Death of the Nation

“[We] simply advocate geographic separation of the races by whatever means it takes.”

Replace “race” with “ethnicity” and the quote could refer to any number of separatist groups from the Tibetans in China to the Kurds in Turkey, the Basques in Spain, the Scots in the UK, and many others the world over fighting to realize their own nation state.

Political science 101 teaches that a nation is “any sizable group of people who are united by common bonds of race, language, custom, tradition, and sometimes, religion”. A state is a defined as “groups of people which have acquired international recognition as an independent country and which have a population, and a defined and distinct territory”. And a nation state is “a country where territory of both nation and state coincide”.

The nation state is a relatively new concept in the timeline of human civilization, arising in 19th-century Europe out of growing nationalist sentiment which focused on defining the ethnic and racial origins of a nation. On the positive side, the concept of a nation state sought to unify citizenry around the Hegelian ideal of a shared “spirit”. On the negative side, the rallying cry over homogeneous characteristic such as common descent, race or religion spiraled down the of path of genocide and ethic cleansing, of fascism and Nazism.

Circling back to the initial quote, this was taken from a recent interview by ABC News with Will Williams, Chairman of the National Alliance, a white supremacist group based in West Virginia founded in 1974 by William Luther Pierce III who was a Professor of Physics at Oregon State University. Approaching the quote from the lens of the construction of a nation state, and the dangers become more apparent – the white supremacy movement is not merely an expression of racism, but more ominously the belief that a unique “nation” needs its own “state”.

Today, many countries fall into the seeming hypocrisy of supporting separatist movements abroad on the basis of human rights while suppressing the same within their own borders. With definitions of race, ethnicity, and culture being fluid social constructs, who really has the authority to be an objective arbitrator of what defines a nation? And which nation gets the right to become a territorially sovereign state?

Growing cultural divisions calls upon us to re-evaluate the concept of a nation state and re-assess whether the establishment of nation states is truly a worthwhile end goal people should strive for. If you really stopped to think, the stated goal of ISIS was the establishment of a nation state supported by shared religious beliefs much in the same way as Israel.

Perhaps it is time to turn away from championing “nation” building, and embrace instead pluralistic multicultural societies. Living together in harmony with thy neighbor regardless of nationality, race, ethnicity and creed.

Mutual co-existence – if the dead can do it, why can’t the living?

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