Saturday, November 2, 2019

The Absurd Idea of World Citizenship

In a wonderful Commentary article Bruce Bawer takes down the concept of citizen of the world. John Hinderaker reports on it for Powerline (via Maggie’s Farm.) For our purposes we will look at Bawer’s article.

Bawer dates the advent of the concept to Diogenes, who lived in the fourth century A.D., but the more modern source lies in Immanuel Kant. In his essay on the idea of a universal history Kant claimed that we should all become citizens of the world. Barack Obama echoed the thought in a 2008 address he delivered in Germany at the Brandenburg Gate.

So, the concept embodies Enlightenment idealism. I assume that we all know that the Enlightenment in Germany had nothing to do with the British and Scottish versions. Since the time of early Greek philosophy idealism and empiricism have been warring against each other. Arthur Herman has written an excellent book about the history of the conflict, entitled The Cave and the Light

Anyway, citizenship of the world is an idealistic concept, one that disregards nations, borders, boundaries and true citizenship in exchange for the promise of a world of milk and honey, peace and prosperity where we would fight no more wars because we will all belong to one hulking planetary whole.

Bawer approvingly quotes the hapless Theresa May, in one of her rare moments of lucidity:

…if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.

Ironically, of perhaps paradoxically, the thrust toward global citizenship began after Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were defeated by the armies of the Anglosphere in World War II. It intensified after the same Anglosphere defeated Communism in the Cold War. Thus it feels like a victor's lament... for having hurt the feelings of the losers. 

Obviously enough, Woodrow Wilson's ill-fated league of nations-- another Kantian concept-- showed that global citizenship was a bad idea.

Bawer explains:

Ironically enough, the contemporary enthusiasm for global citizenship has its roots in the historical moment that marked the triumph of modern national identity and pride—namely, the World War II victory of free countries (plus the Soviet Union) over their unfree enemies. Citizens of small, conquered nations resisted oppression and, in many cases, gave their lives out of sheer patriotism and love of liberty. As Allied tanks rolled into one liberated town after another, people waved flags that had been hidden away during the occupation. Germany and Japan had sought to create empires that erased national borders and turned free citizens into subjects of tyranny; brave patriots destroyed that dream and restored their homelands’ sovereignty and freedom. And yet a major consequence of this victory was the establishment of an organization, the United Nations. Its founding rhetoric, like that of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, was all about the erasure of borders, even as it hoisted its own baby-blue flag alongside those of its members.

It seems to be a reaction against the martial values that won the wars. Under the guise of preventing wars the reactionaries tried to revalue more feminine maternal values, ones that cared more for caring and less for competition:

The chief force behind the Declaration was Eleanor Roosevelt, the chair of the UN’s Human Rights Commission. In a 1945 newspaper column, she had had some interesting things to say about patriotism and what we would now call globalism. “Willy-nilly,” she wrote, “everyone [sic] of us cares more for his own country than for any other. That is human nature. We love the bit of land where we have grown to maturity and known the joys and sorrows of life. The time has come however when we must recognize that our mutual [sic] devotion to our own land must never blind us to the good of all lands and of all peoples.”

The illusion is sustained by the United Nations, another political and cultural fraud:

Behind the Iron Curtain, captive peoples weren’t citizens, global or otherwise, but prisoners. Yet in the West, the UN’s language of what we now call global citizenship started to take hold, and the UN began to be an object of widespread, although hardly universal, veneration. In reality, the UN may be a massive and inert bureaucratic kleptocracy yoked to a debating society, most of whose member states are unfree or partly free; but people in the free world who grow starry-eyed at the thought of global citizenship view it as somehow magically exceeding, in moral terms, the sum of its parts.

Bawer taxes the movement with moral dereliction. If you do not belong to a country you need not concern yourself with defending the country. And you have no responsibilities to your fellow citizens, because everyone the world over is a citizen of the world. If we believe that we must care for everyone who is alive we are going to find ourselves in the position of not caring for anyone.


UbuMaccabee said...

Hume > Kant. Marilyn Monroe > Eleanor Roosevelt. USA > shithole countries.

Sam L. said...

If I am a "citizen of the world, do I have to pay taxes to every country in the world? What are they doing FOR me, that I should pay taxes to them? Which ones will try to draft me into military service?

“Willy-nilly,” she wrote, “everyone [sic] of us cares more for his own country than for any other. That is human nature." This is where we grew up. We "speaka da language".
Our friends and family are here.

David Foster said...

A certain amount of this is due to a belief that *technologies of interconnection* make a global society & government necessary and desirable. The Confederate general Edward Porter Alexander, who was Lee’s artillery commander at Gettysburg, became a railroad president after the war. His experiences in running a major transportation system probably had something to do with the evolution of his thoughts regarding state’s rights:

"Well that (state’s rights) was the issue of the war; & as we were defeated that right was surrendered & a limit put on state sovereignty. And the South is now entirely satisfied with that result. And the reason of it is very simple. State sovereignty was doubtless a wise political instution for the condition of this vast country in the last century. But the railroad, and the steamboat & the telegraph began to transform things early in this century & have gradually made what may almost be called a new planet of it… Our political institutions have had to change… Briefly we had the right to fight, but our fight was against what might be called a Darwinian development – or an adaptation to changed & changing conditions – so we need not greatly regret defeat."

I think a lot of the belief in unlimited globalization is implicitly driven by an extension of Alexander’s argument, with the jet plane, the container ship, and the Internet taking the place of the railroad, steamboat, and telegraph.

See my post What Are the Limits of the Alexander Analysis?

Peter B said...

Bauer's "language of global citizenship" is also the language of international socialism.

This is not a coincidence. The UN is a cultural and political fraud whose foundations were laid by a Soviet agent, Algier Hiss.

Anonymous said...

Multiracial nationalism is the same thing as World Citizenship.