin and Peter Pan in speaking of the "childhood of humanity." "The vessel of childhood never comes back again." But individually and collectively, we have the ability to remember, and this "powerful lever . . . has raised up a new faith in Republican virtues and arouses a new trend toward Democratic values." That is, as we recall the innocence of the childhood of humanity, we are motivated to seek to create structures and governments which are faithful to our collective memory of an unstained world.

Mr. Durand-Berger then quoted Rousseau’s moving definition of conscience from La Profession de Foi du Vicaire Savoyard. One who disdains to follow the inner voice of conscience will "wander from one mistake to another, because of a non-regulated understanding and an unprincipled understanding."

Conscience, in turn, can only take proper root in a good childhood, Mr. Durand-Berger observed. "Family is the cradle of conscience, and conscience is the guardian of family." Supported by conscience, the family teaches the benefits of virtue and imparts an enthusiasm for virtue. Just as the voice of conscience is not "a cold, severe voice," so the family, is "not only a place for duty, not a mere cohabitation of related people, but a prospective outlet towards self accomplishment and an exaltation of virtue." The family then becomes the source of the "highest forms of sacrifice and public virtue, of real dedication to the service of the state, and of patriotism."

Mr. Durand-Berger then noted that the Americas might be viewed as a "factory of universality" and a pivot of prosperity and increasing exchanges among Europe, Africa, Asia, the emerging countries and the Pacific region. He further urged that the way toward worldwide unity based on good families is "shorter than the most pessimistic and unwilling ones might have thought."

Continuing with the theme of universalism, Amb. Jose Maria Chaves pointed out that as we approach the millennium, we find ourselves in a world dominated by a "universal state" – the United States. This empire is ruled by "the framework of principles of representative democracy, the free market and human rights." However, is the American Empire different from previous empires? Are the problems of the world to be solved under the leadership of the USA? "One thing we do know is that in spite of the progress achieved to date, world problems loom in greater magnitude than ever before… In this new world of the 21st Century, the family as the fundamental institution of society will necessarily reflect the new challenges."

Amb. Chaves mentioned the "almost incredible advancement in science and technology," and observed that "we seem to be entering a world where mutual consent rather than force will be the rule." Yet, "facing the overwhelming problems that confront mankind, I find that the only recourse is to recover the essence of religions and apply spiritual principles to the social situations that beg for an answer."

Amb. Chaves recommended an expansion of the family, rather than a "retreat to a limited experience of the traditional nuclear family." Africa, with its expansive view of the extended family, offers "a broad, comprehensive, inclusive concept that without question provides an incomparably solid basis for family as the fundamental unit of society and as the elementary component of a community."

Though today’s families face serious challenges for survival, "at the same time, families are acknowledged to harbor inherent strengths and resources which can be tapped to promote peace, reconciliation and integrated human development."

"Many social ills are blamed on the collapse of families," Amb. Chaves observed, "but it is the social upheaval itself that makes family life impossible." Millions of children throughout the world have no opportunity to experience childhood, since they are employed in substandard jobs lacking sanitation and safety, and may be mercilessly exploited. In the face of these human rights violations, the state and international organizations must undertake steps to improve and protect the status of family groups and the individual members.

In addition, it is incumbent to press ahead with the project, envisioned by Kant and others, of establishing a society of nations free from domination by any power and resting on a foundation of justice, peace being the fruit of justice.

Former Prime Minister Maxime Carlot Korman of Vanuatu observed that although individuals are commonly thought of as the basic political unit, "it is not the character and behavior of individuals that determine a state’s identity, but rather its families and its communities." In fact, it is within families that the identity of the individual is created. Families, in turn, determine the character of the higher levels of social organization.

Leaders must become more family focused, Mr. Korman noted, as the family will necessarily be the pivotal unit of social change. "While some political change can occur through collective individual action apart from the realm of the family, more fundamental change in social, cultural and religious values is best carried out within the unit of the family."

Mr. Korman also predicted that while the world is likely to become increasingly cooperative and interdependent, we are also likely to see an increasing de-centralization within the state, as families take on greater political importance. "The political revolution of the 21st century is likely to be one that reduces the influence of the traditional vehicles of influence of modern politics in nation-states and upgrades the often belittled importance of the family unit in determining political outcome."

The final presentation of the session was made by former Prime Minister Lloyd Erskine Sandiford of Barbados. In setting the stage for his remarks, Mr. Sandiford harkened to the lyrics of a love song that asks, "What am I living for if not for you? Nobody else will do." The family begins with love and commitment.

Mr. Sandiford further looked to the biblical story of the Garden of Eden and the fall of humankind, as well as redemption, to provide understanding of the present human condition. In this manner, he noted, we can see what is wrong and what can be done to set it right. Like Milton, we can contemplate paradise lost and paradise regained.

Mr. Sandiford noted that people naturally seek to maximize benefit, but benefit must be viewed in a broad and profound sense. The United Nations Report of the Development of Nations in 1997, for example, uses a "human development index" to measure the progress of nations, rather than merely per capita income. In considering the state of the family worldwide, some clearly have much more than others, and those without seek to obtain more.

The Barbados constitution, Mr. Sandiford noted, makes reference to "the position of the family in a society of free men and institutions." People seek happiness, and the family shapes their affective and emotional selves in a way that determines, to a large extent, whether they will be able to experience happiness and peace. Persons emerging from a deprived family are likely to add to the sum total of human misery rather than alleviate it.

Mr. Sandiford pointed out that Rev. Moon, in convening this conference, is sending out an urgent message regarding the importance of the family, and has demonstrated a global view of the problems of the world and their solution.

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