All Wars are Local
Mapping the Ideological Landscape of the Two Global Forces
Fascism, A Global Problem
One of the more interesting topics of discussion today concerns contemporary fascism. The ghost of Hitler and Nazi Germany haunts any discussion about fascism. No one wants to be thought of as a fascist in that mold. So, the accusation of being a fascist is the kind of argument that is intended to end the discussion and deliver the final blow of disgust to one’s opponent. We don’t want to talk about fascism in practice, but only fascism as a symbol of derision. Here’s an example.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has referred to Ukraine as a fascist country. Whether he is correct or not is a topic for some other time. But let’s say for illustration's sake that he is correct. Does that mean that all the nations that support Ukraine are also fascist? Is then NATO a fascist alliance? Is the US a fascist state? Is the EU? Of course, most of us will think this is a ridiculous discussion to have.
The basis for a real discussion of the differences between nations and the future direction of the world is not currently possible. We are stuck with 19th and 20th-century ideologies that have not been relevant for a generation. Regardless of whether you see yourself as a liberal, a moderate, a conservative or a person of the far left or far right the philosophical ground is missing. We are living in the twilight zone of fascism as a global ideology.
Stepping Into the Twenty-First Century
The reality that we should see is that we now have what could be called fascism of the left and fascism of the right. They have different purposes, yet similar methodologies. Both build on negative cultural conditions within a nation with the aim of creating an authoritarian regime. Even Hitler’s blood and soil ideology was used as a negative wedge. Fascism, therefore, is a means for the concentration of power for the control of a nation
There is a parallel example of this morphing of an old idea, fascism, into a pattern of governing. This example is the ideology of libertarianism. This movement focuses on the freedom of the individual in resistance to government control. There is a libertarianism of the right as well as a libertarianism of the left. Both rise from very differing conceptions of freedom from, freedom for, and freedom to. Both would oppose the imposition of authoritarian government control, whether it is controlled from the left or from the right.
These two examples illustrate the Two Global Forces. At the extremes, there is fascism that appeals to those who are focused on the global force of centralized institutions of governance and finance. And libertarianism appeals to those like the idea of limited government that could be described as the global force of decentralized networks of relationships. We have been watching these two historic movements through the lens of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the Freedom Convoy in Canada, and the difference in how the individual states in the US managed the coronavirus pandemic.
If you step back to listen and observe our leaders in the midst of these crises, you can see that their orientation is negative and fragile. Negative because they intuitively feel that a catastrophic defeat of their policy agenda is always at hand. Fragile because to accept responsibility for their failures is to court disaster at the next election. It is this weakness displayed by our global leaders that concerns me.
The Two Global Forces Transition
As I have worked on the Two Global Forces idea, I began to diagram what I saw.
There are three principal differences between the two forces.
Institutional Culture vs. Relational Culture
The difference between an institutional culture and a relational culture is the kind of human interaction they each foster. It is the difference between relationships that transactional in nature and those that are transformational. The transactional form focuses on institutional processes. The transformational form focuses on human development within a communal context.
Centralized Control vs Decentralized Control
There are two differences between a centralized power structure and a decentralized power structure.
One is that the concentration of power creates vulnerabilities at the top of the organizational chart. Place a person with the wrong qualifications and a missing ethical core and the organization or the nation suffers.
In a decentralized structure, the focus is less on the organizational structure and more on the social climate that is shared between people. Instead of a person at the top of the organization who holds power, there are facilitators of the work that is shared between members of the network.
The second difference concerns the nature of authority and accountability. Lord Acton’s epigram, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”, is relevant here. In a centralized power structure, the temptation is to treat rules, by-laws, reporting structures as optional. In a governmental context, when the rule of law is given less consideration, then the vulnerabilities of the centralized system become more pronounced.
In a decentralized context, accountability is relational. Within the Circle of Impact model, the relationship dimension has equal emphasis as does the organizational structure and the ideas of values and purpose. The quality measure of the relational dimension is the existence of respect, trust, and mutual accountability between the members.
Global Focus vs. Local Focus
If I had never become an organizational consultant, I don’t think I would have seen the significance of the difference between a Global focus versus a Local one. For most of us, the global world exists like a virtual reality game. We open up YouTube or TikTok and watch clips of battle scenes from Ukraine or long lines of trucks rolling down a highway. Can we be certain that we are viewing the real thing? I don’t think we can. Because we cannot be certain that we know why the person who post the video did so. Global awareness is valuable as long as we are capable of distilling a range of images and messages to see a focused, more practical picture.
A global focus can leave us with a sense of detachment and possibly a sense of superiority. We see the images and think we know what was going on. This is rarely true. Because every image or video has a purpose behind its release into the public. If it is not clear, then we can easily be misled. The alternative is to know people in those far-away places so we can actually get the story straight.
War, a Local Problem, From the Streets of Mariupol
Gennadiy Mohnenko is a Ukrainian pastor and rescuer of street children who lives in Mariupol, Ukraine.
From days before the war. And days as the war came to their lives.
As you can see they live in the middle of the war zone. This is not a global war between East and West to them. This is the violence of tanks blowing up the homes of his children. Read this report from Gennadiy about his adopted daughter Vika.
Putin's bastards killed my Daughter in Mariupol.
Today, saving us from the "evil Bandera" and "returning to the Slavic peoples and the Russian world", they shot from a tank at the apartment recently received by Vika, a former orphan.
To the apartment of an orphan, my 27th adopted daughter, from a tank...
Now I`m not very able to reflect... Like many fathers, mothers and children of Ukraine, I just howl in pain... But if I survive, I will tell you a lot...
By the grace of God, Vika's three-year-old son is alive ... He was not there, in the apartment, at that moment .. Forgive Vika that I could not protect you ... I really tried ... Apparently not enough ... See you soon…
This is why all global crises are local ones. Putin and Biden are not under any threat. Trudeau, Macron, and Xi are living out their comfortable lives where the concentration of power grants them the prerogative to send their people to war. Once the concentration of power reaches a certain level, leaders are immune from accountability. Who will prosecute those responsible for the death of Vika, an innocent young woman?
The Difference that Matters Today
A century ago the First World War had ended. Eighty years ago, the United States had just entered the Second World War. Fifty-five years ago, the world was enveloped in a war in Southeast Asia. Thirty years ago the First Gulf War was being fought. The same story of Vika, Gennadiy, and the children of Mariupol was played out in each of those conflicts. The public back home’s connection to what was happening on the ground was minimal. We only knew what the government wanted us to know.
Then 9/11 happened and our perception of the world began to change. Our leaders didn’t change. We changed.
It didn’t matter whether the president was a Republican or a Democrat, they acted the same. As von Clauswitz wrote two centuries ago, “War is politics by other means.” Through our smartphones and social media platforms, we came to see how this is true. We can see what war actually does to local communities. We can see as people post their videos of war to the internet. Even as government mediation of official information continues, we have people like Gennadiy Mohnenko who show us the local effect of global decisions.
As I have followed the war in Ukraine, I have become more convinced that the centralized world of governments and financial institutions is in trouble. Their detachment from people who live in local communities means that they are no longer can be considered the promoters of peace in the world, but of human suffering. Until now, we believed in them because they were our leaders. Now we know that war is always local.
The Two Global Forces are in transition. One is descending to chaos and irrelevancy. The other is just beginning to ascend to be how we in our local communities will learn to lead the world. Now is a good time to choose where you will focus your life.