Do you live in a nation? A state? A nation-state?
To get to the heart of what is driving global madness, we need to first define some terms. A 'nation' is an organic entity defined by language, culture, names, and other aspects of people's lives. A 'state' is a political entity defined by lines on a map, taxation, legal systems, and so forth. 'Mercantilism' is an economic system that seeks to protect a nation's trading interests through the use of legal, military and regulatory means. How they all fit together will become clear in a moment.
On the island of Java, where I live, there used to be a number of nations broadly defined as Javanese and Sundanese. The Javanese primarily inhabited the lowlands, while the Sunda stayed mostly in the mountains, with a fuzzy dividing line between the east and west of the island. These nations were distinguished by language, culture and cuisine. Javanese and Sundanese are distinct dialects with many sub-dialects. Culturally, one of the most obvious is the patterns of batik (printed cloth) that distinguished one region from another, but there are also physical and architectural differences. On the plate, the Javanese prefer spice to the Sundanese preference for bitter flavors.
Over the top of these nations is a political entity called the Republic of Indonesia, which is a modern state, with all the bureaucratic trappings of other republics. This political entity uses the Indonesian language, which is wholly distinct from both Javanese and Sundanese, and the state identifies itself with a flag, anthem and other symbols of the modern state.
The driving force that unified the two nations under the state was mercantilism, the mutual interest of both groups to protect their business interests and promote those interests through the use of common regulations, a legal system for disputes and a military to project force on outside challengers.
The modern nation-state arose in the 1400s in Europe, primarily in Venice, Genoa and other Italian city-states. The distinct cultures formed naturally through familial ties and language/culture. In order to reduce friction between the powerful trading families and focus on expanding business, they created a system of laws and regulations to level the home playing field. They then built, for the time, mighty militaries to protect their ships and caravans from raiders and ensure safe delivery of goods and the more important return of money.
Over time, nations, states and mercantilism combined with cartography and the ability to define boundaries and borders and record them on maps and negotiate them with other entities to create the modern nation-state. A fine example of a nation-state is Switzerland. It is actually three nations - Italy, Germany and France - combined under a political system defined by boundaries to protect its business interests through mercantilism. The inhabitants speak different languages and enjoy different native cultures (nation), but share a single government and military (state) symbolized by a common flag, anthem and other such things.
For the better part of 600 years, the nation-state has grown to cover most of the globe and has defined how we humans interact with each other. Legal system compete to offer the most fair and secure environments for business, while the militaries go to war to protect and expand markets. It is something we are all used to and hardly ever think about any more. In fact, maps have hardly changed for decades now and we are generally shocked when extreme events rewrite boundaries, such as the fall of the Soviet Union.
Though the whole thing is rather chaotic, it has been relatively stable and allowed complex legal systems to develop that control activities within and between the various nation-states. However, a major shift has been underway for the better part of the 20th century and into the 21st century. Powerful interests have been trying to dissolve the nation-state in favor of a global system of laws and regulations, with a global military to protect trade. The first step was the League of Nations after WW1, with the United Nations springing from its ashes in the wake of WW2.
Multi-national corporations have been a major driving force behind the effort to end the nation-state. There are obvious advantages to conforming one's business to a single set of rules and regulations, rather than having to manage and maneuver through piles of legal hassle in every country where one does business. The International Standards Organization (ISO) and HDTV (replacing NTSC, PAL and SECAM) are prime examples of this effort.
Imagine McDonald's, with outlets and franchises in most of the nation-states on Earth. Employment laws, food and sanitation regulations, environmental laws, taxation schemes, and much more apply in every location and are radically different place to place. It would be so much easier for them if there were a single set of global rules, a single taxing scheme and other standardization.
It would also be nice if there were a single military that protected business interests in every jurisdiction and on the high seas.
McDonald's is only one of thousands of multi-national corporations, and nearly all of them have a vital interest in conforming global business environments to a single standard. Thus, the ongoing push to end the nation-state.
All of this is being led, of course, by banking and finance, which is the nucleus around which business orbits and the heart of mercantilism for centuries. The test grounds for this unified system is the European Union and the United States. They are both a hodge-podge of nations that are being forced, with varying degrees of success, to synchronize into single states.
The EU is the latest effort and one that is a bit clearer for our purposes than the US. The EU is dozens of very distinct nations with roughly 20 states overlaying them. Over the past 30 years or so, there has been a major effort to centralize banking and government, issue a single currency, erase borders, converge militaries. And if Grexit and Brexit are any sign, it is failing miserably.
In fact, people like Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Chiang Kai-shek, who are prominent nationists, are often ridiculed and berated by corporate interests because nationalism is anathema to the state and mercantile interests. They have been vilified, fairly or not, because their efforts undermine the centuries-long effort to champion political systems over natural ones in the interest of commercialism and profit.
To understand the current global chaos and honestly assess whether a particular leader is really wrong, or is just being castigated for being a naturalist/nationalist, one needs to understand the distinction at the root of the problem.
We are facing a massive clash of entrenched interests - a clash of civilizations, if you will. On the one hand are those promoting nationalism, which is to say the natural and organic organization of human beings. On the other hand are the statists/mercantilists who promote business interests and profits over the interests of individuals. Who is right or wrong in this argument is a subjective decision.
My view is that nationalism is a natural function of life. We are all imprinted with the location and culture of our birth. There is only one "home," though there may be many "houses." People, no matter how much we attempt to modify it, will always desire the "home" to which they were born. Everything else will always be foreign. This comes from two things: the natural imprinting of the electro-magnitic field of a given location at birth, and the mother tongue, which carries one's culture with it (culture and language are inseparable).
Like homing pigeons, we all have an innate desire to return to the place where we were born. How strong that desire and how much one is susceptible to it varies, but it is always there. Part of that most basic motivation is the desire to keep that "home" in some sort of pristine or original condition, a kind of defense mechanism that makes us fight for the sanctity and sovereignty of our birthplaces.
The other part of this equation - language - is even more deeply rooted. Though I speak a number of languages, and I am fluent in four of them, English is always my default. It is the language of my thoughts and it molds my worldview. I can no more change that that I can change my brain. It is the language that carries culture, and culture that influences language. One can never be divorced from the other.
Thus, we see globally a fundamental clash between what humans are and what we feel, against what we have created. Political and economic sciences have been separated from the most fundamental aspects of what it means to be human. Despite centuries of education and social manipulation, the statist/mercantilist interests cannot remove these most basic impulses from humanity. Efforts to genetically manipulate the organism may one day succeed, but I am skeptical.
In the real world, though, there are the Donald Trumps on the nationalist side - though I think he runs solely on instinct. On the other side are the "globalists," whose efforts are, as we saw above, to synchronize a global system of laws, regulations and militaries to protect business and profits. They are fundamentally opposed ideologies and can no more mix than oil and water. They are mutually exclusive.
So when you see the Trumps and the Putins vilified in the corporate media, or people railing on about racial, globalist or religious ideals, at the heart of it is a clash of worldviews, a weltanschauungskrieg, or "war of philosophies."
I, for one, believe that the nationalists will win. Beneath the rhetoric is a deep human truth that cannot be changed. The statist/mercantilist effort seeks to replace what humans feel with an abstract ideology that must be learned - it is not installed at birth. It is akin to a computer's BIOS and OS. They can work together or clash, but when they clash, nothing will work.
I suspect the harder the statists push, the more the nationalists will resist until the whole thing collapses, or one side gives up, and I don't see that happening. It is the proverbial rock and a hard spot, or in scientific terms, the irresistible force meeting the the unyielding object.
This will not end pretty.
Here Thar Be Monsters!
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