top of page
  • Writer's pictureRobertson Work

UN Senior Officials Review A Compassionate Civilization

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

From a UN senior official in the Middle East:

“In his book A Compassionate Civilization, Robertson Work does not mince words when it comes to outlining the problems we are facing as humanity. He warns that "a perfect storm is brewing, not only involving climate chaos but political, economic and cultural chaos as well”. He gathers the courage to delve and speak about these problems from the hope he has for people and planet that he rightly sees as one inseparable ecosystem. Facing such immense challenges and tremendous odds, Rob displays remarkable hope that is best seen through the lucidity of his ideas, the ease with which they flow and the joy they create as they enter the reader’s mind. Not unlike the smell of a wonderful rose, natural, simple, not forced, yet merits stopping and smelling, his work, merits stopping and smelling. Indeed, he does not only wonder what does compassion smell like, but he attempts an answer.

"Many before him have written about civilization and its future. Others have written about compassion as a human and personal trait necessary for survival. Rob brings the two together - civilization and compassion and he ties these two with a third principle, that of systems thinking, or should I say "systems intuition" that is so natural to one who has such long experience and who has studied the works of masters like the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin or Ken Wilber and one who has studied with Jean Houston and is well versed with the arts of facilitation and meditation. He culminates these studies by linking thoughts, ideas and principles on one hand with concrete action on the other through the wonderfully named social artistry - a genius approach by the larger than life Jean Houston. It takes a very unique individual and a very unique life experience to bring it all together so poetically, in such a compelling manner and takes it to a higher level by planting the seeds of compassionate civilization in the hearts and minds of several cohorts of his students at NYU.

"What he seems to be aiming at is an "opportunity to reinvent nothing less than human society itself … based on principles of sustainability, equality, justice, participation, tolerance and non-violence” - audacious aspiration yes, but one that appeals to all human beings from all walks of life, all over the planet. The invitation to be part of this is too good to pass up. A distant Utopia is eminently better than an imminent dystopia.

"As you move through the book, the invitation is not only compelling, there is a method to it. Slowly building his way through denouncing war, consumption and greed, non-democratic systems of governing, to then talk about activism at the local level to finally reach what he calls the Movement Of Movements (MOM). MOM builds on all past experiences, wisdoms, activism and actively and concretely guides the reader to aspirational compassionate civilization. This is bolstered by a full chapter dedicated to leadership – a new kind of leadership, one that is innovative, integral, collective, ethical and based on Houston’s social artistry - a kind of comprehensive approach that is to be expected from a system’s thinker.”

Dr. Cosmas Gitta, former UN assistant director for policy of South-South Cooperation reviews my book A Compassionate Civilization:

"Robertson Work joins a growing number of public intellectuals who warn of existential threats to humanity and the planet, while highlighting the unprecedented opportunities available to improve our life on a healthy planet. In the book A Compassionate Civilization, Work contends that the “world stands at the crossroads of interlocking crises of colossal dangers and exhilarating possibilities”. He then makes a prophetic call for a compassionate world order—one equipped with systems, policies and institutions to address the challenges humanity and the earth face with urgency and resolve.

"The book is a fountain of wisdom for individuals and social movements working to foster social and economic justice, environmental sustainability, women’s empowerment, democratic governance and other human rights around the world. Beyond overly optimistic appeals for all human beings to be nice to each other and to the planet, Work presents a well-thought-out action plan for global citizens to nurture a culture of compassion that invigorates human fellowship. What ails humanity in Work’s view is the breakdown of human solidarity due to oligarchy, misogyny, systemic poverty, racism, intolerance and violence. Based on that diagnosis, Work employs a unique literary style to engage readers in a “multilogue” to help repair fractured human relationships and corrupt institutions.

"The most insightful aspects of the book are the reflections, ideals, as well as disappointments and heartaches resulting from the author’s work in over 50 countries and close to 30 years of living and working for the Institute of Cultural Affairs and the United Nations in Malaysia, South Korea, Jamaica, Venezuela, and the United States.

"Like commentators such as Robert B. Reich and Thom Hartmann who are wary of super capitalism or corporate dominance and current threats to the liberal world order, Work denounces the existing economic system for “condemning masses to a life of grinding poverty and for favoring a few people to a life of opulence”. He also faults this system for enabling powerful individuals and corporations to erode democratic institutions to advance their own interests.

"The frank lessons one draws from A Compassionate Civilization are that economic and legal fixes are important but not enough to improve the human condition. Equally needed are personal and civic virtues to respect women and to avoid an overly masculine culture that exalts harmful competition, violence, warfare and the destruction of the natural environment.

"Work’s prudential roadmap for political and economic revolutionary change is brilliant for it endorses the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as the framework for international collective action to improve the human condition. Rather than hailing military might, Work grounds a plausible human destiny on civic and social virtues promoted by Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, and other inspirational leaders. In appreciation of technological advances, Work allocates the task to build a compassionate civilization to innovative leaders and ordinary global citizens organized into a vast online network or a movement-of-movements.

"In prose and poetry, Work makes a persuasive argument that mammals are wired to feel empathy towards their own kind. To him, compassion is ontological, biological and sociological. As such, what the movement-of-movements must strive to overcome is the distortion of human nature that accounts for violence, warfare, poverty and injustice due to negative emotions of fear, anger, hatred, greed, ignorance, jealousy and pride. Following this logic, readers of the book might find it hard to resist doing their share to build a compassionate civilization to align the world order with our authentic human nature—in line with impulses recently displayed by divers from various nations who rushed to rescue 12 boys and their football coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. The book also makes it imperative to embrace the civic dimension of such selfless compassion in support of humane policies, including the provision of food stamps, universal healthcare, affordable housing, job training, affirmative action and environmental stewardship.

"In sum, A Compassionate Civilization gives the reader a glimpse into a desirable world order by a man who went from a life bound by vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to alleviate the suffering of millions of the poor in slums and rural villages as part of a secular global movement of those who care. The book is also an open invitation to join such a caring movement to bring about the bright future that Work promises to his two grandchildren, Phoenix and Mariela and all children around the world to whom he dedicates his book."

And from G. Shabbir Cheema, PhD, UNDP former director of the Management Development and Governance Division:

“In this book, Robertson Work has uniquely combined idealism, personal commitment, the whole system analysis, and practical tools to make our world free, fair, and just. A Compassionate Civilization is a very persuasive call for transformation to ensure environmental sustainability, gender equality, justice, participatory governance, cultural tolerance, and peace and nonviolence. Professor Work’s holistic, multidisciplinary analysis of the ‘Movement of Movements,’ innovative leadership methods, and four faces of war and peace has reminded us all about contributions we can make as caring global citizens through social and political activism to bring about change. I strongly recommend this book for students, activists, scholars, political leaders, and citizens of the world.”

(The book is available on most online sites and from local bookshops. Here is one URL:

37 views0 comments


bottom of page