in today's online NYTimes, there was an article by roger cohen that dovetails quite closely with my thoughts over the years on how we view ourselves. my premise (oversimplified for the sake of brevity) is that initially, tens of thousands of years ago during our nomadic hunter/gatherer days, people drew their identity from the nuclear or extended family group they were born into, and subsequently from their clan or tribe. with the advent of agriculture, humans began to settle down, first as farmers, then in established settlements for trade and mutual protection. the tribal identity was replaced by that of one's town or city. you can see where the progression is going -- next came the city/state, then the nation.
all previous sources of identity remained intact, of course. i am a member of my family, a native of my home town, my state, my country. each higher level wields influence and power over the gathered levels beneath it.
we are on the threshold of a paradigm shift, begun first following WWI with the league of nations, then following WWII with the united nations. we are entering an era as a global community. economically, this is already reality. politically there are alliances which serve as precedents, e.g. the european union. but we haven't truly stepped past the threshold yet. the u.n. is a civilized forum in which nations can monitor and influence the behavior of other nations, but it sadly lacks a decisive, unified enforcement power. think about it -- your city has not only ordinances but a police force, your state and nation likewise. we in the u.s. talk about bringing democracy to the world, but we resist the actual deed, because it would alter our positiion of ascendancy, our hegemony on the world stage. yet i believe the transformation of the u.n., or a confederacy of nations like it, from discussion group to planetary governing body is inevitable, and a healthy continuation of the evolution of our species.
until that time comes, we will continue to myopically limit our patriotism to our native city, state, or nation. and in doing so, we delay the day when the voices of all people are heard in making environmental, social and ethical decisions which affect us all. it's like the old joke which asks how many republicans it takes to change a light bulb. it takes five: one to actually change the bulb, and four to sit around and reminisce about how good the old bulb was. it may have been good yesterday, but it is inadequate to the needs of today and tomorrow.
a world government composed of member nations does not imply uniformity or the loss of diversity, any more than our national government, composed of member states, does. the breadth and depth of our local, regional and national cultures will remain intact. in fact a transformation will occur: we will all be made richer in heart and spirit and experience, for coming to know and understand those whom we now label as "other", as "alien". there will be no need for guarded national boundaries, any more than there is a need for guarded state bounderies. we will be one people. our tribe will have become our species. john lennon had it right in his song, "Imagine".
and who knows, maybe someday we'll really make a stretch and include all living things. wouldn't that be something?
here is the link to the NYTimes article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/10/opinion/10webcohen.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin