Conscious Self-governance and Natural Law: Ingunn Røiseland and Michael Hartwell

Ingunn Røiseland

Ingunn Røiseland was born on the 22nd April 1964 into a religious and politically active family, and her family provided her both with love and with battles to be fought. She has a university degree in languages & social sciences. Living in various countries has provided a track record of conventional as well as not so conventional careers within different areas. Currently, she runs an alternative school in the town where she lives. Today her firm belief is that ‘we, the human race, need to take our powers, potential and responsibilities back from the institutions that we have been lending authority to, for the sake of our Mother Earth and all life on earth.’

Michael (‘Mik’) Hartwell

Michael (‘Mik’) Hartwell was born near Copenhagen, Denmark in 1961, and immigrated with his family to Australia, where he began his schooling. He also lived and worked in Africa before returning to Denmark in 1985, working for many years in the IT industry as a programmer. After a successful recovery from alcohol addiction in his late forties, things started to change for Mik as he began to probe the big questions in life. This led to a deep conviction that individuals can and should interrogate their innermost motivations and subsequently take action according to their conscience. Mik’s quest has led him to seek statelessness by renouncing his Danish citizenship in protest over what he sees as the state’s cynical and inhumane attitude to the Earth and its people. Mik endorses change exclusively through peaceful endeavors.

Aparna Bakhle

World Environment Day (WED) was established by the United Nations on June 5th, 1973.  Since in its inception, WED has been celebrated to raise global awareness of the urgent need to take positive environmental action.  39 years later, the magnificent environment we should be stewards of still suffers daily from our irascible desires to destructively develop it with little to no thought at large of the harmful effects upon our present way of life or the lives of all future generations.

Therefore, it feels especially necessary to acknowledge and honor two exemplary human beings who solicited their respective Nation States to allow them to relinquish their citizenship on the occasion of this WED on June 5th, 2012.

Ingunn Røiseland (IR) of Norway and Michael Hartwell (MH) of Denmark correctly make the ethical claim that ‘Natural Law,’ particularly since common law seems to oppose it, should form the basis of their, and our, existence and co-existence on earth.  In seeking to live their lives in dignity and happiness, with the desire to restore Mother Earth, their statements of renunciations are a bold call to action for those of us who feel disempowered and paralyzed in the face of profound dissatisfaction with the lack of leadership demonstrated by all those in positions of power as it relates to capital around the world.

Political power, in my opinion, cannot be our ultimate aim. It is one of the means used by men for their all-around advancement. The power to control national life through national representatives is called political power. Representatives will become unnecessary if the national life becomes so perfect as to be self-controlled. It will then be a state of enlightened anarchy in which each person will become his own ruler. He will conduct himself in such a way that his behavior will not hamper the well being of his neighbors. In an ideal State there will be no political institution and therefore no political power.

–M.K. Gandhi

Natural law, as I understand it, very simply refers to the law of nature, ‘the order that governs the activities of the material universe.”[i]  Theologians, as well as philosophers, have written tomes as to the particulars that comprise what is understood to be ‘natural’ law. Yet I wonder how necessary it is to have an understanding of the countless principles and problematic conclusions they seem to reach with regard to this contentious subject that prima facie loses to the entrenched authority of common law.  Common law is the body of precedent that binds future decisions on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different occasions.  A ‘common law’ legal system rests on stare decisis, a legal principal by which judges are obliged to respect the precedents already established by prior decisions.  Meaning, matters that have been ‘settled’ should not be disturbed. An entire one third of the world’s population (2.3 billion people) live in common law jurisdictions.  Most countries that trace their legal heritage to England as former colonies of the British Empire use common law systems.

The idea of renouncing or relinquishing one’s ‘citizenship’ within a Nation State in favor of a stateless allegiance to principles that resonate more deeply with one’s conscience seems quite abstract, albeit noble.  How does each of you envision the practical applications of such a gesture as you continue to live within and utilize the resources and services of the State?

IR: First of all, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to express myself in this way.  I am so grateful for the joint effort we all do in promoting the change Mother Earth needs. As for me, I have had the  desire to become a freewoman for a long time, and reclaim the rights conferred to all of us by Natural Law. During the past few years, I have not at all been able to reconcile my feelings for a state – the Norwegian- which has grown out of proportion, and which is becoming more abusive of its people by the day, whether it comes to collection of tax money or impositions of all kinds of regulations & laws slowly removing the feeling of freedom. But I’ve been far too afraid to renounce my citizenship, thinking that it would make me a social outcast,  the target of retaliation etc. And all kinds of feelings have come to the surface,-fear of not surviving, not having a job, will I feed my children etc. So I kept postponing and basically shut my ears to the message that my soul was trying to get through. But then one day I  woke up knowing that I had just reached a point of no return if I wanted to uphold a sense of integrity and peace within. To me, the tipping point was when Norway began its bombings of innocent civilians in Libya.  I read a quote saying that “The reason why people awaken is that they have finally agreed to stop the things that insult their soul”, and this resonates deeply within me.

The main reason for the fear that I felt was the knowing that if I were to take this step, my whole life would be turned upside down. I would definitely loose the right to use social services such as free health care and schooling, and the right to a pension when I retire. These were minor implications though compared to the fact that the mortgage loan would surely be relinquished upon the cancellation of my social security number/identity number, and we would lose our home and in theory be without a place to stay. The possibility to have a conventional job is also lost, since the Norwegian state has a meticulous system of control to ensure that the taxes are paid, so an employer wouldn’t be allowed to employ anyone without a social security number. However, the foundation for my decision has been that I don’t really have a choice, if I do not want to be complicit in the killings of innocent civilians since this aggression is financed with our tax money. What I have experienced though is that all fear evaporated as soon as the decision was made, and I found it immensely empowering to do the thing that my soul was longing for. At this point, I don’t really know how the practicalities will be resolved, but we will keep you posted on our website (still in the making).

MH: We can view citizenship as a kind of agreement where the state provides privileges and, in return, the citizen has some obligations to the state. I have chosen to relinquish those privileges because of what I see  as an increasing tendency on the part of the state toward increased control, monitoring and disrespectful handling of citizens, especially the weakest ones; initiation of aggression and unrepentant brutality against our fellow people in foreign countries; and an unbridled exploitation of both people and nature in the name of materialistic gain .

With regard to living ‘within the State.’ let me say that I love Denmark, the land of my birth, as I love my countrymen, and this won’t change with statelessness. I believe I have a right to exist on the Earth that I was born on, no matter what the state or any other arbitrary administrative invention may claim, and as such I see nothing unethical or immoral in living where I am.

As for utilizing the state’s resources and services, I see a future where my privileges are revoked and my obligations are canceled. As I wait for a response from the Danish Ministry of Justice, this is what I am preparing for. What this means in practice is not clear yet. As a stateless person, I expect that services such as free medical care, unemployment benefits, old age pensions etc. will no longer be available to me. The questions of how to sustain a livelihood, employment, taxation are difficult and have huge implications. I am abundantly aware of this and will face these as I go along.

State ideology and policy, as currently practiced in gross violation of human and environmental rights, has stirred an urgent desire or need for those in conflict with it to ‘divorce’ themselves from these dysfunctional systems.  Do you see your renunciation of citizenship as a model people in other countries can also follow?  If yes, how?

IR: In my case, it has been impossible to separate my process towards freedom in a material sense from the spiritual awareness that tells me that we are all one, and intertwined. I believe that the choices we make on an individual level also affect the collective consciousness in a way that makes each single individual contribution valuable; the things we do, small or big, send ripples through the universe. As I see it, it all begins with ourselves- there is no escape from it. The main obstacle in my case was letting go of what I believed to give me a sense of security, home, job, fixed income. In rich countries such as our country, the attachment to material things is the eye of the needle that we have to pass through. There is a quote that I love and it is Benjamin Franklin who once said, “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.” And then, once you have passed through the eye of the needle, new horizons open up, and a sense of real, organic happiness pours in along with the sense of freedom that comes from really having shed the chains of our enslavement, even if there is at the time no security net to pick us up.

MH: I do not see my actions as a model for others to follow. First of all, I can say nothing about the future that awaits me. I don’t know of anyone that has renounced Danish citizenship, and so can say nothing about what the repercussions will be. I do not, however, expect this process to be an easy one.

Having said that, I do believe that others will, like me, take this drastic step as a way of marking their indignation over the violations perpetrated by their respective states. Whole nations have been railroaded, their governments bought off by interests rich beyond words and a few, I predict, will in protest sever ties to the administrations that have so betrayed the people they purport to represent.

You state that a founding principle of democracy is ‘the idea of the state as the guarantor of peace, security and happiness; the state exists for the people.”  Yet, as you note, States globally continue to abuse this mandate in the interests of corporations that pay governments to ensure the established system serves them regardless of the human and environmental impacts of such policies and laws.  Is it time to redefine or evolve our very definition democracy itself?  What are some ways we can collectively begin to do so?

MH: I see an increasing trend towards a ‘muddying of the waters’ where the meaning of some key concepts are concerned. We see blatant attacks on sovereign states characterized as ‘peace-keeping actions,’ and people expressing a healthy criticism of their government labeled ‘dissidents.’  And the term ‘Democracy’ seems increasingly to be used in two different ways, depending on which end is to be achieved: We mean something like ‘fairness’, ‘transparency’ and ‘morality’ when we say, ‘Let’s settle this democratically. We can also mean ‘Most votes win.’ These are not the same thing – while they aren’t mutually exclusive, you can easily have one without the other.

I would like to see the adoption of the notion of ‘Fair Play’ in our dealings with each other, and especially in the affairs of government. Let’s keep ‘Democracy’ as meaning that a motion is carried by counting a show of hands in a vote. Notions like ‘fair play’ and ‘common decency’ are difficult to pin down, yet we all have a good intuitive feeling for what they mean, and I believe it is exactly concepts like these we need to bring into greater focus. We can argue the finer points of what is and isn’t ‘Fair Play,’ but if we all agree that we want it, then we can only move in the right direction. How could we do this?

Those with political skills could introduce concepts like ‘Fair Play’ instead of the (now regrettably) ambiguous term ‘Democracy’ when we mean to behave in a decent, upright and ethical manner.

Movers in the business community could investigate ways to create ‘corporations with a conscience’ by introducing language that prioritizes human decency higher than the bottom line. The modern corporation is a monster of unspeakable cruelty. We as a species have unleashed this monster thinking it would serve us. Now we are enslaved by it, in the collective of corporations we call ‘The ‘Market.’ When we see the insanity of this situation, we can remedy it by calling for the creation of entities with a human face, based on the co-operation of ‘friends’ instead of entities based on greed and competition.

Everyday people like you and me can, as consumers, use our conscience when making purchases. Is a corporation acting in an unfair way when bringing this product to you? Think about what your purchase is supporting. If you feel that it is wrong to treat animals cruelly in getting them to you as food, stop supporting inhumane trade in animal products.

In your letter to Norway’s King Harald, you ask, “Can I choose to dismantle my relationship to the state and still live in the country as a free citizen, <<Freewoman>>, and invoke human rights?”  How will you engage with the State while awaiting the King’s, and Michael, the Danish State’s, response?

IR: I consider that the burden of proof rests on the King and the government, if they insist on a continued interaction with me of some kind.  I have never in any way recognized their authority, even if a personal id number is imposed upon us when we are born. I simply regret that it took me so long to wake up. I now claim the right to remain on the land conferred to me by Natural Law. If the state wishes to claim that there does indeed exist a contractual relationship between us, I must ask them to provide me with the necessary evidence.  My contention is that I am born free and not a slave to the government or any other self-imposed authority.

We have begun to dismantle our old life, preparing the children for the change and selling the house, and this means that I will not engage with the state in any way, not receive or buy services from them, or respond to fiscal demands. To be able to carry out this intention, we cannot own anything, since this would render us vulnerable, and I have discovered the truth in the lyrics that state “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

MH: As I wait to hear from the Ministry of Justice I am preparing for both the outcome I hope for (dissolution of citizenship) as well as the possibility that my request will be denied. I will keep my interaction with the state to a minimum while working on developing guidelines to live by in the future. So, until I receive a response I will mostly be playing ‘The Waiting Game.’

The mere mention of the term ‘Anarchy’ elicits impassioned fear about the breakdown of society.  Yet it is evident this breakdown, economically, socially, politically, environmentally, etc., is already in full swing within the global consumption driven global economic structures operating in most Nation States.  Yet anarchy essentially means, outside of the US, a system of governance that goes to great lengths to ‘avoid the use of coercion, violence, force and authority, while still producing a productive and desirable society.”[ii]  As Gandhi described it, “the ideally non-violent state will be an ordered anarchy.  That State is best governed which is governed the least.”[iii] What form(s) does ‘enlightened anarchy’ take for you?

IR: I believe it to be vitally important that we begin to understand how money is created, and that we are actually living on top of a volcano about to explode. We need to realize that debt forms the basis of what we call our progress and our prosperity, and that private bankers and corporations basically own the governments. This fact has of course been hidden from the general public for generations, but more and more people wake up to the fact that the government’s policies are increasingly more inconsistent with the will of the people, as if a secret hand was behind the decision-making. When governments hand over more and more of our sovereignty to basically corrupt global institutions, even if these institutions seem trustworthy on the surface, and when more and more of our national resources are privatized and sold, such as drinking water, electricity and primary resources, this ought to be a wake-up call.

As I see it, the governments are tied on their hands and feet to the extent that supporting them becomes tantamount to supporting the greater evil. All attempts to reform from the inside seem vain, or have been proven vain so far, since we seem to be headed towards global disaster unless we take a radically different course of action. However, if we try to dress up new solutions with old concepts such as “anarchy” or “liberalism,” we might find ourselves trapped in an old paradigm again. The United Nations Declaration of independence written by Thomas Jefferson, and later its constitution is based on the foundations of natural law, and it states that: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The constitution was an appeal to overthrow corrupt political law, arbitrary and unpredictable, and replace it with a higher law. As it is, in our societies, we are burdened with tens-of- thousands of laws and provisions that clutter our minds and rob us of our attention span. A good question is: what are the fewest laws that a free people needs?  If Natural Law is applied, which recognizes the equal rights of all human beings, it might come down to two: 1. Do all that you agree to do (contractual law) and 2. Do not encroach upon other persons or their property. From this follows for instance that no one can claim the right to hold a special ownership of the land; of Mother Earth.

MH: While I hesitate to use the word ‘Anarchy,’ I embrace Gandhi’s promotion of ‘small government.’ Thomas Jefferson expressed a similar sentiment when he said:

“No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.”

As Gandhi taught, I also believe that, on a personal level, non-violence ought to be the key concept on which all other values are based. By extension, the same idea of non-violence should be the cornerstone of government, or, to quote Jefferson again:

“It is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings, collected together, are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately.”

I believe moral government is based on non-violence, ‘fair play’ and respect for the world around us.

Please can either of you briefly discuss ecology and how it manifests as a systemic issue?

MH: Our environmental problems are driven by the human lust for ‘stuff.’ As a species we rape and plunder the Earth to feed the greed of ‘consumers.’ This system requires exponential growth to sustain itself.

Instrumental in sustaining this grotesque mass insanity is the system of money that everyone uses and nearly no one understands. Money is made by banks out of nothing when credit is given, and destroyed when debts are paid off – no debt, no money. But more money is needed to pay interest, and the only way to get that is more credit, which in turn requires more growth. This trend is exponential and cannot be sustained. Natural resources are ripped from the Earth and disposable products dumped as rubbish at an ever-increasing rate. The Earth is sacrificed to feed this vicious cycle – the future of our biosphere and our chances for survival are literally being exchanged for profit in the short-term.

I see the environmental problems that face us now as driven by consumerism, our ‘lust for more stuff’ gone out of control. A ‘machine,’ The Market, is plundering our ecosystem. It only cares about profits. If The Market approves of a plan it succeeds. If The Market disapproves of political leaders they disappear from view. The Market is making our decisions for us. The servant we created to service our materialism has become our master.

But how do we dismantle the ‘machine’ that is wrecking our planet?

I think a money system that people understand is absolutely crucial. The fraud that has been committed using the principle of fractional reserve banking relies on the fact that no one comprehends the enormity of the scam because of its complexity.

But as long as we allow ourselves to be seduced into borrowing money to buy things we don’t need there is no way out, and it is imperative that we balance our consumption with the rate at which the Earth replenishes what we take.

The blackmailing and corrupting of the exploited nations of the world must be stopped, a seemingly impossible task as being forced to take loans they can never repay compromises these nations. The subsequent looting of these countries by corporations paves the way for furthering the inequality between exploiters and the exploited.

In addition to revoking one’s citizenship, what are some other interventions, strategies, options and initiatives we may engage in as concerned human beings?

IR: Within the old paradigm, so to speak, we have been lending authority to mindsets, systems and institutions outside of ourselves. As I see it, the time has come to reclaim our own individual sovereignty, and the faith in our ability to receive inner guidance. I believe that a collective shift in consciousness is taking place, and I think we are gradually remembering whom we are, and what our innate potential is. Within us we carry an infinite potential for communication with all other energies in the universe, and each and every one of us make up a perfect piece in the mosaic that we together form; we are all aspects of ourselves, of the oneness that we are. So, I think the shift also places the focus within our hearts rather than on outside solutions. We will probably discover that we can co-create in a million different ways when we follow our inner guidance, and contribute with what best honors the individual aspect that each of us is.

MH: Act in accordance with your conscience. Question, think, deliberate and act! The status quo is maintained through acquiescence and ignorance.

Break free of mind control. The scale of unrelenting trance-inducing mind-manipulation coming from the media is staggering. Becoming familiar with the techniques used in hypnotic suggestion, NLP and propaganda will help you recognize and avoid them.

Make your own discoveries. Read up on things that matter, connect the dots. As Einstein purportedly said: “Question everything,” then investigate and arrive at your own conclusions.

Realize that you as an individual have a huge potential – remember that the limits on what you can accomplish are literally those that you impose on yourself! The Universe is infinite, and so are you. Find yourself, find your voice, find your vision.

It is clear to some, but not enough, that we need to develop better more sustainable relationships between the human and non-human world.  How can we give voice to those elements and species of the earth that do not use human modes of communication?

IR: When we are caught up in the left-brain paradigm we tend to place excessive value on verbal communication, but when we open up to our full potential and activate communication from the heart, the third eye and the soul, then we also begin to recognize our interconnectedness. There isn’t any separation, not really. We are one: animals, birds, plants, all kinds of energies. We are the multiverse and the universe and Mother Earth at the same time, and when we choose not to honor some aspects of ourselves but believe in notions of black as different from white, it is always ourselves that we hurt, eventually. The same principle has to be applied when it comes to how we view the state: I view the state as an aspect of myself that needs healing, and I would never apply force or aggression to get my views through.

Seen from this perspective it is also impossible to view ecology as a separate issue because the same premise of oneness applies. When we begin to view all as one, the issues of exploitation fall away, and the sanctity of all forms of life and energy becomes the central axis of our lives. When we realign with who we truly are, it becomes increasingly more difficult to consume mindlessly, to produce excessive waste, to overeat and to disrespect nature. When we resume the communication with our Mother Earth, the tendency will gradually be towards seeking greater balance.

What are some methods you use to reduce the interpersonal conflicts and competition that arise as part of the human condition?

IR: Quantum physics has proven the fact that we are all connected within the same energetic matrix: we are really one “collective” consciousness, both from a spiritual as well as from a scientific point of view. This model of understanding comes in handy on more levels, also when it comes to dealing with conflicts that arise. If we can see the conflicts as mirroring back deeper truths within our self, pleasant or unpleasant, we can use the opportunity provided by the conflict to gain a deeper understanding of who we are, and reflect back to the collective consciousness a deeper level of wisdom.

This June 20-22, Rio +20 takes place in Río de Janeiro, Brazil. Although 20 years have passed since the first ‘Earth Summit,’ the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development, there appears little to celebrate.  Neo-liberal economic policies still dominate the global agenda for ‘sustainable development’ and processes of capitalist expansion, exclusion and concentration continue to deepen the economic, social and environmental crises being faced all over the world.  The ‘green economy’ has been a subterfuge masking new and even more destructive instruments designed to further privatize, monopolize and expel native inhabitants from their lands and territories.

What inner resources help you continue to struggle against these forces and what sources do you derive your hopes from?

IR: I am grateful for the point above mentioned, and I think we ought to see how the green agenda has been hijacked and is being used for the purpose of implementing a one- world government. The agenda of the Copenhagen summit a couple of years ago was to submit another piece of our sovereignty to a global agency which would administer carbon taxes. We now know that the data presented, and which form the basis of our policies on “the problem of global warming,” are proven to have been highly tampered with.

I derive all of my hopes from the love within, the lack of fear and the conviction that we are immortal souls having a human experience. Being a soul in a human body is a challenging but also glorious experience, so much fun to have and so much joy to feel. To me, something of the most exiting that I have done in my life, has been what I am doing now: claiming my freedom back. I have three children and I love them so dearly, of course, and my gift to them is unconventional, and maybe not what they were hoping for from their teenage-point-of-view. I wish to present our children, our grandchildren and all of our brothers and sisters on earth, with the taste of freedom. Freedom tastes sweet. I am also blessed with my partner Michael, with whom I share a deep love and a common understanding. I have come to realize that neither love nor freedom costs money.  These are the immortal values that could and should form the basis of our co-existence on earth.

MH: There are many who have struggled for peace and justice, and I continually derive a huge amount of inspiration from their words.


“The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence.”

-Mahatma Gandhi



[iii]           Mahatma Gandhi, Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 79, p. 122

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