Global Citizens

I was sitting in Charlie’s basement the other day discussing one world government. Charlie (not his real name but, trust me, the name works fine) is a rancher out west. Getting on in years, he likes to spend his days holed up in his machine shop chewing tobacco, taking a few sips of Kentucky’s best rye, and pondering the machinations of big government.

Like many independent spirits out west, Charlie is highly suspicious of the Federal government, believing it to be in collusion with big business to establish a global government that will force people into serfdom. Given our recent economic and political history, one can easily sympathize with his point of view. Certainly, it could be argued that “market forces” guided by greed and with no apparent moral constraint, seem intent on turning everyone into obsessive debtors and insatiable consumers (remember that line from the old country song, Sixteen Tons, about the misery of coal mining: “I owe my soul to the company store”)?

Whether there is a conscious plan to enslave us all is another matter.

Personally, I’ve always thought global administration might be good thing as long as it preserves individual rights and freedoms, recognizes the uniqueness of regional culture and respects the right of each person to seek God in his or her own way (without, of course, harming others), which is a world of difference from the kind of big government Charlie fears.

The world is too interconnected these days for us to ignore our neighbors or disassociate ourselves from their problems. It seems logical to address the difficulties we face together. With the global challenges of climate change, terrorism and poverty, it is not a good time to be xenophobic. Cooperation would require an enormous display of tolerance and compassion on everyone’s part. That’s something we each have to work on. And it is unlikely to happen through the current corporate and political ethos. That would have to evolve to meet the requirements of more than just a privileged few.

Two European journalists, Bernard Henri-Levi and Josef Jaffee, speaking on CNN’s GPS show (http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/fareed.zakaria.gps/) today (7/27/08) suggested the reason Barack Obama is idolized outside America is because he appeals to a popular dream of a better world where people can work together to break down the barriers of race, poverty, inequality and hatred. Joffee called him "less of a candidate than a canvas" on which Europeans are painting their vision of an ideal future. He is the leader everyone would like to have (even though they know that, as a member of a minority race, he may not be electable in their own country). Henri-Levi went so far as to dub him a combination of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy. Though somewhat more skeptical about Obamamania, German journalist, Gerhard Spörl, writing in Der Spiegel (7/24/08), recognized grudgingly that “Obama is all about today…[and the feeling that] ‘everybody really just wants to be brothers and save the world’ utopia.”

In other words, the appeal of Obama to the citizens of the world may have less to do with politics and more to do with the universality of his message. He may be tapping into a deep seated human ideal of an open global community—one whose time has now come.

People have always looked to America for inspiration. This is a country born out of a grand experiment in freedom from oppression and opportunity for all. What is there not to like about that? But recent years have seen a decline in US popularity around the world as the nation strayed further and further away from its founding principles. Obama seems to have reignited faith in the original brand America and everything it represents.

Perhaps it’s time for us to reach out to the world family, not for the sake of profit and power, but to offer the founding principles of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to everyone, everywhere. People seem to want that. Charlie would have nothing to fear from a world governed like that.

After all, there is nothing wrong with wanting to live in utopia.