A Response to “Narrow Nationalism” — A Message from the President

By Bob Flax, Ph.D.
DWF President

Although our disclaimer, found at the bottom of most of our articles, states that the views expressed in the article are not necessarily our position, I’m taking the extra step of writing to add further clarification to this with regard to the article Narrow Nationalism or World Citizenship and Global Conscience? which we published in the November edition of DWF News.  I feel that the article may convey certain misimpressions that do not reflect the overall policy of the Democratic World Federalists, so I wish to make that clear.  Here are a few of the specifics that I am referring to:

First, several statements in the article may give the false impression that the DWF dislikes or is somehow against the British people.  That is not the case.  We understand that the Brexit vote had many complexities, with the youth and politicians overwhelmingly voting to stay in the EU.  In addition, there are many World Federalists in Great Britain who are actively working for both regional and global federation.  It would be as much of a folly to lump all British citizens together as it would be to lump all US citizens together, and as an organization, the DWF understands that.  However, we also believe that many of the attitudes conveyed during the debate leading up to the Brexit vote, such as a fear and demonization of foreigners, and a lack of recognizing our interdependence in this globalized world, are the very attitudes that help fuel our most pressing problems; from war and global violence to the myriad of social justice issues we face. I imagine that the new British Prime Minister and all those who voted to leave the EU believe that they are doing what is best for their country, however, we feel they are sorely misguided.

Second, Prime Minister May’s comment, “But if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what citizenship means” is, of course, technically correct.  There is no legally recognized basis for the status of “world citizen”.  However, as the GlobeScan survey shows, that attitude is being supplanted by what might be called an emerging “global consciousness”.  With the globalization of major systems such as communications, transportation, and commerce, it is only a matter of time until democracy is also brought to the global level.  In many ways, much of the next generation is already there.

Third, the article points out that many people at Donald Trump’s rallies shout “USA! USA! To boast of their belief that their country is exceptional.”  At DWF we recognize that the idea of American exceptionalism is expressed in many quarters, and even though many of us disagree with most of Trump’s policies, we agree with him in the futility of the endless wars that we find ourselves embroiled in.  We welcome his people to join us.    

Finally, the general tone of the article may give the misimpression that the DWF is intolerant of other points of view.  We are not.  In a democratic world it is important to hear all points of view, but also point out the harm that may be caused by acting on them.  We are also happy to receive your comments in response to these articles.  Thank you for your interest.

A Message from the President: Is the World Suffering from a Case of “Arrested Development?”

Bob Flax, DWF President

by Bob Flax, Ph.D.

Psychologists and other mental health professionals frequently use developmental models to help explain the causes of psychopathology; I find such models to offer a useful analogue to the developmental problems faced by humanity as a whole, which in many respects is also pathological. The idea goes something like this: From cradle to grave, we all go through stages as we grow and mature. If we get our basic needs met along the way, we move to the next stage and grow into healthy, thriving adults. But if we get “stuck” at a certain stage, as a result of issues such as trauma, we become symptomatic, and may develop any one of a host of “mental illnesses.”

Many theorists incorporated this notion into their work. Perhaps the most well known is Sigmund Freud, whose psychosexual model of development postulated that we move though a series of stages he called the oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital. Getting stuck at any stage would lead to pathological symptoms. Modifying Freud’s view, Erik Erickson created a psychosocial model that described eight psychosocial crises that we must navigate throughout the life span. Again, not advancing successfully through these crises leads to psychological difficulties.

Family therapists have come up with a developmental model as well, called The Family Life Cycle. According to that model, we begin as unattached, young adults. This leads to joining through marriage, a family with young children, a family with adolescents, launching the children and moving on, and finally, the family in later life. The idea here is parallel to the individual models; if the family gets stuck at a particular stage, as in the case of a parent being unable to let go and allow his/her child to move out of the house and begin his/her adult life, the entire family may become dysfunctional.

Organizational theorists have created developmental models as well. From new start-up through organizational maturity to bureaucracy and eventually organizational death, these stages have been articulated, along with the “systems pathology” that can erupt at each stage.

Might we be seeing the same phenomena on an international level? Might today’s wars, climate change, global economic calamities, and social injustice be a symptom of a global developmental arrest? Just like an individual, family or organization, humanity itself has gone through a number of “developmental stages.” Starting out as hunter-gatherers, we organized ourselves in clans and tribes. With the advent of agriculture, we moved into villages. This led to towns, cities, and eventually empires. Historians credit the Treaty of Westphalia, which in 1648 ended the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, as the beginning of our modern nation-state system. Although globalization has slowly been eroding the notion of absolute sovereignty, we’ve been operating under an international political system that was conceived of 367 years ago. Perhaps we are clinging to something outdated . . . and paying the price. It seems clear that our greatest challenges cannot be solved by any nation or any group of nations. We all have to pull together as a planet. But the institutions and system of treaties we’ve created at this stage of global development come up inadequate. A global, democratic, federal union of nations might be just the step needed to resolve these issues and bring humanity into its next stage of development.


. . . click HERE to read the next DWF News article, The End of a Unipolar World? . . .