A federation of sovereign realms: Arnold Schwarzenegger starts the world again

“I’ll be back.” – The Terminator

California is the land of second chances. Too bad Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t get one. There was perhaps never a better match between man and place in the new world than Arnold Schwarzenegger and California. He might today be considered to have been well ahead of his time. He urged California to go its own way. The federal government hovering like a UFO overhead often seemed to him a useless nuisance. Arnold has recently started his own world called R20, an organization of regions united in climate action which completely ignores fixed national and international boundaries. Imagine a world born again of original, authentic sovereign regions instead of those inherited from generations past and drawn from ancient contention, some beyond even our human memory.

Schwarzenegger now brings his approach in Sacramento to the world at large. He said local governments are taking action now because "we can't afford to wait for national and international movement."

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In 2007 Gar Alperovitz, a progressive historian and scholar at the University of Maryland, looked to the new California governor as a singular innovator. He wrote then in The New York Times: “SOMETHING interesting is happening in California. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to have grasped the essential truth that no nation — not even the United States — can be managed successfully from the center once it reaches a certain scale. Moreover, the bold proposals that Mr. Schwarzenegger is now making for everything from universal health care to global warming point to the kind of decentralization of power which, once started, could easily shake up America’s fundamental political structure … Governor Schwarzenegger is quite clear that California is not simply another state. ‘We are the modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta,’ he recently declared. ‘We have the economic strength, we have the population and the technological force of a nation-state.’ In his inaugural address, Mr. Schwarzenegger proclaimed, ‘We are a good and global commonwealth.’ ”

To Schwarzenegger we are all our own “city states” underneath, yearning to break free from ghostly ancestors who pull at us from the grave and, like a snake, slip the old skin to be born again in a “good and global commonwealth.” Would that New England could actually think of itself like that.

Today, Alperovitz’s comments seem prescient and suggest some of the changes that have appeared here since 2009 with the rise of the Tea Party. Gerry Celente of Trends 2000 has called decentralization the central idea of the rising century. But these ideas did not start with the Tea Party. They were here all along and Schwarzenegger was the first to conceptualize them as a governor of California.

Nor can California afford any longer to wait for Washington, and Schwarzenegger was the first to say so. Too bad he cannot be given a second chance.