Imprimis: Do We Need Our Country Anymore?

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“Churchill continued: ‘The central principle of Civilization is the subordination of the ruling authority to the settled customs of the people and to their will as expressed through the Constitution.'”

Churchill’s observation is the opposite of what I would have guessed. I would have assumed that civilization is the subordination of the people to the ruling authority. But on reflection, Churchill’s observation makes more sense.

For one thing, the subordination of the people is hard work. You would therefore expect any ruling authority to make accommodations to the customs and the will of the people as a matter of self interest. It’s the path of least resistance.

In any case, the idea that nations and nationalism are essential to civilization strikes me as an important insight. It should be much easier to have a civilized society within a nation than without one.

3 thoughts on “Imprimis: Do We Need Our Country Anymore?

  1. The author puts a lot of emphasis on culture and language. Anthropology would probably sustain such over a long period of time as humans developed. Mountain ranges, oceans, forests kept groups apart for thousands of years so interaction was rare.

    I think the modern era does not fit well with that model. Transportation, intermarriage, trade, disease and water supplies have eroded barriers, if not legally then certainly as a matter of reality.

    Similarities outweigh differences among humans. Languages are really just variations on method of oral and written communications. Religions are virtually all the same: a belief in some higher power that directs us in some fashion. The whole concept of commerce, whether state controlled or free market, is that people don’t have to hunt, gather or grow their own sustenance. They can exchange services, which expanded human knowledge globally except for the most remote indigenous peoples.

    We are learning, however, that human innate behavior is slower to evolve. We are still suspicious of strangers, racism being part of that. Long term planning has to be learned and practiced.

    Nationalism doesn’t even work well in large countries. Look at the difference in culture and, to a degree, language between an urban New Yorker and rural Kentuckian. Yet we are all Americans. And with Canada and Mexico, we are all North Americans.

    So what is the border? Essentially just arbitrary politically drawn lines in the sand fostering some kind of cultural barrier artificially. And those lines change rapidly. Witness Texas and Mexico just a few generations back.

    I think the Europeans had it right with the E.U. Language is not a big barrier. Most learn at least 2, 3, or more. And a few, like English or French are pretty well accepted, at least for trade.

    I think the most nationalistic governments try to erode any deviations rather than accept the natural flow towards a more global approach in generations to come. The present Chinese efforts to eradicate the Muslims in the west is an example. And that is best done by dictatorial decree and force.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: “So what is the border? Essentially just arbitrary politically drawn lines in the sand fostering some kind of cultural barrier artificially.”

      National borders are far from arbitrary. They come into being as the result of practical and material necessity. You could even say the entire edifice of the law is based on the foundation of national borders and especially the delineation of real property within them. It is not for nothing that men have died in wars to establish or defend national borders.

      But I think you’re correct to note that national borders are invisible to cultural influence. That doesn’t make borders arbitrary of irrelevant. It only means that culture is intangible. And therein lies a puzzle.

      A society’s laws are a reflection of its culture. To the extent its culture changes, so will its laws. But a legal system that changes can change for the good as well as the bad.


  2. When it come to arbitrary, I was thinking of the Middle East.

    The borders of Turkey, Syria, Iraq etc were drawn up by Europeans without regard to religious or ethnic history.

    The same with colonial Africa.

    Liked by 2 people

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