Reader richmondguide asks a crucial question about what one can do to help preserve the nation-state.
I don’t believe anything can be done to preserve the nation-state in its familiar form because the course of history is inexorable. However, we can take some of the features of the nation-state that we really like into the new state form with us. Here is what we can be doing right now:
- Know what’s happening and be aware of the major societal transformation we are undergoing.
- Respect the ways in which the nation-state derives legitimacy from its capacity to conduct foreign policy.
- Suspend your obnoxious post-modern need to piss on national holidays and the invented traditions of the nation. Yes, they are all invented but they give you the possibility of a welfare state. Don’t they deserve some respect just because of that?
- A nation-state withers and dies if it’s not watered with love and admiration. Find things to like about your nation-state. Puerile denunciations of a nation’s invented history are very passé.
- Within the next year, make 3 friends (meaning, people not related to each other) who physically live close to you.
- Vote in local elections, including at the lowest level.
- The next time you meet an immigrant, talk to her like you do to anybody from your country. Because that’s who she now is. If you can volunteer to teach the official state language(s) to immigrants, that’s fantastic. Work constantly on improving your own command of the official state language(s).
- Get married and have children, buy a house, buy a plot of land and grow something on it. Hey, nobody said preserving the nation-state would be easy.
- Participate in or start an organization that brings people who live locally physically together ( a book club, a worker’s union, a charitable organization. Hell, go to Weight Watchers but only to the kind that requires physically being in the same space with people.)
- A nation-state exists only for as long as its invented marks of identity manage to evoke emotional attachment: the flag, the anthem, the soldiers’ uniform, the national monuments, the symbolic capital (e.g. the names of the greats) that it managed to co-opt, the national bird or whatever. If you can’t muster any positive feelings when looking at the flag, consider that it’s your free public secondary schooling, your unemployment benefits, your Social Security and your Medicaid waving in the air. If that doesn’t give you any warm and fuzzies, let’s just take the nation-state behind the barn and shoot it to spare it further agony.
- Prepare a list titled “11 Ways in Which My Nation-State Is the Best.” (Eleven is my favorite number. But 10 is OK, too.) If after you make the list you realize that by “my nation-state” you do not mean the place where you reside right now, then let’s just take the nation-state behind the barn, etc.
Yes, many of these things sound naive and kind of embarrassing for our 21st-century sophistication. Cynicism and mockery are way hipper but remember that the liquid post-national world is capable of such cynicism and coldness that any old-world naiveté will feel cute in comparison.