Last week on the Internet (Yahoo News), I read that Pope Francis had commented during an interview with an Italian reporter that it was his opinion that Europe needed a Federal form of government. That was his thought after the observation that alliances being formed between countries attending the G20 conference were being structured in ways that left out the well-being of the poor and the refugees. The article did not cover what the Pope meant by a Federal form of government. Did he mean a government like we have in the United States, with a strong central government both superceding and linking together a group of component states, each with some independent governing authority, but subservient to Federal law?
Generally, I agree with the Pope on many issues. However, I find myself wondering just what benefit he finds in a United States of Europe governed by a strong central system. Whom would he include in such a federation? Some states are both European and Asian. What philosophies would be promoted by such a union? The principles underlying the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics failed to either engender the well-being of the majority or to hold the union together. The Federal government here in the United States is also having its problems. It, too, does not focus well on the needs of the disadvantaged or the Earth. Is the idea of strong central governments for each continent or combination of continents one which will engender the best possible environment for the people? I am reminded of a similar organization in the futuristic fiction (and obviously inaccurately dated) novel 1984 by Orwell. The three overarching governments were in a perpetual state of war.
It would seem to me that another way of organizing ourselves would be warranted. Our current systems are based on an underlying principle of competition, of the strong taking from the weak and on a complicity in the assumption that some lives are more worthy than others and are more entitled to basic needs being met, to more comforts and to a stronger certainty of survival. It assumes that each individual must first ensure his own success, even at the expense of another. This is true of whatever organized groups we may have (with the possible exception of small units governed by different principles). It makes no sense to continue with systems which cannot tend to or even recognize the needs of all constituents and which fail to create a stable and peaceful global structure. We need a different way of doing things.
I think we have become too big. The very size of our governments presupposes that we will not know each other, will not have each in front of us the humanity of the other. The massiveness of our units almost guarantees that most people will not be looking out for the needs of anyone but themselves, and that the poor or those disadvantaged in other ways will be neglected when systems, laws, regulations and economic activities are formed. The challenge is formidable. Change will need to be preceded by a reduction in the size of the governing units. Continuing to consolidate and increase the size of our governments will serve to perpetuate and deepen the status quo.
Self-governing small communities that emphasize the necessity of knowing our neighbors and of being familiar with the condition of each community member would be a stark departure from what we now have. Communities able to live and cooperate with other communities different from themselves have heretofore been dismissed as impossible. From a global perspective, a sufficient abundance of such communities might lift us from the confusion, oppression and inequality we now have. We would have in front of us in real time the results of our actions.
In order to achieve such a goal, skills which have been long forgotten would need to be revived. One such skill is the skill of cooperation, and of solving problems through conscious communication. Changing war for ongoing skirmishes between rival communities or tribal groups would provide little improvement, and would likely lead to alliances forming larger and larger competing groups, each looking out for itself. A change in size is not enough. We also need a change in consciousness.
Such a change in consciousness needs to incorporate not only humanity, but also to include the life which inhabits our planet with us, as well as the life of the Earth itself. We are all one, formed of the same basic energy. What destroys a part of us will, in the long run, destroy us all. Our smaller units, then, need to learn to respect the life around us and nurture that life, as well as the life of the planet that sustains us. No more hoarding of resources, no more harmful means of increasing production of whatever it is that is being produced. No more taking from others to increase ourselves. We need to learn to live in peaceful stewardship of ourselves and our surroundings. That is a tall order from what we are doing now.
There are examples of those who are doing this, who are changing their consciousness to live in harmony with the Earth and with others, human, animal and plant. They are drawing on ancient wisdom and conscious discovery. Indigenous tribes know many of these skills. The neighborhoods of our great grandparents and great great grandparents were aware of them. Intentional communities of many types are currently learning, practicing and developing them. Many of these units have achieved self-sustainability. They are small, and their formative and driving principles are ones of peace, cooperation, healing and stewardship. We would do well to study them, and learn from them their philosophies and applications. Our survival may depend on these. It will certainly not depend on warring superpowers.
Instead of increasing the sizes of world governments, and relying on those governments to sustain us, let us learn the skills we need to live in smaller cooperating units and sustain ourselves.