In Defense of Nationhood

Are nations evil?

The question would seem to be worth asking, since vast numbers of people currently seem to be acting on the belief that they are. Everyone has always agreed that some nations are evil, and that all nations sometimes do evil things. But that old understanding turned on the basis that the things a nation does can be evil – like things that a person can do. In contrast, the perception currently sweeping much of the civilized world seems to claim that it is the state of nationhood itself which is evil.

But is it?

The Random-house college dictionary defines a nation thus: “A body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its own unity to seek or possess a government particularly its own.” That seems to be a fairly reasonable description of the concept. And I readily admit that there is abundant room for abuse in that concept. But for those of you who reject it, I have to ask – with what would you replace it?

A specific group of people, attached to a specific territory, with a government specific to them. That is our definition of nation, correct? If we rule this idea out as ‘barbaric’, ‘racist’, ‘tyrannical’, or ‘bigoted’ what options are we left with?

Either we have to abandon the ‘specific’ and say that all people, everywhere, should be governed by a universal government, or we have to abandon ‘governments’ and ‘bodies of people’ entirely and say that people should exist in a fragmented state without any form of law or group organization.

If we reject the nation we are left with a choice between a world state or total anarchy.

Now, some people do seem to act like they want these things. But let’s really consider the ideas for a moment.

There seems to be a confusion in some circles of anarchy, the absence of all law and order, with freedom, being free to run your own life and have your natural human rights respected by others. But they are not the same thing. They are not even compatible.  An individual can be ‘free’ in a lawless society only by being the the most powerful person around.  In other words, the only way a human can make other humans respect his rights without law is to be strong enough to enforce them himself, would be to be the strongest person around in an area with very little population pressure. Tarzan might be free in the jungle (most of the time). But we don’t live in the jungle. And very few of us are physically analogous to Tarzan. Only those with the personal strength to enforce their rights, and sufficient space to avoid large numbers have ‘freedom’ in anarchy. Which brings us of course to the fact that in anarchy there is nothing to protect the weak and slow from being preyed on by the strong and unscrupulous. The weak have no rights in anarchy. They still posses those rights human beings. But they have no way of enforcing them.

“But why are you expecting that everyone will be so evil?” I’m not. I’m assuming that there will be individual evil people. And because decent people no longer have any framework to protect each other with, the evil people will have to be dealt with on an individual level by the decent people – and then it comes down to sheer power.

“But what about friends and family? The stronger protect the weaker!” Well I agree they should. But now you’re veering into group organization and the state of tribehood. And that might be a very sensible thing to do. (In fact there seems to be evidence for the small tribe being the social structure most suited to human psychology, and historically it is the most prevalent form of human society.) But that would no longer be anarchy at all. We now have a specific group people with a specific organization (however small). In fact, we have left anarchy behind and put our feet on the steps of nationhood.

“But what about the other option? What about the world state?” The idea has been floating around for some time. Numerous peoples have attempted to make one. In the ancient world, the Persian empire sought to subjugate as much of the world as possible. The Roman Empire turned vast swaths of Asia, Europe, and even Africa into provinces of a Roman state. The spirituo/political ideology of Islam commands it’s adherents to work and fight for the spread an Islamic State across the world (an attempt which continues openly to this day). In the 20th century there was a concerted effort to forcefully apply the communist ideology to the whole globe. It’s far from a new idea.

I think most of us can agree that had the above attempts succeeded, they would not all have been unmitigated utopia. In fact, in so far as they did succeed, many of them exacerbated rather than alleviated the dangers of barbarism, racism, and tyranny. They did not all do so equally – Rome (in spite of its undemocratic imperialism and what is by modern western standards terrible barbarism) is famous for having brought on the Pax Romana, the Roman Peace, among its provinces. On the other hand, it is doubtful that the world ever saw another massacre like the class-cleansing of the early communist states. And all of them – even the best – had by necessity involved slaughter to create, and then top-down control to maintain.

“But” – some of you might be saying – “we don’t mean that kind of world state. We don’t mean an empire. We mean a good world state.” Quite so. Quite so. And you have thereby put your finger on the beginning of the problem with the concept.

A universal government would be a government like any other. Its sheer size and ubiquity would not make it any less capable of the crimes smaller governments commit. “But what about racism,” you may say, “and war. It would do away with those, wouldn’t it?” But would it? People would still be jostling for power in such a situation and those different ‘interests’ would still sometimes be expressed racially (and sometimes religiously, and sometimes economically, and sometimes by locality….). And if it became politically convenient for enough ‘interests’ with pull on the state to attack a particular group, to whom would that group turn, when all the world is under one colossal thumb?

And war? Even worse. To assume there would be no war under such a circumstance is not only to assume that the state is so powerful, omnipresent, (and competent) that it can intervene and prevent all local squabbles before they happen, but also to assume that everyone is uniformly complacent with the state of affairs and no one ever decides they want to run things closer to home. In fact it assumes that not only would this world state have very tight and efficient police control, but also that there would never be any revolutions against it. The first assumption seems to me to be both alarming (large, heavily controlled regimes are rarely ‘nice’ entities) and naïve. For large organizations are not usually extremely competent. The second is ridiculous. There would be attempts by this or that group to either break away from or radically alter their position within the state. And so there would still be war – but instead of there being war between nations, it would small factions against a megalith with the globe’s whole power behind it. It would be exchanging wars between nations for revolutions against a powerful, omnipresent state. The only way I could see to avoid that would be to follow North Korea’s example and crush and confuse the entire population into such a state of petrified submission that they never dared dream of stepping out of line. I think we can agree that that is hardly a utopian idea. (And who knows how long that could strategy work, anyhow.)

So no – a world state in itself would not fix any of the problems that nations are susceptible to. Those qualities of size, power, and omnipresence which would make it a world state would not prevent it from committing the same crimes as nations. What they would do is allow it to carry out those crimes on a vastly larger scale.

“But the type of world state I’m thinking of wouldn’t commit those crimes!” Well, if you’re talking now about building a government so well designed that it didn’t commit any of the crimes governments are susceptible to, you’re now simply talking about ‘how to build a good government’, and not ‘nations versus world state’ at all.

So, not only would the world state be subject to the same dangers as nations, those dangers when they arose would be more terrible due to the enormity of the power behind it. In fact, the world state might be more susceptible than small nations to many of those crimes.

When one single state rules the globe the entire world is subject to whomever gets ahold of that power structure. Even if we assume for the sake of argument the (highly unlikely) proposition that this world government would start out in good hands, we have no way of ensuring that it would stay in good hands. By democratic process? Why would the process which is considered so inadequate in the case of the nation suddenly be inviolable when applied to a world state? Also, strict democracy gets harder and harder the bigger the groups in question get – they get more removed from the actual voter/citizen. It might still be technically representative, but at such a scale, the distance between the citizen and the representative would be enormous, the connection tenuous at best. The actual amount of control the people would have on such a system would be so small as to be negligible in practice. Only very large interests indeed would actually have an effective say in what the state became. And this state run primarily by large, powerful ‘interests’ would have legal control of the entire world, would have the entire power of the globe behind it, and would, to maintain its existence, need to be in the habit of putting down any dissent.

All this without assuming any intentional evil on anyone’s part. This only assumes that the state will attempt to uphold itself and the interests controlling it will pursue their interests. But assuming there will be no direct evil is assuming far too much. In actual practice humans will be just as selfish, foolish, and power-hungry as before, but some very few of them will have power over all the others.

No one in known history has ever achieved world domination before. Do we want to start now?

Now, I know that not everyone who is condemning the nation actually wishes to do away with it entirely. Probably some people are now saying that they never wanted a great big top-down megalith, they simply wanted all the nations to bond together in terms of understanding and peace.

If that is what is in question, I will have have to ask whether you mean independent nations being on terms of alliance with each other and having certain agreed upon treaties about behaviour? Or whether you mean nations being subject to an international entity?

If the latter, if in fact the nations are subject to an international entity, then you have the world state.

If the former, you simply have what most civilized nations have agreed upon for a long time.

So, I am at a loss as to what anyone thinks would be gained by doing away with nations. I am at a loss as to why people hate the concept of nationhood itself. Like any human institution it leaves room for evil. But as long as humans are evil, all human institutions will have some evil in them. The problem of human authority containing some evil is not solved by replacing authority with sheer power, nor is it solved by making that authority universal and omnipresent.

If nations are not in themselves any more evil than the alternative, why are we trying to hate them? This hatred is in some cases taking very extreme forms. Some insist that to love one’s nation means only to hate people of other nations. But how is that? If I love my own kids, does that mean I hate my neighbour’s kids? No indeed! In fact, if I don’t love my kids, I’m not very likely to love my neighbour’s kids either. If I allow my love to become an obsession which over-rides all human decency, that does open the door to problems. But the issue was not that I loved them. The issue was that I became blindly obsessive.

This is a point which I think could stand to be better noticed. We have been telling ourselves for many years – as well we should – that we need to love the stranger, love those who are different from us, love those who are far from us. This is true. ‘Love your enemy’ and ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ says Christian theology. But it is a twisted inverse of that which is being pushed right now. ‘Hate yourself’ and ‘hate those things which are close to you’. Hatred of the things which are ours is no key to loving the things which are not! In fact, if we do not love the things near to us, how shall we love the things which are far? If our own people are to be reviled, what makes any other people to be loved? And how shall we love them, having trained ourselves in hatred where we should have learned love?

It seems to me to be a terrible mistake. Impartiality in applying justice is important. But impartiality is not hatred. This teaching the self to hate the things one would normally find easiest to love is not going to increase the self’s love for the distant – it will simply make love more imaginary. If love is pushed farther and farther away, and hatred is pulled in close, it is actually hatred that you are training yourself in. Love becomes a phantom, hatred becomes your real attitude.

We learn to love our universal neighbour not by hating our physical neighbour, but by loving our physical neighbour and then learning to apply that to all as much as we can.

No country is perfect. And love for your country should not be set up as an idol. But loving and working to protect your country is the first step to both bettering your country and to learning to have respect for countries in general. And only by maintaining your country as a sovereign nation can it protect the rights of those within it.

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TERRIFIED OF TRUMP? Here’s why you shouldn’t be.

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So, we have a new president. Donald J. Trump has taken the oath of office and and now holds the highest office in the land. A great many of us have greeted this event as a great victory for freedom. …. But many of us are yet wary. And some of us are terrified.

Well, I am all in favor of always maintaining a certain amount of wariness. Always keep your eyes open. But for those who watch this event in pure horror, I have a few words to say.

You can relax, Donald Trump is NOT a bigoted monster.

He really isn’t. I know they’ve screamed it at you all day long for months. But it is a lie, a bold-faced falsehood to manipulate you. I personally abhor racism. Early on in his campaign, when I was attending to the democratic nomination and catching only what was said about him (rather than listening to what he actually said), I believed him to be a monster as well. I was wrong. I was lied to. And when I investigated what he had actually said and done, the deception was revealed.

Donald Trump has not attacked racial minorities. He does not threaten women’s position in society. He has not given the non-straight community to reason to fear. He does not promote religious persecution. He has not espoused hatred of foreigners. … Over the course of the year the major media institutions have taken things Trump has said, and by strained argument, perversion of facts, and sometimes whole-cloth invention, attributed monstrous meanings to him.

  • Donald Trump HAS pointed out the high level of criminal activity among people who enter the country illegally.

    • Their Story – Trump hates Mexicans.

There simply is a high level of crime among that demographic; that’s the statistics. That wasn’t about Latinos as a race. It wasn’t about Mexicans as a nationality. He didn’t even try and make out that all people who enter the country in a criminal fashion are bad people. (In fact, he made a point of saying the opposite.)  But factually speaking, the illegal traffic across the border does indeed bring crime and drugs into the states – that is well known. And yes, there is a disproportionate level of rape cases among people involved in the smuggling. These are simply facts. To try and swing a mere reporting of some unpleasant facts about a (relatively) small group of people (who happen to mostly be Latino) into an attack upon the entire Spanish-American race is a job so big, so far out, that I am genuinely impressed that they convinced so many people.

  • Donald Trump HAS has put emphasis on upholding the border laws.

    • Their Story – Trump hates immigrants and is starting an unprecedented border tyranny

No, there’s nothing unprecedented or hateful about it. Trump has emphasized that the border regulations which America (and every other nation state) has always had, need to actually be enforced. That’s not revolutionary. It’s just basic, ubiquitous national security. Go anywhere in the world, and try and just walk into the country. Not going to happen. I can’t even drive from New-England to our good friend Canada without offering identification and an account of myself to the authorities on both sides of the border. The famed and feared wall is not about oppression – it’s simply about enforcing the existing law. American citizens who have immigrated here are not in any danger on account of this. You’re an American citizen!  People who are living here against the law are indeed in danger of being sent back and made to come in legally or not at all … as they would be anywhere else. People who try to come in without legal permission will be stopped. That is not something new. It is ubiquitous. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with race.  That they managed to swing this as revolutionary and racist is truly mind-boggling. 

  • Trump HAS recommended entry restrictions on some groups

    • Their Story – Trump intends to persecute racial and religious minorities.

We are at war. We are not at war with a nation but with an ideology. This makes it messy. But we are certainly at war. And our enemy is as evil as any we have ever faced. Torture? Yes, burning and crucifying people is back in style in the Middle-East. Slavery? ISIS sells little girls as sex slaves. (I understand it makes a significant portion of their revenues.) Murder? They glorify the killing of civilians. Genocide? They slaughter not only other races and religions but even their own. This is our enemy. And they have not only threatened to bring the fight to us, they have done so. Americans and Europeans have died over the past year in attacks by Muslims in the ISIS promoted fashion. While we are at war, restricting entry in some fashion is not only reasonable but necessary. Not all Muslims are terrorists, of course, but a percentage of them are. By restricting the immigration of foreign Muslims into our land, we are not persecuting them, and we are not saying that they are all evil as individuals. We are saying that a significant percentage of Muslims are supportive of violent radical policies such as those of our fiendish enemy – because they are – and so for safety’s sake we’re keeping the door closed while the fire-fight is on. Certainly, this has absolutely nothing to do with harassing American citizens of any ethic background. It’s simply a step to keep foreign enemy warriors from infiltrating us.  For those of you who are concerned about the innocent Middle-Easterners who have been displaced by the chaos, you’re perfectly right something needs to be done – like stopping the chaos so they can go home.

  • Trump HAS chosen a vice-president who doesn’t like gay marriage.

    • Their Story – Trump is a threat to people with unconventional sexual identities.

At no point in his campaign has Trump threatened or demeaned homosexuals.  To hear the media talk, you would think he had. But he hasn’t. Perhaps you are remembering that incident where a Trump supporter burned a gay flag? … The guy was gay (still is actually). He burned the flag symbolically to represent the danger he perceived his fellows to be in … from Hillary’s policies. It was an anti-clinton ad talking about the danger she would put his community in. Perhaps you didn’t watch Trump’s presidential nomination speech back last summer? I did. Donald Trump did something which I didn’t think I would ever see. He got the entire convention hall full of republicans to cheer for the safety of the nation’s LGBT community. He has openly noted the danger of bigots attacking based on their sexuality, and condemned it in no uncertain terms, promising to be a protector to the LGBTs of America. If you are gay and worried … its okay. The media has been using scare tactics to manipulate you. No one’s going to persecute you. It’s all right.

  • Trump HAS been a cad.

    • Their Story – Trump is a misogynist.

Yes, Trump is a cad.  Yes, respectable people are embarrassed on his behalf for his indiscretions.  He’s a libertine.  Nobody’s arguing that.  But a very big deal has been made about him being the perpetrator of sexual assault – the main incident about which this narrative was spun was a video in which he was bragging about how easy slutty women are when you’re rich – bragging in very coarse terms. Now this was in horribly poor taste, but it wasn’t about assault, it was about promiscuity, it was about how loose women ‘let’ rich guys take liberties. Let. If you want to criticize him as a lout and a womanizer, that’s fair. In fact, I’ll join you. But to act like that is evidence of assault is dishonest.  His philandering and his coarse words are unworthy of a president. But er, being a philanderer does not translate into being a misogynist. A misogynist is someone who hates women, not a libertine. And there is absolutely no evidence that he does hate women. He’s willing to subject individual women he dislikes to the same scorn he shows to men he dislikes – but that’s a gender neutral tendency. He hired the first woman to successfully run a presidential campaign.  His daughter Ivanka grew up to be quite an independent lady. He has at no point suggested the inferiority of women. He has at no point suggested that they should have their right infringed …. Oh wait, yeah, there was this one thing. He doesn’t think women have a right to kill children. But, might that not be derived not from a negative consideration against women’s right but from a positive consideration for children’s rights? (Just, something to consider.) In any case, there was at no point a statement in the campaign attacking women. Girls …. you’re fine. Trump has no plans to let you be enslaved. (That was Hillary.)

  • Trump HAS spoken of American Blacks as living in bad conditions

    • Their Story – Trump hates blacks.

Actually, my ability to comprehend things is starting to give out at this point. The infamous statement about the terrible state of some black communities was in the middle of a passage in which he was talking about the importance of increasing opportunity for the black community. That was a pro-black speech. It was the exact same issue the left is always touting … that blacks don’t always have it very good, and that needs to change. How on earth they have managed to make anyone think that it was racist towards blacks I have no idea.

Oh, and finally, the Antisemitism thing … his grandchildren are all Jewish.  We just had a Rabbi give the first invocation at the inauguration ceremony.  He certainly hasn’t verbally attacked Jews or suggested persecution. I don’t even know where they think they can stick that.  

Now, tell me, where is the hate?  Because I don’t see it here.  The main hatred I have seen all year is the vicious attacks on Trump and his supporters as bigots and racists and xenophobes and every other ism under the sun.  Time and time again what Trump has actually promoted has been ignored by the media, who simply promote their same old script whether anybody’s following it or not.  Trump will cry for better opportunities for blacks – and they screamed how he was insulting them.  Pence debated his opponent beautifully and was congratulated by Trump – so Huffpost runs the headline that Pence has earned Trump’s ire by being too good and showing him up.

No better example can be given than that which happened today.  Donald Trump said this:

“Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves.
These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
We are one nation – and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.
The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans……..
We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.  We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.
We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones – and unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.
The Bible tells us, “how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”
We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.
When America is united, America is totally unstoppable ………..
A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.
It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.
So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:
You will never be ignored again.
Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams, will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.”

Moments later the NBC commentator said “Wow, that was divisive!  I mean, he was appealing solely to those those populist fans of his!  Did you notice how divisive that was?!”

Aaaaaand so the lies go on.  They don’t even try to make them plausible.  They are apparently hoping you weren’t watching.  They are counting on you listening only to them, counting on their use of ‘isms triggering such terror in you that you cannot think or see.  That is hateful behavior.  That is deceptive and divisive behavior.   It is deeply insulting behavior.  They directly contradict what is boldly in plain sight and expect the average American to believe them.  And to what end, do you ever wonder?

Trump is obviously a very flawed man.  By all means, be wary.  I am too.  But don’t take to the streets vaguely shouting of isms.  Don’t scream ‘literally Hitler!’ at the guy with Jewish grand-kids.  Don’t lambaste him for attacking things which he has publicly defended.  Criticize every specific thing he does which is wrong.  But do not, I adjure you, simply take a great big pack of negative feelings from the MSM and run terrified of a non-existent threat.  It grieves me to see so many well meaning people so angry and terrified …. of a cartoon villain put forward by CNN.

So, I don’t know what will happen over the next four years.  But let’s remain calm, and deal with what actually happens, not with vague lies.  Let’s not believe false reports of hatred, and respond with hatred.  Let’s not let anyone else do our thinking for us.  Let’s give everyone, including our new president, a chance.  You should be vigilant and cautious.  You should always be vigilant and cautious.  But you don’t need to be terrified.

So, I say with President Trump:

God Bless You, And God Bless America!