By Jack Butler
I am Jack Butler, a Cambridge-educated integral coach and social entrepreneur. I think we live in remarkable times. Two years back, I spent some time in personal retreat over my 30th birthday thinking about what I wanted to put my major life energy into. I had one book with me—Ron Glossop’s World Federation, passed to me by a friend. The relationship he described between community, law, governance, and eventual peace made immediate sense to me. I was baffled how I had studied politics at Cambridge and had never once heard anyone talk about stronger global governance as a desirable emergence. I was convinced that the ideas Glossop discussed needed to be part of a broader conversation about how we are doing life in the global era.
Since then, I have been meeting and dialoguing with all sorts of civic and thought leaders—see http://beingjackbutler.com/web-show-new/ for my podcasts and video interviews. I have seen how business is changing from owner-dominated decision-making to holacracy, a very decentralized constitution for a company where people are much more empowered, vested interests are marginalized, and constitutional updates are easy to adopt. Global governance could usefully draw from this approach. The more people are used to this way of being in their day-to-day work, the more the world of distant representatives is unsatisfying as the sole method of government at any scale. I have seen how culturally creative young people are not watching TV or buying newspapers. They are producing and consuming media on Facebook and Youtube. This has profound implications for civic life and participation. Either/or politics is losing its appeal. Millennials may both be more right wing and left wing than you! They want minimum government interference in their entrepreneurial projects; but those projects are often done, not for profit, but on behalf of the community. The age of both/and integral politics is dawning.
With the recent establishment of the new 17 global goals by the UN, we are starting to see the beginnings of the cultural conditions for a world where everyone is included and where we can have more effective ways of handling all-humanity issues.
We are squarely in the global era now, not the post world-war two era. The global era is the age of ubiquitous social media, the transcendence of controlled mass media, instant internet connectivity, instant coverage of social movements and political events, the largest-ever global civil society organization (Avaaz, 44 million members and growing fast), global Facebook feeds, emerging integral consciousness, flat organizational hierarchies, countries selling e-residency (Estonia), self-organizing systems, the decentralized possibilities of blockchain technology (what Bitcoin runs on), re-imagination of social value creation (impact investing, e.g.) and a global generation committing to have no one go hungry (e.g., the Global Citizen Festival pledges and Global Poverty Project). This is not an apathetic generation. They may just be apathetic about the old means—joining a party, climbing the company ladder, believing in traditional institutions. The savviest millennials are not hankering after corporate jobs, they want to set up projects which make a difference in the developing world, where they do ‘with’ (and not ‘to’) the communities they serve. Life scripts have never been so moldable and self-authoring, and our globally intertwined fates have never been so close to so many’s hearts.
Cultural change often needs to proceed political change—there needs to be a cultural constituency before an effective political constituency can form. It’s forming. Google Trends shows that searching for ‘global citizen’ has gone up 20 times since 2007. Whilst some may descry that absent a legal status “global citizenship” doesn’t mean anything, I would suggest that the cultural identity is hugely important, growing and is a necessary precursor to the political identity.
My sense is that stronger global governance can be driven forward by the millennial generation but it needs to integrate the new ways of doing life: peer networks, decentralized information flow, and participatory civic technology amongst other things.
World federalists have an important part of the puzzle—global law is where we need go to. But I think we need to be open to how that looks as it’s not just parliamentary decision-making. It is also opt-in protocols at the individual and local level. The entire internet runs on TCP/IP protocols (how your computer talks to the net)—even, I’m told, in North Korea. That’s a global standard which everyone has gotten behind. Linux underpins a huge share of operating systems. It’s a global open-source project, which everyone can contribute to, simply if they have enough domain-specific knowledge. And it’s completely transparent, so it’s fairer and safer. It’s much easier to create viruses for Microsoft than Linux because of the decentralized and responsive intelligence of the Linux community.
My contention therefore is that the vision I read about in Glossop won’t unfold in the way it lays it out. It has to evolve with the times. There will be some disruptive emergence. So I wouldn’t hold the “federalism” part too tightly, if we can innovate something better. And especially if it’s not a brand that appeals to the generation most likely to enact some of the ideas you most care about. Maybe we will move from representative democracy to some more direct participation via our smart devices. Maybe we will have liquid democracy where I can give policy-specific revocable proxies to people I trust. Maybe our politicians will be bound by transparent dashboards aggregating the big data and views of all constituents. Maybe law will democratize to the extent where everyone can form easy protocols and opt-in agreements, just like if you buy my app on your iPhone and agree to my terms. Maybe New Zealand’s idea to introduce a global impact visa will become a new norm and talented social entrepreneurs will be able to work anywhere in the world. Maybe location independence, fueled by Airbnb and the sharing economy, will become the new norm within a set of global cultural norms which I can already feel when I meet traveling millennials.
My point is the world is changing exponentially fast. The more self-authoring people are, the less they look to representatives to solve their problems. The biggest problems in the world are arguably mostly being tackled and led by civil society, not governments. Both have their part to play. So it’s important to see the changes that are happening and align with them, not miss them because they may not look like how we solved problems in the 1950s. In the integral age, we need to see the value of both unity and decentralization. As humanity grows to be a self-organizing system, better decisions are often made by the group (think Linux) than a small group of elected officials (think Microsoft’s centralized security team). If we are about maximizing the greatest collective potential, presumably a fairly central aim of civics and politics, then we need to bring everyone’s talent into our biggest collective concerns. That is, global citizens need to participate maximally in their global life. I am curious how federalism can best adapt to that and capture the imagination and genius of the most informed generation ever to live.
*Want to join this conversation? We just held the first Global Evolution Camp in Oakland on 8th October. This was a gathering to bring our personal, cultural, and global evolution into one place. The purpose of these camps is to talk both about how we are with each other, how we want to run the world, and where we can explore the identity, strategies. and advocacy of being a global citizen. The Global Evolution Camp will be coming on the road, so feel free to register your interest here (www.globalevolutionyourcity.eventbrite.com), join my mailing list here (www.beingjackbutler.com/contact-2) or connect with me via facebook (www.facebook.com/beingjackbutler)
NOTE: The Democratic World Federalists are committed to expressing a wide range of views on the vision of creating a peaceful, just, and sustainable world through a democratic World Federation. The views expressed in this article represents that commitment and not necessarily our official position.