An Exercise of Critical Thinking
At the township level, the “community spirit” is a function of knowledge, and proper action, about / towards people – as persons – and their places – or properties, either private or public. A community is defined equally by bonds and bounds, wisely informed and duly enforced, so that a neighbourly peace, not necessarily a heavenly harmony, will emerge and endure. In Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” there is a famous line – “Good fences make good neighbours” – suggesting the common sense truth that order among humans requires, much sooner than empathy or sympathy, an order “in rem”, with respect to their belongings, which are part and parcel of their personal universes – teleological prolongations of their beings. “The Bible tells us to love our neighbours and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people”, said once G.K. Chesterton. This might be the most pessimistic view of a neighbourhood, which we are advised to treat with utmost kindness. If love is too much to ask, then the next line of defence is to understand, not understate, things.
The wider geographical scale does not change the archetypal “spirit” of the communitarian point of view. Only the “letters”. Knowing and acting properly with respect to people subtly shifts to peoples, while the households and the courtyards are subsumed by the national, territorial space. Here, both the over-sophisticated analyst and the un-ignorant layman feel a sense of uneasiness in their attempts to comprehend the international alchemy of neighbouring. On one hand, statistically and sociologically, classes – i.e., nations – seem somehow more stable, in longer runs – in the purposes and means employed – than individual persons, while territories – collective national belongings – seem much less (ex)changeable, if ever the case. On the other hand, the conveyor belt that translates individual preferences into aggregated public choice is by no means mechanical, deterministic, being subject to a highly opaque formula of (both hard and soft) institutional power – viz., “governance”, “leadership” –, while territories are ultimately much easier to infiltrate or trespass than private properties.
Foreign policy is de jure the sovereign attribute of the state, but de facto it is a prerogative of citizenry, for citizens are the ultimate contributors to and beneficiaries of the international – be it regional, continental, global – array of relations established by their governments. These relations are settled formally in their name (by their more or less democratically elected representatives) and factually on their account (by the taxes paid and other limitations). These external ties are devoted (at least rhetorically) to the prosperity and security of the nation. Economic prosperity can be pursued basically by bilaterally or multilaterally free movements of goods, services, capital and (a highly sensitive topic) people, and political security by deterring aggressive, warlike behaviours, balancing power through military endowments and pragmatic alliances and / or joining hopefully sustainable, resilient “concerts of nations”. Such attempts depend on the general climate in both “friendly” and “unfriendly” countries and on how popular sentiment is averted, diverted or perverted at their commanding heights.
Understanding the global world and making it a means to one’s ends – as every entity, from human individuals to larger organizations, like the states, strives for – begin with a need to discover and digest geopolitical vicinities, geopolitical neighbourhoods. And at least two trivial comments can be made in this respect. One: vicinities in a globalized world have a greater geographical, geopolitical and geoeconomical scope, because the distances, surfaces and volumes are changing prior thresholds. Second: the vicinities of a country represent a sum of convergent and divergent attitudes towards it, given historical trends and future targets that need to be either inhibited or excited. Any smart foreign policy starts with mapping the national interests – legitimate interests from the nation –, encouraging mutual explorations. The Market for Ideas invites the reader to a journey in Romania’s near abroad, collecting critical thoughts on how globalization and regionalization change current perceptions about geo-vicinities, those vivid mixtures of lands, waters, skies and, above anything else, peoples.