Intelligible discussion about humanity’s future is possible, Pope John Paul II advised the United Nations. In fact, it is the urgency and necessity of that discussion which may enable “a century of violent coercion to be succeeded by a century of persuasion”.
International politics of persuasion
However, it is vital to insist that the viability of “the international politics of persuasion” is impeded, perhaps obliterated, by any diplomatic stance which amounts to a denial of “intelligibility to the nature of man or to the human experience”. Diplomats are obligated to reflect upon such realities as the excruciating legacy of modern totalitarianism, and that in contrast to what motivated the “revolutions of 1989”. Diplomats must comprehend that these latter occurrences verify that political persuasion in the service of human betterment stems from acceptance of an indispensable philosophical premise. That premise may be summarized: “the vision of man as a creature of intelligence and free will, immersed in a mystery which transcends his own being and endowed with the ability to reflect and the ability to choose – and thus capable of wisdom and virtue”. What has been presented previously in this essay relevant to freedom, human rights, moral truth, negotiation etc., rests upon the seriousness of a belief that humanity’s condition can only be improved when his perennial and essential nature is measured against the challenge posed by unprecedented technologies, scientific advances, and political strategies. Diplomats are expected to enact in their aggregate of proposals, plans, discourse and interventions, provision for the constancy, and universality, entailed in being human.
The primacy of personhood is frequently accentuated in the papal New Year messages to diplomats. The Pope in 1997, quoted a “Founding Father” of post-war Europe, Jean Monnet. “We do not make coalitions of States, we unite people”. The politics of persuasion must be attuned to the centrality of the human factor when directing its energies toward the institutional and organizational factor. And it is that same centrality of the notion of personhood which best reinforces diplomatic resolve to rally “political determination” in such a way as to “strike at the causes of the disorders which too often disfigure the human person”. Pope John Paul II referred specifically to diplomatic initiatives undertaken to eliminate the victimization of children, together with “the battle against organized crime”, drug smuggling, and “efforts to oppose every form of contemptible trafficking in human lives”. The Pope appealed that “the leaders of societies” must become persuaded – and must persuade – that persons are never reducible to their productivity. Basic to Christian doctrine is the teaching that each and every individual person is “ created in the image of God, able to love as Jesus did”. And, while science embodies much that is admirable, humanity should be mindful of the temptation to exaggerate the merit of science by attributing to it a capability of making us the sole “masters of nature and of history”. It is that image of science which may foster the illusion that people are “objects to be manipulated”, inhabiting “a self-enclosed world” characterized by “an attitude of self-sufficiency, domination, power and pride”.
This content comes from: B.J. O’Connor, Papal Diplomacy: John Paul II and Culture of Peace, South Bend, Indiana 2005.