World (decentralized) citizenships and the future of humanity
The following text is based on my work with decentralized citizenships.
Over the last ten years, I have been reading literature and writing articles about ideas of world/global/cosmopolitan citizenship. Around three years ago, I became more interested in decentralization regarding cryptocurrencies, blockchains, and self-sovereign identities.
Before getting deeper into decentralization, my intellectual position was that all humans should have one official and legal world citizenship with the same rights, freedoms, and obligations. I still share such visions and ideas regarding world federalism and topics such as the rule of law, economy, security etc. The difference is that today I think that the future is also about decentralized development and human progress, even regarding citizenship. Decentralization is also about pluralism and multiple options regarding human actions and behaviors. Therefore, humans worldwide will have different citizenships for various interests, actions, and communities.
Historically, ideas of being a cosmopolitan or citizen of the world are in several ways as old as being ideas of being a citizen of a certain political community and polity, or what modern humans would call nations. For example, the philosopher Socrates who was a citizen of Athens (Athenian polis = city-state) spoke about himself as a citizen of the world (and one has to note that his awareness of the contemporary world was much more limited compared to modern humans in general). The first “local” citizens in world history lived in contemporary areas of antique Greece and city-states such as Athens, Sparta, and Corinth. Another example of the first citizens in world history was Rome as a republic and empire. The first citizens in our history lived in areas that today are under the control of, for example, Italy, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran.
When it comes to citizenship for me personally, my passport says European Union and Sweden. Legally, I am a citizen of Sweden, and because Sweden is an EU Member State, I also have European citizenship. So far, the EU is the only example worldwide of having “a more real” supranational citizenship, meaning above the national level of governance and institutions, regarding freedoms, rights, and other constitutionalist topics.
Regarding the global level, there is no official world citizenship similar to official sovereign nations. To make the long story short — because humanity, for different reasons, has still not developed sensemaking, awareness, and affection regarding community, solidarity, and identification at the global level. “We” are not living in a United Earth Planet or a galaxy like in the Star Trek show. Also, the current situation is that according to different analyses and estimates as by international institutions such as the World Bank, there are around +- 1 billion people, as in Africa, who do not have long-term legal IDs such as passports or national IDs cards.
For me, when it comes to citizenship, identification, and humanity, I am now working more on ideas of decentralized citizenships — mainly meaning citizenships not belonging to any government and created by decentralized communities, often by using cryptocurrencies. Some of my current thoughts are that decentralized citizenships will enable humans to be liquid and “glocal,” where you can be citizens at different levels and for different purposes.
However, for such development to take place at a larger proportion and with a larger number of humans involved — all individuals who believe in decentralized citizenships, communities, bioregions, network states, and similar need to be very devoted, affectionate and engaged. After all, decentralized citizenships and communities are part of our social world and exist as long as humans believe in such constructs.
Another challenge for decentralized citizenships and communities is when it comes to public institutions and recognition. Humanity still lives in a world of “global apartheid” and is mainly divided into nations but also clans, casts, tribes and other sub-national units. Even when it comes to terms as “global governance”, it often means international decision-making by international institutions and national governments at the global level. Plus, other problems often need longer explanations, such as why and how governments worldwide recognize new nations and states.
Currently, there are 193 UN member states and officially recognized sovereign nations and in its basics and historical context, the idea of the nation-state is that a state exists for a nation, and a nation exists for a state. But at the same time, the political and institutional reality is more complicated because only some UN member states to function as political nations. If you look, for example, at Syria, Lebanon, Bosnia, and India, they are all officially nation-states but more of something else in practice. While for example, all EU-member states are more or less “transnational” regarding how they operate, integrate and cooperate in relation to European legislation, governance and political economy. While for example, in India, which is still officially the largest representative democracy in the world, many people see the polity as a union of states or even as a subcontinental civilization, and not as a single nation.
Also, when it comes to ideas of nationalism, despite all of its power, purpose and influence when it comes to ideas and beliefs, nationalism today is often unrealistic and selective in practice. You may wonder why? Well, partly because the core idea of nationalism throughout history, as today, is that every group of humans should have their own nation. But as mentioned earlier, the UN has 193 member states, not 35749 or 54298.
In, for example, Sweden, the Sami people are recognized as a national minority, and there is even a region-based and democratically elected counseling parliament called Sametinget. Samis also live in Norway, also live in Russia and Finland. However, there is no Sami sovereign nation-state. This situation is also a problem for individuals who are Swedish nationalists and far-right extremists since such individuals, besides being hateful and hostile towards minorities in general, often believe that every group should have its own nation but, at the same time, are not willing to accept that territorial parts of Sweden should be separated from Sweden and given to the Sami community. Or for example, if you are a Russian nationalist who believes that Ukraine belongs to Russia, in your mythological, irrational, disgusting belief, you will face problems with people in certain parts of Russia who want to separate, as in the republics of Tatarstan, Dagestan, and Chechnya.
Thereby, one of the main challenges for decentralized citizenships as with network states, is that the chances of being recognized by the UN system and 193 official national governments are, at the moment, impossible or simply very, very low. Even in the EU, which can be described as a “confederation of nations with certain federalist institutions,” it is hard to create new member states since the EU:s intergovernmental governance system is blocking and preventing it. At the moment, the Belgian government would never recognize Catalonia as a new member state. In contrast, the Spanish government would never recognize Flanders.
This can sound absurd and strange, especially for humans who are very nationalist, state-centric and lack global awareness, but things would have been much easier for humans who want to create decentralized nations if our whole planet Earth was functioning as a world federation (or something like in Star Trek). Because it would be easier for people to organize themselves locally and create new systems such as bioregions, cities, and network states if you respect certain universal values, global legislation and the rural rule of law, global democracy, and economic governance. It will be similar if you look at a federation such as America, where citizens can always try to create a new state if they accept federal laws and other factors. So, for example, Puerto Rico could become America’s new state as long as they get recognition from the American federal government and accept American federal legislation, standards, and systems.
Despite all of the mentioned challenges, problems, and risks for decentralized initiatives, it is important to understand and have the awareness that we are also living in a world full of global problems, risks, and challenges. Because right now, we are all living in a worldwhere there are certain problems regardless you’re in North Korea, Tanzania or Canada. There is no national sovereignty regarding climate change or the effects of artificial intelligence, or how terrorists and transnational crime networks operate. Also, nations are, in many cases, too big for certain things and too small for other ones, meaning that the future should also be about “glocal sovereignty,” where more sovereignty is made at both the world level and local levels as bioregions, cities, towns, villages, communities. Challenges are global, while identifications are mainly local and/or national, so there is a mismatch. As humans, we live in a world of a large existential, social, and institutional “mismatch” between global problems and local identifications.
One of the main things with decentralization is that it enables people to be more global — communities, villages, and cities could be connected to the global level and between each other regarding governance, cooperation and democracy in order to solve different problems and challenges. For example, when many people think about climate change, many people think about national governments and international (intergovernmental) cooperation. But it is even more important to local-level actions and to create glocal institutional relations, interhuman cooperation and community engagement when it comes to climate change. Because humans need to practice “ecological citizenship” where we live, governments cannot solve everything independently. It’s easier for people to get more connected and try to solve problems by experimenting and innovating by co-creating and cooperating in smaller units, thereby learning from each other.
I also see decentralized citizenships as a way to enable humans to be liquid, meaning that depending on different views, one can be an active citizen at various levels. In my case, I can be a citizen of my municipality of Taeby, a citizen of the whole Stockholm region, a citizen of Sweden, of Europe, and a citizen of the world. I can also have different decentralized citizenships depending on my interests. For example, I’m active in the SEEDS community because of my interests in climate transformation and ecological development.
In general, such development is about the potential to empower individuals and foster a more inclusive, diverse, and dynamic global society. With decentralized citizenships, one’s identity becomes less tied to a specific nation-state or geographic region, opening up opportunities for people to connect with like-minded individuals and communities worldwide. This could increase cooperation, innovation, and understanding across cultures, ultimately contributing to a more interconnected and harmonious global society.
Another advantage of decentralized citizenships is that they can adapt more to our rapidly changing world. As technology advances and the world becomes more interconnected, traditional notions of citizenship tied to nation-states may become less relevant. Decentralized citizenships can evolve to meet individuals’ and communities’ changing needs and interests more effectively than centralized systems. At the same time, as individuals join multiple citizenships based on their interests and values, there is a risk that some groups may become more privileged than others, leading to social problems and tensions. Promoting inclusive, decentralized policies and practices as regarding welfare and security is crucial to avoid this, ensuring all individuals have access to resources and opportunities regardless of their background or circumstances.
Furthermore, in my view, there are two general scenarios regarding the effects of and interactions between decentralized citizenship ideas with the current existence and practice of nations, nationality, and nation-states:
- More people see decentralized citizenships as complementary and co-existing with the current system. More of us keep our national or other public citizenships while having decentralized citizenships at the same time.
- A larger number of humans have started abandoning and replacing public citizenships and nationalities with decentralized citizenships and communities. However, this scenario is less likely to happen before the 2040s for different reasons.
When it comes to both scenarios. It is important to encourage dialogue, cooperation and understanding between decentralized communities and national governments, emphasizing the need for cooperation and mutual respect. That can be done for example, by decentralized communities cooperating with governments and the UN regarding climate problems, poverty, security, etc. By promoting dialogue and partnership between decentralized communities and older public institutions, humans can use decentralized citizenships to create a more just, equitable, and sustainable world for all.
Additionally, for example, the legal and regulatory frameworks surrounding decentralized citizenships must be carefully considered. Decentralized communities may face taxation, property rights, and other legal issues. Governments, policymakers, and legal experts must work together to develop citizenship while preserving individual rights and freedoms. This includes the development of new legal frameworks, dispute-resolution mechanisms, and communication channels that can accommodate the complexities of decentralized citizenships.
One of the most significant advantages of this approach is the ability to create more personalized and relevant forms of governance, allowing individuals to engage with communities that align with their values and priorities. This increases civic engagement and creates a more vibrant, liquid, and participatory democracy. Another potential benefit of decentralized citizenships is the opportunity for innovation and experimentation in governance. As more people become citizens of multiple communities, they can bring new ideas and approaches from one community to another, stimulating innovation in governance models and practices. This could lead to more effective and responsive systems that can better meet the needs of their citizens.
In general, the future of global citizenship is heading towards decentralization, with individuals holding multiple citizenships across various communities and interest groups. While this shift offers exciting possibilities for a more inclusive, diverse, and dynamic global society, it also presents challenges that must be addressed. By working together and embracing the potential of decentralized citizenships, humans can create a more interconnected, harmonious, and innovative world that benefits everyone.
The emergence of decentralized citizenships presents a unique opportunity to reimagine global citizenship in a more inclusive, diverse, and dynamic manner. By embracing this new paradigm, humans can create a world where individuals are empowered to engage with the communities that resonate with their values, promoting greater civic engagement, global cooperation, and innovation. At the same time, addressing the challenges associated with this shift is crucial, ensuring that the transition towards decentralized citizenships benefits all humans for a life in a cooperative, sustainable and safer world society.
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