If there is one lesson that the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing global economic recession have taught us, it is that we live in a world that is so interconnected and inextricably interdependent that it has effectively become a single organism. This is a reality that no amount of denial will change. On the contrary, such denial will only cause us to suffer more intensely. We will be better off if we fully recognize and embrace this reality.
It is worth pondering what acceptance of this reality means. Two thoughts come to mind. The first is that if the world is so interconnected that it is truly akin to a single body, it is futile for any single organ or member to claim that it can go it alone without the support and aid of the rest of the body. Just as it would be nonsensical for the liver to tell the kidneys that it does not care if the kidneys are diseased because it is only concerned with its own health, it is similarly untenable for any nation to tell another nation that its problems are its own and are of no interest to others.
The growing litany of challenges that have been plaguing the world for years — ranging from climate change to the current pandemic — are demonstrating with increasing clarity that in today’s world the advantage of one nation can only be guaranteed by assuring the advantage of the whole world, just as the well-being of any one organ of the body is dependent on the systemic health of the body as a whole. Once we have deeply understood this truth, the next logical step for humanity is to put aside the childish fetish of nationalism and develop new capacities such as consultation, collaboration, and cooperation, worthy of its growing maturity toward unity and the capacity to meet its current needs as a single organism.
The second thought that comes to mind is that while many of our most intractable challenges are global in nature — including climate change, the threat of nuclear war, COVID-19 and other pandemics, global economic recessions, and terrorism, to name a few — and therefore demand global solutions, we find ourselves entirely lacking the collective decision-making and enforcement institutions we so desperately need to effectively tackle these global challenges.
Now, more than ever, we need to have an infrastructure of global governance that includes a world legislature that has democratic legitimacy, allowing for the voices of people of all nations to be properly heard in the context of frank and respectful consultation and a fair and transparent system of decision-making that leads to effective results. Imagine how much better off we would all be during this pandemic if such a system of global governance existed today.
Equally important, however, we need to develop the skill of electing worthy leaders who possess the skills and qualities of character necessary to make service to humanity’s collective interest a prime consideration in all their decisions. This skill is vital to ensure that any new global institutions we create are not subject to abuse.
We can begin to hone this skill of picking fit leaders who are aware of the interconnectedness of our world and our oneness by practicing it in our elections at home. Every time we think about electing a public servant, whether at the local, state, or national level, we should mindfully seek out a person who recognizes that their job is to guarantee the well-being of the people who elect them while also taking into account the collective interests of the community of nations.
Sovaida Ma’ani Ewing is an author, speaker, lawyer, founding director of the Center for Peace and Global Governance (cpgg.org) and member of the Board of Directors of Citizens for Global Solutions Education Fund. Her column is courtesy of PeaceVoice, a program of the Oregon Peace Institute.