Monday, June 30, 2008

    We've already largely dealt with why people are slaughtering each other because their nations are divided into two or more states or countries in Part One of this two part series. Before we leave that particular topic, there is one more massive example that requires attention: Nazi Germany and the origin of World War II in Europe. This was a slaughter of monumental proportions, and it all began with the problems arising from the concept of nations, states and countries.

    Adolf Hitler was very fond of using the same expression over and over in his speeches and writings: "One people, one empire, one leader." Most have heard these words, but few are aware of their significance. Hitler meant by this that it was his intention to unify the German nation into one country or state. In other words, he wanted to create a German nation-state. One by one he invaded his neighbors in that effort. First the Rhineland of France in 1936, then the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia in 1938, then Austria with its heavily Germanic population, also in 1938, and finally Poland in 1939, the event that finally triggered a declaration of war. Certainly Hitler's ambitions were not limited to the unification of the German people, as his invasions of other, non-Germanic countries in Europe, including the Soviet Union, demonstrated. But national unification was a prime concern of his, perhaps the principal motivation for all of his actions.

    So far we have dealt with two of the four possible permutations involved in the concept of nations, states and countries. Nation-states—a situation in which national and state boundaries coincide—present the fewest problems, with a minimum of violence and instability. One nation divided into two or more states can lead to all sorts of unpleasantries, including world wars. The third possibility is for one state to contain two or more nations. The world is full of these, and there is no end to the mischief they cause.

    Rwanda is an excellent and recent example. That country contained two nations of people, one of which decided to establish its own nation-state by simply slaughtering the members of the other nation. Hundreds of thousands of people died as a result.

    An ongoing example is Sudan, with its Arabic north and its Black-African south. The horrors there continue at this writing, with no end in sight.

    French Quebec threatens to secede from English-speaking Canada. What will become of Canada should that happen is anyone's guess. The Atlantic Provinces would be separated from the rest of English-speaking Canada by an enormous geographic gulf. Countries divided in such a way do not have a good track record.

    Yugoslavia is a prime example of a state plagued by the problem of multi-nationalism. Strong man Tito was able to suppress the forces of nationalism in that country. But at his death, the place came apart at the seams. The various nations within Yugoslavia asserted themselves. Incredible violence was the result. The most heinous of it involved the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Serbs against the Bosnians. This was more than just a simple slaughter. What is not often recognized is that that ethnic cleansing was an attempt by the Serbs to recapture what they perceived to be Serbian national territory in an attempt to create their own nation-state. To them, the Bosnians were occupying what had historically been Serbian territory, and the Serbs wanted it back so that national and state boundaries would coincide.

    The situation in Russia must be keeping that country's leaders awake at night. With the disintegration of central power in Moscow, the non-Russian nationalities on the perimeter of the former Soviet Union peeled away to form their own nation-states. But that is not the end of the story. In what is left of Russia, there are scores of non-Russian nationalities. Should these too decide to seek nation-state status, Russia may find itself reduced to something resembling the original Duchy of Muscovy, a tiny Russian enclave on the Volga, a rump state of little significance.

    No discussion of this problem would be complete without considering the current state of affairs in the United States. The question that will determine the entire future of this country is this: is the United States developing into a bi-national country? If it is, we can expect the most serious problems imaginable. These may even include the eventual breakup of the country into two states. The United States of America would be a part of history, to be read about but not experienced by future generations. Across our incredibly porous two-thousand-mile border with Mexico, an endless flood of people enter this country. These are members of an entirely distinct nation, and, in all likelihood, members of an entirely distinct civilization. Should they fail to enculturate, as anthropologists would say, or should they fail to socialize, as political scientists would put it, the future of the United States as we have known it would be in grave jeopardy. If these millions upon millions of newcomers fail to become part of mainstream American culture, if they fail to join the American nation, we face the prospect of a breakup. At this writing, it is unclear as to whether this process of socialization is taking place. But the evidence does not bode well. Los Angeles is now considered, by at least one British newspaper of note, to be a third-world, Spanish-speaking city. The country is effectively becoming bilingual, as is evidenced by the proliferation of Spanish language radio and television stations everywhere. Each time we pick up the telephone and are prompted to choose between Spanish and English, this evolving bi-nationalism is evident. There seems to be little to impede this process. In this era of multiculturalism and diversity the preservation of an American nation appears to be unfashionable, even frowned upon. If you love this country, enjoy it while you can. And hope that you don't live to see what it will become.

    Lastly, there is the possibility of a nation of people with no country or state. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the Jewish nation was stateless for nearly nineteen hundred years, until the modern-day establishment of the state of Israel. But this created another problem: what to do with the Palestinians? They claim to be a nation of people, but those claims notwithstanding, their true nationality is in doubt. Yasir Arafat, after all, was born in Egypt. Be that as it may, they claim national status, and it has only been very recently that they have come into possession of something resembling a state. Violence there is relentless. Watch almost any evening news broadcast and you will see it for yourself.

    There is one more mysterious example of a stateless nation that comes to mind. These are the Gypsies. They have wandered the world throughout recorded history. Evidently, even the Romans did not know their origins. They seem satisfied with their stateless condition, a rare if not unique circumstance.

    So there you have it, a major source of conflict in the world: nations, states and countries. Once you grasp the concepts in this two-part series, the world will make a great deal more sense to you.

No comments: