“…Imagine all the people, living life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one…”
More than four decades after John Lennon wrote his lyrical dream of a world in the future, we are closer to achieving his dream. Well, at least in the virtual world.
I first heard about the idea of a “good country” as dreamed up by Simon Anholt only recently while watching BBC World News. And I was intrigued. It brought Lennon’s song to mind, of course, but it also came as a balm after listening to news of killings, war and famine. Anholt and his partner in the project, Madeleine Hung, talked to BBC with such force of conviction that I decided to find out more.
Many of us have become hardened cynics thanks to the politics of the times, filled as they are with hate-filled speeches and acts, hostile and divisive rhetoric and jingoistic nationalism that we are expected to wear on our sleeves, not in our hearts and minds, where it in fact should belong and where it matters. We are expected to make our countries great again.
Well, how about making our countries good first, asks Simon Anholt. Not good as opposed to bad, but good as opposed to selfish.
That we live in a globalized world is an irreversible fact. No matter how hard some people on the far right (and alt-right) might try to put up fences and build walls, both real and metaphorical, globalization has been a force for good for most of the folks who live in this world. Especially for the poor and less privileged who live in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Sure, globalization can and should have been managed better, as many economists including Joseph Stiglitz, have written. In his books Globalization and its Discontents as well as Making Globalization Work, Stiglitz has pulled no punches in laying the blame squarely at the doorstep of the way the Washington Consensus has worked. Along with critiquing the IMF, he also questions the power that the largest corporations wield and the kind of deals that many governments struck.
There is enough blame to go around. But that doesn’t change the fact that globalization is here to stay. And that is where the idea of the Good Country comes into the picture.
In Simon Anholt’s vision as explained by him in a TED talk in 2014, the good country was born out of years of work he had been doing on nation brands and as policy advisor to several governments around the world. In all his research which eventually culminated in the Good Country Index, he discovered that what made countries likeable was not their wealth or technological prowess or even their military might, but how “good” they were; good in this context was intended to mean how much the country contributed to the rest of humanity.
A closer look at the Good Country Index of 163 countries shows us that Netherlands is in the number one position, followed by 12 other European countries. The top 6 countries are from Northern and Western Europe.
Where do the superpowers, the United States of America and China stand? At 25 and 76, respectively. The US scores relatively low on international peace and security (72), culture (67) and prosperity and equality (62). China also ranks low on prosperity and equality (113), culture (111) and world order (109).
Naturally, I checked for India’s position. At an overall ranking of 59, it certainly did better than China, but fared much worse on prosperity and equality (149), world order (87) and planet and climate change (97).
Since the days of the Index, the idea of the Good Country has now grown to become a new country. A virtual country open to all who believe in and share its values: collaboration over competition, belonging to humankind instead of belonging to nation states, technology as a tool that works with people not without them or by replacing them. You get the picture.
It is a 21st century Utopia. The Good Country is designed to work for the globalized world we inhabit and work in. Here, there is no government. Its citizens run the country through a kind of direct democracy: consulting, collaborating and implementing solutions. The idea is to make governments of countries in the real world realize the power of ideas and solutions that can be achieved in this fashion in order to meet global challenges that face the entire planet.
When I visited the good country website, I found its simplicity charming. It is an idea elegantly expressed, with a logic that is seductive. I wanted to know how many had actually joined the Good Country as citizens. And while they don’t reveal an exact number, they say that 10% of the world’s population or around 760 million people share their values.
Good Country Inc. is now a registered not-for-profit. And citizenship will be opened again in 2019, they say. I am not thinking of migrating just yet. Looking out from my peripatetic perch, I still have a few questions about some of the ways in which the Good Country will work. But I have to admit that even if the world isn’t ready just yet, it’s an idea worth exploring. Not merely to escape the hostile world we live in, but as an idea in its own right.
I suppose it’s best to think of it as a global social network designed to solve the world’s problems. See you in Good Country sometime.