Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nations Don't Exist - Their illusions

In the modern world, the word "nation" is so essential to how we perceive the world, that it's acquired the tag of an absolute - a concept not to be challenged. We have given nations the tag of an objective entity that lives "out there" in the world, but in reality, they are as fictional as the stories we write.

Nation's haven't always been around, in fact, they are a new concept to the human mind. It wasn't until the birth of the printing press in the industrial revolution that people could communicate over a long enough distance, and without such a form of communication, how could people decide if they were a "common" people?

So this 19th century invention, led to people to identify with other people over long distances, and in time of conflict, pushed them into grouping together to form a stand.

Now, how was this "stand" formed? Well by picking and choosing certain "indicators" that they were indeed a common people, i.e. language, religion, skin color, dress. These indicators allowed for a group to believe, “we are common because of these things." (It’s an Illusion, but it served a practical purpose of uniting them, and thus bettering their needs).

Ethnic groups are made the same way. But the difference between an ethnic group and a nation is that the nation feels like its owed political status. That they are allowed to govern themselves, and determine how their collective should be structured, and played out in the universal "story" of humanity. Because that's all nations are, they are "stories." If you ask anyone who belongs to a nation (which is 90% of the planet), they will give you a "myth", or a story of how their people were formed, and it’s usually a noble adventure of how the people stood up, and took what was theirs, often neglecting gaping holes in the story that would suggest that they have nothing to do with each other at all.

So really, a nation is just, "a group of people who believe they are a nation," and it’s this definition that explains why terrorism occurs. For example, in Kashmir, they believe they are a nation, but India and Pakistan refuse to grant that right, so violence erupts. When you consider that nations are just fictions of the mind, you begin to see how ridiculous these conflicts are. But you can't tell them that, they are very real realities to the mind that possesses them.

I believe this knowledge is inspiring. It allows us to see objectively our place in the world, and possibly see a future where nations won't be at all. Pushes to make this a reality are already being seen, such as in the European Union, although there is still a long way to go until a global nation is developed. If human beings could expand their awareness and see commonality with human beings at a whole, and build nationalism based on universal indicators, rather than minute, individual ones, we could see a great change, but this would probably be idealism at its finest. But I believe as social networking takes hold, and the “printing press” revolution occurs again, but this time with web 2.0, we could see that change facilitated.

Now, as dystopian writers, it’s important to take this knowledge into consideration. It allows you to craft your nations in a more precise matter but addressing the "indicators", the "myths & stories', and the actual history of their creation. I believe by better understanding our world conceptual, by building more objective, and all encompassing models of existence, we can build better worlds in our stories, and thus bring them to life in more rich and meaningful ways.

Enjoy your day

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