Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Nations and Their Future -- The New Imperialism

There seems to be no escaping the New Imperialism that is being created as we write and debate about these things endlessly. The New Imperialism is global rather than regional, it seems to involve all the major nations (as in the G20) as almost equals, but as subsidiaries to the transnational corporations that are demanding and getting freedom from law and justice as they were once conceived and are asserting an independent "right to rule" without hindrance by government. Further, they demand that governments -- to the extent they are permitted to exist at all -- become the enforcers of corporate will against the interest of the People.

The nation-state as we have known it for the past several hundred years may disappear as a functioning governing body -- certainly national sovereignty will disappear as it is already doing -- in the interests of corporate hegemony, but what, exactly, will take its place (perhaps something like sports teams, many of which already have global followings) is anybody's guess.

I argue that the nation-states as we know them today are the legacies of imperial constructs of yore; they are not for the most part coherent geographical or common human interest groupings. They are at root arbitrary creations intended to instill loyalty to a distant ruling elite through nationalism.

They can disappear almost as quickly as lines on a map can be erased.

Europeans found that out for themselves as the first the Soviet Union and then the imperial constructs of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia fell to pieces, the latter not without considerable bloodshed and destruction.

If it could happen there, it could happen anywhere it becomes useful to certain interests -- not always popular ones -- to dissolve the larger nations and carry on with the "liberated" pieces. That's how the dissolution of nations has been sold, as "liberation" for... someone.

But anytime "liberation," "liberty" or "freedom" is placed up for bid, I always ask, "Liberty for whom to do what?"

I've never been a great nationalist. I'm more a tribalist. As I've argued in the past, de-tribalization is a prerequisite for the institutionalization of nationalism, and not everyone, even in the most nationalistic environment has actually been de-tribalized. The irony of forced de-tribalization -- which is often what takes place in the effort to forge a national identity -- leads inevitably to re-tribalization, perhaps differently aligned (for example, new-tribal groupings based on professions or neighborhoods or something similar)  but they are still socially the same thing.

I think of my Irish and German ancestors as strongly tribalized before they emigrated from the Old Countries in the mid-19th Century, and I believe they maintained their tribal identities when they got to this country. Their tribalism dissipated a bit as the generations wore on, and some individuals became highly nationalistic as an alternative to maintaining close tribal ties. But the essence of the tribalism they brought with them is still operating -- whether on the surface or below it. We see the same phenomenon among all sorts of peoples here and abroad. Organizing into tribes is human nature; it is how human society is designed to operate. Denouncing tribalism as some sort of mindlessness or inferior social structure is absurd; not only is it human nature, tribalism will assert itself no matter what "rational" argument is made against it.

As we've witnessed empires and larger nations dissolve during the past several decades and generations, we've seen a concomitant reassertion of tribalism. At the same time that nations and empires have dissolved, we've seen the rise of predatory corporations, some of them apparently organized specifically to loot and pillage the carcasses of the former republics and Imperial provinces.

Does this mean that we will ultimately see corporate brands and logos replacing national identities?

That's certainly been the view of many futurist and science fiction writers for decades, and we seem to be coming ever closer to that reality.

The future-present is not to be found in 1984, in other words, it's Blade Runner.

Or something else again.

I mentioned over at Ian's place the other day that he's apparently advocating for a New Imperialism based -- I think -- on the premise that there can be a "good" global authority that will act in the best interests of humanity as a whole and the planet. On a mission from god? I don't know, all I know is that the British and other European empires were constantly defended on the basis of "mission" -- a mission that was by definition "good" and was often argued to be God-given. The colonized peoples were simply too immature and irresponsible to be allowed to continue governing themselves; they had to be taken in hand by their Betters and put on the right path, much as British children were schooled in the fundamentals of knowledge and deportment. Well, some of them were, others were cast aside. Much as surplus colonized peoples were routinely disposed of.

But we won't go into that aspect of Imperialism right now.

The point right now is that I see us entering a New Imperial age, dominated once again by the private exploitative and extractive interests of corporations, for which governments are instituted and enabled as a means to enforce and enable the smoothest extractions possible. As in the past, unless thwarted somehow, this will not end well, as inevitably corporate wars for dominance will overwhelm every other interest at all.

A question for further consideration in this series is whether there truly can be a "good" Imperial overlord.

At the moment, I think not, but there are counter examples... aren't there?

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