The Expansion of Group Identities: From the Village to the Globe

For most of history, the far away problems occupied relatively small spaces in the minds of the average person. The challenges facing the village, city-state, or empire hundreds of miles away had little impact on our ancestor’s tight-knit community that faced challenges of its own: drought, crime, disputes with neighboring communities, a poor crop yield, etc. Naturally, as these communities grew in population and area, our sense of community grew alongside them to extend our sympathies beyond our village or town to include our state or country. Whereas once a person a hundred miles away was no more than a stranger, a time arrived when they elevated to the status of “countryman” or fellow citizen. Eventually the nationality of an individual became the highest delineator between peoples, whereas before it might only be one’s home town.

The Trend Toward Multinational Associations

As nations grew larger, stronger, and wider-reaching, associations of nations have formed. The obvious 20th century example is the European Union, which effectively acts as a limited government over multiple European nations. While national identity is still alive in Europe, it is easier than ever to assert the Brit, or the Italian, or the Pole first as a European and secondly as their individual national identities. This is a result of several factors, including the EU, NATO alliances, large-scale immigration amongst European and surrounding nations, various treaties, international corporations, and the explosion of communication technologies. The Russian-Ukrainian war has made this multi-national identity even more stark as the lines thicken between NATO and BRICS nations.

The logical trajectory of the world is toward fewer sovereign powers; the ultimate extrapolation points toward the infamous idea of the “one world” government where all are subjugated by a single ruling power. However, such an end is not inevitable, or perhaps even likely. The rise of former superpowers, if extrapolated far enough, indicated global domination by a single power, only to find that such empires (e.g. the Roman Empire) crumbled to populate the world again with many divided powers.

The idea of a one world government has not gone out of fashion , particularly with the 21st century’s corporate, political, and elite infatuation with globalization. The 21st century is perfectly situated for the next evolution in group identity, beyond the national identity. Globalist attitudes have been sown by three primary and coinciding factors: 1) communications technologies, 2) religious decline, and 3) political expediency.

1. Communications Tech: The Real Border-Killer

By https://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/d0/01/2df7a125ded44e6ba72aa0501536.jpgGallery: https://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/V0025510.htmlWellcome Collection gallery (2018-03-28): https://wellcomecollection.org/works/ky7fnd9t CC-BY-4.0, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36575905

No one denies modern communications technologies have transformed the world forever. The internet connected the world more intimately than a physical border, opening the flood gates for people on one side of the globe to share ideas, media, and a common space with people on the other side of the globe. Further, cell phones ensured that everyone had instant access to global information and lines of communication at all times and places. Virtual spaces like Twitter and Facebook emerged to serve as the new town squares for society, where people gathered to debate, make “friends”, sell goods, share information, and argue – a lot. In these social media apps, everyone with access to the platform is imbued with a basic citizenship-of-sorts in a virtual space without borders. Here, it matters little whether the man or woman behind the screen is American, Chinese, Indian, or Brazilian.

This gathering of virtual persons naturally leads to greater awareness of other cultures that, whether consciously or unconsciously, sows a globalist attitude that displaces patriotism. A common appreciation for all mankind is a good thing, but an extreme is reached when citizens invert the appropriate order of allegiance. We should communicate, understand, and aid people far away if we can. However, such global-mindedness cannot displace one’s duty first to one’s closest neighbors, i.e. one’s fellow citizens. Otherwise, one’s primary community falls apart. The virtual world can and has been weaponized to sabotage nations through social unrest, scandal, and psy-ops. American self-effacement is in vogue in the young 2020s, and it does no good to anyone. This is not to be confused antagonism to an unjust national leadership – some governments should be reformed, but only when there lies a moral imperative to do so.

The internet has enabled us to worry over problems far beyond ourselves and thereby accelerated globalization. A pre-symptom of this global-mindedness is witnessed in U.S. election cycles. The internet’s acceleration of globalization and the unfettered growth of federal powers have resulted in a minimization of local elections in deference to federal elections. This is a stepping stone in elevating the common man’s worries from his immediate community’s issues to national issues. Now, the common man’s worries are transitioning from those of his country to those of the globe.

2. Religious Zealotry Without Religion

By I, Luc Viatour, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3726648

The underpinnings of the globalist attitude are inherently religious, in its most generic sense. The cratering of traditional religious beliefs over the past five decades left a cavernous expanse in the neglected but vital area of personal meaning. This secret crisis brewed throughout several wars, 9/11, the 2008 financial meltdown, and continues festering beneath the global strife we see today. It is particularly dangerous because it is one societies have rarely faced; its end is unknown. It is quiet, unnoticeable, gradual, even viral in a way. Our modern civilization’s lack of meaning results in real pain, death, and destruction, too.

Because traditional religious belief has waned, the meaning gap has been filled with a new “religion” in which everyone seeks to broadly and incoherently to “make an impact on the world.” This religion mobilizes its adherents to look beyond themselves and often beyond their neighbors to seek problems in the world in need of fixing. This activist attitude often trends toward a globalist attitude, keeping the attention of the person always far outside themselves.

If the problem identified by such activism is too small, it risks being solved and revealing the God-shaped hole lurking beneath the surface. Hence, the problems identified by the devoted activist must always be just too large to ever truly solve, be it climate change, deforestation in a far-off country, poverty, or to generically aid some ever-underprivileged group. There’s a reason non-profits always aim a little higher than their means: solving the problem would put themselves out of business. Real activism should seek its own extinction, and hence cannot serve as the meaning for one’s life.

Nonetheless, this tendency to aim a little high in activist goals naturally causes activists to evolve into globalists. The local issues risk being solved; hence, the woes of the world must be carried by those who would make it their meaning. In summary, the vacuum of traditional religion has been filled by a new religion of activism, which puts global attitudes front and center.

3. A Game of Politicking

By Cesare Maccari – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80023891

A common complaint is that politicians seek power. Perhaps I am too optimistic about human motivations to think this “power” is the mere exertion of one’s will of another human being. What I think is most often meant by “power” is wealth, the most practical form of power in that it gives us the ability to obtain goods and services we desire. The loftier form of power which politicians and business elites seek after wealth is to make the world according to their vision. The result is an infatuation of those in moderate political or administrative power to pursue an influence on the broader world – beyond the actual communities they live in or administer over. What perhaps began as philanthropic, the ego can all too easily transform to tyranny and theater that serve at the altar of globalization.

Globalization is a useful trend for anyone in politics, just as it is useful for activist groups. First, campaigning on distant problems has innate benefits. 1. The focus on problems far away insulates leadership from wayward effects of their policies. 2. The problems always persist, and hence must continually, eternally be solved. This allows infinite political action to promise on the campaign trail.

The focus of politicians on global problems then naturally leads a nation’s citizens to read, think, argue, and worry over these global problems that often never touch their daily lives, thereby forcing global issues into the mind of the citizen.

Renewing the Village

21st century communications, a religious quest for worldly influence, and clever politics have accelerated our adoption of a group identity beyond the village and the nation and into the global theater. Despite globalism’s dystopian potential, we cannot return to a time where the globe is less connected by the internet; traditional religion remains on the decline in the developed nations; politicians will forever play games. However, whether you live in a “village” or on the global stage may still remain in your power. You can still be a force within your local community and work to solve the tangible issues that affect the lives of you, your family, and your neighbors. By reinvigorating the spirit of your local community, the proper hierarchy of identity (village, nation, and globe) may be corrected and a vibrant village life renewed.

Published by Christian Poole

Catholic | Father | Husband | Founder of ThinkingWest .com

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