Fireworks for the Nation-State
Listen to/Watch entire show:
Like most in the modern world, the Urban Man often finds himself at the mercy of vast historic forces he barely understands. I mean, almost every week.
Today, as I approach the 4th of July, I find myself worrying about the growing obsolescence of the nation-state. You remember the nation-state: fireworks, anthems, constitutions.
Well, if you read the experts, you'll find that while you slept, the very concept of the nation-state became passé. The Internet has been cheerfully demolishing national borders and local identity. Stateless organizations like al-Qaeda, NATO, the World Bank, Citicorp, and the Cali drug cartel chip away at mere governments. Big companies no longer have much interest in the countries which gave them birth, and big armies don't seem to matter so much anymore.
It's the latest vast trend.
Me, I can see that little by little, the fiercest loyalties of the human heart are slipping away from their nation-states. Instead, I see folks everywhere — nice folks and not-so-nice — attach their faith to these unbounded corporations, international brand names and ancient religions. More and more they also pledge their allegiance to globalized families and super-powerful individuals, you know: Murdock, Bono, Gates, Soros, Bin Ladin, the House of Saud, Tata, Lǐ Jiāchéng, and the heirs of Sam Walton.
Certainly, members of these great families now pursue their interests without much regard for national borders. So globalized have they become that even when they take over nations, they seem to lose interest in nationalism. I mean, look how it puzzled the members of the Bush and Cheney clans when small-minded Americans objected to throwing open our borders, or letting Dubai control our ports.
All in all, say historians, the 21st Century is starting to look a lot like the years before the Nation-State, meaning the Middle Ages... well, except for the broadband access.
Back in the Middle Ages, central governments also became weak and unimportant things, allowing great families like Yorks, Lancasters, and Hapsburgs to scatter their disputes across Europe without regard for national boundaries. In those days, religious leaders also played at being stateless warlords. Wealth fell more and more into the hands of the A-List.
Like the big boys, the Urban Man tries to go along with historic trends. I globe-hop. I listen to world music. I work here in the cradle of world celebrity. Still, the question remains…where will I place my heart?
Will I really tie my fortunes to global billionaires, their brand-names and causes?
Will I truly become an International Man?
Which brings me to the 4th of July. Sure, this Wednesday night, I'll take my kids to the local high school to watch red, white, and blue streamers cross the sky. Sure I'll explain the many advantages of the nation-state: it's anthems and constitutions; the way it sometimes protects us from super-powerful individuals.
But like me, my kids may have a hard time forgetting that the spectacles sponsored by great corporations are often more spectacular. The fireworks at Disney, Tokyo Disney, and Euro Disney are just as good—maybe better. And surely, the flashbulbs popping around powerful individuals have become as bright as any mere national display.
Hey…in the Middle Ages, didn't peasants used to gather for fireworks when a prince was born to one of the great families? Maybe we'll soon get a good display when a child is born to the Cruise or Bezos clans. And when we come together in the night to remove our hats, who knows…it may be just as gratifying as independence day.
Copyright © 2007 Marc Porter Zasada. All rights reserved. I am indebted to the following publications for some of the ideas and facts in this piece. They make good reading:
-- "Terrorism, the Internet and the Decline of the Nation-State," James Child, Bolwing Green University
-- "The Decline of the Nation-State," Phil Howison, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
And of course, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century, by Thomas Friedman
Click the Full Details link to view the complete transcript. Tapes are not available.
Engage & Discuss
BROUGHT TO YOU BY