the assumption of responsibility for the welfare of the world
For translation of an unfamiliar word, place the cursor over the word.
The stewardship is cosmopolitan, and must be. We cannot be concerned with the welfare of one people more than another, the good of one place at the expense of another. We cannot ignore poverty or pollution or oppression, regardless of location or the individuals affected. The parochialism and chauvinism associated with nationalist sentiment are both counter to the interests of the world as a whole. The nations of the world may always exist; they will certainly exist as long as there are individuals who consider themselves part of a nation, as that is the central element of nationality. But stewards must view the world in another light.
Apart from any conscious decision or organized program, the world is coming together culturally. The benefits of modern science and technology are not available to all peoples, or even all segments of any given people. But there is no question of the aspiration of most of the world’s population to the industrial/high-technology standard of living. Only resource disparities keep us all from driving the same cars, living in the same housing, using the same appliances. Scientific materialism is a belief system existing alongside the recognized religions throughout the world. Belief in a single omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent god is held by a large majority, and for a growing minority is nonspecific, nonsectarian. Practitioners of many religions follow an unspoken segregation between the secularism of their daily lives and the ritualistic piety of special occasion. Modern western dress is increasingly ubiquitous. Popular entertainment is no longer confined to cultural zones, and requires only translation, and sometimes not even that. The dietary culture is becoming universal in its diversity; cuisines carried by migrants around the world have found popularity, and ethnic cuisines are now being carried by the common culture. Only language will remain as a sign of our former divergent evolution.
Even language will tends towards unity eventually. There are and for some time will continue to be at least three linguistic tiers for the world. In addition to the local dialect and the global dialect, there is in most of the world a regional lingua franca, typically the dialect of the colonial power. The global dialect, as it stands and as it is likely to remain, is basically English. This is a historical accident, resulting from the advent of mass communication and cultural assimilation at a time when two successive states in the leading geopolitical position have been anglophone. But the English vocabulary is drawn from three major sources, and has a history of importing and coining words which suggests that the common dialect will be only distantly related to the Englisc-Seaxisc from which it evolved. The existence of a global dialect, and its use in global institutions and as a bearer of global culture, will lead to its adoption by more and more communities as a local dialect, until it is in fact a common dialect. The process of divergent linguistic evolution was a result of geographical isolation and lack of cultural interchange. With the spread of mass communication, that process has been exchanged for one of assimilation, around a broadcast standard. This is happening with all dialects. But it will eventually ensure that a common dialect remains so, evolving on a global basis.
None of the developing common culture is desirable per se. But its existence takes us away from nationalism and makes us more cosmopolitan. It is a prerequisite to the spread of a culture of stewardship.
The formation of a global economy is also underway, and also, seemingly, inexorable. But there is every indication that it will be, as the regional and local economies it replaces, highly stratified. Goods and services and information will flow freely around the world. Businesses will operate globally and have little fundamental connection to their states of origin. The dollar already serves as a common medium of exchange, and the introduction of the euro, although a competitor, will ironically further economic unity, by replacing several other common currencies, allowing for a single exchange rate with the dollar, and eventually facilitating a consolidated currency with a single (if controversial) step. Free trade areas will expand and ally. Commerce will be the king who knows no borders.
The tyranny of the so-called communist states, and their preposterous mismanagement, have suggested to the world that the future is capitalist. The near future certainly is. But capitalism inevitably brings poverty, the squandering of resources, and the destruction of the natural world. Private property is in fact a form of dominion. The stewardship must work for a world economy that addresses the basic needs of everyone.
The development of a single political reality in the world is far more unpredictable, farther from inevitable, but far more important. The stewardship is inherently standardist. There must be a single standard of justice for all the world, applying to all individuals equally. Some states in the world will never be just. While they exist, they must be held accountable by those forces in the world which can influence them — primarily the other states. But they must eventually be replaced. And the international community, the collective of states, is ill-suited to the role of the world’s chief protector of right. Such a body has an inherent conflict of interest. The component states’ existence rests typically not on the will of the governed or the standard of justice, but on the idea of the inviolability of the state.
This notion is sometimes merely an impediment to progress, though that is bad enough. At times it is outright dangerous. The idea has no use in the protection of stewardship. But it has been far too often that the idea has been used to shield a dominion. National sovereignty and territorial integrity are things that only tyrants must be concerned with. When the terms are employed, some hideous injustice will surely lie immediately underneath. They are fools and dupes who buy the system for their own protection, if they have not also something to hide. Any time the supporters of human rights and political freedoms hear these words, they must only ask how many have something to hide.
Two seemingly opposite events in Eurasia recently take on great significance in this light. The integration of western Europe and the disintegration of the empire of Россия are not important in that the result of either will necessarily be positive in the long run. But that is as likely as that it will be negative. And one thing certainly is positive: each diminishes the illusion of the inviolability of the state. Москва cedes power to Минск. Bonn cedes power to Bruxelles. In the process, it becomes more difficult for Москва and Минск, for Bonn and Bruxelles, to claim an absolute right to rule. The illusion is weakened. The shield is damaged.
If we could only eliminate the principle of national sovereignty altogether, things would progress much more rapidly. Unfortunately, it is against vested interests. Specifically, it is against the self-preservational interests of the most powerful forces in the world — the states. The cession of power itself is an anomaly, not a reliable trend.
With that the case, the stewardship must tear down the traditional concept of sovereignty. Sovereignty is impunity de facto. The sovereign is that institution within society which acts with impunity — whether or not this is necessary. (An autocrat can be overthrown by a conspiracy, or a state put down through war by another state, but if these things fail to happen, there is impunity de facto.) The state is the executive instrument of the sovereign, the institution through which the sovereign exercises its sovereignty.
Sovereignty in principle, if it lies anywhere, lies with the individual and ends at its body. When that determination is made, it ceases to be necessary to make innumerable fine, even sophistic, distinctions to justify one state but not another. No power should act with impunity in the world. No force, however great, however broadly based, should be allowed to contravene the standard of justice. Until every state in the world is under the standard, the system will have no legitimacy. And once every state is under the standard, their consolidation will simply be a question of efficiency. The separation of powers so much an article of the patriotic faith in the United States is an illusion. All power rests with the electorate, and it exercises that power as and when it wishes, including through failure to act. No constitutional device will ever save the world from injustice. Only a world where each individual is just will be safe.
The United Nations
The UN could be an object of hope in the world. The internationalist spirit it represents (and encourages), the ideals of peace it was founded on, and the work of the institution itself are all more enlightened than the base from which it draws its support — the world’s states.
It is not a true collective of those states, as historically it has recognized bodies which were not sovereign, and declined to recognize some which were sovereign, according to bizarre rationales put forward by some of the more powerful states. Though the states typically rest on force alone, they perpetuate the myth of legitimacy, and brand as illegitimate certain geopolitical realities, while sanctioning nonrealities, solely for the interests of the most powerful states. They hope in doing so to fool the world into accepting the legitimacy of their own régimes, and have met with considerable success.
The human-rights guarantees associated with the UN have no force unless the states give them force, and thus are usually empty. But the UN’s various organs have a degree of autonomy which allows them to carry on work which would not be approved by a majority (or even a large minority) of the general assembly. The upper rank of the secretariat contains politicians who are ever-cognizant of the demands of the member states. But even they can often be seen to be primarily globalist, and more enlightened than the security council and the assembly, which appoint them.
Whether that means that the UN can evolve into a world stewardship is much more uncertain. The power organs would be required to delegate even more authority to the central institution, and allow the center to act on the ideals of the movement. It is one thing to tolerate a globalist UNESCO, quite another to brook an autonomous secretary-general with an armed response force.
There is a (justly-ridiculed) belief of many in the patriot militia movement in the United States that the UN will be the bearer of a new world order, sweeping in to various countries in a fleet of black helicopters and putting an end to national sovereignty. If the patriot militias ever came to real power, the only hope would be a globalist intervention, and the black helicopters would be a welcome symbol of our liberation from a home-grown dominion.
The European Union
The European Union began as a mere free-trade association, a harmonization in the economies of coal and steel. It is still predominantly about free trade, and has pushed harder for economic integration than for anything else. And the power for the moment rests with the component states of the union.
But each of those component states is a functioning democracy, and some of them are among the most liberal in the world. And they have taken steps, and promised more steps, towards a political union. Among the various alliances in the world, the European Union is unique (to my knowledge) in at least one respect. It has established an independently-elected central institution — the European Parliament. The powers of this body are limited for the moment. But it is, by most views, the shadow government of western Europe, waiting in the wings for a decision by the various member governments. Western Europe could become a single democratic state on any given day. As time passes and the member bureaucracies are harmonized, the transition could become virtually undetectable. And this is most extraordinary.
The United States, to take a contrary example, went from a de facto federation to a de facto unified state only through violence. The Yankee-Dixie war may have been precipitated by the issue of slavery, but it was not fought over that issue, and both sides knew that. The emancipation proclamation was a worthless piece of propaganda, worthless in that it freed — by design — no slaves at all. The south seceded to retain the rights of the states (primarily the right of slavery), and the north attacked to prevent secession. When the north won, it had conquered several sovereign states, and eliminated the ability of the remaining to determine their own allegiance. In effect, it had assumed the sovereign power for all of the renewed United States. The entire country was Yankeeland.
A united Europe will apparently come about through attrition. The parliament will be given gradually more power by the member states, until, like the Yankee provinces, they are states in name only. This change will represent, for the cosmopolitan, an enormous achievement. Unlike the two halves of the United States, the member states of the European Union have significantly different national and cultural histories. It will be a very long time before they can even communicate with any ease, much longer than it will probably be before they live under a single state.
The states of western Europe are not pure nation-states; or if they are, they are national empires. The majority peoples of each state live in union with minority nations, who were almost all incorporated into the nation-state by conquest. It would certainly be important to these subjugated nations to disrupt the myth of natural statehood. Some of them will resent the commitment of their peoples to a new state without their consent. But being full citizens of Europe may be preferable to being second-class citizens of their respective states. And the European Union will go many centuries before it can pretend, as the preceding states have done, that it is divinely entitled to the allegiance of its citizens.
The benefits of a true nation-state
The idea of nationality is crucial to most individuals. The aspirations of nations to states of their own is a great source of discontent in the world. As with the minority peoples of Europe, the disenfranchised nations of all the world will have to be answered before they will be willing to think about world citizenship. The Kurds are a good example. They have been divided among several states and fighting for their own Kurdistan. Until they have a seat at the table, they will not view as legitimate any global arrangement. No government can speak for all Kurds; but no government which is entirely without Kurds can speak for Kurdistan, and the Kurds will never accept such a claim.
Africa is the greatest mess. The states of Africa have virtually nothing to do with nationality, and few have anything to do with the will of the populace. European colonialism bears most of the blame. States were created arbitrarily. The natural resources and labor had been exploited for years. Social and economic classes had been encouraged. And then these population groups with nothing in common but a European lingua franca were expected to live in a harmonious society in perpetuity. We can now fault the greed for wealth and power of a relative few for the lack of freedom and prosperity in Africa, and these are mostly native dictators. But these dictators were kept in power (when they were not actually placed in power) by the great cold-war factions. The United States and Россия were more interested in strategic gain than justice, and Africa had another forty years of suffering.
A world stewardship would certainly redress this; but a lasting global structure will have to be built on consent, and one nation cannot consent for another. A dictator, of course, cannot consent for a nation, though no tyrant would consent to a stewardship to begin with. The penultimate stage of the demise of the nation-state will almost certainly be the genuine, democratic nation-state. Then we can begin to build peace.
Global progressivism past and present
The Stewardship Union is only a part of the stewardship and its impulse to post-nationalism and world unity. Many older or larger movements exist, and their continued success is important to the Stewardship Union. Some movements are in discredit, and their failures are unfortunate. But all must be examined, so that the stewardship as a whole can be strengthened.
The most well-received group among these is the international Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. The religious association is unfortunate, for as the name indicates, it has already promoted division. The organization by states is also unfortunate, if practical. And the genèvan concept of neutrality, while practical in some situations, is also, in practice (if not in neutralist theory), a moral ambivalence, and suggests that all causes are equal by treating them so. But in general the movement is much to be admired; it has shown that stewardship, and globalist stewardship, can function with popular approval. It has worked for decades to promote peace and deal with the consequences of war and natural disaster. It has linked humanitarian assistance and human rights. It has mobilized individuals worldwide to care for those in need. And it is growing.
The green movement is another growing part of the stewardship. Conservation is an important component of stewardship, and, thankfully, it is increasingly popular, under the name of environmentalism. Like many progressive ideas in history, it may become mainstream eventually. The greens themselves have made conservation the center of their political efforts. Green parties are typically also supportive of other aspects of stewardship, notably human rights and economic welfare. They are international as well. All that remains is for the greens to recognize the fundamental unity of their various progressive ideals, to articulate the common theme.
Communism is a movement, we are told, which is dead. I agree that it is hard to envision the name ever attracting widespread support after the events of the last century. But communists, as the name suggests, were originally those who did not believe in private property — rather that all property was held “en commun”. The perversion of their creed by the revolutionaries and dictators who built the totalitarian states was not something they would have recognized. They were not fascists, not totalitarians. And the economic failures of these states had little to do with communist theory. The states involved all abandoned their traditional agricultural base for a program of megalomaniacal industrialization and the construction of mechanized militaries. Eventually they fell into self-deception, doctoring figures and forging economic reports, to further please their dictators. Communism on a large scale has never failed, because it has never been tried. The original communists wanted economic fairness, an end to poverty, a sharing of resources. They were natural cosmopolitans and the very picture of charity. They deserve our admiration, not our scorn. And the socialists, Marxists, and social democrats who carry on their ideals are natural allies of the Stewardship Union.
Anarchists, like communists, are a much-maligned group. The use of ‘anarchy’ for chaos, for mob violence and destruction, is wholly unconnected with anarchist belief. Anarchists are anti-dominion, not pro-stewardship, as a rule. But they are still potential allies. They would end the rule of one person over another, the sort of rule which is necessarily violent. As such, anarchists are in fact working towards peace. And they are staunch opponents of dominion and claims of dominion throughout the world.
Finally, there are those cosmopolitans who work for world unity without an accompanying political view. It is true that in theory these individuals could be fascist or ultracapitalist or supporters of some other global dominion. But for the most part this is not the case. They are primarily progressive, secularist, and devoted to peace and harmony. Their efforts towards integration and understanding are therefore a form of stewardship.
A common era
The large majority of the world is still nationalist, and will remain so for some time. But not all nationalists are of the dominion, and some are certainly stewards. Their nationalism persists in part because they do not see the dangers of nationalism, and in part because they have not been offered anything better. Cosmopolitans are idealists, citizens of the whole world whether that whole world is something they can believe in or not. If we as stewards would see individuals end their allegiance to local concerns and narrow interests, we must build an accessible ideal. We must make the idea of a single Earth, where all individuals are connected to the whole without the mediation of smaller, more parochial groups, a reality of their lives. In that unified Earth, we can protect the global ecosystem, care for the poor, sick, injured, and abandoned, guard against violence and tyranny, and spread the culture of responsibility and compassion, in the way most natural to the stewardship, for the benefit of the entire world.
© O.T. FORD
Home of the Stewardship Project
and O.T. Ford