April 26, 2011

On a recent trip to New York, I did something radically different from my usual forays back to the city of my birth: I visited the UN headquarters. To be sure, my One-Worlder credentials are very poor; I did not even trick-or-treat for UNICEF as a child. But that very childhood in the early to mid-“€™60s gave me a certain interest in the UN. Part of this was the conflation in my young mind of the UN logo with the 1964 New York World’s Fair’s Unisphere“€”symbolizing one of my earliest Really Good Times. Another element was the space program, and a third was the never-ending cavalcade of newly independent states”€”most of which would go on to become “€œfailed”€ in our day. The developing countries rarely seem ever to quite develop.

In recent months, I have taken to reading innumerable UN-related websites in detail. Even as one soon tires of phrases such as “€œtransparency,”€ “€œsustainability,”€ and “€œgood governance,”€ such ideas illumine the self-image of those who staff the UN’s innumerable offices around the globe. Although it was rather late at night, while on the website of one country’s UN team I swear I saw an article on the close connection between gender equality and biodiversity. (In retrospect, it must mean that admitting women to men’s clubs will prevent endangered species from dying out due to inbreeding.)

“€œWhen one looks at so much of the UN’s agenda, from the “€˜rights of the child”€™ to population control to various gender-orientation-equality schemes, it is often difficult to repress a shudder.”€

The furnishings at the UN’s New York headquarters immediately send one back to the early Bond movies and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The tour itself was conducted by an earnest young Spanish girl who spoke excellent English and was imbued with a true zeal for the organization. Apart from the General Assembly room, we saw a number of exhibits dealing with the UN’s history and its various humanitarian programs. There was also a wonderful gift shop filled with tchotchkes from all over the world. At the end, each of us had the chance to visit the Meditation Room.

It is easy to make fun of the starry-eyed “€œcivilization of peace”€ rhetoric that the UN’s younger employees and innumerable volunteers at UN associations mouth. When one looks at so much of the UN’s agenda, from the “€œrights of the child”€ to population control to various gender-orientation-equality schemes, it is often difficult to repress a shudder. The prospect of a “€œOne World Government“€ melting all humanity into a single mass of robots is truly frightening. Those blessed with a memory of the Cold War will recall how often UN bodies served Soviet propaganda and intelligence ends. If one is particularly pro-Israeli he will take a dim view of the organization’s Middle Eastern role.

However removed from reality, the aforementioned idealism is real, if only in that many people sincerely hold it. It even has a spiritual dimension. Such organizations as the Temple of Understanding and the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions attempt to undergird the UN’s work with specifically religious support. Nor is the spiritual traffic one-way. The UN has attempted to make contact directly with “€œCivil Society“€: NGOs as opposed simply to the member governments. Many of these are”€”given the charitable and advocacy realms in which they labor”€”religious bodies, from Catholic religious orders to Jewish organizations to Buddhist temples. The Holy See itself has permanent observer status, which allows it to collaborate with the UN in relief and other efforts, and also to attempt to torpedo General Assembly resolutions it finds odious. The annual service at St. Bartholomew’s Church marking the opening of the UN General Assembly is reminiscent of similar liturgies marking convocation of authentic legislatures.


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