What is “Global Interdependence”?

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Globe centred on Asia and Oceania - Satellite ...Human beings are not isolated, atomistic individuals. Both Thomas Hobbes and John Locke were flawed in holding that they are. Aristotle was on the mark when he said that “Man is by nature a political [i.e. social] animal.” Human beings share a common nature–they are “rational animals,” to use another of Aristotle’s terms. Human being are dependent rational animals–Alasdair MacIntyre was correct in focusing on the dependence aspect that is so often ignored in both Classical Liberalism and Social Democracy’s notion of “autonomy.” Humans are dependent on nature to provide an environment for the basic necessities of life and livelihood. They are dependent on other living things for food, clothing, and oftentimes companionship. They are dependent on other people from the moment they are born to the day they die, notwithstanding modern and contemporary claims of atomistic autonomy. The modern nation-state, established in root form at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, consists of people under one central government authority. Yet nation-states have never been wholly sovereign or autonomous, since their survival has been dependent on trade and cooperation with other nations. With greater integration of economies, it is easy to push “global interdependence” as a principle that removes sovereign nations and replaces them with a world unified, if not politically, at least economically and in terms of a melding of cultures. Many collages and universities push “Global Interdependence” and require that it be part of the core curriculum classes.

As good as this emphasis sounds, it is fundamentally flawed. While humans are not atomistic individuals and are, in fact, dependent on others for survival and well-being, this does not imply an artificial unity in which all cultures merge into one and the world becomes “one big happy family.” The end of the Cold War has led to the formation of nation-states divided along ethnic lines, even in parts of Europe (the former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union). Cultures that have thrived thousands of years continue to thrive and demand freedom from the centralized government of the modern nation-state, as is seen in tribal resistance to the weak central government in Afghanistan. Blood and individual cultures have shown themselves to be thicker than utopian schemes of a New World Order. I do not buy into the conspiracy theorists about the New World Order–in the United States it has meant free trade and the ruin of American manufacturing, the destruction of local cultures with their rich diversity (something that pseudo-multiculturalists and proponents of a politicized “global interdependence” do not understand). Human beings develop their uniqueness in community best within local cultures that vary due to geography, tribe, history, religion, and overall world view. This is what unifies human beings in community, not a system such as the “European Union” that originally found its strongest support among French and German Marxists. It is interesting that Chancellor Merkel, a Christian Democrat, supports a strong European Union, but underneath her rhetoric is an assertion of German economic strength rather than a support of an abstract, artificial unity that harks back to the Roman Empire. Despite the claims of Pax Romana, the “Roman Peace” was filled with rebellions against the central government, including two Jewish revolts from 68-74 and from 132-135. Since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D., Europeans have gone through periods of searching for that lost unity, from the “Holy Roman Empire” to the current “European Union.” Thus, “global interdependence” cannot refer to an ephemeral political union, and with the decline of the great Medieval unifier of Europe, Christianity, there is no hope for any cultural unity within Europe. If any group has a chance of “winning” the clash of cultures in Europe, it will be Islam. Of course, since we’re so “interdependent,” even the most Islamist of Muslims will join together in one happy family in which local religions and local cultures do not matter (notice the sarcasm in that statement). “Global Interdependence” is a valid concept; the problem is when it obscures real differences between states, cultures, and ethnic groups as if they do not matter (moral and cultural relativism). That is the view of global interdependence that is being pushed by the successors of the 1960s radicals on American colleges and universities as well as in the K-12 educational system. It is a deeply flawed position and should not be used as a tool to indoctrinate students in a radical, utopian agenda.

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Patriotism vs. Nationalism

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Farmland. Farmland - looking NE into square

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I’m not convinced that patriotism is the refuge of scoundrels, but I am convinced that nationalism is. Many people confuse the two terms; they are not synonymous. “Patriotism” refers to a love for one’s land; its focus is local, its concern the actual community of real persons who live and work in a particular space. True patriotism extends from the individual to his family first, then outward to friends, associates, and the wider community. Involvement in the wider community, in the civitas, involves being a good “citizen.” The old public square as a meeting place for members of the local community exemplifies true patriotism at its best; members of this community would fight to the death to defend their family and their land from enemies.

Nationalism, on the other hand, focuses on the nation-state as an abstract entity. The nation easily approaches being an object of worship, as it was in Nazi Germany, the old Soviet Union, and in Maoist China. Sometimes this worship was combined with traditional religions; witness the support of many German Christian Churches for Hitler (except the Confessing Church) or the close ties between the Shinto religion and Imperial Japan. A close connection to the military is assumed, and nationalists love military parades, pomp and circumstance. The philosopher Martin Heidegger was such a nationalist, and this led to his joining the Nazi party for a time. Nationalists love wars and empire, and spreading the “values of the nation-state” to other countries.

Americans are just as guilty of nationalism. Ironically, one of the most nationalistic parts of the United States is the American South. The South tried to rebel against a modern nation-state in the name of patriotism, to defend their land (yes, I realize there were other causes of the War Between the States, so no red herrings, please), especially after Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers. The nation-state subjugated the South and forced it to live under military government to reconstruct it in the image of the industrial North. The South should oppose nationalism and wars of conquest. Yet Southerners condemned Georgia Senator Sam Nunn for voting against the first Gulf War, and voters turned him out of office. Southerners were among the most supportive voices in favor of the unjust Iraq War. Southern churches are filled with American flags, as if a flag of any nation state belongs in a sanctuary devoted to God. The idea of patriotism as loving the land, as based in real communities, needs to be revived not just in the South, but in all the states. Let’s not confuse a Nazi or Soviet-like devotion to the nation-state with true patriotism.