Martin LeFevre: The Death Throes of Nationalism
The Death Throes of Nationalism
The scene this week of Bill Clinton having a rollicking good time with George Bush at the White House during the unveiling of Clinton’s presidential portrait was hard to take.
Here the country and the world face the imperative of getting rid of arguably the worst president in American history at inarguably the most critical juncture in human history, and Clinton and Bush act like a couple of old Yale Skull and Bones buddies.
Wait, that’s Kerry and Bush, who are both alumni of Yale, as well as not so secret members of the most secretive club of power in the world. Given their almost identical stances on Iraq, and Bush’s cynical co-opting of the UN and multilateralism (even as he and Cheney reassert the lie about the link between Saddam and bin Laden), will it really make any difference which man wins in November?
On one hand, if Bush is reelected, the illusion that his administration is an aberration, and the false hope that America will resume a true leadership role in the global society, will evaporate once and for all. On the other hand, the true hope for a decent foreseeable future for humankind will be crushed, as the EU and UN continue to dance to the tune of American power.
If Kerry is elected, Bush will be seen as an abnormality, and there will be a renewal of faith in divine American guidance, at least by the majority of people here and abroad. Multilateralism will be the buzzword on both sides of the Atlantic, and not just in Europe, even as African and other nations of the South remain marginalized.
Of course Iraq will continue to be a black hole sucking more and more of the disintegrating “international order” into it. Wider and graver threats, from massive terrorism strikes to nuclear confrontations between states, are inevitable. Meanwhile, in completely neglected places in the world, like Sudan, ethnic cleansing and even genocide will go on, demonstrating that “never again” is the emptiest of slogans.
The Bush–Kerry race is but symbol on a stage in which the same old tired lines are being acted out to predictable ends, which people hope against hope will somehow end differently. Still, the mad but de facto election of the President of the World by the dumb and numb population of a single country (albeit the most powerful empire that has ever existed) does matter. Just not in the way the vast majority of people, across the political spectrum, think.
The state based system simply does not have the vigor or, in a global society, the coherence, to adequately meet the general and particular challenges facing humankind. And as far as the hope of multilateralism, it is hollow precisely because it is inherently a state based approach. (It’s meaningless to talk about multilateralism independent of nation-states, just as it’s contradictory to speak of a 'release from state based approaches' while still operating within the same old conceptual and organizational structures.)
It’s enough to make one an anarchist. But anarchy, a philosophical stance now taken by many informed people, is a strange philosophy, combining a rational cynicism regarding all government institutions, with an irrational faith in unfettered human nature.
It all boils down to that idea, actuality--“human nature.” When a few thousand fanatics, however justified their grievances against Western, and particularly American domination, can trigger a “global war on terror,” the battle is no longer for territory, but for the hearts and minds of the world’s people. Both sides are successfully manipulating the fears and insecurity of people in all countries, and things will only get worse as long as these two factors--fear and insecurity--are not addressed at their root within the individual.
Bush and Cheney are banking on the stupidity of the American people, which is why they continue to reassert the nearly nonexistent link between Saddam and bin Laden prior to 9/11. (Most Americans still believe Saddam was also behind it.) The Bushites believe, with reason, that you can fool enough of the people enough of the time (to get elected to a second term).
The paradox is that the outcome of the American election, which comes at a pivotal point in human history, will not be determined from inside but from outside the United States. A dead people can decide nothing.
Besides, history has moved beyond the nationalism, much less the jingoism, that the Bushites are milking for every drop here in the States. If Europeans, Africans, Asians, and South Americans begin to move in a different direction, Americans will follow a true lead.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.