Friday, August 15, 2008

One Dream? One World!

You may not have heard of the World Service Authority. The WSA is the administrative arm of the World Government of World Citizens, established in the mid 20th century by Garry Davis and other Earthians committed to the politics of One World.

The work of the WSA: transcending the apartheid of the nation-state system, a relatively recent arrangement in human affairs in which rights and privileges are assigned based on the accident of one's birthplace, including the fundamental right to travel freely on Earth.

In the last half century the WSA has issued World Passports to tens of thousands of World Citizens, some refugees from war, others political outcasts, and a few--like myself--who place political allegiance to humanity ahead of the nation-state we reside in.

During the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 I took a cue from Garry Davis. Having traveled to Greece on a World Passport with the Olympic Charter in my heart--and the UN Declaration of Human Rights and U.S. and Greek Constitutions squarely on my side--I freely and voluntarily relinquished national citizenship at the U.S. Consulate in Athens, within site of the Olympic Stadium that hosted the rebirth of the Games in 1896.

Predictably, the U.S. Consul and I didn't see eye-to-eye in matters of statecraft. But we were able to talk heart-to-heart in matters of philosophy, one human being to another.

The Consul's ultimate refusal to issue a Certificate of Loss of Nationality did not represent defeat for world citizenship, nor would assent have represented triumph. Rather, as the Olympic Creed makes clear, the struggle is the main thing: Overcoming obstacles in the pursuit of excellence is the essence of Olympism, whether those obstacles are nagging physical injuries or deep-rooted social prejudices.

In ancient times Olympic champions were accorded something akin to citizenship of the entire Hellenic world. And the Olympic Truce, Ekecheria, permitted ancient Oympians to travel safely to and from Olympia every four years, even amidst warring city-states.

Why should the modern Olympian not employ the mind and will in service to similar political ideals just as he or she employs the body in pursuit of physical ones? Isn't an Olympian foremost an ambassador for humanity?

My journey toward world citizenship is as much a part of my Olympic struggle as the hours spent in grueling speedskating training: It is about the struggle to achieve excellence, not only in body, but in mind and will. It is about Faster, Higher, Braver. Daily, it is about facing back fear, doubt, and disbelief, both in myself and in others.

Leo Tolstoy, famed Russian writer and avowed pacifist, once asked the thorny question: "Patriotism or Peace?" The implication: Fierce love of one's nation-state inhibits peaceful relations on one's planet. Is Tolstoy right? That's for individuals to answer for themselves. Certainly I am among those Olympic athletes whose youthful will to succeed was at least partially nurtured by my political identity as a national citizen.

But the truth I've discovered in my Olympic journey is that One World is more than a dream: It is the goal. If a 9.5 second 100 meter sprint seemed a distant dream before Usain Bolt crossed the line in the Olympic final in Beijing, is living in a world without borders or boundaries really so far off? In 1988, would we have envisioned that in 2008 one could travel from Athens to Berlin without needing a national passport?

Creating change, whether in ourselves or the political or social systems that govern us, is a matter of will. It's that simple.

Pierre de Coubertin articulated the challenge a century ago: "Olympism as the holder and distributor of social peace, this is the final rung to climb."

It will certainly take Olympian will.

Read a recent blog by Garry Davis:

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