Michael W. Doyle is the director of Columbia Global Initiative and university professor at Columbia University.
Michael W. Doyle on
We have come to a stronger sense than ever before of a common humanity. What has changed in the modern world, from 1759 until today, is that we can now see our fellow members of the common human moral universe and we cannot be so blind. We can see the suffering. I think that we have hardwired a sense of human sympathy and, to a certain degree, a sense of justice, a Golden Rule. That's the good news. The bad news is that we also seem to have hardwired in us a degree of tribalism.
The biggest challenge we face today is that there's more than one challenge. Each of them makes unadulterated claims upon our activity, commitment, resources, attention. If there were just one, we would live in an easier world. But we don't.
The global ethic is the recognition both of our interdependence and our common humanity. The ethic calls for us to attempt to realize those two understandings in more practical ways. It calls upon us to try to design institutions that reflect a common humanity in their basic principles.
I think it definitely is possible. We have achieved regional peace already. Europe is one of the bloodiest pieces of geography that the globe has ever had. It is the cockpit of war after war after war, century after century, the two great global world wars. All of this is part of European history. If the Europeans, the bloodiest piece of real estate on the planet, can achieve peace, that's a sign of hope for other regions which today are very far from that.
Moral leadership means recognizing the kind of global ethic that I described, on the one hand. It is intellectual or philosophical. But it's, at the same time, to be able to understand the very concrete circumstances of those for whom you are responsible. It's a matter of driving practical strategies.
I'd like us to think about making progress in a variable way—that is, that each within our capacities will attempt to realize our joint responsibilities with the resources that we have available.