Soergel: of Dullahan’s solution on the GUM fundamentally correct yet flawed

More than a month ago, Bradley of Dullahan wrote an op-ed in the Austenasian Times. In it, he explained how both he and the Austenasian emperor, Jonathan, had agreed that the intermicronational community fared best when engaged in active, and sometimes heated, intellectual debate. Both hold that the community was more active when engaged in the Great Ideological Conflict from 2010 to around 2012, with remnants continuing on even to the present day, and that today fewer such ideological conflicts happen to such an ardent and intellectual degree. But, while these conflicts were at times over things of little importance, as Dullahan notes, they were significant to us young micronationalists. Social scientists have long been aware of the positive side effects of conflict, such as those which happened during the GIC, and it is no wonder that we too would consider them productive. In retrospect, these conflicts were not terribly intellectual and both sides mostly rehashed ideological jargon and arguments used in the Cold War and those made by contemporary socialist/communist and libertarian politicians. Unfortunately, this includes me, too.

But it would not be right to downplay the importance of these intellectual discussions, especially at the age at which we had them. When I was in my teenage years, as many micronationalists start, these intellectual debates were incredibly formative—not just for Sandus, but for me personally. They opened me up to a wide range of intellectual viewpoints, from political and social ones to religious and to those covering even minute topics, and I had these conversations even with those with whom I agreed. In my case, I have found that discussing one’s point of view—whether or not controversial, whether or not my own view is completely fleshed out per se—is helpful to understand the complexities of social and historical reality. Often, these realities cannot be reduced to a single statement or argument. Discussing one’s point of view unabashedly, nevertheless, helped to introduce me to increasingly robust thinking and debate over time—and micronationalism was my forte into this realm of thought.

The textual form of this line of argumentation was also helpful, too, even if conversational in the form of a chatroom, because it made me think about my prose and liberated me from anxieties about others’ interpretation of and likely scorn towards me. Learning to debate orally—and to debate well—is something which I am still working on as I grow older where it has become increasingly important, but I have our ideological conflicts to look up to as examples.

Many know that I count micronationalism and, in particular, my micronation Sandus as the reason for my increasingly higher education. I mentioned it in high school in several projects, and these projects and points of view freed me from the monotony of secondary education and made me an independent thinker. My university entrance essay was on Sandus even, and, since I was passionate about how Sandus had changed my analytical thinking, I believe I was admitted for that reason. And, when I went to interview for my Ph.D. program, I again brought up my micronation (though with some prodding by the professor who was interviewing me). My fellow graduate students, too, had interrogated me about Sandus. Taken aback, I explained how micronationalism was the basis for my intimate inquiry into classical constitutionalism and into Roman religion. So, even though I may disagree thoroughly and ardently with Bradley of Dullahan’s personal ideology or that of Jonathan of Austenasia, I respect both and their ideologies whenever I have found it based on sound argumentation. Here more than ever. However, we have much more than micronational activity at stake here: we have the coming generation of micronationalists, their micronations, even their education, and the ultimate shape of the movement.

In other words, we three would agree that the intermicronational community fares better when made up of heterogeneous ideologies and with a certain amount of intellectual debate.

This does not mean that I encourage another “Great Ideological Conflict,” or anything like it—nor do I think that is what Bradley of Dullahan suggests. Rather, I encourage intellectual discussion—perhaps purposefully seen that way—meant to build up our micronations and to make us think about the ideas and theories that go into their physical and metaphysical (i.e., intellectual, spiritual, et cetera) construction.

Moreover, there has long been a misconception that heated intellectual debate and even heated diplomatic discussion can border on violation or infringement of a micronation’s sovereignty. One might believe, wrongly, that voicing opposition to a nation’s internal policies is a violation of a micronation’s sovereign inviolability. This is certainly not the case, as states can legitimately voice diplomatic opposition to other states’ internal politics without violating that state’s sovereignty. There are valid cases for arguing that a violation of a state’s sovereignty has occurred, but registering private and even public disapproval is not one of them. Many are to blame for this misconception and, sadly, I must include myself there again.

Instead, I understand—as I believe Bradley of Dullahan and Jonathan of Austenasia do, too—that a robust intellectual discussion on the part of micronations is a healthy and constructive element of micronationalism. Rather than switching to and fro’ one micronational project to the next or having little allegiance to one micronation alone, these conversations should encourage one to develop their own exclusive project and their own personality, and to defend it reasonably. The result is more than just a more developed micronation, it is also an increased sense of belonging to one’s micronation and to the group of friends one forms in the course of these debates. I still count Jacob Barnet (Tierney) and Adam von Friedeck as some of my two closest friends because of them.

This point is true of the intermicronational community broadly, and even in some successful intermicronational communities and organisations. While the community can be broadly or narrowly conceived (based on differing scales from the broad compilation of all micronations to one specific site), one exclusive community (like MicroWiki) or organization (like the GUM) fares better with unlike-minded people. The result includes more conflict and division, sure, but conflict is bound to happen anyway.

L’Organisation de la MicroFrancophonie, the intermicronational organisation of French-speaking micronations, is one such community that does not shrink away from conflict. Instead, even the leading members argue and disagree with one another, despite otherwise being close friends. The result has meant a robust community full of French-speaking micronations, Francophile micronations, and other such observer states. The OMF has an astounding presence, as well, that goes relatively unrecognized among many English-speaking micronationalists. Since having been founded in May 2016, the organization has hosted close to or more than half a dozen in-person events across Europe and will hold its second plenary convention in July 2018. At the 2017 MicroCon in Atlanta, too, there were so many OMF members present that at times more than half the attendees were speaking French. And, yet, the organization thrives because there is a certain degree of disagreement among its membership which polemicises its business with respect to internal and external affairs. It makes its business all the more active, all the more serious, all the more important.

Yet the GUM is not the OMF, that is for sure. The average age of members is different, as is their purpose (the OMF lacks an educational purpose as found in the GUM), but their micronations are overall as professional and realist as the GUM aspires to be according to its principles.

Thus, I am convinced that the rationale undergirding Bradley of Dullahan’s opinion is fundamentally sound, yet what he suggests is flawed. His point in his op-ed was that debate yields micronational activity, yet he concludes that the GUM must decay and be revived again. I do not quite understand what new advice he suggests when for a fifth time the GUM is supposed to be reborn. Non sequitur. It does not follow. Is this the state which Sandus’s adversaries in the GUM wish to accept passively—one of fatigued withdrawal? These are certainly not the staunch and difficult-to-deal-with opponents of mine I recall.

Perhaps Duke Bradley and Emperor Jonathan ought to follow their own advice and encourage the sort of heterogeneous ideological membership found during the times when the GUM thrived, rather than waiting for the GUM to expire terminally for a fourth time. Next month will mark one year since Sandus applied to be an observer in the GUM, after Sandus’s membership application had been previous rejected in earlier in June 2016. These two rejections came after all assurances had been made to members that Sandus would respect the principles undergirding the GUM Charter, and yet a majority of GUM members rejected Sandus for political reasons—with the same Duke Bradley of Wyvern and Emperor Jonathan of Austenasia spearheading the offensive.

What strikes me is that both have apparently and expressly seen what would make the GUM be lively again and be revived once more, but they both seem to ignore the obvious solution and prefer instead to see their pet organisation whither away. That is, both seem to be adamant that Sandus should never reclaim its rightful place as a participant in the Grand Unified Micronational, even though we have demonstrated as early as June 2009 that she is deserving of participation in the GUM. I say both as Bradley authored the piece, while Jonathan presumably edited and published it.

Today, a new grassroots movement is growing in Sandus which seeks that we apply for observership once more, almost a year after it was rejected. This movement will undoubtedly make the same assurances as before. (1) Sandus and Sandum foreign policy forbid doxxing, as much for transgender micronationalists as for the micronationalists who are worried by Sandus’s possible presence. (2) Sandus abides by the protocols established in the GUM Charter with respect to recognition of names, styles, and titles—and this goes both ways. (3) Sandus will not be represented at the GUM by the Sôgmô as a primary delegate and, (4) if we are accepted as an observer, Sandus will have no administrative capacity or voting rights in the organization anyway since we will not be members.

Allowing Sandus into the GUM as an observer does not magically absolve either party of what each sees as attacks against it, nor does rejecting Sandus mean that we will be simply willed away—never to be a problem again for Austenasia or Wyvern. Sandus is resilient, but so are they—and so too should the GUM be. I think all parties agree on that. Yet both statesmen have seen what is beneficial for the GUM at this stage in its inactivity: intellectual, ideological debate. If the Council of the State of Sandus should approve a decision to apply for observership in the GUM, then I anticipate both Austenasian and Wyvernian delegates will acquiesce to what they have foreseen as beneficial for the GUM: letting in a heterogeneous micronation like Sandus. Our record, our long experience of participation in the GUM, and our profound constitution approve fervently.

Finally, I feel the need to respond to our critics who will undoubtedly wonder why we keep trying. The reasons are multiple, and I can express my own personal reasons—such as above—as well as some of Sandus’s national interests.

The GUM is an organisation with an incredibly important legacy for the State of Sandus. It is an organisation in which Sandus “grew up,” an organisation which Sandus and the Sandum delegation helped to administer for several terms and at various times. But, moreover, it is an organisation whose purpose and message—of professionalism, of realist micronationalism, of educational potential for new but tried micronationalists—Sandus endorses and embodies.

But Sandus has also wanted to be a member for other reasons historically. The useful experience of the GUM was most important for Sandus’s development, and even today I revel in the idea that Sandus and Sandum diplomats might be able to engage with similarly- and dissimilarly-minded micronationalists in one convenient, discursive venue. Others exist, sure, but none advance the same rationale for professionalism and seriousness as that historically found in the GUM. This is useful for state-building, as I have tried to made a (simple) case for above.

Why now, though? Sandus has a new generation of micronationalists who are wholly unfamiliar with diplomacy or intermicronational politics, but it also represents a new challenge to the Sandum citizen. One of the citizens of this generation, though a diplomat in her own right, is otherwise new to Sandus’s diplomatic affairs. Moreover, there is still a state-building need for Sandus: though Sandus has a Ministry of Diplomatic Affairs, there is no clear system by which diplomats conduct business. So far, Sandus has operated as an “in tandem” system, whereby diplomats conduct business one after another, together, never alone. Diplomats have not had the sort of autonomy necessitated by true diplomacy. This goes for all Sandum officials, too, not just diplomats.

There is also another, simple, and practical reason for why now: this citizen in particular is an employee of the Central People’s Government of the State of Sandus, but she has requested a change in her official responsibilities—from clerical “scribal” work to diplomatic work. As a chargée d’affaires, i.e., a functionary, she is meant to operate independently in a centralised governmental system, which means she is the perfect candidate to represent the State of Sandus as an observer in the Grand Unified Micronational. As she receives a salary, too, for her work, we are more committed to finding her a diplomatic mission—whether as the primary delegate of the State of Sandus to the GUM or as a liaison with the MicroWiki community. Plus, this should resolve the individual personality issues involved with Sandus’s previous rejections. While I would anticipate some involvement of my own, being a professional academic rather leaves little time to handle the minutiae of intermicronational politics.

It is becoming more and more apparent why Sandus must develop a healthy system with centralisation, worker’s democracy, collegiality, and worker’s autonomy within our republican constitution. But, as I advise others to pursue intellectual debates, it is only fitting that I should follow my own advice. The same is true for Bradley of Dullahan and Jonathan of Austenasia, who seem to be aware of what path is needed for our community at this point in time. I hope that they do as they say.

C. Soergel Publicola