Russians and the Nation-State

Of course, Russians have to be original in everything they do, so they go and subvert the nation-state model from a different direction than Americans.

While Americans want the state to provide for their comfort and welfare but are refusing to die in the stae’s wars (which, at least, is a rational and logical position to take), Russians are ready to fulfill their part of the nation-state bargain without asking the state to do its part. Since January, Putin’s approval ratings soared. All he has done to deserve this is send Russians to die in Ukraine.

Americans would be asking, “And what are we getting out of this situation? What is the state giving us in return?” Russians, in the meanwhile, don’t even consider the possibility that the state might do something for them in return for their sacrifice.

Gavrilo Princip

The Spanish newspaper El Pais published an article today claiming that most historians agree that without Gavrilo Princip’s murder of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand exactly 100 years ago, the two world wars would not have begun.

This is, of course, a ridiculous lie because every historian I have ever read (and I read a lot of history) insists that Princip was completely insignificant and the war of 1914-1991 was inevitable. Gavrilo Princip is barely a footnote in scholarly studies of World War I.

Newspapers totally suck. And with the sorry state of the study of history in Spain, such narratives are quite dangerous because of how stupid and uninsightful they are. Epochal conflicts don’t start because an insignificant little fellow freaked out and did something. Even Hitler would have achieved nothing if millions weren’t ready joyfully to shove Jews into ovens.

Look at Putin today, for instance. He isn’t even remotely scary by himself. It is the enormous support he’s getting from the Russian people that makes him terrifying.

Who Destroyed the Nation-State?

So which country was the first one to shatter the nation-state model? I believe it’s the United States. The very public and very massive protests against the Vietnam War were a loud and clear rejection of the nation-state model.

The basic contract between the people and the state in this model is that the state does what it can to ensure the well-being of the people and to foster their emotional attachment to symbols of the state, and the people, in return, die enthusiastically and cheaply when the state needs to wage war.

When Americans bailed on the state so massively during one of the episodes of an epochal war, that signaled the end of the nation-state.

We Suck

We, the academics, like to think of ourselves as progressive and engaged but we are really not, especially when compared to other people who are doing a lot more.

For instance, did you know that there are professional associations for entrepreneurs that do so much for their members that the MLA (the professional organization of modern language and literature profs) should be put to eternal shame?

One such organization, for instance, helps businesses to progress to new stages of their development. Businesses that bill under a million dollars per year are assigned mentors. These mentors are ultra-successful businesspeople who are constantly there to help the beginners, coach them, offer advice, reassurance, and simply talk. Just imagine what it would mean for you as a beginning prpfessional to have a superstar in your field constantly being available for help and advice.

After the mentored entrepreneur progresses and grosses a million in a year, she or he is assigned to a small group of peers who become the constant and very close network of support. These groups go to resorts together, meet once a month and discuss their professional and even personal issues.

There are conferences, seminars, opportunities to socialize. The association is very invested into promoting women entrepreneurs.

And now ask yourself what the MLA or the AHA or whatever you professional association has done for you lately except charging exorbitant membership fees. Do you even know superstar academics (OK, Jonathan Mayhew is an exception) who give a rat’s ass about sharing their expertise on how to get where they did?

In the meanwhile, crowds of extremely successful and rich businesspeople dedicate time and energy to helping their younger colleagues just because they love their profession and dig talking about it.

I’m telling you, people, when I become a superstar in my field, I will totally do something like this. I will find 3 or 4 promising female academics and mentor them. There is Skype, there will be other things by the time when I do make it, so distance is not an issue. And to hell with the MLA.