Reflections on Man’s ascent toward the triumph of good over evil, of liberty and freedom over tyranny

Open AI’s new engine, GPT-4 suggests the immense possibilities that exist for the future pf mankind.

The continuing war in suggests the immense obstacles that mankind faces if it is to ever seize those possibilities.

Scientific advances empower man, yet they also hold the potential to enslave him forever.
Scientific advances empower man, yet they also hold the potential to enslave him forever.

Man, if he is to be saved, if he is to be redeemed as it were, will have to rely on something much more powerful than science.

For only if man adheres to good spiritual values and exercises keen judgment based on those values will he potentially survive as a free being capable of the sublime.

If man does not have and act on the right spiritual values, his liberty and freedom of thought and speech and action will be cruelly curtailed.

Man’s hope rests on the fact that throughout the ages there has been a spiritual dimension to his existence, a longing for freedom and justice even when these were not attained.

Over thousands of years, man–or men and women–have struggled to defend values born of the spirit. This in itself is remarkable, and offers a source of hope for the future of mankind.

Or to be more precise, this offers a source of hope that the spiritual values of man, found broadly across many cultures and epochs, will gain ascendance within a sufficient number of men snd women to secure their general adoption by mankind as a whole. That is, that the good men and women will gain ascendance over the evil and unenlightened men and women.

That is man’s hope.

The lessons of history are cruel, and usually involve tbe crushing of the spirits and bodies of millions of men, or hundreds of millions of men.

Still, we have made some progress in the last 2,500 years.

Religious tolerance exists in many countries, even as it is threatened by those from cultures and societies where it does not exist.

Slavery has generally be abolished.

The ability of hundreds of millions of men to act in concert has grown, since earlier attempts such as the Roman Empire or dynasties in China which despite enormous successes for centuries ultimately failed.

Since World War II and the founding of the United Nations in 1945, enormous progress in mankind’s capacity for collective action has been made.

Humanity now has among its achievements established governing processes with a record of effective collective action on behalf of mankind, including striking examples such as the eradication of disease, or reversing the hole in the ozone layer.

Man has developed the neural networks and communication processes that facilitate rapid communication among 8 billion people and their governments regarding news and information, and facilitating the formation of shared understandings.

And yet all of these achievements, all of the potential of man, all of man’s good works and spiritual values are continually threatened by evil and tyranny.

It seems that no matter how far man advances on a higher spiritual path, his enjoyment and hopes of freedom are forever threatened by the evil that lies buried inn his own very human heart.

To protect liberty and his highest spiritual values, man has sought through the ages to erect institutions that would offer some protection against the brutal impulses of mobs and extreme political or religious movements.

In modern times, beginning in the 20th century these efforts have assumed an international form, first with the League of Nations in 1919 and later with the United Nations in 1945.

Yet the whole edifice of these collaborative and restraining institutions depends on one thing: the maintenance of international peace and security.

In the vision of the founders of the United Nations, who after six years of war were of a practical bent, this meant the prohibition of the use of force across international frontiers. That prohibition, aimed at preventing war, lay at the very heart of the international organization they were founding.

Have we now come to a point in 2023 where we believe international anarchy would be better?

Or have we come to a point where we no longer believe in the triumph of good over evil, in the possibility of order and international peace and security under the United Nations Charter and international law?

Or have we simply been overcome by the apparent hopelessness of our current situation?

For mankind with its current 800 billion members to move to achieve anything, leaders and leadership are required, by both individuals and nations.

We need thought leaders who can persuasively articulate the imperatives for collective action, who can explain to everyone why we should care about a war in a far-off land.

We need political leaders and leadership, and the contributions of citizens who can create and nurture that leadership from the ground up in their own societies.

There is nothing inevitable about the triumph of good over evil, of freedom and liberty over tyranny.

Nonetheless, we should bear in mind that mankind has been advancing toward such a triumph for a very long time. Perhaps the time has come, during our own very brief sojourn on the planet, to do our part.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.