Meditations: Why Think in Terms of Nations?
Why Think in Terms of Nations?
What will happen if the Bush Doctrine bears its logical fruit and there is a nuclear war? Not by terrorists, but through old-fashioned state vs. state conflict escalating out of control. Is there any way to prepare for such a catastrophe?
Obviously, a nuclear detonation at this time would be a psychological and emotional shock far greater than Hiroshima for those who still feel and care about the human prospect. And politically, it would be the end of the international order.
(If terrorists detonate a nuclear weapon, Bush’s policies will seem to be vindicated, despite the fact that the “global war on terror” will have been self-fulfilling. Al-Qaeda is a perfect foil and tool for achieving global totalitarianism. Therefore the terrorists are metaphysically working with the Bush Administration.)
The imminent collapse of the international order poses questions that go beyond the nation state and its national and international institutions. Are we simply looking at the end of another world order in our time, or, given the unparalleled ecological and spiritual crisis facing humankind, is something much deeper at issue? In other words, how far into the human psyche does the end of the age of nation-states reach?
Clearly, the extent of the challenge humankind faces reflects the depth of the issues that must be confronted, and the strength of the response needed to adequately meet them. That eliminates the conventional thinking that comfortingly contends that ‘we’ve been here before,’ and ‘every age says the same thing.’ The unprecedented nature of the challenge is evident by the fact that this is undoubtedly the first time in history people have said that!
The challenge to human consciousness is so comprehensive and profound, so demanding of radical change, that it’s necessary for people to employ the full powers of human denial to evade it. Ultimately, the crisis is not just economic and political, or even ecological, but psychological and spiritual.
Nations are basically glorified tribes. That is, national identification is just the last and most complex expression of identifying with particular groups for security and survival. In a global society, particularism is an unworkable concept--increasingly meaningless but useful for the powers that be to sustain. Transnational companies respect no borders, only the bottom line.
The way ahead is not to shore up outmoded notions of sovereignty, but to question and overthrow the very concept of identification. Local control and self-determination will flow out of global awareness and world citizenship, not from futilely trying to preserve identities that are already a thing of the past.
If self-interest and identification with particular groups are immutable principles of human psychological and political organization, then power and domination by the most powerful groups will continue to determine the fate of humankind. Even the American Empire is a veneer for global economic interests that have long since made national boundaries as porous as a sieve to capital flows and corporate grows. Nationalism has become the last psychological refuge, as people cling to the fiction of fading identities in a maelstrom of change beyond their capacity to comprehend.
This is why, without a psychological revolution that addresses the ancient habit of identifying with particular groups for security and survival, Kofi Annan’s proposal for UN reform will inevitably fail. It isn’t merely that it flies in the face of US power and stated intentions for perpetual military dominance. It’s because the UN is based on the flawed and defunct principle of the sovereign (that is, separate and supreme) nation-state.
Annan’s reform package is sound as far as it goes, but it’s designed to strengthen the framework of the UN structure, while ignoring the rotting foundation of the international order. Because the nation-state is obsolet, and because the primeval pattern of identification with particular groups is antithetical to a viable global society, we need a new building block and foundation, not merely a new façade, or even a new framework.
Why think in terms of nations, much less the power relations between nations? It's no different than thinking in terms of tribes, and warfare between them. Why take self-interest as a given? People have always been capable of seeing and behaving in terms of the whole. They just defined the whole differently in the past. Psychologically, a whole people used to be the nation, as it was the tribe and clan before that. Now it is factually and irrefutably humankind itself.
- 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.