Friday, June 11, 2010

Section II; Cosmopolitan Democracy

New section of book
De-sovereignty and World Democracy

Section II of People Without Borders, Cosmopolitan Democracy

By John Taylor; 2010 June 11, Nur 06, 167 BE

Our present leaders are paralyzed in the face of challenges like putting an end to ethnic strife, cultural clashes, anthropogenic climate change, stopping the rape of the oceans, halting habitat destruction, urban sprawl and any of a thousand other structural iniquities. The present nationalist world order, including nation states, their shop-stewards the United Nations, and transnational corporations, all seem incapable of acting in their own interests, much less responding to threats like these.

This quandary arises from a deficient understanding of leadership itself. A small-minded political leader uses the ancient military strategy of divide and conquer. Occupy the center and you can dominate both flanks. If you do not happen to be at the center, you can get around that simply by drawing a line around yourself and declaring the center to be you, yourself, and asking others to come in. Once such a head man stakes off his piece of territory, usually one ending at a national border, he strives to unite those inside that line against those who are outside.

On the other hand, it would be a much more challenging task to set divide and conquer aside and learn how to join and unite. This requires both justice and wisdom.

Our difficulties would not be so bad if our leaders of thought were different from our political leaders. But here it is the same story. Instead of agreeing among themselves upon a single set of assumptions and ideals that all humans can feel safe in applying and putting into action, our intellectuals inevitably slip into the same rut as political leaders. Divide and conquer. Each new thinker at the start of his or her career breaks a chunk off the block of truth and defends that small piece of territory to the death.

If our planet and our brains were ballooning in size as rapidly as, physicists tell us, the broader universe itself is accelerating in expansion, our unconscious habit of continually staking off of new territory and erecting walls might not be so dire. Unfortunately, and I am not the first to point this out, neither the earth nor our heads are expanding indefinitely. Indeed, although they no doubt contain great riches, they are not expanding at all physically. We cannot continue to forever think in terms of infinite, unending growth, or of dividing and conquering. We must instead concentrate on what is the common property of us all. Once that is stable, we can see that the whole prospers first, that the overall good of all peoples prospers before that of a few.

Buckminster Fuller compared these mental prejudices carefully built up by petty, selfish leaders to clots in our bloodstream. The body politic depends upon a free, generous flow of fresh ideas and solid received assumptions in order to carry on vital metabolic functions. It is extremely perilous to allow our common circulatory system to be clogged even for a moment by obsolete presuppositions; for should a clot reach a vital organ like the heart or brain, the result is a coronary infarction or a stroke, which means complete, inevitable failure of the entire organism. Even if it is not fatal, if the brain is clogged, our ability to think or act in concert will remain short circuited, and we will not be able to act for our own survival.

Yet the process of balkanization and specialization goes on, seemingly without limit. In the 19th century there were about eighty nations, whereas now there are, depending upon how you define "nation," almost two hundred separate nation states, each endowed with supreme authority over a tiny part of an integrated, borderless planet. At a time when there were still only a hundred and fifty sovereign nations, Fuller wrote,

"We have today, in fact, 150 supreme admirals and only one ship - Spaceship Earth. We have the 150 admirals in their 150 staterooms each trying to run their respective stateroom as if it were a separate ship. We have the starboard side admirals' league trying to sink the port side admirals' league. If either is successful in careening the ship to drown the "enemy" side, the whole ship will be lost." (from R. Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path. New York: St. Martin's Press, New York, 1981, 34-35, cited at:

Only a democratic world government would have the authority, in Fuller's wording, to "de-sovereignize" national governments, to make them agents of good rather than obstructionist blocks in our collective bloodstream. Only a democratic world senate could vitalize our local institutions to set all humans to work for the common good.

There is a crucial difference between an agglomeration or blood clot, and true unification. The former makes the overall situation worse by infinitely dividing up power and responsibility into ever tinier parcels. The second, I believe, will resolve into the infrastructural wisdom that we have described in the previous section of People Without Borders.

Here we outlined certain innovations in the physical, built world that we should expect to come of the marriage of strong world governance with vigorous local organization. Out of a common center of agreement will come a more fluid, moving, living building arrangement, a melding of mind and matter. This will propagate around the globe as we implement what we have called "consultative architecture."

We are now entering the second section of People Without Borders. Here we will discuss the intellectual foundations of consultative architecture. We will describe how to build new democratic reflexes that will energize the peoples of the world as a whole. This will take us from our present state of disorganization on the world level and torpor on the local level to a truly progressive world civilisation that Kant called the "cosmopolitan condition."

One of the most important stepping stones to the cosmopolitan condition is to take advantage of what is already known.Imagine an international conference on the nature of matter at the sub-atomic level, none of whose participants was familiar with either mathematics or quantum theory. Or a gathering of physicists who had never heard of Newton or Einstein. It would be unreasonable to expect much to come out of such a meeting. In the same way, all attempts to bring about a world government have failed, largely because the very existence of the peace plan in Comenius's Panorthosia has been forgotten for generations. As a result we are stymied by basic questions like, "What are politics?" "How can we delimit power?" and "How can we make democracy work?" These questions we must deal with first, before we describe the intellectual infrastructure of the plan for consultative architecture that will guide the building of the world belt and hillside housing.


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