IEET > Rights > HealthLongevity > Economic > GlobalDemocracySecurity > Vision > Contributors > Harry J. Bentham > Technoprogressivism > Biosecurity
The End of Nation States May Enhance Humanity
Harry J. Bentham   Feb 6, 2014   H+ Mag.  

Perhaps parallel to the physical enhancement of human ability and longevity through technology, enhancements to civilization must also have cultural and political forms. By far the most important of these could be the neglect and final dissolution of borders and “nations”.

An encouraging prediction repeatedly nodded towards by futurists and scientific figures of all schools has been the end of the nation-state as the default regime. This departure from barriers and disparities is certainly features in the promises of revolutionary new technologies.

For example:

We are moving toward a borderless world in which electrons and electromagnetic waves will carry digitized information here, there and everywhere. Borne upon those waves of information, life will move at the speed of light. (J. Craig Venter)

The interpretation that the world is getting more open and less hospitable to narrow national interests is increasingly accepted, and has been consistently supplied as a very cogent and useful theory by top sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein, e.g. in Utopistics(1998). It must be specified that this particular theory of the nation-state’s demise is based on history, with the observation that the French Revolution disseminated most modern assumptions about legitimate political action and authority.

The construction of “peoples” and “nations” to support the designs of governments and their claims to territory since the French Revolution has been commonplace, in accord with the expectations created by this defining political event. Perhaps a crueler way of putting it would be that nation-states and the beliefs legitimizing them are similarly fictive to religions, as easily offended by insults to their idols, and altogether as restrictive an influence on human advancement and freedom.

Of course, the main objections to fanatical nation-states have focused on their responsibility for causing devastating wars. However, the analysis of declining state legitimacy needs not be part of an emotional plea for an end to war. It is the observation that the physics and technologies of current civilization, as a result of them being favorable to transparency, freedom of expression and movement, eliminate any further need for the state to serve the role it once occupied.

Migration, resulting from the development of better means of transport and easier connections across the world, is a “disintegrating” influence on modern nation-states. As countries stretch the definition of citizenship to accommodate increasing migrant populations, citizenship is destined to lose its function of excluding people. With this crisis, it is destined to extinguish itself as a means of privileging people.

It is important to note that the whole idea of citizenship has been about supplying privileges, creating a dichotomy of citizen and non-citizen as a means of exclusion. As rhetorically effective as the description “citizen of the world” sounds, it could never serve any political or legal purpose and would quickly be dissolved (like a prize or honor being awarded to everyone at birth). This makes it impossible that any concept of citizenship could survive the elimination of nation-states in favor of the inclusion of the whole human family in a larger democratic order.

The revelation that the decisive rejection of nation-state regimes is a fact of the political future is the result of strong scholarly observations of history and politics. Due to this validation, the rejection of nation-state legitimacy and moral authority in favor of human conscience can be expected to become more and more commonplace in political discourse.

Political viewpoints that reject the legitimacy of nation-states, like my columns republished in Flagless: Accepting the End of Nations, aim to contribute to the discussion by encouraging steady and nuanced departures from nation-state beliefs and prejudices. The primary benefits of this political change that readers are often drawn to are the likely immense refinements of human rights, democracy and equality into more meaningful forms that would be possible without the disgraced framework of nation-states. As the discourse on the inexorable weaknesses of nation-state regimes under the new pressures of modernity becomes popularized, more valuable voices may begin to conceive of possible alternative regimes to the nation-state.

​When taking an open-minded stance on the future, one must be prepared to let go of what is familiar. We must even be prepared to let go of what is reassuring in favor of what is strange, while at the same time being cognizant of any risks to society involved in long-term change. As transhumanism entails the view that there is something else possible beyond being “human”, I hold that it is similarly prescient to prepare to let go of the flags and myths of “nations”.

Ideally, no post-human scenario will include the survival of “nations” and the myths they have required to gain support and credibility. For this reason, encouragement of a political vision divorced from archaic ideas about national legitimacy and citizenship may be an indispensable part of humanity’s offer to transform.

Harry J. Bentham is a British writer, an IEET contributor, and futurist member of the scientific Lifeboat Foundation. He has authored well-received sci fi stories, book reviews and essays on science and culture that can be found at a growing number of diverse publications.



COMMENTS

Unfortunately, it would appear that the only practicable way forward for building on international cooperation and the expansion of “Global governance” would be in supporting a (Con)Federation of nation states and in expanding the remit of the UN -  this is the only way possible for national governments to support the needs of it’s peoples/associated land mass, and protection of resources/real estate and trade from abuses? The world will most likely see the end to international currencies before it sees the deconstruction of national borders?

And moreover, for the individual there is even more at stake?

Place these in your order of priority..

1. Family
2. Religion
3. Cultural identity
4. National identity
5. Species identity

Although I was once myself attracted to the idea of the “death of the nation state” I have come to see the idea as premature. We are in a period of complex change in which any sense of direction towards final end states inevitably over simplifies events on the ground.

The nation state appears to be unraveling in places where its borders were artificial i.e. the Middle East and does have nimble rivals in the form of global corporations. There is also the group and the norms of a globalized elite largely severed from the nation state.

That said, the nation state and nationalism appears to be STRENGTHENING in some places, East Asia especially, in Japan and China. Nationalism has renewed vigor in Russia, and a clinging to the nation state lies behind many of the problems behind the European Union- the supposed poster child for transcending the limits and rivalries of nations. The Scottish independence movement is an example of renewed small scale nationalism, and some smallish nation states i.e. Finland and the other Scandinavian countries seem to be the right sized polities to negotiate our complicated world and still hold together.

The US is not a nation state in the European sense and has never been one. If one, I think rightfully, excludes China it is the sole remaining big country whose identity is based on an ideology. It is at least interesting to wonder whether this ideology is sustainable over the long haul, for, unlike the US, either nation states or civilizational/cultural groupings (such as Shia and Sunni Islam) seem to be grounded on the first 4 basis of identity Cygnus identifies while the “march of freedom” the ideology upon which the US is based is only loosely related to the idea of “species identity” which seems to be at the core of the global groups and view points that as of this writing are the only real rival to nation states and cultural groupings.

I’m wondering how accurate it really is to say that the US is based on the “march of freedom” ideology. Of course reality is always more complicated than such heuristics, so the fact that it is in this case as well is not a criticism. But is it even the best way to look at it? It’s clear that this ideology helped to enable and shape the US from the outset, but how different is it really to a “nation state in the European sense” today? And what IS a “nation state in the European sense” today? Constitutions aside (and it’s not as if the constitutions of the EU and its Member States are entirely non-ideological or don’t include freedom as a fundamental value), it’s pretty clear that the US has the same essential trappings of the nation state as any European country, and indeed more so, since most European countries are to all intents and purposes militarily defenseless. And outside the most left-leaning progressive circles in the US, the mainstream view seems to hold defending “American” interests as more important than global freedom. The rhetoric of freedom and the American dream staggers on, but viewed from Europe the US seems hardly less nationalist than anything over here. True we have our far right movements that are gaining popularity, but then you guys have Fox News and the Republicans. Unfair comparison? Perhaps, but perhaps also enough to cast reasonable doubt on the “US is based on ideology” narrative?

That said, I do agree with Rick’s view that it is premature to write off the nation state, and even in terms of our long-term thinking it might be more sensible to imagine scenarios where nations and “the myths they have required to gain support and credibility” persist, and continue to enrich our culture, while increasingly being recognised as myths, not to be taken too seriously. Same with religion, of course, and the myths that THEY have required to gain support and credibility.

On the other hand, the author is quite right to exhort us to be prepared to let go of the familiar, so we should at least consider the possibility (in relation to both nationhood and religion, and perhaps even secular ideologies like the “march of freedom”) that we would be better off without them.

@Peter:

“I’m wondering how accurate it really is to say that the US is based on the “march of freedom” ideology. Of course reality is always more complicated than such heuristics, so the fact that it is in this case as well is not a criticism. But is it even the best way to look at it? It’s clear that this ideology helped to enable and shape the US from the outset, but how different is it really to a “nation state in the European sense” today? “

My view is coming from my political science background. A nation-state in the technical sense is a state built on the basis of a nation meaning an ethnic group with a shared culture and genealogy. Poland is the state for the Polish people etc. It is this feature of being built around a common ethnicity that has often give European states such difficulties absorbing immigrants.

The US is a state built on an Enlightenment ideology of rights and freedoms along with both a sense that this is the best and most natural system and a natural opposition to autocracy. We share this legacy with the French but they have interpreted this more squarely in terms of their own cultural linguistic superiority.

Given the relative decline of US power and the recognition that its freedom ideology has often been used as a rationalization of power politics the international aspect of US “march of freedom” ideology may be on its last legs. In the past this has led to the US drawing inward- to isolationism- which would not be a good choice given the global nature of our problems and the need for US participation to help solve them.

@instamatic:

I am not making any claim that the US is “the greatest nation on earth” or has any particular claim to virtue among the states of history only a claim to American’s most common self understanding. Actions by the US which are clearly power politics from the outside are justified, rationalized perhaps even understood by those responsible for the action as part of America’s “march of freedom”.

Even the progressive critique against American institutions is understood by those who hold it that the US is not meeting up to its ideals e.g. MLK.

I agree that isolationism would not be a good choice, though it is not the worst one. The invasion of Iraq, for example, seems to have been a case of intervention being counterproductive from the perspective of solving global problems. The more cautious response of the current administration to the Arab spring, while hardly a roaring success, feels more like an appropriate balance to me. So if it represents a partial shift towards isolation, maybe that’s not altogether bad.

I do take your point that the US is, to a significant extent, built on an Enlightenment ideology of rights and freedoms and a natural opposition to autocrac, and also that the centrality of ethnicity to the European nation state may be exacerbating our ability to absorb immigrants successfully. But these differences can be exaggerated, as I’m sure you will agree, and I am even tempted to suggest that today they are of relatively little significance. The fact is that ethnicity, and a sense of cultural/linguistic superiority, play an important role in contemporary US politics - and indeed I would say that “American” has emerged as an ethnicity its own right, to some extent (but I agree not wholly) decoupled from the “march of freedom” idea, while the various national and subnational movements in Europe can, not wholly implausibly in my view, be seen as something of a last gasp of ethnicity, combined of course with anger over recession, austerity, policy capture and over- (or simply mis-)regulation.

Unlike Giulio, I do not look forward to the entrance of large number of anti-EU extremists and nationalists into the European Parliament in May. But even assuming this happens, will this presage a reinvigoration of the nation state? I doubt it. In fact, for all that the EU, as you rightly point out, is seen as poster-child for supranationalism, much of its dysfunctioning is due in large measure to the pre-eminent role that its member nations (especially the larger ones, increasingly dominated by Germany) play in shaping its policies, at the expense of a genuinely pan-European focus. So from Scottish independence to EUphobia, what we are seeing may be as more of a reaction against the nation state model than a resurgence of it.

As for China, I see little prospect of a unified sense of nationhood keeping that country together for much longer. Either it transitions to something more democratic (though not necessarily on traditional Western party-political lines), participatory and, yes, ideological (freedom with Chinese characteristics?) or it will fission, with potentially disastrous global consequences.

Peoples have been migrating across EU and the rest of the world for centuries, this is not new and has largely unaffected the cultural identities and demographic of nation states to any great degree thus far, yet increase in world population and social mobility is accelerating multiculturalism and will continue to do so, which will have further adverse affect on cultural and national identity - the consequences - fear of rate of change?

Is this detrimental to views on national/cultural identity vs world citizenship, does it matter? The question would appear irrelevant in the long term, as even within national borders, multiculturalism ardently serves to uphold cultural identity and even sectarian thinking - what else are we to expect of peoples, that they should give up their own cultural past identities?

Speaking for the UK, there has been much concern and debate over Islamic radicalism and in taking advantage of young Muslim “Brits” confusion over their cultural identity and loyalties, (this is the sleight of hand by religion to take advantage and assimilate culture)?

This is the normative position and consequences of peoples expression of their loyalties to culture and tradition, birds of a feather will inherently flock together.

So the long view is that increased multiculturalism will not break national identity for individuals or borders, and I do not feel it should. National borders will remain regardless.

The example of the UK comprising England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland serves as lesson that cultural identities and borders are never fully eroded, even where cultural identity is vastly dispersed across the nation and where a common language is utilized as commonplace - this situation will endure?

Scotland’s discussion on devolution has been smouldering for many decades, has always been a pipe dream of Alex Salmond, and always takes focus in times of economic depression in the UK, gradually edging from public opinion polls to referendum, (the current consensus that peoples living in Scotland do not support devolution, as opposed to those living across borders in the UK - or so we are told - go figure?)

However and regardless, all of this once again serves as motivation to uphold national borders and cultural identity thinking?


@ Rick

You sum up nicely the association of American(?) ideology and cultural identity, (am pleasantly comforted that my own views on this are aligned, and they should be, we get enough US TV and news here in the UK to form basis of contemporary portrait of American ideals, values and hopefully morality - bible belts aside).

And Peoples views of freedom around the world are customarily not dissimilar, although these freedoms are still closely “constricted” by cultural and (assimilated), religious identity, (ie rights of Women and minors, LGBT etc)

Thus Strong secular ethics can only be upheld by National identity which serves to oversee multiculturalism and ethnicity/cultural identity - one more reason why borders will remain?

This is not to say that eventually all nations will adhere to secular politics and Universal Humans rights?


My own opinion is that personal philosophy cannot be dissociated from either cultural or national identity - thus the US has all the fruits for ideological freedom and success, (as does the UK and civilized Europe), minus economics imperialism and it’s fear of losing global status.

“Pete, do you ever get the sense many people want things to get really really bad so Jesus will ‘come back’? I think they do.”

Yes, I do. Exactly how many is “many” is another question, but even if people don’t explicitly and consciously want this, I definitely think such ideas distract people from actually trying to make things better in this world.

Still, lest we be accused yet again of being anti-religion, let’s admit that religion can also motivate people to be more responsible. One does not have to be religious to be neglectful of the future.

@Peter:

“I agree that isolationism would not be a good choice, though it is not the worst one. The invasion of Iraq, for example, seems to have been a case of intervention being counterproductive from the perspective of solving global problems.”

I heartily agree with this. The invasion of Iraq was a moral and strategic disaster and I opposed it. Current US refusal to involve itself in the chaos in the Middle East I find the most prudent choice as well- though it is not without its own moral and strategic risks. Where I think isolationism could be bad would be in the US not playing a large role on a host of international problems and issues
from global warming to human trafficking to nuclear disarmament.
The US also has to be very nuanced in how it negotiates China’s rise in east Asia so as to not by its absence or aggression repeat the mistakes from the last century.

“But even assuming this happens, will this presage a reinvigoration of the nation state? I doubt it. “

I have no idea if the nation state is resurgent or not only that the situation is more complicated and less biased against the future of the nation state than Harry’s article suggests. You can see nationalism and its related separatism throughout the continent and then you get interesting cases like the current protests in Ukraine which aim to topple a government that had barred the door to Europe. Who knows where Europe ends up, but people who predicted the end of the nation as the basis for political identity in Europe were premature a decade ago and I believe are premature now.

“As for China, I see little prospect of a unified sense of nationhood keeping that country together for much longer. Either it transitions to something more democratic (though not necessarily on traditional Western party-political lines), participatory and, yes, ideological (freedom with Chinese characteristics?) or it will fission, with potentially disastrous global consequences.”

The problem I see with China is that with the decline of communism as a source of legitimacy it has increasingly turned to Han nationalism. Part of the reason for tensions with Tibet and
Xijiang is that the Chinese government has been supporting the migration of a huge number of Han Chinese westward in an effort to change the ethnic makeup of these regions. This policy has been so “successful” I find it unlikely China will fracture. Any major change in regime structure will likely only come from a prolonged
period of economic crisis.

CygnusX1:

“Thus Strong secular ethics can only be upheld by National identity which serves to oversee multiculturalism and ethnicity/cultural identity - one more reason why borders will remain?”

For now I think, yes. But I tend to take the very long view. One of the things that surprised me in grad school was to find out just how recent nations are. You can date their birth at the earliest as during the early modern era. Before then there were other primary ties that served to hold communities together; namely religion, and the state was not really associated with the people at all. Who knows what we’ll come up with in the next thousand years but I doubt that either current European nations or the United States will still be around.

@Peter re “Unlike Giulio, I do not look forward to the entrance of large number of anti-EU extremists and nationalists into the European Parliament in May.”

I look forward to that as a wake-up call, before it’s too late. I want good institutions for the people, not good sheeple for the institutions. Note that I am equally against nation states, for similar reasons. My dream is a world of small autonomous co-operating communities, with enough diversity to permit everyone to find his place and let others find their place. I realize that my dream is very difficult to achieve, and in the meantime we must live with real politics.

“My dream is a world of small autonomous co-operating communities, with enough diversity to permit everyone to find his place and let others find their place. I realize that my dream is very difficult to achieve, and in the meantime we must live with real politics.”

Any worthwhile dream is difficult to achieve, and I like yours. Some questions, though: how small, and to what extent do the communities need to be geographically defined? In my discussion with Rick we have addressed issues of cultural identity and ethnicity vs ideology, but one thing we haven’t addressed is geography. What all the nations of today share is that they are, in the first place, geographically defined, whatever their historical roots. But there are also less geographically-based “communities”, including ones Rick has mentioned (global cooperations, Sunni and Shia Islam, and one can of course also include other religions, especially the RC Church, and language communities). Apart from presumably being much smaller than most of these, which kind of communities would you favour? Would they - like the US according to Rick, and also like transhumanism - be ideologically-based.

I agree we need to deal with real politics in the mean time - and not only politics, but also economics, ecology, various systemic risks - but to some extent I think the communities you envisage are already emerging, not least on-line - which, come to think of it, may be essentially the author’s point?

@Peter re “how small, and to what extent do the communities need to be geographically defined?”

Well, in principle a community doesn’t need to be geographically defined. There are good example in science fiction, for example in Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. Perhaps things like Bitcoin will enable the emergence of distributed communities.

But in practice, this will not happen tomorrow, or next week, or next year, or in the 2020s, because the inertia of geographically defined communities is huge.

“I plan to hide out in religion the rest of my life because of not expecting to survive past the next half century or so.”

I guess I don’t expect to either, interest in radical life extension notwithstanding. But religion? Not sure. Perhaps it’s my social circumstances/milieu, perhaps it’s my particular experience with it, but I just don’t find it compelling. But each to his/her own…

Just came across this:

http://blogs.reuters.com/john-lloyd/2014/02/10/switzerland-says-were-full/

and hence this:

http://www.city-journal.org/2012/22_3_modernity.html

today. Surprising relevant to the discussion above.

I hope there will someday be an “International Social Contract” (ISC), based on Enlightenment principles, that allows people who enter into it to live in host countries around the world in a way that is respectful and beneficial to all parties. The goal would be to create explicit agreements that allow members of an ISC to move freely between “International Zones” (IZs) without inflaming right-wing groups or encouraging the abuse of local citizens or indigenous cultures.

I believe there would be economic, political and cultural advantages to local communities hosting an IZ, as long as participants willingly enter into social contracts that clearly define the rights, roles and expectations of all parties, and where those contracts are based on human rights, mutual aid, tolerance and peaceful progress.

Citizens and ethnic groups that are aboriginal to a host nation (Native American Tribes, etc.) could be respected as the perpetual stewards of their unique ethnic culture and natural resources. There could be portions of major cities, or other regions, that would be open to the internationalist to semi-autonomously inhabit, modify and conduct business within, while other areas would be reserved for the local citizens.

There could be special laws governing things like the status of children born through mixed relationships (i.e. citizen/non-citizen) and some agreement for fairly requesting that internationalist relocate, should the need arise - with respect for the property rights and safety of all parties. These IZs could also provide a safe haven for refugees without angering local populations - who may fear that a sudden influx of foreign refugees would threaten their citizen’s ability to pursue their preferred way of being.

Every internationalist could have a registered official nation of origin they could return to without restriction. Perhaps children would need to confirm their commitment to the social contract at some age of consent (18?). If they rejected the contract, there could be a provision for their safe return to the nation they are officially registered as belonging to. The child’s nation of origin would default to the parent’s nation of origin. If parents from two different nations had a child in an IZ, perhaps the child could elect their nation of origin or have dual citizenship.

All of this could be agreed to explicitly through an ISC that would be binding on the local governments and internationalists, even outside a particular host country (e.g. extradition agreements, economic treaties, etc.). I don’t suggest the IZs be allowed to raise an army to protect their interests. Instead they would rely on the countries that join the ISC and human rights protecting forces like the UN.

I’m not suggesting ethnocentric nationalism. I see this system running parallel to the normal naturalization process. I believe in ground-up, dynamic pluralism as an expression of individual rights. The special relationship indigenous cultures have to a particular geographic location should be allowed to be perpetuated if it is the will of the citizens and the institutions that legitimately represent them. If someone is naturalized, they should become an equal citizen that is allowed to peacefully pursue their preferred way of being individually and to vote on how the nation organizes to perpetuate or dismantle cultural norms (e.g. funding for arts and culture; preservation of monuments, festivals, holidays, religious and folk traditions).

Update: Part of respect for pluralism as an expression of individual rights is the idea of sexual autonomy. There should be an explicit agreement that individuals be allowed to reject a romantic partner for any reason (e.g. religion, nationality, ethnicity, gender) without forfeiting their individual rights. Likewise, there should be an explicit agreement that individuals be allowed to respectfully suggest a romantic relationship without forfeiting their individual rights. If two people choose one another, they should be allowed to be together whatever the combination.

I know this is a touchy subject, but anger and violence are naturally associated with sexuality in human beings. Having an explicit ISC that deals with these issues may be key to making it work.

Please, please, please, read a little history! The U.S. is NOT on a “march to freedom” it is founded built and managed on the basis of:
The rich get everything
The middle class pay all the taxes
The poor frighten the middle class into working!
The US is probably one of the worst countries in the world, look a the levels of incarceration, the distribution of wealth, the wars started for economic reasons, the lies being told to the citizens every day!
As for the end of nations states, I am afraid you are forgetting one particular problem - our need for belonging is an evolutionary trait. To remove this need requires that we evolve further, to a point where our survival is dependent on our co-operation. We are a loooong way from there yet! That is why revolutions don’t work. Whoever leads the revolution somehow leads the new society and doesn’t want to give up their power. It has happened over, and over again, you only have to read the history books!

There are many vital jobs we need states to do.  Conceivably one state
could do these jobs for all of Earth, though I don’t think that is
possible in the short term.  However, eliminating states would mean we
have no tools for protecting ourselves from the power of the rich.
See stallman.org/articles/why-we-need-a-state.html.

@rms re “eliminating states would mean we have no tools for protecting ourselves from the power of the rich”

In theory, the state can be a tool for protecting ourselves from the power of the rich. But I am afraid that, in practice, the state IS the power of the rich.

I think there are some state mechanisms (such as democracy, rule of law and redistribution of wealth) that do provide protection against excessive dominance by the wealthy, and I’m not convinced that better mechanisms have yet been found, which is why I sometimes get annoyed when people talk (or write) as if government is somehow the enemy. However, it may very well be that alternative mechanisms can be found that have little to do with what we currently understand as “the state”. In fact, I suspect that the boundary between what is considered as “state” and what is considered as “non-state” will become increasingly blurred.

Intelligent?

Some Trumped up tweets

“It’s not climate change,it’s global
warming.Don’t let the dollar sucking
wiseguys change names midstream
because the first name didn’t work”

“A big part of the country, even the
southern states, is under massive attack
from snow and freezing cold. Global
warming anyone?”

“If Scotland doesn’t stop insane policy of
obsolete, bird killing wind turbines,
country will be destroyed. @AlexSalmond
@AberdeenCC”

“When will our country stop wasting
money on global warming and so many
other truly “STUPID” things and begin to
focus on lower taxes? “

“Massive record setting snowstorm and
freezing temperatures in U.S. Smart that
GLOBAL WARMING hoaxsters changed
name to CLIMATE CHANGE! $$$$”


https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump

climate.nasa.gov/evidence

@Giulio Prisco
Today’s plutocratic states are used by the rich, but it is folly to
think that getting rid of the state will decrease their power.  That’s
what they want you to do; the idea that the state can’t do any good is
spread by them!

The only way to check the power of the rich is through democracy.
To use it, we must reclaim control of the state, not get rid of the state.

rms’s point is the important one. I agree with the author that we might *eventually* find better ways to organise ourselves than what we currently call “the state”, but like Rick I think it is way premature to write it off for now, and as rms saying much of the current anti-state rhetoric - and yes, Giulio tends to participate in this enthusiastically - plays right into the hands of those who have an interest in undermining democracy in order to keep their current privileges.

My comment about “International Zones” was posted as an independent article:

http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/hansen20140215

The comment thread may be interesting to people participating in this thread.

All the best!
Jason

Evolution of society to greater inclusion? Or increased tribalism and exclusion by extended family groups? A return to Shakespearean Capulets & Montagues with Google glass?

Re - Peter: “Unlike Giulio, I do not look forward to the entrance of large number of anti-EU extremists and nationalists into the European Parliament in May.”
Giulio: “I look forward to that as a wake-up call, before it’s too late. I want good institutions for the people, not good sheeple for the institutions.”

Well, I think we European citizens have spoken loud and clear. It’s now up to Brussels and pro-EU parties to pay attention to the wake-up call. If they ignore it, the results may be catastrophic.

I agree, but let’s not make the mistake of seeing this as primarily a vote against the EU. It isn’t. Firstly, while the swing towards anti-EU parties was large, a large majority of people still voted for pro-EU parties. Secondly, this discontent is with the political establishment generally. Anti-EU sentiment is strong in some parts of Europe, for various reasons, but this is a long way from being the only or even the main reason for the results.

Of course the anti-EU sentiment is not the only reason for the electoral results, but it’s certainly one of the reasons. The question, for us who still believe in some sort of “Europe” (and yes, I am one), is which aspects of the current European Union are rejected by more and more people, and how to re-engineer the European Union.

I haven’t voted because there is no party for which I wanted to vote. I am for local autonomy and self-determination but against racism and xenophobia, for the civil rights of everyone but against political correctness, for equal opportunity but against affirmative action, persuaded of the high importance of some specific issues but skeptical of single-issue parties, etc. etc.

If there is a credible political movement for a new Europe of the citizens I would like to participate, but I don’t see any.

I’m taking a wait and see approach. The next key political milestone will be the Scottish referendum. A Scottish vote would in a sense be more of an ‘earthquake’ than the EP election results. (‘Earthquake’ being apparently the media’s favoured metaphor for the election results - if only actual earthquakes were that predictable!) Some might see it - and this actually gets us back on-topic - as part of the demise of the nation state; I would see it more as an example of Europe continuing to look inwards and squabbling over trivia while the rest of the world forges ahead. It would suck in a lot of political energy that could be better spent dealing with real issues. (Of course, living in Belgium I’m used to that.)

Re joining a credible political movement, I’m not sure how much of a priority that is. For me personally at least, not really, at least not yet. But your warning of catastrophe is not to be taken lightly. Brussels really does need to wake up and see beyond our bubble, otherwise we increasingly start to look like Versaille before the revolution.

Or the Catalan referendum, now that both are kind of legitimated by a recent precedent. OK, the Crimean referendum was probably piloted from outside, but I guess the results were real.

Re Crimea, it was suggested to me yesterday that Putin’s decision to pull back troops from the Ukrainian border was probably a condition of the energy deal with China. No direct evidence for this, but it seems eminently plausible to me, given China’s sensitivities regarding secessionist movements.

But thinking about the Ukraine also sheds useful light in my view on what the EU stands for and what its real influence has been. Certainly I’d like to know more about your view from Budapest, but here in Western Europe at least we moan and groan (about the EU) in relative luxury. Not all of us, of course - there is genuine poverty and suffering - but I suspect that most of those who voted for UKIP and the Front National don’t really have much of an excuse. Not that I wish to sound moralistic - in general I think that’s highly unhelpful - but whether it’s Little England chauvinism or thinly disguised racism (if not outright fascism) it certainly isn’t justified by circumstances. I have far more sympathy, for example, for Greeks voting for Syriza (which in any case is not anti-EU as such, but rather anti-austerity).

Ultimately I agree that the Crimean vote probably reflected a genuine (if somewhat inflated by intimidation) wish of the people there. But circumstances are very, very different there than in Scotland and Catalunya, given that the Scots and Catalans live in (relatively) well-functioning democracies, enjoy a (again, relatively) high standard of living, and are currently part of the EU.

Of course, one crucial difference between Scotland and Catalunya is that the Scots have been offered the possibility to decide by referendum. This is as it should be, of course - I see little excuse for Madrid depriving the Catalans of this right. Ultimately, the main legacy of UKIP’s victory in England may well be that the (staunchly pro-European) Scots take it as a sign that it’s time to go their own way. In fact, I wonder if it is still possible to prevent this.

@Peter re “Of course, one crucial difference between Scotland and Catalunya is that the Scots have been offered the possibility to decide by referendum. This is as it should be, of course - I see little excuse for Madrid depriving the Catalans of this right.”

Exactly. And of course depriving the Catalans of this right can only result in much more support for secession in Catalunya.

re “I suspect that most of those who voted for UKIP and the Front National don’t really have much of an excuse.”

I agree that those who _always_ voted for UKIP and the Front National don’t have much of an excuse. But what about those who voted for UKIP and the Front National as an act of desperation (a majority I guess)? Yes, of course their desperation was inflamed by demagogues, but there was something to inflame in the first place.

re “what the EU stands for” - yes, that’s the question. I stand for Europe and for a concept of EU, but not for this EU. I don’t have a plan for a new EU, but it would be interesting to brainstorm.

We should. In fact these results should be a wake-up call not just for “Brussels” but for those of us who indeed “stand for Europe and for a concept of EU” that is at leat somewhat different from the current one, but lack a coherent plan. Otherwise, we are just leaving the field open to the demagogues…and the bureaucrats, many of whom are my friends, but who cannot and should not be expected to bear the whole burden of designing a Europe that actually works for its citizens. They need help (even if it takes the form of help they will not necessarily welcome).

By the way, the real wake-up call for Brussels occurred on Saturday, outside the Jewish museum…

@Peter re “the real wake-up call for Brussels occurred on Saturday, outside the Jewish museum…”

???????

And how to develop a coherent plan, and how people like us with some insider knowledge of Brussels and the EU institutions can help?

former-eu-officers-for-a-new-and-better-european-union.org ?

Something like that!

Re the Jewish museum:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/24/brussels-jewish-museum-attack-three-dead

It will be nice when the worst thing that can happen is people voting for parties one doesn’t like.

Came across a mathematical social theory in ‘76.  It is of a generating function that when one puts in the total population of beings that need organization gives the grouping and timing parameters for a specific network topology.  Seems it seeks to maximize sustainable ergodicity. The lessening of the duration of human institutions while they appear to have increased in carrying capacity faster than population growth itself suggests this idea is what we are coming to find acceptable.  This same network appears to be how the neurons of the associative cortex, about 70% of our brain, coordinate.  It can be seen as a general mathematical depiction of intelligence best realized when practiced by all relatively similar intelligent beings within a similar time and space frame.  The tools to avail the idea seem available.  Clojurescript seems most amenable to developing the widest scale possible graph database management system the idea suggests.  I suspect politics will be found to be unnecessary and that ecological concerns will totally replace economic ones, that is, if we are to survive our own information explosion.

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