Shifting the Paradigm II: New Rules in the World Order

29maggio final

On May 29, at 4 PM CE, the final webinar in the Supranational Democracy Series:
Shifting the Paradigm II: New Rules in the World Order.

Does the Planet need new rules? Does the post-pandemic world need new legal or institutional tools for a more cooperative (and less competitive) system of sovereign states? or even beyond sovereign states?

Can we imagine a more democratic global governance? a more eco-friendly global governance? Can we imagine citizens and civil society have a meaningful say over global issues affecting them all?

This webinar series – which replaced in these pandemic times – a more traditional conference, has been -for me – an incredible journey. I had the amazing opportunity to discuss these huge topics, with many inspiring people: professors and journalists, experts, and activists, researchers in different fields but with equally strong dedication, approaching similar issues from very different angles.

And I could learn how a webinar works, along the way! Gosh, it wasn’t easy…

I had several aha moments. I saw a little preview of something which has still to be built: a frank,  open debate in a global transnational public sphere.

Whatever the world we are envisioning, I suppose that opening such space, encouraging a conversation and a narrative beyond the borders, is a precondition for our evolution as a species.

We are still learning how to communicate as global citizens, how to build a world public opinion of which the young people of the “Fridays for future” have been the vanguard.

There is still a long way to go, but, quoting Lao Tzu, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

And we have taken a few steps.

I want to thank all my wonderful fellow travelers.

Oneness III

Following from chapter I here and chapter II here

Chapter III

Definitions

Brindisi, April 6 2020

 

For an academic mind the first problem is about the definition.

For an academic mind, an even bigger problem is defining a spiritual object, giving yourself permission to dig so far outside your field, accepting judgment (even your own), and deciding to let it go, in advance.

Oneness: awareness of being one of One, a living cell in a huge living body called humanity. Or inside an even bigger body comprising all living beings on the planet. Or, even better, a spark of life in the body comprising – with all of her inhabitants – the very body of Mother Earth, our mothership in this travel called life.

This feeling that some of us have experimented in the contemplation of nature, in meditation or in some altered states of consciousness is the most sublime experience we can recall. Even if, sometimes, we realize we had it only after it has gone, vanished. Trying to explain this feeling may be difficult, even painful.

It feels like pure love. Not just feeling it, being it.

For me, a vivid moment of those was the first glance – eyes in the eyes – with my newborn Giuseppe, sixteen years ago. One of those perfectly quiet moments when the time stops and you feel you are in the right place and in the right moment and everything makes perfect sense.

I can recall other crumbs of infinity when, as a little child, I was contemplating the slow movements of snails on the grass until losing the sense of time. Now, I can somehow hack my system into feeling this state of temporary happiness when I see in my minds’ eyes all of us connected in the same luminescent energy field. Yet, I envy my cat when I see him lost in happiness, just being. Easily.

I suppose all humans, deep down, consciously or unconsciously perceive at times this being all one. Yet many do not know that this feeling may be cultivated with love, compassion, and gratitude and that it may grow like a muscle with exercise.

I feel called to write on this topic by the current pandemic, as we are now, as One, big sick body. Or maybe just now our illness surfaced after so many symptoms here and there. The illness dates back, I suppose, to the origin of what we call the Anthropocene.

How terrible to lose a dear one because of an invisible enemy and how exhausting to fight every day an unequal struggle in hospitals and labs. I have no direct experience, I can only imagine. Yet this could be a good moment to slow down and reflect on ourselves, on this big body we all are. We are sharing a deep common experience, we are more open, more caring to the world, more conscious of our interconnectedness.

Internet is now the circulatory system of this big body: our words and thoughts circulate like blood, bringing life and nourishment or more diseases. Waves of compassion, as well as waves of hatred, spread quickly and we are all responsible for the fragile health we have as a collective.

We don’t speak the same language, we don’t share the same beliefs and rituals, yet we have the same needs of safety and peace, of family and community, of food and fresh air and nourishment for the body, the mind and the heart. We suffer the same climate threatens. We all aspire to the same freedom and sovereignty in making choices for ourselves. We all depend on others, near and far.

Where does a population, a territory end, another start? People living on the borders know this well: it’s not black on one side and white on the other, there are shadows of grey and connections beyond the lines traced by politics and history. And we live in our state as in a big condominium, discussing common elements and big and small injustices, perhaps imagining the condo beyond the street as more comfortable and less quarrelsome. As Italian, I know I was lucky to be born in a good neighborhood.

Yet, the texture of my life is made up of thin threads connecting me to the four corners of the world: I have no idea where my tea, my coffee, my chocolate comes from, or the wood of my furniture, or the apps on my phone. I don’t know the lives of those my comfort relies on. Maybe I should. I could know more and care more about how all these little particles of my reality are produced and dispatched to me.

We are all rings in a chain. My work too is intended to benefit others near and far, or at least, I hope so.

I want to enlarge my glance now and allow myself to dream out loud: one day this big One living body could show a collective intelligence and dance to the same rhythm of life like a flock of birds or a swarm of bees. Just think of the potential of AI, if not misused. Just think of our huge combined creativity.

Maybe it is time for humans to step back, leave the hearth breath and the sun shine and use their terrific brain and its fruits to imagine and realize a more equal and less aggressive society for themselves, for the other living beings, for Mother Earth.

Oneness. II

Following from Chapter I

Chapter II

Brindisi, March 21, 2020

Existential Doubts

The coronavirus pandemic had, as a consequence, an entire nation’s lockdown and many other nations around were following on the same road. Two weeks had already passed.

In Italy, I was watching the developments from some sort of vantage point. We were 10 or even more days ahead of many other countries, already used (resigned?) to the contagion and the “extraordinary measures” going with it. We experimented as the second (after the Chinese people) the effect of this strange “staying at home”.

In those first two weeks, I had seen the good and the bad surfacing in my compatriot captive fellows.

The good was the raise in collective identity.

Italians are great individuals, but I wouldn’t define them as great as people. Yes, for us the family is important, but not so much the community: the town, the country, the others. The sense of the state, the perception of common goods, the respect for what is public are quite scarce.

Pictures and videos of the Italian “balcony flashmobs”, with people singing and clapping together, traveled around the world. People kept each other cheerful, raising the spirit to make up for the lack of social contact.

Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp conversations were more lively than ever and zoom meetings for work, but also for a chat, a toast, a love conversation, was the new normal. The social dimension never disappeared, not a little bit.

Well, without touch. Missing hugs and kisses was a way to realize how important they previously were in our daily lives.

Doctors and nurses were doing miracles, working relentlessly, with poor safety measures, arousing our admiration. All the people working in the food supply chain couldn’t stop as well. Volunteers provided shopping for the old people at home and tissue facial masks were sewed and gifted in several towns and neighborhoods.

But let’s talk about the bad.

First of all, it was surprising how fast we all accepted that social distancing was the only solution. I wonder if there was some alternative way to protect the weaker with exceptional measures, even at the same high price. As for most of the others, I suppose for me the risk was a viral infection with mild symptoms. Maybe we could cope with it, without putting at risk an entire economic system made of local shops and little enterprises.

As in a revolution, there was no time or desire to discuss alternatives. The only “political” debate was if the government was doing enough, had intervened soon enough or could restrict freedoms even more.

The big doctors on TV appeared to be the only legitimate authorities to discuss measures despite the fact that they had – at least – to be balanced with fundamental rights and freedoms.  I couldn’t help but think that freedom of worship or the right to mourn the dead could be saved somehow – maybe moving them open-air, with due distances. But that wasn’t debatable.

What was much worse, people locked in the houses started judging the few ones moving freely outside: a few runners, people driving cars and riding bikes. For sure, some had good reasons to move (with the special permission we all had in the pocket, when outside) some others were just less obedient. Regrettable of course, but not at the point to be hated. Pointing the finger was easy and lightheartedly done.

And such hatred was real, a sort of decompression for the sense of frustration for being prisoners of the invisible enemy. Overreacting, looking for the responsible for bringing the contagion in town, blaming the authorities for not protecting enough, that was the shadow surfacing in many good citizens at home.  

All in plain sight: the light and the shadow, and the boat we were all in.

I felt I couldn’t go on with business as usual.

In my cozy house – luckily prisoner with my two sons – I was doing my best to stay positive, shielding my boys from the wave of fear and anxiety I could perceive from the outside.

After years and years of frantic activity, staying at home wasn’t too bad.

Yet, from time to time I couldn’t help but think of the sick ones, the seriously sick: those condemned to stay in the hospital without the presence and the comforting touch of the dear ones. Dying alone, this was the curse of this virus.  

My work didn’t stop, even if I was confined at home.
I could teach online, correct theses, advise students, write…
Well, most of my work had always been at home: reading, studying, writing. Especially – and on purpose – in the quiet hours when the boys were at school.
I was used to struggling with the blank page on my personal computer and now I had plenty of time to do so. I couldn’t even complain about all the other chores.

Yet, motivation was totally missing. All of a sudden I was wondering if all my work made sense at all.

I had always seen my life as a continuous upgrading and now – I felt – it was time to upgrade again.
Unfortunately, I was clueless. Waiting for a hint about the next step, out of my old patterns and towards some new, more significant ones…

I had the impression this virus was a sort of wake-up call, not just for me, but for everybody. I felt, deep inside, the responsibility to get the hidden message inside the call.

Sleeping, reading novels, cooking was all I wanted to do in those lazy days of quarantine. All I had never had time to do. I was overwhelmed, at times, with a sense of guilt for this sudden laziness, something I was unprepared to face.

A sudden thought: – maybe this is how searching for the meaning of life looks like: waiting and contemplation. Maybe the white page is where it all starts and where I had to start. Seeing what could flow out of my mind. No plans, no goals, no attachments. Just the free flow of thoughts. Inspiration? Intuition? It was time to see if these were real, if they worked.

And there it was: my “Oneness” posts 🙂

Compassion. A sense of commonality with all the people living the same life and the same fears in so many towns and countries around the world.

Contribute. Could I contribute? How? 

The challenge to me was clear: the virus showing once more how this world is small, how humanity is nothing but a family whose destiny lays in interconnectedness.

We had already seen plenty of images of catastrophes around the world in this strange leap year: desperation, bombs, locusts, floods, and fires. Powerful images calling for our empathy and compassion for our fellow humans, the close and the far away.

Yet this lockdown because of an infinitely small virus – apparently not so terrible –  was something different: a shared experience.

 It was connecting for the first time people around the world, sharing the same fear. Could this become a sharing of love instead? I was wondering. Could we pray for each other, meditate for each other, feel eventually a real, family-like, connection?

Hope.

The light at the end of the tunnel could be brighter than the one we left behind, at least because we learned to enjoy it with new eyes.

Follows in chapter three

Oneness

Lungomare_città_di_BrindisiChapter I

Brindisi, March 10th, 2020

When it all started

It started as a quiet subversion of daily habits.

After the declaration of the state of emergency throughout Italy, the roads appeared deserted even in the southern regions where the risk was very low, just a handful of people infected by province.

Few people with masks and scared looks entered and left the shops on that beautiful March day.

Government instructions were clear: you could only leave the house for reasons of strict necessity: for medical treatments, for work, for “survival”, that is shopping for food.

The population was forbidden to touch, hug and kiss, to leave their own town of residence. All the activities that could be carried out from home – as distance learning or smart working – continued. Also some essential public services. But who knows how many activities were interrupted and for how long.

The planes no longer left. The silence was striking. In that green suburb close to the airport it sounded unnatural.

What struck me most was the loss of the little things I had always taken for granted: hugging my father, for example; exchange kisses on the occasion of my birthday; take a walk without a real destination just to look at the sea.

What about meeting my partner? He lived in another town and seeing each other was now impossible. Until when?

I felt a pang in the stomach. What if either of us got sick? No visiting, no help? And if it became serious? 100 km never felt like a difficult distance, now they were.

It was the first time I really thought of sickness as a real possibility.

Back home, I was welcomed by the usual smiles of my sons.

Ours was a little bubble of positivity.

We left daily news enter only for short updates in the morning and in the evening. The TV was turned off most of the time. Except when PlayStation was turned on, which was, for my standards, way too much.

My sons had reacted in two different yet quite healthy ways: one, the younger – just turned fourteen – had celebrated the closure of the school as a historic event per se, but deplored the fact that homework continued to arrive just the same.

The older one, close to his sixteen birthday, had armed himself with patience and although he suffered from the loss of his social life, seemed serene. Both had hobbies and games to play, they enjoyed all this extra time for themselves.

Turning off TV wasn’t a real novelty for us, but now it was self-defense. The virus was on-air h24. This health crisis had obscured all the other crises, not less dramatic: the bombing of civilians in Syria, the desperate situation of migrants on the Greek border, the exceptional Arctic temperatures.

We had all seen pictures of penguins trotting in the mud instead of slipping elegantly on the pack: the photos had circulated on Facebook but had never found their way to TV news, yet 20 ° in Antarctica was big news. And the violations of fundamental rights perpetrated massively on refugees? What was happening?

Moreover, the United States was shipping 20,000 troops in Europe, the largest deployment of forces in 25 years. Apparently, practicing to lead a convoy across the Atlantic. Could we need a new landing in Normandy or Sicily? Who would invade us: the Russians? the Chinese? For the moment the Americans, although they had promised that they would leave Europe after cleaning training areas.

How could all this make sense in the middle of a pandemic?

Internet was the only source for everything that was not the virus and its consequences, a massive and chaotic source, overflowing with fake. Fake news continued to arrive on every mobile via the WhatsApp groups. I had received maybe ten times the same message telling us to fight infection with hot drinks, as ridiculous as it sounded, most of my contacts had believed and passed it on.

I had spent the last two months organizing big conferences, one was already canceled, the other looked uncertain but we were clinging to the idea that everything would be fine and that the emergency would end soon.

Ironically, our conferences were on democratic global governance, on commons and common values. I smiled at the idea that speaking of democracy with the right of meeting suspended was quite a thing.

By the way, our team knew how much this was contradicting the direction that politics seemed to have taken at the national and the global level. Yet, it was a way to face and counter the narrative, hopefully, to start writing a different one.

And now this virus, quietly, was overwriting on its own, putting on hold globalization, reviving borders and building new ones, even from town to town.

I was feeling like a little lab rat. Italy was a little lab. Our first-class citizenship which allowed us to go everywhere, often visa-free, was now rejected. Closed, each of us in our little towns.

And yet, with the coronavirus declared a global health emergency by WHO, we had further (unnecessary!) evidence that borders were pointless in front of great emergencies, that viruses traveled without documents and that you could find yourself on the wrong side in no time.

Solutions, whatever, needed cooperation, not competition. We were all connected, even more with hugs forbidden.

I had so much to work on, articles and chapters on democracy and citizenship and global governance, but all this thinking was bringing me to the core: oneness. I had to work on oneness, skipping all the intermediate steps.

To be continued…

Chapter II

Chapter III

Connecting the dots: how a “supranational” path led me to the Supranational Democracy Dialogue.

Most of the experiences I had in my life (in researching, teaching, advocacy) point to this specific direction: governance beyond the State.

Advocacy came first. Since I was a teenager, I played a leading role in the Young European Federalists (JEF).

It was only after I was awarded a Ph.D. grant from the University of Bologna that I had to put aside that experience (apparently to prove to be a “serious” researcher) according to the suggestion of my mentor prof. Paolo Mengozzi. My Ph.D. thesis, which became my first book was dedicated to the economic and monetary union, a brand new topic after the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty. The focus of my whole work (in the Nineties) was the lack of economic governance in Europe or, to be precise, the need for a common fiscal policy, a topic still relevant nowadays (and the topic for another book later on).

From there I moved to research on the ways and tools for Europe and the Eurozone to speak with one voice in the international fora, so I came to study the IMF and the World Bank (and to the governance of the two was dedicated my second book). The external relations of the EU are a recurrent topic in my record of publications, with two specific focuses: representation in international organizations and euro-Mediterranean relations, between bilateral and multilateral options.

Only later on I realized how my federalist starting point was influencing my research path: wherever I see a governance problem I start to investigate representation, legitimacy, accountability, budget. And I’m drawn to governance issues like a moth to a flame!

Once realized that, I went straight to the point, publishing on democracy in international organizations, on accountability, on citizenship in the European democratic formula.

 I think that not less interesting and diverse has been my experience in advocacy.

In 2009, with a group of colleagues, I founded the think tank The Group of Lecce which, on the long wave of the global financial crisis, started releasing communiques on how to improve the governance of financial institutions.

 In the same period, I started attending the Civil society policy forum convened twice a year by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on the occasion of their annual and spring meetings and I was invited to join the Bretton Woods Committee.

Starting a blog on “Supranational Democracy” in 2015 was the next step.

It seemed quite natural, two years later, to make the research line converge with the advocacy path and I convened a big international conference to invite scholars and people from academia and institutions to discuss with civil society leaders. All the networks I had previously attended mixed up in this new adventure.

So, in 2018 I have been the organizer – with a great supporting team- of the Supranational Democracy Dialogue (SDD), a dialogue among scholars, civil society and creative thinkers on democratic solutions to global challenges. the story of that experience is in a little documentary film.

As the first edition of the dialogue was a big success and created a platform of like-minded scholars and activists, I am now working on the second edition. I can count on an interesting and diverse network collected around this idea that the world needs some kind of democratic global governance.  

Eventually, this year, I was awarded a Jean Monnet Chair whose title is “Legal Theory of European Integration: a Supranational Democracy Model”. A sort of blessing, for me, after so many years of dedication to an idea which was, for many, plain crazy.

I think that building governance beyond the state and reinventing democracy for the human family is the big challenge of the XXI century, or maybe of the second millennium.

Spiritual people call it oneness: realizing that we are all one, connected and interdependent.

Pragmatical scholars move from different premises: issues are nowadays global (global warming, sea pollution, water scarcity, migration waves, trade wars, threats to peace and security); global institutions are imperfect, as they were created many decades ago for a world of sovereign nations which look nowadays inadequate (both the nations and the global institutions). Globalization of finance, markets, social media calls forth globalization of rights.

No matter which position you move from, you can get to this awareness moved by the mind or the heart. You can come from international law, economics or maybe philosophy, anthropology, a religious belief, or a psychological search… the supranational democracy dialogue could be the place for you.

The panelists come from so many different experiences that nobody expects to teach or to hold the truth, and everybody has for sure something to learn. What is expected is a phenomenon of cross-pollination among ideas, cultures, and paths.

The next edition of the SDD will be in Brindisi, on April 16-17. The program is still a work in progress, it will be posted shortly. If you want to attend or to receive the network newsletter please send an email to info@supranationaldemocracy.net.

See you there xxx

Susanna