Regionalism is a political ideology but it is less shaped than most other political directions. Some degree of regionalism is found in the program of virtually any political party.
The old call for a clear definition of regionalism is still unanswered. I do not wonder why. This term is just too open to be defined by a short paragraph in some dictionary. Also Wikipedia refers to the unclear multitude of meainings.
What is a region?
Something that consists of several/many things and also has its own identity. Something that is many and also one. Some examples for regions:
- A valley (much land, many trees, ...)
- A continent (many countries)
- A body-region (many cells, some skin-surface, ...)
- A part of a painting (some area on the surface)
Regions can be small or big. Size does not define a region. A region is always more than one point and usually applies to a part of a surface (2D) or a part of a body (3D).
Here, let's focus on the most obvious and common meaning of region: Geographical regions.
Humanity was always organized in regions and still does. Not so long ago, regions were defined tribal, now it is about nations and inter-continental forces.
Geographical regions are kind of abstract because nature is hard to put into squares. The western world failed over centuries trying hard (the artificial country borders in North Africa are amazing). Here, we have an interesting super-region: The western world. It is a geographical region but also an idealistic region. It includes at least Northwest-Europe, USA, Canada, and Australia. It includes a certain lifestyle, a certain way to look at things, a certain way to tread the world.
You can imagine that I think humanity does no good focusing on huge regions. Nations are much too big in fact. Take Austria as example (my home-country). Some would say it's a small nation.
Someone who lived in East Austria does not know anything really about West Austria. The Alps split the lifestyles. It's only the national education strategy, television, radio, etc. that make us more and more similar.
There are many reasons why we are organized in huge regions like nations. Most of us have accepted it, most of us have ancestors who died for nations. A lot of blood flows in the name of nations.
I say: Nations aren't bad regions, just too big.
And hello, nationalists, I know you, many of my friends identify themselves as part of a nation. I totally understand it. Looking at transportation or sports-media, our whole environment is shaped by nationalism. We have no other choice than to think in nations if it's about 'Germany against Italy' or whatever.
I say: Nations aren't bad regions but they are okay! They have a strong manifested identity, they have all sorts of pros and cons.
Nations are okay if they are supporting the natural regions within them. Putting power into the hands of subnational regions is often considered as separatism. I am not speaking about separatism here. I speak about natural regions.
Coming back to the example Austria, we can see officially empowered natural regions. The region where I am born is called Vulkanland. It includes some square kilometers of land that has a common characteristics. It includes some 10,000's of people who have a common lifestyle. European Union and the Austrian government have supported the Vulkanland region for decades and they are impressed by the outcome. The felt identity was strengthened, people are proud of their specialities, new brands were created, economic growth, etc.
Collaboration makes strong. A strong region is proud of itself. Friends, neighbors, and families live together in their home region. Strong regions help the people in the region. The connection between people and their region is more direct. Natural regions are oriented at rooted commonalities.
The following characteristics identify a natural region:
- same landscape
- neighborhood /village/town/city
- same economical specialties/level of wealth
- cultural identity/common sense/worldview (incl. religion)
- political reason (hopefully known by the people in the region)
A natural region will not include hundreds of thousands of people. Big cities may consist of natural sub-regions like districts, blocks, houses, levels, ... Where ever the most valued common identification is found.
Please try to imagine circles within circles. That's how a network of natural regions looks.
So much about regionalism. Well, one last point: The connection between regions and communities.
A community is a natural region. Communities share a common lifestyle and usually some land. Communities are usually referred to as a community of people, e.g., between 10 and 10,000 people. A community is just a special form of a natural region.
Interestingly, we speak about things like 'the European community' or the 'community of G20' a.s.o. Why do we sometimes use the term community for such big things like a group of nations? Maybe the common thing about communities is, that all members have equal or well defined rights within the group. Any balanced group can be called community.
Great! Here we are! Regionalism is a great political ideology, if understood, natural, open for anyone and anything, and empowering to people and families all around the world. The small regions form bigger regions and the bigger regions form even bigger regions. If all those regions are organized as communities, no voice will be unheard. Every individual will be proud to be member of several great regions.
Imagine the whole humanity organized as a huge cascaded network of regions.
It would feel like a global community.