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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Concept of Nation State

Increasingly, we all are tolerant of differences within our country. A person from whichever corner of India finds welcome, at least in theory, in any other corner of India. Laws make it easy to move, to work and to settle wherever one wants. Such intra-country freedom is common in most other countries. What we are still fiercely protective about are our national borders. Somehow, barbed wire fences there attach so much meaning that killing and dying for them is considered laudatory whereas doing same for borders within the nation is considered ridiculous and dangerously divisive.

Will there come a time where concept of nation state will dissolve to permit real global citizenship? It seems impossible. Despite our acceptance of different cultures, nationalities and races, country still gets number one priority spot in our loyalties (after family and clan, for some). One would rather save one life in his own country than ten in other. Yet, this distinction stops within different states in a country. A geography under highest government is expected to be inclusive. Will it be possible to have one government for the world in future? This is mere hypothetical question but it will mean that policies will be designed for overall welfare of humankind rather than that of citizens of a particular nation at any cost to other people in the world. Will it ever be understood that all lives are really equal? What will it do to idea of patriotism which will be a defunct concept then.

These are thoughts I never harboured or had inkling about until that day about four years ago when I happened to meet this women at AID’s picnic. She strongly championed elimination of concept of nation state and questioned my views on patriotism. I am not really sure where I stand but idea has been fascinating enough to stick with me this long.

6 comments:

Partha Pratim said...

Brilliant post.

Anonymous said...

Following comments from Facebook page of this post:

AMIT==================
"... but it will mean that policies will be designed for overall welfare of humankind rather than that of citizens of a particular nation at any cost to other people in the world."

**
But are policies being decided today at cost to other people in the world? And will one global government guarantee it?

BTW, what did this woman have to say about Islamic countries and getting them on board her utopia? I'm not sure that being nationalistic/patriotic is necessarily a bad thing, or that it has to be at the cost of others.

RUPAM=================
I think that patriotism provides purpose (bigger than themselves) to many people...

... intrestingly sports and religion do not transcend borders as far as loyalty goes but entertainment does - any indian would be willing to fight to claim that sachin is a better cricket player than brian lara...or that hinduism is a better religion than others...but no indian claims shahrukh is a better actor than brad pitt just becuase he is indian...

...a global government will have to ensure that people have something to feel aligned with or feel part of......

...as with many science fiction movies, once an alien race is found, the entire earth would unite... :)... it would be "US vs THEM" ... the need for US creates the need for THEM...

...my two cents...

ASHISH==================
@amit: I am not sure if I understand your question right because it has such an obvious answer. Every government currently weighs its own citizens way more than any other group of people on Earth. Developed countries spend so much money on marginal improvement in lives of its citizen that this money if were to spent on under-developed countries will change life dramatically. Why are all wars being fought currently if not for "our people"? In most recent example I am aware of, pharmaceutical companies in Europe who are few licensed to make anti-swine-flu tablets are underpressure to serve home market first before they serve foreign markets because current capacity is not enough to serve both. Everybody wants to save the life of his own countrymen before they bother about others.

If a national government is assumed to take care of all its citizens then a global government will take care of all people of the world.

@amit: Our discussion didn't go into detail on Islamic or otherwise so I can't say much.

I am not saying patriotism is a bad thing but currently it is almost always at cost of others, if not directly (like in war) then indirectly (India would rather provide employment to its poor than to food in Ethopia, for example). If we think globally, then any country which has per capita income above global average should stop money on local development and channel funds to poorer parts of the world (it's like government taking taxes in Mumbai and giving aids to Bihar).

@rupam: your main point is that their cannot be US unless their the OTHER. that's a psychological question but i think it's possible to feel aligned to whole world as single country. "fighting" (presumably not with weapons) for sports is not harmful but other border loyalities seems to be (see above comment)

Amit said...

Ashish, but "Every government currently weighs its own citizens way more than any other group of people on Earth."

is not the same as

" [taking care of] citizens of a particular nation at any cost to other people in the world."

"If a national government is assumed to take care of all its citizens then a global government will take care of all people of the world."

Theoretically, yes, but since even in practice today, national governments do not deliver perfectly to their own citizens, the idea you present above seems to me a case of trying to run when we're still learning to walk (or crawl).

"Everybody wants to save the life of his own countrymen before they bother about others.
"


I don't see any issue with that. I care more for my household and its members first, and then for my neighbors, and what you state above is just an extension of that widening circle of priorities, and hierarchy. If I have to choose between two - I will choose to help a family member or a friend, over some unknown person in some other corner of the world, even if that person could benefit from my help more. And of course, this hierarchy is flexible, depending on the circumstances.

"If we think globally, then any country which has per capita income above global average should stop money on local development and channel funds to poorer parts of the world (it's like government taking taxes in Mumbai and giving aids to Bihar).
"


But how can one have a global concept and still have countries? Contradiction? What would define that "poorer part" if not some geographical boundary? Are you talking about a UN like governing body?

Besides, as many examples of natural calamities show, people as well as nations all over the world, rich and poor - do contribute money and resources (time, skills etc.) to help the citizens of the affected country. So, forming an opinion based on a few examples of swine flu vaccine and food to Ethiopia, while ignoring other examples, seems faulty to me.

And there are already three ideologies out there that talk of this one world scenario - Christianity, Communism and Islam. Based on what I know of these ideologies, I don't care for either of them. I like this diversity of different nations/countries, and will take that "imperfection" over this vision of a utopia any day. I see no reason to ask others to let go of their national identities, and likewise for me. If it happens gradually and organically, that's fine, but I don't see any conditions today favoring such a scenario.

Ashish Gupta said...

Amit Ji: I just recounted swine flu as latest example. Every single decision of every single government every single day is an example. And "weighing more" and "at any cost" are just two different degree of same inclination to serve "ours" more.

There is nothing wrong with you caring more for your family than for stranger. But how come equally strange stranger in same country as yours is more valuable to you than equally strange stranger in far away land? That's the artificial notion I am talking about.

Just like India is a country but we can still identify underdeveloped regions, so can we in the world. I don't see problem in that.

Three ideologies that seek to unify the world currently, that you disprove of, and I am with you, do it for purpose very different than mine. So comparison is meaningless here.

Finally, I am aware of far-fetchedness of my thought, and its impossibility in any foreseeable future. I am myself not sure if it is a good idea but at least now, I am not convinced that it will be a bad idea either.

Amit said...

"That's the artificial notion I am talking about."

++

Not any more - or less - artificial than which side of the street to drive on, or which color means 'stop' and which means 'go', and so many others prevalent in every society, which we accept unquestioningly. :)

And of course all such constructs of nationhood are "artificial", as is the construct of global citizenship or one-world scenario. I doubt that you could show that your scenario is more "natural" than the current ones in play.

Ashish Gupta said...

Sigh. How can you even compare artificiality of stop light to artificial border. Former is merely for convenience, you can say greens mean stop and nothing will change. No option is inherently better there. That is not the case with artificiality of borders.

And countries' borders are more artificial because it's us, who decide, mostly arbitrarily but also based on mix of historical, geographical, cultural and racial reasons where to draw border. Earth as one entity is very much more logical border, so far as we don't colonize other planets.

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