YUVAL NOAH HARARI
MAY 26 2019 – 00:00 CEST
Many of the greatest crimes in history had their origin, more than in hatred, in indifference. Those responsible were people who could have done something, but did not bother to lift a finger. Indifference kills. Perhaps a voter’s indifference does not kill him; but there is a good chance that it will kill another.
Some people do not bother to participate in the European elections because they believe that a vote never changes anything. This is not true. Perhaps the vote you cast does not change the balance of power in the European Parliament, but it will certainly transform you. It is important to adopt a moral position to keep your heart in shape: if not, the heart hardens and ossifies, and the next time you need to fight for something – not necessarily at the polls – it will cost you more to do it.
Others justify their indifference by saying that “everyone is just as bad”. This is also not true. Even when all sides are bad, they are rarely as bad. In history, many times, we do not find struggles between good and bad, but between bad and worse. One could write an entire encyclopedia on the crimes of the allies in World War II, the horrors of the Soviet regime, the racism of the British Empire and the injustices of American society. Even so, it was necessary to support the allies, and not remain indifferent and say: “I don’t care who wins, they are all the same”. In 1933 there were many Germans who did not bother to vote. “What’s the matter,” they said to themselves, “all politicians are the same”. Well, no. Some politicians are much worse than others.
In fact, in most cases, there are some honest politicians. The one who uses the argument that “all politicians are equal, all are corrupt, all are liars” is usually the most corrupt of all. A politician who wants to justify his vices by elevating them to universals. Do not fall into that trap.
You have to vote for parties that promote regional and global cooperation
The European Union has brought peace to Europe and stability to the whole world. But now it is in crisis. Europeans, therefore, are faced with a few moral decisions of crucial importance, which will shape the future of Europe and of humanity as a whole. Those who see those decisions with indifference are people who have lost the moral compass. Those who wait for a perfect alternative to appear to take the trouble to leave home will continue to wait until the end of time.
Do not wait. Go out. Go to the polls.
Who to vote for?
I’m not the one to recommend a particular party or candidate. But I can say that the prosperity and survival of humanity in the 21st century depend on real regional and global cooperation. It is the only thing capable of preventing nuclear war, stopping climate change and regulating disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and bioengineering. So you have to vote for parties that promote that regional and global cooperation.
Remember that no country, however strong, can build a wall against the nuclear winter. No country can build a wall against global warming. And no country can regulate AI and bioengineering on its own, because it does not control all the scientists and engineers of the world. Think, for example, of conducting engineering experiments on human beings. All countries will say: “We do not want to do these experiments, we are the good ones. But how do we know that our rivals are not doing them? We cannot afford to be left behind. So we must do these experiments in preference to them”. The only thing that can prevent such catastrophic rivalries is to build trust between countries, rather than walls. A confidence like the one that exists today between France and Germany, and that seemed pure fantasy only 70 years ago.
However, some politicians insist that there is a fundamental contradiction between globalism and nationalism and urge people to reject the first and adopt the second. But this comes out of a fundamental error. There is no contradiction between nationalism and globalism. Because nationalism does not consist in hating foreigners. Nationalism consists in taking care of our compatriots. And in the 21st century, to protect the security and prosperity of our compatriots, we must cooperate with foreigners. Therefore, a good nationalist should also be a globalist.
Globalism does not mean abandoning all national loyalties and traditions, nor does it mean opening the border to unlimited immigration. Globalism means two things that are much more modest and reasonable.
Nationalism does not consist in hating foreigners, but in caring for our compatriots
First, a commitment to certain global standards. Rules that do not deny the uniqueness of each country or the loyalty of its people. Rules that are limited to regulating relations between countries. A good example is the Soccer World Cup. It is a competition between countries, and people often exhibit fierce loyalty to their national team. But, at the same time, it is an amazing display of global harmony. France cannot play football against Croatia if the French and the Croats do not settle before agreeing on the rules of the game. A thousand years ago it would have been absolutely impossible to gather people from France, Croatia, Argentina and Japan to play together in Russia. Even if they could have been taken there, they would never have agreed on common rules. But today, yes. That is globalism. If you like the World Cup, you are a globalist.
The second principle of globalism is that, at times, it is necessary to give priority to world interests over national interests. Not always, but sometimes. For example, in the World Cup, all selections agree not to use prohibited drugs to improve their performance. It is possible that a selection could win if it administers drugs to all its soccer players, but it must not do it because, in that case, the other selections also would do it, the World Cup would end up being a competition between biochemistry experts and companies, and that would destroy the sport.
As in football, also in economics we must find a balance between national and global interests. Even in a globalized world, the vast majority of the taxes we pay are aimed at paying for the health and education of our own country. However, on occasion, countries agree to halt their economic and technological development to prevent ecological catastrophes and the spread of dangerous technologies.
The European Union, until now, has been the most successful experiment in history in the search for the right balance between national, regional and global interests. It has created real cooperation among hundreds of millions of people, without imposing a single government, a single language or a single nationality. It has created harmony without imposing uniformity. If Europe can teach the rest of the world to foster harmony without uniformity, humanity will have many chances to prosper in this next century. If the European experiment fails, how can we expect the rest of the world to triumph?
Yuval Noah Harari is a historian and writer. His last book is 21 lessons for the 21st century (Debate).