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Maine Voices: We need to form a global community to have national security

Addressing COVID and other threats means caring about others and our common Earth and recognizing that most others do as well.

By Joseph de Rivera Special to the Press Herald (Portland, Maine 04/17/2020)


BRUNSWICK — The current pandemic reminds us of how interconnected we are. A sneeze in China carries a virus that spreads all over the globe. A change in the supply of a mineral in the Congo affects cellphone markets worldwide. Fires in Australia have ominous implications for the future of forests in the American Rocky Mountains. We have never been so interdependent. Are we living in a global community?

Not yet. Persons who live in communities are aware of their interdependence and cooperate to address their common concerns. Persons in communities know about each other and care for others, not just themselves. If we lived in a global community, we would care about others and our common Earth and know that most others do as well. Instead, our most powerful nations are in competition with one another and many persons do not realize that their national security requires caring for those in other nations. A recent executive order notes that “the United States does not view space as a global commons.” Given such attitudes, is forming a global community a realistic goal?

It had better be. We cannot control global warming, global diseases and global weaponry without international organizations. And the work of the U.N. Secretariat, the World Health Organization and the U.N. Security Council requires the cooperation that occurs only in communities where persons care about each other.

Yet living in community with 8 billion persons who have hundreds of different languages and beliefs and live in 195 different nations is possible only if we change who we think we are.

We think we humans are a species of individuals who live in groups in the manner of other primates. Instead, we need to realize we are a species of persons who are inextricably related to one another in emotional bonds within communities. All humans, despite individual, national and religious differences, both love and fear the others whom they depend upon. All resent injustice, and all thrive when the care that persons have for one another overcomes their fear of one another

Fear often seems to overcome our caring. The conflict within communities often leads to struggles for power and the creation of states and systems of domination that struggle for control at the expense of community. When people from one national or religious group come into conflict with those from another group, fear tends to dominate. When persons meet face to face, they can share their fears and community caring is restored. However, political leaders represent group interests rather than community solidarity, so fear dominates and groups become locked into power struggles.

If we realize that we are fundamentally interconnected members of communities and only secondarily discrete individuals in groups, we can be open to those from other communities so our caring for them overcomes our fear of them. And although we cannot love billions of persons, we can realize that they are members of a global community of persons who deserve to be treated with justice. We do not have to have a government that enacts boycotts, plays war games and spends nearly 20 times more on its military than on its diplomacy and aid. We can insist that our government cooperate with others to fight global diseases, global warming and the spread of weapons and ensure the fairness of global markets. We can enact trade agreements that protect workers and enact a tax on monetary exchanges to prevent market exploitation. We can encourage dictators to work for the benefit of their own people rather than ally ourselves with those who reduce our own fears.

Communities are held together by rituals that help persons realize their common identity. In the United States we have a national anthem and celebrate the Fourth of July. A global community will need new rituals. We need a way to join together in a ritual that mourns our common dead, celebrates persons all over the world who are caring for their sick and honors the global research for ways to control the virus that is affecting us all. Let us have our caring for others overcome our fear for ourselves so we can form the global community we need.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joseph de Rivera of Brunswick is an emeritus research professor of psychology at Clark University.


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