"Political power comes out of the look in people's eyes." -Kim Stanley Robinson, Blue Mars
The idea of global government is simply not part of the mainstream conversation in our society. Most respectable people today consider global government advocates weird. Yet fundamental social change does not happen without massive popular pressure. If we are to succeed, global government must be discussed from the halls of Congress to neighborhood coffee shops, as it briefly was in the 1940s. So how can we get the idea on the table? The first question to ask is why somebody would embrace such a crazy idea as global government in the first place. This article will use my own story as a case study and as grist for a more general model of engagement.
When I came to UCLA in the fall of 2001, I knew I wanted to study biology. I also loved space and read science fiction voraciously. So, as soon as I saw the ads for the UCLA Astrobiology Society, I knew I wanted to be involved. I came to the first meeting of the year without paying much attention to the topic announced. As it happened, at that meeting Tad Daley gave a Big Vision talk focusing on the connections between global government, science fiction and space travel - and for me, it resonated. That's the best way I can describe what happened. Something clicked and the next thing I knew, I was reading books about the UN.
At the time, I was a meeting co-facilitator for the LA Greens, and one of my duties was finding speakers. So, a month after the Astrobiology meeting, I invited Tad to speak about September 11 and the world rule of law. Many conversations followed. I joined the WFM Talk mailing list and, a few months later, became a World Federalist Association member.
The Engagement Tree "You talk of our having an idea; we do not have an idea. The idea has us, and martyrs us, and scourges us, and drives us into the arena to fight and die for it, whether we want to or not." --Heinrich Heine, 19th century poet
I find a "values - vision - goals - objectives" hierarchy useful in many types of decision-making. Using the hierarchy is simple in principle, although the applications can be very complex. You articulate your values as they pertain to a given situation, envision the best outcome, and then develop goals and objectives for reaching the vision. As you go up the hierarchy, you add more specific facts and contract your attention to a smaller spatial and temporal scale.
Now imagine the hierarchy not as a static pyramid but as a tree. Values are roots, the vision is the trunk, goals are branches and objectives are leaves. One of the virtues of the engagement tree model is that it can be applied to more than just conscious decision-making. The model can, for example, show levels of engagement with an organization or an idea. In my own case, I heard a vision that I found very appealing and that invoked my most deeply held values and beliefs. I could not forget it or ignore it. At first, I was consciously engaged only with the vision. Later, values, goals and objectives came into play.
One of the applications of the engagement tree model is outreach. An organization can recruit members or partners at any of the four levels. As you go from the roots of the tree (values) to the leaves (objectives), recruitment becomes, on average, easier and faster. However, it also becomes more superficial. I think that, as a general rule, in the long run, a person who joins a global government organization because of a belief in human unity will commit more time, talent and possibly money than one who joins because of, say, support for the International Criminal Court. That first person will not be a fair-weather friend!
How Can We Use the Engagement Tree?
"Reframing... lets us look at our old problems from a new angle of vision. And it gives a new way of explaining them, and a new way to state our moral concerns. For example:
What was Martin Luther King, Jr. saying, "The Blacks gotta get theirs?" No, he said, It's about freedom, and justice, and what the Constitution means, and who are we as a people?
What did Rachel Carson say, Keep pollution out of your back yard? No, she said that this is about the death of Nature.
What did Betty Friedan say, The women need more pay? No, she said, This is about who we are as human beings...
"Reframing means you start to question the unspoken assumptions of the social codes all around you. It's not okay to let big business destroy the environment. It's not okay to have nuclear power. It's not okay to let the foreign policy elite send our young people off to wars without involving the citizens. It's not okay to put down, or harm, people who are different than you are. And so on." --Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, The Cultural Creatives
According to Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, the social movements that succeed in the long run are those that challenge cultural assumptions. Some, like the environmental movement, question widely held beliefs; others, like the civil rights movement, challenge people to live up to their ideals. (Historian Vincent Harding, quoted in The Cultural Creatives, reminds us to, "Think of those haunting anthems with their spiritual roots, their calls for justice and optimism and bold words. They reminded demonstrators who they were and why they were risking their lives. It was again and again about 'freedom, freedom, freedom.'" Ray and Anderson continue, "Black people and their white supporters did not lay their lives on the line for civil rights.")
The political and cultural arms of such movements (many people are in both) together accomplish what neither could alone. Look at reframing in the light of the engagement tree model. All the examples cited by Ray and Anderson involve going from the goals to visions and values. There is interplay between the levels. Goals gain sustenance from being rooted in vision and values. At the same time, the values of a society can change as goals and visions shift.
As global government advocates, what cultural assumptions do we need to confront? We already reject the idea of states being able to do whatever they please, but what else can we say? How about, "It's not okay to consider people inside your borders more important than those outside them. It's not okay that children's chances of surviving should be dictated by arbitrary lines around their place of birth." The concepts of nation and patriotism are wide open for challenging.
Working on the Vision and Values Levels "[Viewing the Earth from space,] you see a singleness and unity to it all that we never perceive in the press of daily life. It seems such a vivid unity that surely it must be rooted some reality, and you wonder why this unity isn't more the reality of everyday human life on earth. You wonder if it could ever be so unified, and you return determined to do whatever you can to make it so--even a bit." -Kathryn Sullivan, astronaut
In June 2001, I got a letter from WFA that talked about important practical ideas for UN reform (similar to www.wfa.org/issues) and bored me so much I almost completely forgot about it. It took a presentation of the big vision - of abolishing war and establishing a common human government - to draw me in. Conservation biologist Michael Soulè once said, "Facts compute, but they do not convert." The same can be said of goals isolated from vision and values. We need to articulate a vision that will capture people's imaginations.
Many global government advocates like to present our vision as pure pragmatic politics. However, the beliefs and values that must become widespread in order for a global government to be built are profoundly transformational. Few things are more liberating and more challenging than the realization that you are a human being first and foremost. I don't think anybody can begin to take planetary patriotism seriously without being changed by it.
Soon after I turned eighteen, some Orthodox Jewish friends of my family invited us over for dinner, as they had done many times before and since. Somehow, the conversation turned to me, and someone said, "Just remember, you have a Jewish soul."
I blurted out, "I have a human soul!"
There was a pause. "Yes, of course, that too," came the reply. I blushed and felt like hiding under the table. Why had I said that? The remark was uncalled for, inappropriate. Yet part of me was proud that I had spoken up. Somehow, it seemed right.
I believe that before I am an American, I am a human being and before I am a citizen of the United States, I am a citizen of planet Earth. I do not know how I came to hold this belief. Indeed, it is so fundamental that for a long time, I could not articulate it. I talked about the consequences of my belief in human unity, but not about the belief itself. Ultimately, the idea of global government appeals to me because of that belief. Last summer, I discovered something very strange. I discovered that I could not imagine NOT being involved, somehow, in working toward a global government because it would mean denying something fundamental about myself.
Right now, there are more and more people whose deepest loyalties, in Carl Sagan's words, are to the species and the planet. We live in a time when presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich can say on national radio, "I think we're in a new era where the advancing tide is towards human unity, where people all around the world want to come together." Global government advocates can tap into that reservoir of passion and energy, and reframing is one way to do that.
Questions for Reflection and Conversation
What got you interested in global government? Was it a book or a lecture or something else aimed at a relatively large number of people? If so, you can assume that the majority was not deeply affected. Why were you?
How can global government advocates use reframing? What cultural assumptions do we need to challenge?
There is widespread reluctance among global government advocates to talk about the big vision. Where does it come from? What can we do about it? How can we identify the best opportunities and methods for discussing long-term visions and goals?
What other questions do we need to ask?
Jane Shevtsov, email@example.com, is an Ecology, Behavior and Evolution major at UCLA and co-founder of World Beyond Borders.
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