Borders

 

blue and white planet display

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that our beautiful planet appears from space as a mostly blue ball, surrounded by white clouds.

It’s a poetic view: a cosy and hospitable planet. No borders are visible, not one of the about 200 fragments called states that we humans have created in the last few centuries. Yet, one old boundary is visible, the Great Wall of China. Big walls are not something new, as we can see, and yes, they get outdated soon or late.

There are many kinds of borders.

Yet, speaking about borders, the first which come to mind are the borders between states. They have multiple functions, here are the main ones: safety from external threats such as invasions; delimitation of rights for the conferral to the insiders of some special status (as citizens or residents); source of income as goods and services can be taxed when they cross that line; stop of unwanted people or unwanted goods.

States and societies are more or less open. As Popper taught, the more a society is democratic, the more it is expected to be open. An open society accepts the exchange with the outside on the economic as well as on the cultural level. The more it exchanges, the more it flourishes. History has proven this to be true in all ages.

Nonetheless, even for democratic countries, borders are a challenging topic. It took about 50 years to Europe to dismantle them; first came down the customs barriers and the limitation to circulate for workers, then the police controls, finally they became totally invisible. The European Court of Justice, one decision after the other, deleted tons of hidden obstacles to the free movement of people, goods, services and capitals and removed all the discriminations brought to its attention. Free circulation became a fundamental right. EU contributed to reducing borders with the other countries too, as this was the main goal of hundreds (or even thousands) of international agreements concluded in the last half-century.

Many borders went down thanks to technological advancement. Internet was a powerful tool for overcoming cultural borders. Low-cost flights made the movement of people easier. Yet, borders are now rising again.

Borders are constructs of fear. And fear is rising

Even within borders, there are often other borders. Many ancient towns have walls around them, yet they were inside kingdoms or even empires. Nonetheless, they feared near towns, or just near towns’ products in the market, they kept guarded gates to keep outside unwanted travellers and to close inside at night.

Even within towns, there were often other borders. Ghettos are old phenomena, they had real barriers around them.

Now that many physical barriers are collapsed, and others are more permeable than they were 50 years ago, the political debate seems polarized on how to raise them again.

In Europe, after a long season without internal borders that attracted 28 countries from the initial 6, confusion and uncertainty dominate the political scene on how to rebuild the border with Britain (and even more unfortunately across Ireland).

In the US, “the wall” seems to be the reason for an unprecedented shutdown costing billions to the American economy.

The international relations appear dominated by debates about trade wars and trade deals on customs duties.

But the worst borders are the invisible ones, those within the mind of people. In Italy, as well as in several European countries, nationalism and racism are menacingly reappearing. This resurgent division between us and them – be them the strangers, the refugees, the poor, even those living in another region of the same country – are my main concern.

Once again, it is nothing but a construct of fear, and it generates even more fear. Even those resisting this wave and trying to keep mind and heart open could start thinking in terms of us and them – being them, this time, the racist, the fascist, the “bad ones”. This is falling in the same trap of separation.

If we want to resist all this, we cannot but think in terms of humanity. We cannot but express compassion for the reasoning we cannot accept nor legitimize. We can see and acknowledge the fear behind it.  Then we can play our little role in dismantling inner and outer borders in politics as well as in daily life.

 

Are You Reinventing the World or Just Accepting its Reinvention?

We live in a complex, globalized and interconnected world.

All the good and the bad concerns everyone, wherever it happens.

Yes, we have still roots in a country and in a culture (not necessarily the same culture of the country..), nonetheless, we know that our potential as human beings is affected by things happening on the other side of the world. We can take it for granted.

AI, as it is being developed in some Silicon Valley start-up, could affect the way my sons are going to study and work. Scientific discoveries, wherever they occur, impact the way I’m ageing. The way we eat, the way we breathe, the weather, all is the result of global forces at play.

And most of the issues our political leaders are trying to deal with are just out of reach for any single state, they are continental, if not global.

Climate change, mass migrations, terrorism. Global issues, requiring global solutions.

And we assist powerlessly in many states to the fragmentation and the crisis of democracy.

It is no surprise to me. It’s just the end of an era – the age of the nation-state – and the difficulty of accepting a new reality. The challenge of creating new democratic formulas and new ways of interacting in the political space for this new world.

It may appear just a theoretical problem: abstract, fuzzy and far from our personal experience.

But what if facing this new reality becomes necessary to your business plan as a company? Understanding how global issues and disruptive technology are going to impact your industry may be crucial.

What if you are trying to design new curricula for your education system?

What if you are struggling to preserve a welfare system in the destructive competitive world?

What if you are just a parent and want to prepare your kids for the world they are going to live in?

What if you are politically active  – in a traditional party or in some NGO –  and just want to know how to make an impact and which level of government is really relevant to you?

These are really the questions I want to answer to, in some way.

I have spent some years now on this topic, which I call supranational democracy: reinventing democracy for the globalized world. But I perfectly know that a single person or even 10 or 100 will not really go very far.

Moreover, I see this challenge as multi-disciplinary and intercultural. And I’d love to be a catalyst for a much wider research and discussion.

Finally, I don’t see this as an academic challenge, period. It’s a challenge for humanity: academicians and businessmen, artists and activists, just everybody, should join forces.

A first attempt is the Supranational Democracy Dialog we are organizing in Lecce in April.

But, believe me, this is just the beginning. Are you with me?

Identifying and Solving World Problems: the SIMPOL Solution.

SIMPOL is not a typo. It means Simultaneous Policy.

And this is the solution to the world problems offered by two brilliant minds: John Bunzle and Nick Duffell.

SIMPOL

If you read their original and provocative book “Our world is in a mess. Here is the SIMPOL solution“, then come to discuss it with me, we are going to have epic conversations!

I will tell you two of the reasons which made me love this book and read it in one breath.

The first reason is the clarity in identifìying the n.1 public enemy we face when it comes to managing world economy – how useless it appears nowadays targeting growth, shared prosperity and equality when everything seems to push us in the opposite direction.

This enemy is competition. Not the (almost) healthy competition we can see inside a legal order, among competitors who respect the same sets of rules – tax rules, labor rules, bureaucracy and foremost antitrust rules – but in the global arena, outside any rule.

Where nobody can be punished for unfair competition.

Where it is pretty normal that big multinational company move towards tax havens or countries who become tax havens just for them.

Where it is considered acceptable to invest in countries where labor standards are incredibly low and poverty will push people of any age – even children – to work in terrible conditions and to work for almost nothing.

Where these big competitors can easily wipe out the small ones, who cannot move so easily, don’t get special tax deals and struggle while states complacently behave like reverse Robin Hoods: taking from the poor to benefit the rich.

Why so? Because they have to remain competitive or they will lose in the big game of world economy and – if the big ones go away – they will face even more unemployment and even fewer tax revenues.

Because this is the paradox of destructive global competition: states are the victims, they are in a trap and do not know how to get out of it. This trap made them weaken the welfare systems, struggle with public debt and here and there get close to failure. Simply put, states are just too small to manage this alone.

Before we jump to the conclusions – and I don’t want to spoil too much – I will tell you the second reason which made me love this book: psychology. It doesn’t happen often that a psychotherapist and a businessman join forces to explain us the problems of the world.

As I feel and know for sure – and if you have read some of my posts you know that too – the solutions have to be bigger than states, possibly matching the dimension of problems.

There is an entire cultural shift needed, from the nation-centric to the world-centric approach. This wouldn’t be the first time in history that we, the humanity, move from a political and dimensional paradigm to another: from the tribes to the Westphalian order we took a step or two.  Still, we are stuck in the mourning of a system which doesn’t work anymore. We just cannot let go the myth of sovereign nation.

And here comes the psychotherapist, explaining to us that this is just normal: most of the humanity can be observed living – collectively – in one of the 5 stages of the mourning process: 1. denial and isolation; 2. anger; 3. bargaining; 4. depression; 5. acceptance. 

Reading what happens nowadays through these lenses make it easier to understand current politics. Even the worst of it. It makes us even feel compassion for those grieving the loss of a myth.

The book doesn’t stop here, it offers practical steps to get out of this trap.

What is even better, it encourages us to feel responsible for the state of the world and take a personal stance to push politicians to bring our states out of the game of competition at any price, adopting simultaneous political choices agreed with other states when it comes to facing global issues.

The book is filled with brilliant insights and provided me the definition of what I am: a “late world-centric”, meaning a person who sees the whole world as a dynamic organism, looks for global solutions with a holistic approach, accepting and respecting all cultures in their own context.

This envisaged cultural shift made me think of the integral theory by Ken Wilber and of the “human colossus” represented in a sketch of Tim Urban’s brilliant post “Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future.

We can’t walk this path alone, we – the early world-centric – need to spread the word because only a critical mass and an active one, pushing political elites, can help humanity move to the final stage of grievance: acceptance. Then, the cultural shift will occur: embracing a new model.

Thank you, John and Nick, for your clarity, your explanations and to make me feel that I’m in good company.

 

 

Why Democracy is Declining

It’s no surprise that democracy is in a deep crisis, a glance at the democracy index by the Economist’s Intelligence Unit shows it clearly. According to it, only 4.5% of the world’s population lives nowadays in a “full democracy”. It was 9% only few years ago.

eui

This is even more evident in the very countries we always regarded as examples and bulwarks of democracy – Britain, France, US – the cradles of parliamentarism and of the rule of law.

I don’t say that these countries are not democratic anymore, I just worry about the amazing rise of populism and nationalism there, which are testing the democratic institutions as never before.

We can give so many different explanations for that: sociological, psicological, cultural… the liquid society and the solipsism and egotism of the modern human, the globalisation and rise of technology, the circulation of capitals and the social dumping, but I think that all this is just the background picture.

The real problem is in the dimension of the issues we face nowadays: migration waves, financial crises, global warming, terrorism…

Not one of these problems can be faced by a country alone, hardly by a group of countries acting together, even the European Union is struggling.

Citizens feel insecure, unsupported, and they expect answers from their political leaders, and from their governments. After all, this was the reason why the modern state was created in the first place: to offer security. Unfortunately, no state can offer this, not anymore.

Only populist politicians still offer promises and guarantees, do they know how illusory these are? Do their electors know?

And the easiest promise of all is the nationalist one: shutting the world out of the door, raising walls, guarding borders,  stopping people. Our country first… and only.

I understand the fear which originates these reactions and I am not here to add judgment and blame on the already excessive amount of judgment and blame we see around. I just don’t think this will work… if not to buy some time before the same problems knock to our doors again and again.

The solutions to these problems are difficult to imagine and hard to communicate. Nonetheless they do exist.

Just have a look at the agenda for Sustainable Development Goals  and at the countless initiatives started by private citizens to improve the state of the world, such as Geoversive, SimPol, the Good Country, ICRCCEN, Global Citizen, Business Fights Poverty,  and my list could go on and on…. Other solutions are possible and – even if we don’t see them on TV shows or in the news- other people are already thinking of them.

The decline of democracy can be stopped in two ways: one is in the hands of governments and it is the cooperation for the common good, the other is in our hands as citizens and it is in owning the awareness that we are global citizens and claiming for solutions at national and at global level.

Only stepping into our power, supporting and joining the initiatives and the causes aimed at solving our common problems we can still feel proud citizens of our state and and of this world.

 

 

 

Refugees as Global Actors

 

Image: UNHCR

Image: UNHCR

Some days ago I came across this beautiful petition (thanks Twitter!), which resonates with my assumption that individuals should have a say about issues and policies which impact on their life, even when they are managed at global level.

I copy/paste it here for you to read and possibly sign:

Internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile unite!

Europe is presently facing its biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Millions of people are being displaced in Syria and Iraq, as well as in other parts of the world, and many are trying to reach Europe, not only because they hope to be safe there, but also because of the political rights Europeans enjoy and take for granted: the right to free expression, the right to vote and so forth.

Yet, those few who do make it to Europe find themselves excluded from public life, without political rights and without a voice. To challenge that, we, people displaced by force, together with some NGOs and other stakeholders, are starting to organise ourselves with a view to creating new democratic structures both locally and internationally, so that in future internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile can offer themselves as dialogue partners to local councils, national parliaments, the European Parliament and the UN.

If you would like to support this initiative, please sign this petition now. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you agree, you can sign it here.

After a Skype conversation with Nico Andreas Heller, promoter of the initiative and founding director of the Democracy School, I found out that this petition is the tip of the iceberg of a wider process, aimed at creating an International Committee of Refugees (ICR), a directly elected, democratically accountable, representative body for internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile.

The challenge is tremendous: refugee camps host people from different cultures, religions, life experiences and many of them could have no experience of democracy at all (or don’t buy my or your idea of democracy).

They escape from different realities and for different reasons. They are over 65 millions nowadays and this number could increase over time as it is very possible to imagine climate refugees in the next future, fleeing from extreme climate events.

How the population of a camp could be represented? How the camp could have some kind of self-government to manage its specific needs and solve its internal problems? How the global population of refugees could dialogue with states and international fora – the UN in the first place – about their future?

From a strictly legal point of view, we need to consider that individuals are not unanimously considered subjects of international law, they cannot create an international organization, but just a non-governmental organization (NGO). They cannot dialogue on equal footing with states and international organizations but just enjoy – here and there – a limited observer status.

Nonetheless, an International Committee of Refugees would give them the rights to be aknowledged and to be heard. Which seems to me the minimum threshold for global civic rights. The mobilisation to explore innovative solution is on its way, and we are all invited, you can join it here.

I want to mention another beautiful project, the Project Love  – promoted by the architect and life coach Gregorio Avanzini -intended to create a holistic and scalable solution for refugee camps which includes everything from meeting basic human needs ( nutritious food; clean water; shelter; health care; education; emotional support). This too is an open initiative and everybody could offer his/her own expertise to make a difference.

We cannot ignore that we are facing  “the worst refugee and humanitarian crisis since World War II”( quoting UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon) and one of the biggest issues in the XXI Century. Denial will just make it bigger.

It’s time to consider people not just as part of the problem, but as part of the solution.

The Debate Is Open!

We all know which global challenges and concerns the world faces today.

Unfortunately, the international community lacks of adequate tools to manage all this.

All those who think that global citizens – as we all are- should do something will find a place for discussion in a Linkedin Group named Supranational Democracy.

it is a space to reflect and discuss – frankly and openly- about what to do and where to start from.

I think that possible solutions for a democratic globalization have to be intercultural and interdisciplinary.
Among the topics that we could discuss there there are: global governance; protection of human rights and development of civil and political rights at supranational level; digital democracy; innovative and creative governance; role of civil society and ways to raise awareness about the global dimension … and this is maybe just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s an open group: feel free to join, to invite new members, to contribute to discussions and suggest new topics for discussion… or even to watch what’s going on without joining.

You are very welcome!

Susanna

Being a Global Citizen (or The “Demos” Problem)

The two components of the word democracy are “demos” and “kratia”, in ancient greek: people and power/authority.

The authority existing -in greater or lesser degree- in international organisations is nowadays indisputable, but to have it exercised in the interest of the people, or legitimized by the people we need…. the people!

And therein lies the problem.

Many excellent scholars tried to build theories to frame global democracy: transnational democracy, cosmopolitan democracy, post-modern democracy. An important contribution was offered by legal theories such as global constitutionalism and global administrative law but….still nobody recognizes as certain the existence of a global population, a “demos” giving to these theories a necessary factual substrate.

There are several good reasons to explain why the very existence of a global demos is still controversial: the dubious legal capacity of individuals in international law; the distances; the deep cultural and linguistic gaps. A people is made so by a number of common features: cultural, linguistic, religious; it is the product of a common history and of shared values and traditions; it shares a sense of belonging. This is what we study at school and, later on, at university.

But is it still so?

I think I am a global citizen. If you are reading this post, chances are that you are too.

The social fabric is rapidly evolving, what has held true ten years ago -or even one year ago- no longer corresponds to reality.

Two indicators are essential to tell you if you are part of the emerging global demos:

1) you feel a citizen of the world, a human being inside humanity. Internet and social networks allow you to connect to people living in different countries, cultures, mindsets. The low cost travelling companies, the decrease in communication costs and the sharing economy had an impact on your life, encouraging your mobility and your opennes to new experiences and people.

2) you know that what happens in other areas of the world affects your reality, be it for good or for bad. You care about global problems and global public goods, you sign global petitions and get involved in global discussions, you visit websites as Avaaz or change.org, maybe you even join some NGO operating globally.

We are still a minority right now. Too many obstacles prevent most of the citizens to be global citizens: poverty, digital and cultural divide, ideology. But the number is growing. Daily.

For this reason, those who mantain that a global demos is still missing are right, but stating the contrary is not entirely wrong. There is a global demos in the making. And we are part of it.

Somebody saw this coming, some time ago 🙂