Recently by Thomas H. Naylor: The Montpelier Manifesto
A Meganation World
Much to the chagrin of Washington and Tel Aviv, a recent meeting of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement, a group formed during the Cold War that views itself as independent of the major powers, sent a clear signal to the US-Israeli cabal that they are visibly annoyed at the United States and Israel for continuing to portray Iran as the world’s foremost scapegoat. The meeting which took place in Tehran on August 26-31 proved to be a public relations coup for Iran in spite of UN Secretary General and American pawn Ban Ki-moon’s attempt to hijack the meeting.
The NAM represents nearly two-thirds of the nations of the world, most of whom are small and poor. However, their membership does include four meganations which have populations in excess of 100 million – Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria.
The meeting in Tehran was a vivid reminder that we live in a meganation world under the cloud of Empire, the American Empire. Fifty-nine percent of the people on the planet now live in one of the eleven nations with a population of over one hundred million people. These meganations in descending order of population size include China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia, Japan, and Mexico. Extending the argument one step farther, we note that twenty-five nations have populations in excess of 50 million and that seventy-three percent of us live in one of those countries.
It’s hard to imagine a more chaotic world than the world in which we find ourselves. The ongoing residual effects of the 2008 Wall Street meltdown, the current euro crisis, the alleged international threat of terrorism (albeit Western induced), American imperialism (full spectrum dominance and imperial overstretch), excessive population growth, extreme poverty, peak oil, and climate change are all evidence of a world that is totally out of control.
When Category 4 Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore a few miles east of New Orleans in 2005 with all of its fury, the devastation was almost beyond belief. Neither the New Orleans mayor, the Louisiana governor, nor the president of the United States seemed to have a clue as to how to deal with the crisis. Tens of thousands of New Orleanians behaved as though they were experimental mice on an electric floor after experiencing learned helplessness from repeated shocks, waiting to be rescued by the City or the State, not knowing that the mayor and the governor had both abdicated their responsibility for emergency assistance to the federal government. There was widespread looting as well as fires, explosions, gunshots, murders, rapes, and robberies. By the time the cavalry finally arrived five days later, it was too little, too late. All of this in the richest, most powerful nation in the world. The story of Katrina was the story of too many people being crammed into too little space, who were too dependent on an ill-conceived flood control system and an impotent, unsustainable government which had lost its moral authority.
Neither its $5.4 trillion economy, its state-of-the-art technology, nor its military like efficiency could protect Japan from the catastrophic consequences of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. To be quite blunt, when you try to squeeze 127 million people into one large island and a group of smaller ones, all prone to earthquakes, you have few degrees of freedom when disaster strikes. It’s all about human scale. The recent widespread electric power blackouts in India were examples of more of the same.
In the prescient words of Leopold Kohr in his 1957 book Breakdown of Nations, “There seems only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness. Whenever something is wrong, something is too big.”
New York City, The Global Epicenter
Americans, among others, are completely obsessed with bigness – big government, big military, big banks, big businesses, bit cities, big buildings, big farms, big schools, big universities, big health care systems, big social welfare systems, big media networks, big computer networks, big churches, and big empires. Few have the courage to challenge the myth that “Bigger Is Always Better.”
Nothing more effectively epitomizes the cult of bigness in the United States than New York City, the economic, financial, marketing, cultural, moral, and political epicenter of the world. Although Washington, DC is the nominal capital of the United States, New York City is the de facto capital, since the U.S. Government is owned, operated, and controlled by Wall Street, Corporate America, and various foreign interests which maintain a strong presence in Gotham.
New York City is all about money, power, speed, greed and looking out for number one. It is also the global capital of technofascism – affluenza, technomania, cybermania, megalomania, robotism, globalization, and imperialism.
Gotham is the twenty-first century equivalent of the Tower of Babel, for it is too big, too crowded, too undemocratic, too regimented, too intrusive, too polluted, too noisy, too commercial, too materialistic, and too dehumanized. It also has too much traffic, too many policemen, too much surveillance equipment, too much crime, too much drug addiction, and too little sense of community. Last, and by no means least, its distribution of income is more inequitable than that of any other major city in the United States.
Failed International Megainstitutions
Since the end of World War II a plethora of international megainstitutions have evolved to deal with such issues as national security, peacekeeping, international finance, economic development, and international trade. They include the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and NATO. The track record of these megainstitutions has proven to be singularly unimpressive.
That the 192-member United Nations, which is dominated by the United States, Russia, and China, each of which has veto power in the Security Council, has been so ineffective since its inception in 1945, is hardly surprising. Nothing illustrates this better than the U.N. sponsored conferences on climate change in Kyoto in 1997 and Copenhagen in 2009. Trying to come up with solutions to a problem as complex as climate change by assembling 178 heads of state, as was the case in Kyoto, or 193 in Copenhagen, is truly an exercise in futility. The product of the 12-day Copenhagen conference was a nonbinding agreement in which no one was committed to anything. The so-called Copenhagen agreement was a complete sham. The process was replicated in Cancun, Mexico in 2010 with similar results.
How many wars has the U.N. prevented? Certainly none in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Palestine, or Africa. Global political problems are too complex for an assembly of two hundred international political leaders to sort out in a public forum. This is even more true if China and the United States refuse to budge from their positions of national self-interest. Some have cynically suggested that the U.N. is little more than an extension of the U.S. State Department.
The U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization are all committed to transforming the world economy into a giant global growth machine regulated by an international gambling casino in which resource allocation decisions are driven by a high-speed, multinational, high-tech crap shoot. Satellite communications, fiber optics, and the Internet make it possible to transform small, manageable local problems into unmanageable global problems overnight.
Since globalization is often achieved through coercion, intimidation, exploitation, collectivism, monopoly, and American military might; local cultures, local values, local communities and local environmental concerns often receive short shrift.
Transnational megacompanies not only tell so called emerging market countries (most of the world) what they will produce, how it will be produced, when it will be sold, and at what price, but they also influence local working conditions, wages, benefits, and labor laws. They often dictate local government monetary, fiscal, trade, and banking policies. International money managers decide which foreign currencies are overvalued and which are not, as well as which countries should be punished for not playing by their arbitrary, self-serving rules. This is truly a one-size-fits-all game.
President Bill Clinton called for a New Global Financial Architecture. But what he proposed was nothing new at all – more trade, more budget cuts, more privatization, more foreign investment, more megamergers, more computer networks, less government control, lower interest rates, more IMF bailouts, and, as always, more economic growth. He wanted everything to be bigger, more complex, more high-tech, and more interdependent – bigger markets, bigger trade agreements, bigger loans, bigger bailouts, bigger banks and financial institutions, and bigger telecommunication networks. Our government’s cryptic message to the rest of the world is, “Just be like us.” One-size-fits-all!
Economists justify globalization on the basis of the so called “trickle down effect,” in which the benefits of global trade to the superwealthy eventually trickle down to the poor. But half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day, and many of these people have no access to clean water, electricity, or sanitation. World Bank figures suggest that the trickle down effect has not worked so well. In 1987, 1.2 billion people in the world were trying to survive on $1 a day. Now over 1.5 billion are trying to do so.
Another large, ill-conceived, international organization which is too big to fix is the 28-nation European Union with its common currency, the euro, shared by 17 of its member nations. The euro is being kept afloat by a series of lies, leaks, rumors, and smoke-and-mirrors dances. Financial markets are pumped up by the expectations of the next meeting of the ECB, the European finance ministers, or German Chancellor Angela Merkel with either her French or Italian counterpart. Each meeting holds out the hope of a silver bullet fix for the euro. Most have turned out to be nonevents.
When the euro was first introduced in 1999 it was supposed to unite Europe, promote federalism, and lead to collective economic prosperity. As the euro faces the real possibility of complete collapse, it seems to be pulling Europe further apart. An increasing number of political leaders in the EU are now calling for the break up of the $17 trillion political and economic union with a population of nearly 500 million.
NATO is a Cold War anachronism which has been unable to find a new mission to justify its post Cold War existence. Thus far its primary aim seems to be to antagonize Russia by enticing former Soviet Republics into its ranks and thus surrounding the Russian Bear with what it perceives to be a hostile force. More recently NATO has diversified its portfolio to include the war on terror, e.g., its foray into Libya in 2011.
Alternative Responses to Empire
For those who are actually citizens of an omnipotent, immoral empire capable of inflicting a level of destruction on civilization and the entire planet that was heretofore unimaginable, as well as those living elsewhere but still under its influence, there are at least seven options:
Denial. Because of their abysmal ignorance of foreign affairs, most Americans are completely oblivious to the fact that our government has over 1,000 military bases in 153 countries and that our foreign policy is based on military doctrines such as full spectrum dominance, nuclear primacy, the right of pre-emptive strike, and imperial overstretch. As a result, they find themselves in a state of complete denial regarding the very existence of the American Empire. The myth of American exceptionalism always trumps reality.
Acquiescence. Although some armchair environmentalists, pacifists, democratic socialists, and simple-living adherents are fully aware of the perils of the Empire, they feel powerless to confront a government owned, operated, and controlled by Wall Street, Corporate America, and the Israeli Lobby. They talk endlessly about how bad things are, and they try to live their personal lives in positive ways, but in relation to the government they do nothing but naively hope for the best. It’s all about rolling with the flow. The name of the game is compliance.
Reformation. A number of political groups persist in the belief that the U.S. Government is still fixable through either constitutional reform, tax reform, campaign finance reform, or corporate personhood amendments. They include Ron Paul supporters, the Tea Party, and Occupy Wall Street. Although these groups have quite different views on what it will take to fix the Empire, they each represent major distractions diverting public attention away from the fact that our nation is beyond repair. Until we come to terms with this reality, all is naught. Reform represents the null set.
- Affirmation. As the American economy began to melt down in 2008, Americans and foreigners alike sought financial security in the U.S. dollar and U.S. Treasury bonds. The dollar maintained amazing resilience in light of multitrillion-dollar government deficits. As the Federal Reserve began printing money like it was going out of style, the value of Treasury notes soared and interest rates plunged towards zero even though the risk of holding such notes was escalating upwards with each new government offering. It made no sense whatsoever! Conservative bankers stood in line to receive government bailouts and liberals and conservatives alike fought for so-called stimulus funds. The government claimed it would solve the nation’s health care problems which it had helped create. Conservative politicians like Vermont Governor Jim Douglas showed up at the White House hat-in-hand. Indeed, Douglas was the first governor to have a private audience with Obama.
It was truly the Age of Obama, who promised to fix everything through “hope and change.” The only problem was, tens of millions of Americans actually believed him.
The flight back to America was unbelievably strong in light of the chaos caused by our government. Conservative Americans, many of whom are supernationalists, resonate to the fact that the U.S. is the only global superpower. The fact that America has become an imperialist nation is actually a source of pride to them.
Loyalty to the Empire remains the politically correct norm in America regardless of the moral, social, and ethical implications of that stance. American loyalists are indeed the 21st century equivalents of the British Tories back in 1776. They remain staunchly committed to American exceptionalism.
- Escape. An increasing number of Americans are expressing their displeasure with the Empire by getting off the treadmill, distancing themselves from the Empire, and embracing a lifestyle based on simple living. They hope to achieve a quieter, simpler, more meaningful life by slowing down, working less, consuming less, buying locally, and becoming less dependent on fossil fuels. Downsizing and downshifting are important bywords of the simple living movement. Many downshifters view agricultural and energy self-sufficiency as necessary first steps towards eventual political independence. Not only is such a view based on ignorance, but it is politically naïve as well.
Japan, which has the second largest economy in the world, is neither energy independent nor food independent. It literally imports every drop of oil that it consumes and most of its food.
Unfortunately, many simple living, back-to-the-land practitioners become so self-absorbed and complacent with their newfound ideology that they overlook the fact that the world is still going to hell in a handbasket. From the isolation of their small town, village, farm, or commune they fail to note that the American Empire continues to bear the primary responsibility for the deaths of thousands in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine, to mention only a few places. Buying locally may make one feel good, but it really doesn’t do a whole lot to curtail the influence of the Empire. One’s tax dollars are still used to purchase the Pentagon’s high-tech instruments of death.
Although simple living, localvore, conservation, and back-to-the-land are all worthwhile activities, they may also be forms of escapism, alternatives to confronting the American Empire.
- Confrontation. Another alternative response to the Empire is confrontation which could take one of three forms – rebellion, revolution, or self-determination. Rebellion, armed resistance to the government, and revolution, the attempted overthrow of the government, should be summarily rejected as exercises in utter futility. Such activities would be instantaneously snuffed out by the most powerful Empire of all time. Nonviolence is the only game in town.
This leaves peaceable self-determination as the only viable way of confronting the Empire. The Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were all brought down by a common nonviolent strategy, namely by demonstrating unequivocally that the leaders of these regimes had lost their moral authority. The American Empire will eventually implode just like the Soviet Union did, but the process can be accelerated significantly by hammering away at the corruption and loss of moral authority of all U.S. government officials and anyone who votes for or supports this government.
The Empire has no clothes, and the sooner we all realize this, the better off we will be.
- Engagement. The path to self-determination represents a long, slow slog as has been evidenced by the history of self-determination movements in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, Quebec, Basque Country, and Scotland. It’s all about engagement and perseverance.
The six Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were all brought down by effectively discrediting the leaders of these regimes – by demonstrating unequivocally that they had lost their moral authority. The Communist government of Poland was not toppled in 1989 by Solidarity Leader Lech Walesa politely suggesting that President Wojciech Jaruzelski should step down. Rather it, as well as the five other Eastern European Communist governments, was brought down by a sophisticated mixture of confrontation, engagement, negotiation, and testing of limits spread out over several years. Ultimately it was a question of political will. The political will of the people trumped the will of the government to stay in power.
I believe it is high time for the smaller nations of the world to begin withdrawing from the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the IMF, the European Union, and NATO. These international megainstitutions are morally, intellectually, politically, and spiritually bankrupt. It is time for the smaller nations to confront the meganations of the world and say, “Enough is enough. We refuse to continue condoning your plundering the planet in pursuit of resources and markets to quench your insatiable appetite for consumer goods and services.” These small nations should call for the nonviolent breakup of the United States, China, Russia, Japan, India, and the other meganations of the world.
A small group of peaceful, sustainable, cooperative, democratic, egalitarian, ecofriendly nations might lead the way. Such a group might include Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.
What these five European nations have in common is that they are tiny, very affluent, nonviolent, democratic, and socially responsible. They also have a high degree of environmental integrity and a strong sense of community. Although Denmark and Norway are members of NATO, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland are neutral. Once considered classical European democratic socialist states, the four Nordic states in the group have become much more market-oriented in recent years. Not only is Switzerland the wealthiest of the lot, but it is the most market-oriented country in the world, with the weakest central government, the most decentralized social welfare system, and a long tradition of direct democracy. What’s more, all of these countries work, and they work very well. Compared to the United States they have fewer big cities, less traffic congestion, less pollution, less poverty, less crime, less drug abuse, and fewer social welfare problems.
An interesting special case is the tiny Alpine Principality of Liechtenstein which has the highest gross domestic product per person in the world when adjusted by purchasing power parity (over $140,000 per capita), the world’s lowest external debt, and the second lowest unemployment rate in the world (recently as low as 1.5 percent), and a population of only 35,000 spread over 62 square miles. Organized as a constitutional monarchy with an enlightened Reigning Prince by the name of Hans-Adam II, Liechtenstein is best known as a tax haven and home to 73,700 corporations worldwide.
Three other small countries which might also join the party are environmentally friendly Costa Rica, which has no army, ecovillage pioneer Senegal, and the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Since 1972 the king of Bhutan has been trying to make Gross National Happiness the national priority rather than Gross National Product. Although still a work-in-progress, policies instituted by the king are aimed at ensuring that prosperity is shared across society and that it is balanced against preserving cultural traditions, protecting the environment, and maintaining a responsive government.
As Austrian economist Leopold Kohr said in The Breakdown of Nations, “A small-state world would not only solve the problems of social brutality and war; it would solve the problems of oppression and tyranny. It would solve all problems arising from power.”
Small Nation Neutrality
Austria, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland, four small European nations committed to political neutrality, stand in stark contrast to the United States with its multi-trillion dollar military budgets, 1.6 million troops stationed in 153 countries (including 80,000 in Europe), Special Operations strike forces deployed in 120 countries, and proliferation of pilotless drone aircraft worldwide for reconnaissance and stealth attacks, sometimes killing civilians, including Americans. Currently the U.S. is engaged in illegal wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. It also provides unconditional military support for the Likud government of Israel in its war against the Palestinians. Last, but by no means least, it promotes a highly racist war on terrorism aimed squarely at Muslims.
The defining image of the Obama White House is a culture of so-called smart power and death – F-35 fighter jets, unmanned killer drones, Navy Seals, Delta Force death squads, and more recently, the White House kill list. In an act of unprecedented arrogance, President Obama has granted himself the authority to order the assassination of anyone, anywhere, anytime, with no questions asked, no trial, no due process – just pure law of the jungle.
Switzerland, on the other hand, has not been involved in a foreign war since 1515, and although it is heavily armed, it has remained neutral since 1815. It has never been part of a larger empire. Sweden became neutral in 1814.
Swiss foreign policy is based on four premises: (1) Switzerland will never initiate a war. (2) It will never enter a war on the side of a warring party. (3) It will never side in any way with one warring party against another. (4) It will vigorously defend itself against outside attack.
According to the Swiss constitution, every Swiss male is obligated to do military service; women are also accepted into the military service on a voluntary basis but are not drafted. In case of an attack on the country several hundred thousand men and women can be mobilized within a few days.
Neither Austria, Finland, nor Sweden is a member of NATO. However, they are members of the U.N. and the E.U. Even though Geneva is the home to many agencies of the U.N., Switzerland did not join the U.N. until 2002. Although the Swiss do trade extensively with member nations of the E.U., the Swiss citizenry has consistently rejected membership in the E.U. However, the Berne government favors membership.
Neutrality does not imply non-involvement. Although the U.S. has the largest economy in the world, each of the aforementioned nations is ranked in the top twenty countries in terms of per capita income and each contributes a higher percentage of its Gross National Income to foreign aid than does the U.S.
In addition to the dozen or so small neutral countries of the world, there are over twenty countries without armed forces. They include Liechtenstein and Costa Rica, the latter of which abolished its army and became neutral in 1949. Most of the other such countries are small island nations scattered throughout the world.
Above all, we should recall what economist Leopold Kohr said about military power in his book The Breakdown of Nations:
For whenever a nation becomes large enough to accumulate the critical mass of power, it will in the end accumulate it. And when it has acquired it, it will become an aggressor, its previous record and intentions to the contrary notwithstanding.
Aspiring Small Nations
Today there are self-determination movements in over two dozen countries. Notwithstanding the European unification movement, during the last half-century separatist movements have become much more important and widespread than unification schemes. For example, there are now nearly two hundred independent nations in the world, over four times the number that existed after World War II. The implosion of the Soviet Union and the breakup of Yugoslavia are two of the most important examples of this tendency, but many more have occurred and more are on the way.
We are witnessing the dismemberment and crumbling of the multi-ethnic empires all over the world – the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, India, Indonesia, and potentially China. The Soviet Union split into fifteen independent republics, many of which have their own independence movements. Czechoslovakia peacefully divided itself into the Czech and Slovak republics. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia-Montenegro, and Slovenia have all become independent nations as a result of the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Throughout Europe there are dozens of other self-determination movements in such places as Belgium, Bulgaria, Britain, Italy, Lapland, Poland, Romania, Scotland, and Spain. The Basque region of Spain is but one of eleven Spanish regions calling for more autonomy, and both Catalonia and Valencia also have full-fledged separatist movements.
One of the most divisive countries in Europe is Belgium which went 535 days without a properly elected leader because of the toxicity in the relationship between the wealthier Dutch-speaking majority and poorer French-speaking minority. It was not until after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s credit rating that Belgian politicians finally formed a coalition government in response to pressure from international financial markets.
In Africa, hundreds of tribes are trying to shake off artificial boundaries imposed on them by nineteenth-century European colonialism. For example, Sudan recently split into two parts.
Even though self-determination is forbidden by the Indian constitution, the country is literally awash with separatist movements. Although Kashmir has the best known such movement in India, Sikkim and most of the states in Northeast India have active separatist groups. These include Assam, Bodoland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland. These states are not contiguous with the rest of India. Then there is also Khalistan, a global political self-determination group to create a separate Sikh state.
After a near-miss in its 1995 referendum to achieve independence from Canada, the Quebec separatist movement fell into the doldrums for over 15 years. However, in September 2012 the Parti Québécois won a victory of sorts in the Quebec provincial election and was able to put together a weak coalition government. The stability of the new government remains somewhat in doubt. In 1998 the Canadian Supreme Court issued a ruling declaring self-determination to be constitutional and outlining the necessary steps which must be taken by a province to split from the Confederation. There are also self-determination movements in Alberta and British Columbia.
Self-determination is an act of separation or withdrawal from a larger body.
Personal. Throughout life we experience an endless series of acts of self-determination including birth, death, divorce, graduation, changing jobs, leaving home, ending a relationship, and moving to another place. Some are good; others not so good.
- Political. It is political acts of self-determination about which people seem to become so agitated, whenever a subunit of a city, state, or nation separates from the larger body. Few Americans seem to recall that the United States was created by an act of self-determination by thirteen English colonies which separated from the British Empire. Although the self-determination of the eleven Confederate States of America precipitated a bloody Civil War, self-determination need not be violent as was the case when the Soviet Union’s six Eastern European allies rid themselves of their Communist regimes in 1989. Communism was brought down peacefully in five of the six Eastern European satellites of the USSR. Not only did the U.S. Government support these acts of self-determination, but it actively participated in most of them. The peaceable breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 was more of the same. Washington has also supported independence for Kosovo, East Timor, and Taiwan.
On the other hand, the White House remains cool to the Québec separatist movement and Puerto Rican independence. It does not even acknowledge the existence of the thirty or so state independence movements within the United States. The degree of support expressed by the U.S. Government for political independence varies inversely with the distance from Washington of the independence-seeking country.
The Human Condition. In the case of the United States, from the standpoint of the human condition, self-determination is about confronting rather than denying, escaping from, or acquiescing to the nihilism, the power, the separation, the violence, and death associated with the American Empire. Self-determination is not for the faint of heart.
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Some have suggested that one’s inclination towards self-determination depends on the extent to which his or her needs are being met by the existing arrangement whether it be a village, town, or state. Psychologist Abraham H. Maslow’s five hierarchical categories of human needs may provide a useful paradigm for thinking about this issue: (1) physiological requirements (food, water, and shelter), (2) safety (economic security and protection from injury and disease), (3) social acceptance (love, a sense of belonging, and membership in a group), (4) self-esteem (prestige, power, and recognition), (5) self-actualization (confidence, competence, and achievement).
In a nutshell, if your needs are not being satisfied, self-determination may be an option worthy of serious consideration.
- A Form of Loss. So obsessed with bigness are most Americans that they view political self-determination s a form of loss or an example of complete failure. To better understand how many Americans experience the sense of loss associated with political separatism, it may be instructive to examine the five states of grief outlined in Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s 1969 book entitled On Death and Dying. These stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
So imbued with the notion of American exceptionalism are American patriots, that they cannot even conceive of the logical possibility of a state wanting to leave the Union. Since the American Civil War ended in 1865, the prevailing view on political self-determination of our government, the Congress, the academy, our political leaders, and the clergy has been one of complete denial. Academics, religious leaders, and lawyers won’t even come close to the subject. They avoid it like the plague.
Others simply become enraged at the bare mention of the idea. Separatists are viewed as unpatriotic and disloyal. Some acknowledge the possibility of political self-determination, but “not in my lifetime.” To them consideration of articles of political independence would be like entering into a compact with the devil.
After experiencing denial and anger over the thought of political self-determination, some people lapse into a state of complete depression. Finally, there are some whose defeatism takes the form of reluctant acceptance, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”
The point of all of this is that the decision to leave the Union is a complex psychodynamic process – a process which may trigger the release of intense negative feelings. Political self-determination is a very tough sell in the United States and elsewhere.
A Self-Determination Process
The decision to pursue a path of self-determination on the part of a subunit of a larger political entity necessarily involves a very personal, painful four-step process:
Denunciation. To justify an act of political self-determination it may be necessary to challenge the moral authority of the larger political unit from which the smaller one seeks independence.
Disengagement. Supporters of political self-determination must be prepared to decathect from the larger political unit from which the separatist group wishes to extricate itself. All emotional ties to the original political entity must be severed.
Demystification. Ultimately whether or not an act of self-determination is allowed to go forward is neither a legal issue nor a constitutional issue, but rather a matter of political will. How strong is the political will of those seeking self-determination versus those who are opposed to it?
Defiance. Self-determination is a radical act of rebellion grounded in anger and fear with a positive vision of the future. Even though it is nonviolent, it may of necessity have to take the form of civil disobedience as well.
A Community of Small Nations
What is called for is nothing less than the radicalization of the small, nonviolent, sustainable, socially responsible countries of the world. Countries like Bhutan, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland must face up to the fact that they share nothing in common with meganations such as the United States, China, Russia, and India. They should not only stop sucking up to them but they should avoid emulating them at all cost.
The small enlightened nations of the world should begin organizing themselves into what might be called the Small Nations’ Alliance (SNA) to encourage (1) the nonviolent breakup of meganations such as the United States, China, Russia, and India; (2) the peaceful coexistence of a community of small, sustainable, cooperative, democratic, socially responsible, egalitarian, nonviolent, ecofriendly nations; and (3) the independence of small breakaway states such as Quebec, Scotland, Tibet, and Vermont.
One thing is for sure, if there are to be any solutions to global megaproblems such as poverty, peak oil and climate change, they will not originate with either the United States, China, or Russia, each of which is obsessed with protecting its own respective self interest. So long as New York, London, and Tokyo maintain hammerlock control over international financial markets, international finance and banking reform will remain an illusive fantasy. What the world could use effectively is a dozen or so financial centers, not just three megacenters.
We do not envision the SNA as an international governing body with the power to impose its collective will on others. Rather we see it as a role model encouraging others to decentralize, downsize, localize, demilitarize, simplify, and humanize their lives. Membership in the SNA will be open to those nations who subscribe to the principles of the SNA and are approved for membership by a consensus of SNA members. The only mechanism available for enforcing policies endorsed by the SNA would be expulsion from the organization for noncompliance.
The defining issue in today’s world is human scale. The hour is very late. The small nations of the world have sat silently on the sidelines for all too long allowing the world’s meganations to set the global agenda. It is indeed high time they rebél against the meganations, take control of their destiny, and demand a place at the table. The future of the planet depends on it.
Finally, in the words of French rebel Albert Camus, “It is those who know how to rebél at the appropriate moment, against history who really advance its interests.”
Thomas H. Naylor is founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University. He is the author Secession: How Vermont and All the Other States Can Save Themselves from the Empire, The Vermont Manifesto: The Second Vermont Republic and co-author of Ajjluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.