Tuesday, September 13, 2011
On Our Duty to the State
I’m not a great fan of nationalism. A strong and stable nation is likely to be a peaceful and prosperous one, and that matters to everyone who lives in and forms part of it. A nation with a strong sense of identity is likely to provide its citizens with a strong identity too, and this is a useful thing to have. But blindly clinging to a sense of the nation that has never existed, blocking its borders against newcomers lest, the horror, something might change, is a debased and worthless nationalism. It is even dangerous, because it can easily be, and frequently is, seized on by those would be rulers of the divide and rule type who are prepared to get their hands dirtier than most.
Anyhow, a few basic rules:
The state* will always exist in some form. But the state is not society. In any society there will be people who control it, while considering themselves outside it and above it.
The individual owes nothing to the state. It is the state that owes its very existence to the individual.
The state’s existence can only be justified if it is useful to the individual.
When the existence of the state becomes more important than the freedom of the individual, you have tyranny. And misery. And murder.
When any ideology becomes more important than the freedom of the individual, you will have tyranny. And misery. And murder.
When most laws seem to have the purpose of criminalizing anything which inconveniences the state, rather than of protecting or enriching the people, you should be disturbed.
There are plenty of examples of this throughout the world in recent history. It really isn’t hard to understand that once you dehumanize people, and give others permission to dehumanize people and the conceptual structure with which to do it, they will suffer.
*By ‘state’ I don’t mean a country or nation, something with a physical and historical existence. I don’t mean society, as in the way which we organize ourselves and recognize (or don’t recognize) that we may have certain duties with regard to the others who make up the society we conceive ourselves as being part of. By ‘state’, here I mean those people and organizations who consider themselves separate from and superior to the rest of us, and whose main function is to perpetuate their own condition and sense of themselves.