For many centuries certain European powers took it upon themselves to try to dominate the rest of the human race, set the agenda for humanity, and impose their ideas of religion, economic development, political organization and the ultimate goals of humanity. While undertaking to assert moral authority, they brutally subjugated peoples and nations and used their assertion of moral superiority to exploit and dominate the resources of the planet. Such a relationship between peoples cannot provide any long-lasting foundation for human unity, particularly as the peoples of Asia, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe, as they were awakened to the world issues and refused to accept long-term subjugation to European powers, took a more and more active role in determining their own destinies and participating in the world political and economic relations.
Sri Aurobindo notes, in relation to the weakness of the settlements towards the end of World War I, which entrenched the dominance of the European powers, at least temporarily: “Such a settlement must have had the vice of fixing conditions which in their nature must be transient. It would mean not only the rule of this or that nation over dissatisfied foreign minorities but the supremacy of Europe over most of Asia and all Africa. A league or incipient unity of the nations would be equivalent under such conditions to the control of the enormous mass of mankind by an oligarchy of a few white races. Such could not be the principle of a long-enduring settlement of the world.”
The result of such an attempt, as we have in fact seen, was first, “the support by law and force the existing condition of things and resist any attempt at radical change; but this would lead to an unnatural suppression of great natural and moral forces and in the end a tremendous disorder, perhaps a world-shattering explosion.” Witness the second world war, and the subsequent breakup of the great European empires and the founding of well over a hundred independent nations as a result, along with the rise of great Asian nations such as China and India that resulted from this cataclysm.
Another option would be to develop a rule of law which gave all nations a substantive voice in world affairs. This too was taken up in the formation of the United Nations, but met with the resistance predicted by Sri Aurobindo: “But such an authority, interfering with the egoisms of great and powerful empires, would be difficult to establish, slow to act and not by any means at ease in its exercise of power or moral influence or likely to be peaceful or harmonious in its deliberations. It would either reduce itself to a representative of the sentiments and interests of a ruling oligarchy of great Powers or end in such movements of secession and civil war between the States as settled the question of slavery in America.”
The other solution propounded by Sri Aurobindo was that the principles of equality and just relations between peoples would need to become entrenched in the dealings of nations with each other: “It other words, it must become a settled political principle with European nations to change the character of their imperialism and convert their empires as soon as might be from artificial into true psychological unities.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 18, The Ideal Solution — A Free Grouping of Mankind, pp. 159-160