(Photo courtesy of theworldismycountry.com)
By David Gallup
A New Year’s Parable
The massive Palace stood as a fortress alongside the River Seine. The edifice of power was built, stone upon stone, carrying an aura of ceaselessness as it rose high into the sky. Bronze statues of the gods held guard.
Now the national leaders gathered in the Palace, squabbling over the interests of their subjects, would-be citizens. In the grand meeting hall, the leaders gave selfish speech after selfish speech, sheathed in eloquence, about what they demanded for their own. Outside the chamber, the voice of the world’s people, themselves, was mute. Though not for long.
With typewriter, bible and sleeping bag in tow, Garry Davis arrived at the Palace, which had been declared “international territory” by the powers that be. For seven days, undocumented and undaunted, he camped on the steps of the Palace to the delight of the press and the world public. One calm and peaceful individual outside, in stark contrast to the hundreds of bombastic and belligerent national leaders inside.
The presence of “Le petit homme” (the little man) was a thorn in the leaders’ side. How could they continue their pretense of “maintaining peace” between nations when one stateless individual could reveal their impotence? How could they help all of the world’s citizens, when they did not even know how to assist one individual world citizen? One of the highest officials representing the nations declared, “Davis is a world baby. Our Charter does not foresee being a nursemaid. States may join our organization. Diapered citizens may not!” The embarrassed nations forcefully and illegally removed Davis from the grounds of the Palace and attempted to put him back into the nation-state box.
This was Davis’s second stand against the stalwart nation-state system, the first being his renunciation of exclusive citizenship to one nation, in favor of an inclusive embrace of all of humanity.
Time and again throughout his life, Davis spoke truth to power. Just a few months after camping out at the nations’ Palace, Davis and 20 compatriots interrupted another session of squabbling national leaders. This was Davis’s third stand against the “divide and conquer” power elite. From the balcony, this time inside the Palace, Davis implored, “I interrupt you in the name of the people of the world not represented here. Though my words may be unheeded, our common need for world law and order can no longer be disregarded. We, the people, want the peace which only a world government can give.”
He continued, “The sovereign states you represent divide us and lead us to the abyss of Total War. I call upon you no longer to deceive us by this illusion of political authority. I call upon you to convene forthwith a World Constituent Assembly to raise the standard around which all can gather, the standard of true peace, of One Government for One World.”
“And if you fail us in this, stand aside, for a People’s World Assembly will arise from our own ranks to create such a government. We can be served by nothing less.”
Attempting to free himself and humanity from the shackles of the divisive nation-state, Davis continued to stand up to Goliath.
Whether it was from his “Cabane du Bonheur” (Cabin of Happiness) built on the divide between France and Germany or from his seated position in the middle of the Allenby Bridge between Israel and Jordan, Davis exposed the injustice and violence of human-made borders.
Like the Bible’s Goliath, the nation-state is armed to the hilt. These weapons and national governments’ hubris, Davis knew, would be their undoing. Through his words and actions, he exposed the artifice of a system built upon the false belief that independent nations could protect individuals within their frontiers. Davis revealed that the nation-state system was crumbling under the weight of the world’s problems.
Unlike the Bible’s David, Davis was armed only with his quick thinking and sense of humor. His claim of world citizenship and his World Passport were his tools of revolutionary change.
Garry Davis wasn’t a hero because he was a bomber pilot and fought for the nation; he was a hero because he renounced war and killing. He gave up the comforts that the state would have provided him. He went to jail to expose the injustice of the national war system. And he spent his entire adult life teaching us to unite as world citizens -- to achieve a peaceful world.
Davis once wrote, “If spending time in the jails of the world would further the understanding of one world and one humankind, then I would gladly forfeit my freedom again this very day. For it is my considered opinion that this understanding alone is the sine qua non of world peace.”
Davis had to be brave to challenge a system that called him “kooky,” “misfit,” “crazy,” and “utopian”—to stand up to injustice against our fellow humans and the earth.
Do we want the nation-state Goliath to run our lives? Do we want to bow down to a system that separates us, human from human, and makes us believe that we must fight one another?
Garry Davis taught us that as world citizens we have the power to create an ethical system to govern our world. We have the right and responsibility to build a sustainable, just and peaceful world. This isn’t just a message for the New Year; this is a message for all time.