THE GLOBAL UNCOMMUNITY
Dr. Demarche at The American Future posed a fundamental question the other day. as a rule, I like questions of this nature because they are helpful in terms of quickly putting matters into perspective. the good doctor’s question was:
“…is there such a thing as “the” international community? If so who are its members? In what arenas does this community act? What is America’s role in this community, and that of the U.N.?”
In my view the various nation-states of the world form a “community” with a level of communal fellowship several orders of magnitude less than what prevails in a given New York city subway at about 1 a.m.
The phrase ” international community” is a popular one but it remains an oxymoron. States do not have anthropomorphic qualities though we are fond of imagining that they do because artful phrases reduce complex dynamics to simple, easily understood, imagery. Even if states did have such intrinsic behavioral qualities the ” international community” resembles nothing so much as hapless mob, milling about, some fighting amongst themselves, while the ten largest, strongest and best armed men half-heartedly attempt to keep the chaos at a tolerable level.
Any ” community” that the media speaks of really refers to a transnational elite of diplomats, high government officials, journalists, academics, central bankers, bureaucrats of international organizations and a strata of highly connected and influential private citizens. A relatively tiny group that nonetheless numbers in the tens of thousands, many individuals ” know” each other at least in the sense that residents in a small town know one another. Westerners, particularly Europeans and Americans, dominate the decision-making process of this ” community” when the rare occasions occur that effective action is actually going to be taken.
Despite the great diversity of nationalities in this ” community” you find that the members hold similar opinions and values on many subjects, particularly relating to political economy and their own self-importance. Few of the have much in common with the average citizen of the countries they purport to represent or any sense of moral urgency in a crisis – unless that crisis threatens to destabilize the status quo in which they themselves are personally invested in terms of their career. Several million dying of starvation, genocide, AIDS, warfare or natural disasters is of less concern than protocol and precedence.
They are seldom the working diplomats, war correspondents or aid workers who go to dangerous places with a real risk of getting their heads shot off by wild-eyed young men. There is an enormous difference between talking to locals in Herat and to an ABC news crew in Manhattan, Brussells or Washington, DC. They have acquired, to paraphrase John Keegan, ” the air of the seminar” about them.
But an international community ? No.
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