November 22, 2012
Back in Romania there is a lot of talk these days on regions generated by a project to federalize the country. It’s complex and has to do with development, financing and to be honest ethnicity. Ethnicity as criteria, even a diluted and non-direct criteria is a mistake in this writer’s opinion, but that is a whole different thing altogether.
What caught my interest is this new wave of region policy debate that has inflated the Romanian media. I advocate for a regional level federalization of the EU, and that is no secret. Go back through my articles and you will even find a motivation – not a very complex one, but a simple and reduced motivation, that is easily understandable – the rest I’m keeping for my PhD.
But regions – Alex Ghita, a fellow planner, has a text on understanding regions that provides the basic ABC anyone needs to operate with these sometimes complicated entities. My interest however lies beyond these operational criteria, and here is my statement:” Regions need to become the working horse of the federal construction”.
And it has to do with identity. At some point, while debating direct democracy and how to implement that closer to the individual and inherently the basic level to apply direct democracy to, I came about to defining identity and belonging. Where does identity meet that social urge of the individual to belong?
So I started at a basic level – family – and moved up – neighborhood, ethnic group, city, county/ land/ region all the way to country, EU and even further to inhabitant of planet Earth. It might seem like taking it too far, put imagine these in the form of a pyramid, with family at the base, and Earth at the top. While all levels are important to defining identity and character (we are talking at a large scale – not necessarily particular individuals but a median representation of the individual) some are more permissive than others.
The question soon arose – where in this pyramid can we intervene to change identity? To change it successfully? Country level for example is permissive to change, easily enough, but the individuals who change that element are still defined by the previous levels so strong that you get to a point where a nationality based micro-communities emerges in the new country. The link is not therefore lost, it just changes location.
Family is governed by blood lines, and it can be diluted but not defeated. The neighborhood creates a certain element but not as strong in EU as in the US. The mobility of the individual today also challenges this level, and therefore this level of identity is fleeting as is determined purely by the socio-economic environment at a given point in time.
You can’t attack the ethnic group – in more than one way this is as powerful as the family connection and it has to do with blood lines also. The city, the land, the region are extrapolations of the neighborhood. And so is state identity (as in nation state), which is very different from nationality.
So as you read this pyramid it becomes obvious that the connections achieved through this type of strata is quite hard to change, of modify with long lasting consistency. The only vulnerable point that can be easily modified and diluted is that of the neighborhood. But we already stated that this is not a strong point in the pyramid.
We are therefore in front of a challenge – we need to change a superior level, but we can obviously intervene at a lower, much basic level.
I have stated that what I see as viable, economically and socially, and especially identity wise is a federation of regions. Regions that manifest a role similar to that of neighborhoods.
Therefore let us imagine a new pyramid – and let’s start at the top – Earth, Europe, Federalized Europe, Region – and here is the kicker:
The neighborhood is too small to work with. Group neighborhoods and get a city. Use a similar principle with the rural. You get what we already have today, cities, communes, villages, etc. Allow them to associate freely. Create units and group them in regions – you can use historical regions, economic regions, cultural regions – but make them all work by the same rules, following the same principles.
And complete the pyramid – Earth, Europe, Federalized Europe, Region, regional units created by free association, cities, villages, neighborhoods, families.
Free association is important – people have to work together, understand each other and collaborate. It’s true; it will take years to build them up. It shall not happen overnight, but once there they will be strong and they will have a strong identity, because people develop that identity by free association. It’s not going to be something that everybody will notice, at first, nor something extremely strong and undeniable. But give it a couple of generations, support it through education and it will work.
No one has to give up anything, but for imaginary lines drawn on maps that have nothing to do with the territory. People and their interactions, their activities, that creates the identity of the territory. That is what we must uphold and nurture. Give up your long disputed borders Europe and start building.