Nationalism is an important 21st century political concept, one upon which the future of political self-determination in the next century rests. For individualism to continue to exist as the goal of liberalism, and for the expression of individual development to find support from political entities of power that decree what any human soul may or may not do, to limit the powers of government to largely external, necessary regulatory pursuits that support individual liberties national primacy must remain the basic foundation of politics if the massified degradation of human life is to be avoided.
It might be best to consider particular nations, or even a particular nation first in quest of a comprehension of the meaning of a nation, yet the nations of the world vary so much in history and in meaning for the people of those nations. Nations do have set, specific boundaries which are made in declaration of the realm of political jurisdiction of the governing power.
Iraq has a history that may exceed that of any other on the Earth. If one wants to describe a nation by the characteristic of its geographic area, Iraq encompassed the first civilization at Summer and Akkad. It was conquered by numerous neighboring people yet retained a cultural identity as an ancient ‘melting pot’. The Achemenid empire of Iranians or Persians followed upon the ancient civilizations of Ur and Babylon, and rule by Assyrians, Greeks and Romans. A Parthian and Sassanid Empire restored Persian rule for a time until the battle of Qadisiyya in 636 in which Arabs conquered the region of Iraq…their Abbasid power went in to decline by the 10th century.
Between the 10th century and 1638 when the Ottoman Empire was firmly established to last until the early 20th century when they were defeated by the British in the first world war and Iraq was formally created as a nation in 1920 by the British Government Iraq has a host of invasive ruling powers from a son of Genghis Khan to Tamarlane the Turk who bragged about piling up a mountain of skulls. Even amidst all of the horrors of war and repression of corrupt governments the Mesopotamian region by the rivers had an informal identity as a nation-it would impress itself upon those that lived and died in the region.
A nation today such as Iraq is in the midst of the perennial struggle for free individual self-actualization and security, and the United States of America is helping with that process. Life and time is fleeting however; determination and intelligence are reciprocal elements necessary to bring the politically possible into the realm of the politically actualized. So before we move on to more generally considerations about the nature of what a nation is, lets consider some of the 21st century requisites in macro-economics that might be recognized to stabilize the ongoing civil strife in Iraq created by governing power malfeasance…
U.S. Iraq policy implementation increasingly is inefficient. Macro-economic restructuring in Iraq is directed toward neo-classical policies of growth and consumption. Economic growth is considered a necessary fact for the improvement of the quality of life. The realm and range of economic growth and its effects upon th environment isn’t considered sufficiently to coincide with an efficient application of economic policy.
Military power is used at substantial cost to the United States to restore or build toward a neo-classical economic structure in national Iraq. A better approach would be to use principles of developing environmental economics. Utilization of environmental biotic and abiotic elements can be done in such a way that the allocation of resources and employment of social effort increase social peace rather that conflict. The present Bush administration hasn’t had much appreciation of real-world environmental economics since the end of the 2003 Gulf war perhaps because its neo-con political assumptions bet that neo-classical economic goals and structures would be applied for universal profit even with recalcitrant or unwilling Iraqis in the midst. The neo-classical assumptions were inefficient and presented paradigms of insolvable macro-social dilemmas that required sustenance by a largess of U.S. federal spending for inefficient military and civil contractor projects. The military can not inevitably be used to prop up with success inefficient macro-economic foreign policy.
The United States cannot simply withdraw and enable a further chapter of tragedy in Iraq, yet with a new administration and a host of environmental economists unconventional, adaptive economic policy might be set in Iraq to empower the people to peace through home-power production, canal building and wetlands restoration projects and through a survey of new interactive economic structures with existing free natural services such as the atmosphere and its free oxygen delivery for breathing work. The use of that atmosphere as a sewer for automobile, truck and industrial waste should be halted, and electric vehicle platforms accentuated to replace them a.s.a.p. Yet to return to the general subject of nations…
A nation is a noun in a genre of political terms describing formation and boundaries. While time presents tensors of perpetual change cohesion and coherence of various peoples within an electrical communications context or without offers opportunities challenging conceptualization of what makes the bonds holding an identity group together actual.
In considering the idea of what makes a political classification meaningful, and representative of the object it designates it is useful to consider the historical evolution of human social groups in order to understand how and why nationalism developed as a term.
Out of Africa perhaps 100,200 years before present just 2000 male ancestors became the forebears of all living human beings (along with their women). Dispersion of those individuals from a metaphorical ‘ark’ led across the globe to cultural and physiological differentiation. There are perhaps 50 specific genes found uniquely in various human sub groups as a consequence of the diaspora from ground zero. The differences are not at all bad nor do they constitute a vast gap for human understanding. Melanin for example allows utilization of radiation for ways unavailable for those without, and malarial preventing gene adaptation is useful.
Humanity forging local identities as peoples sometime coalescing and sometimes diverging. Like corporations and monopolies there are periods of diversification and consolidation toward monopolization. Language and culture have experienced the same characteristics of group association. Nations tend to be longer lasting, more substantial clumps of human social and political association, yet in the river of time they tend to disassociate and dissolve after universal phases or less than universal phases in even arrested developments.
Nations such as Israel began with the legendary entry of Abraham into the promised land following the call of God. Egypt began as a nation or as an empire in the fourth millennium B.C., while the Shang culture grew historically following the cult of the Yellow Emperor. Charlemagne, son of the illegitimate Charles Martel who defeated the Arab armies of the Umma at Tours in the 8th century was the founder of the Carolingian Empire, and eventually of the Holy Roman Empire. That entity encompassed France and Germany, which in turn occupied what had been a part of trans-alpine Gaul during the Roman tenancy. Nations that spun off over the following centuries comprised bargaining units sometime fighting through wars and joining through dynastic marriages lands with peoples moving toward a common language with common interests. The protestant reformation and the renaissance brought trans-national movement that also formed common bonds. Governments and nations have tended to develop along natural boundaries as well with social organizational phenomena sometimes of a trans-national nature.
The word nation may be used by Pee Wee Herman’s Big Show Wunderbar Nation, if such were in demand on reality t.v., or in Fred Toughguy’s used car nation, or even in the Nation of Crumpets-yet it is the political nation historically that we pursue the meaning of. Some would identify the origin of nations with democratic revolts against empires of Europe and that would be fair, yet it is unfair to discredit Vernagian Sweden as a nation before the 12th century just because they liked northern boating and giving lung water-wings with incisions to captives.
One might consider a republic to be for concept of a nation. The Republic of Plato, The Roman Republic, the U.S. Republic and others were republics sometime greater than city-state status. From language to language what makes a nation out of a people-be it the Cherokee nation, the Sioux nation, the Aztecs or the Parthians is fairly well understood. People may be free or captive, savages or sophisticates but their identity as either tribes or selected members of an exclusive political body with a territorial and power identity comprising Independence amidst the world’s people is recognized. A nation does seem to have the most general set of qualifiers for inclusion of a people within a political unit. Many peoples historically have simply named themselves ‘the people’ in their own language, and the people have tended to have a turf of their own in which their ‘nation’ lived.
Florence of the Medici was a Republic in the 14th and 15th century at a time when the Ottoman Empire occupied the whole of the Balkan peninsula. The Medici and the Hapsburgs with their possession of Vienna juxtaposed various renaissance ideas of imperialism and populism alongside traditions of an Eastern and Western Roman Empire as well as the great empires from history south of the Mediterranean sea within a social maelstrom of general progress and change. At one time their were three popes simultaneously ruling from Avignon, Rome and with Pope John the Twenty-Third a fugitive until arrested and eventually ransomed free. Machiavelli developed political ideas of nationalism and how a prince should rule over corrupt people and corrupt human nature within the cunning of a fox and the strength of a lion, and Machiavelli’s ideas supported a growing European polity seeking to express itself eventually through a free press, free assembly and a variety of civil liberties concepts designed to correct not only the corruption of a decadent Catholic Church hierarchical priesthood in which Bishop’s miters were bought and sold and one pope was accused of seducing more than a hundred Italian women but to support the home-rule of people exploited by distant monarchs and threatened by a vast collection of oppressive government officials. Nationalism as a political concept matured as turmoil politically and wars disestablished political regimes and the people with an emergent in intellectual class were forced to fend for themselves.
Nationalism developed in England as a natural progression of competition by various different peoples such as Scotch, Irish, Brits, Normans, Welsh and Vikings striving under different political and family traditions to survive as free people. Even the Romans with Julius Caesar fought as a nation of Italians and with an expanded Republic turned into an Empire to control England, France or trans-Alpine Gaul, Spain and Carthage. Nations developed somewhat naturally as a political concept expressing popular interests from below, while empire’s ruled from above and forced everyone into a common bondage and servility except for the nobility. In imperial Russia the table of ranks gave every noteworthy person a royal rank down to 200 levels, and the remainder were serfs or meaningless traders, yet the people still had a concept of a nation that would survive the end of the empire, the end of Stalinist communism and into the 21st century beyond two world wars. Nationalism bound Russian Slavs together both in race, language, history and land. History itself can make people a part of a nation.
In South Africa external pressures brought Afrikaners together to feel themselves a nation. Brits tended to think of themselves as part of an empire, while Zulu’s with their fairly recent arrival in South Africa historically felt themselves as a nation even as they traveled along east Africa subjugating various Bantu peoples in the process. Zulu sailors making their way to ancient Iraq felt themselves in all likelihood part of an extended nation, as Saudis may today with their extreme oil wealth surpassing even Exxon-Mobils’ U.S. record 40 billion dollar profit last fiscal year.
In Germany it was the failure of a nation and sense of nationalism to be fulfilled until the unification of east and west Germany in 1990 that had bedeviled that people with a congress of wars and government change since the Napoleonic invasion of the early 1800’s. Not until 1917 did the German’s get rid of it royalty, and democracy was aborted by the third Reich as the people pressured on the west by post war reparations and territorial demands and on the east by a huge Bolshevik menace succumbed to the militarism that was largely a continuum from the deposed nobility. The Werhmacht leadership sent the charismatic speaker Adolph Hitler to the German Workers Socialist Party to take over it’s leadership and the rest is history. Germans with incredible civil financial chaos and hyperinflation were pushovers for militaristic voodoo economics that led to war. Germany had only become a nation in 1881 finally ridding itself of Austrian rulers (Hitler was also from Vienna).
Nationalism is a fundamental territorial definition for a democracy. Nationalism is a finite political bargaining unit. A nation is a way of drawing a line against the rest of the world in making a claim of political independence. A nation is a way to deny global predators the opportunity to plunder one with a plethora of taxes, disadvantages and vague corruptions that effectively deny one and other citizens the right of local political self-determination. A democratic nation is the bane of emperors and planetary proletarians seeking to redistribute servility to everyone.