PRAGUE: Identity and sovereignty are often discussed nowadays. But what do they actually mean? Both probably consist of feelings that a community can only be its true self when it can be so without hindrance – in essence, when a community can decide its own fate.
Today’s talk about identity and sovereignty is often rather gloomy. Both are allegedly endangered: by an EU that wishes to assimilate “us” as much as possible; by the European Commission with its standards; by NATO, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; by the United Nations; by foreign capital; by Western ideologies; by Eastern mafias; by American influence; by Asian or African immigration; and by God knows what else.
Some of these concerns may contain a rational core. Yet they all derive from a traditional misconception – the belief that upholding character, identity or sovereignty is not principally the task of a community or a people but is something left in the control of others; that is, left to those who would attempt to deprive “us” of our identity, or at least to weaken it. I do not think, however, that the world’s main concern is to find ways to rob people of their identity and sovereignty. Respect for any nation’s unique character; the manner of its development; and, the degree to which a community decides its fate, is determined primarily by those living within it.
How is this fate determined? It depends on whether a people close themselves off in hope that the various winds of this world will pass them by; or, whether a nation takes the opposite tack and conducts itself as true inhabitants of this continent and of this planet, that is, as people engaged with the world and who assume their share of responsibility for it. All humanity is faced by this crucial dilemma: to silently watch a suicidal self-propulsion of our civilization; or to become active participants in the maintenance of global public assets, including the most precious one of all – our planet and its biosphere – of which we are a part.