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What does a Conscientious Agreement look like?

When I was a teenager the Vietnam War was raging. The draft was consuming humans sending them off to kill or be killed. 

War is ugly. I wanted nothing to do with it. If my number was to be called I knew it would be a problem for me and my family. I was born a year after this war started and now years later potentially faced a short lived life. All for what?

Raised by a mother who declared that if any of her sons were called to war she was ready to move us to Canada. I knew at an early age I would not be able to point a weapon at another living being and pull the trigger.

If the call came I knew I would stand up for my rights as a “Conscientious Objector.”

Rights that had reached back in history all the way to Maximilianus who was conscripted into the Roman army in the year 295. He told the Proconsul in Numidia that because of his religious convictions he could not serve in the military. He was executed for his act of resistance.

In 1948 the United Nations created Article 18, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this was the right to “conscience.” It stated, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Throughout the 1960s a new consciousness came to light. It birthed the ecology movement and a massive uprising against the Vietnam War. This momentum carried into the 70s with a resolve of youth that helped bring an end to the war.

A few years before the war actually ended the draft was stopped. None too soon as the next year I would have been of age to be conscripted. 

Even though the Declaration of Human Rights existed it was still not recognized as a true freedom to resist war. In 1993 explicit clarification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 18 was made in the United Nations Human Rights Committee general comment 22, Paragraph 11; “The Covenant does not explicitly refer to a right to conscientious objection, but the Committee believes that such a right can be derived from article 18, inasmuch as the obligation to use lethal force may seriously conflict with the freedom of conscience and the right to manifest one’s religion or beliefs.”

Illustration by Sofia Hefter-Smith

Fast forward to today. There is a new movement afoot led again by the youth who are listening to their inner voices and standing up for their rights.

Today’s most visible Conscientious Objector who has taken her stand wholeheartedly is Greta Thunberg. She recognizes there is a war raging against this planet that is killing off our only resource for life. She has embodied eons of wisdom and years of research by many to know that this path of blind obedience to the notions of progress and consumption will ruin us all and the generations to come.

What does it mean to be conscientious? To be conscientious and to object to something? 

It seems to be an act of will. To leverage the freedom of thought to go against the grain, the norm. To take action in your beliefs so they align with your thoughts. To believe in something so strongly you are willing to risk your life’s journey towards an unknown. 

This is where we stand now. Objecting to the ills our civilization, cultures and habits have led us to this very day. Threats we have know about for years yet have taken little action to stave off. 

What I would like to know now is what does a “Conscientious Agreement” look like? Now that we know what we know, we will need to move past the objecting and on to agreeing on what needs to be done.

Is there such a notion for a frame of mind that nurtures us into a mindful practice of synergy, collaboration and cooperation that can heal and move us into a healthy future we can all embrace?

What say ye…

What is the Conscientious Agreement we need to move forward as stewards of tomorrow?


 Mark’s Myth is an exploration into the synergies of ideas… riffs blending wordplay, story telling, technology and the arts weaving together a tapestry of synapses and milestones.

Notable replies

  1. It’s interesting to consider this in light of the way that “truth” is created through collective beliefs and spread through mainstream media networks.

    Should I really have the freedom to believe what I want? To what extent do I have the responsibility to base my beliefs in “reality”?

    As a human being, I have the power to create reality with my beliefs. Thoughts become things, after all. But there’s a fine line between a visionary creating a new reality and someone who’s deluded.

    I think our freedom to have our own thoughts and beliefs should be upheld so long as it doesn’t do any harm. It’s important we have this right in the face of wars, as you explain @Eleprocon in this article.

    It’s interesting you bring up the case of Greta Thunberg. The article I’d read previously about her was this one:

    It concludes as follows:

    The climate debate is a complicated one. It requires the careful weighing of interests and trade-offs, not the uncompromising fanaticism of an absolutist. A sixteen-year-old should not be expected to see all the nuances, but as adults, we should expose her ideas for what they are: undemocratic, fatalistic, and bereft of the hope and optimism needed to effect consequential change. Thunberg’s speeches and Manichean worldview do not offer realistic answers to the problems we face. Even if her most alarming predictions turn out to be true, solutions will have to rely upon innovation and a realistic assessment of what is possible. Activism might be driven by passionate conviction and founded on good intentions, but as Saul Alinsky, the radical American writer and community organiser, once observed: “Young protagonists are one moment reminiscent of the idealistic early Christians, yet they also urge violence and cry, ‘Burn the system down!’ They have no illusions about the system, but plenty of illusions about the way to change our world.”

    I’m curious to explore this further as it raises some very poignant issues!

  2. Objection is important – to call out what is not in alignment. However, objection and protest, defining oneself in opposition to, is overall exhausting and creates an externalized center.

    Be original – in the sense of coming from the point of origination. I want things I can align with, people and principles I can say yes to, goodness that when compared with, old paradigm control structures seem grey and stale, not just out of touch but obsolete, and that this be more and more evident to all.

  3. Would this be on the path to a Conscientious Agreement?

    If both you and I, we held this vow together…

  4. These vows have some excellent guidance for living a good life.

    I also find the “Four Agreements” to be pretty interesting:

    1. Be impeccable with your word.
    2. Don’t take anything personally.
    3. Don’t make assumptions.
    4. Always do your best.
  5. Muhammad Ali was jailed for escaping the draft. In South Korea, if you escape the military service, you will either be jailed or stripped of citizenship. I understand that joining the military means being a pawn in the chess of Imperialist America. And yet you go home, with no hands, feet, eyes, while Obama the Antichrist is sipping champagne and enjoying his retirement. World War 3 is coming, and this time, there will be no more Captain America or GI Joe, it will be a reversal of roles. Democrats will be the new Nazi Party.

  6. As I wander in this topic and find related ideas…

    It’s often said that knowledge to tackle big problems in the world – food, water, climate, energy, biodiversity, disease and war – has to be ‘co-produced’. Tackling these problems is not just about solving ‘grand challenges’ with big solutions, it’s also about grappling with the underlying causal social and political drivers. But what does co-production actually mean, and how can it help to create knowledge that leads to real transformation?

    Here’s how we at the Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre approach this challenge of co-production…

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Written by Mark's Myth

Mark’s Myth is an exploration into the synergies of ideas. Blending story telling, technology and the arts, as Ideapod’s Artist-In-Residence Mark is one of the first users to explore the full potential of Ideapod helping to nurture its evolution. To view Mark's gallery of ideas go to

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