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Is National Sovereignty A Dead Cat?

June 25, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 200

The man who came to be known as the Buddha was born into a Hindu culture. He preached what might have then been a needed guide to living; that is, to offer compassion for fellow humans (and other sentient beings). This should have improved interpersonal respect. Was he successful in practice? This is most relevant within each society and between nations.

In modern cities everywhere, interpersonal respect must necessarily be somewhat scarce; strangers are everywhere. In simpler societies throughout the world (say, at the village level or in a feudal system), interpersonal relationships would have been based on relative authority or power, class and caste distinctions, and mutual obligation, with few strangers involved.

How then can one expect mutual respect between unrelated clans and tribes, or between members of any other form of human conglomeration, including the nation-state? The nation-state was put in place only about five centuries ago in Europe, based on cohering tribes occupying a settled space, with a common language, belief systems and associated cultural practices. When one was demarcated, did the individuals within that state suddenly become entitled to personal respect as fellow humans? Or, were the leaders of each state merely defining the boundaries of the territory claimed as theirs, and which will be protected in the necessary cross-border movements of goods and people?

When European emigrants established new settlements across the Atlantic and in the Antipodes, driving the indigenes into unproductive lands, did not these states then form new nations, while keeping a wary eye on the neighbourhood? During the colonial era, in their scramble for achieving and protecting their respective spheres of interest, did not the colonisers draw up national boundaries, especially in Asia and Africa, which split large tribal groups?

Eastern Afghanistan and the western border areas of Pakistan are examples of such capricious decisions. The ill-placement of this border now intrudes into the war on terror there. This is because the people there are a tribal people divided unwittingly, who have little respect for decisions made by intrusive foreigners.

In addition, the conflicts of a tribal or religio-cultural nature resulting from the carving up by the British and French of West Asia after World War One, and the nations created (perhaps with malice aforethought) by the departing colonial powers at the demise of colonialism after World War Two, indicate the damage done by such interference by European nations in the territories of otherwise coherent and innocent peoples.

Together with the re-arrangement of certain national borders in Europe in recent times, the above examples would suggest that tribal borders rather than national borders are the borders to respect and protect. Yet, the borders of both current and new nation-states should be considered worthy of defence in the interests of good governance. While there may be no effective boundaries in the blogosphere, or in the transfer of thought, ideas, words and currencies internationally, the unauthorised movement of goods and people across national borders will need to be constrained; otherwise responsible governance would be impaired.

However, the so-called international community, led by the USA and its alleged Deputy Sheriffs, and supported by (mainly) European nations, has demonstrated that national sovereignty can, and will be, over-ridden as decided on a case-by-case basis. The UN Security Council can have a role to play in such decisions. The imperatives driving these decisions may, however, seem somewhat opaque at times. The agencies of the UN and other comparable international organisations may also seek to over-ride national sovereignty in the interests of the common good, often on the basis of a 'one-size-fits-all' policy; but they do not have the authority asserted by the 'international community' (as defined above).

It seems clear then that international relations cannot be driven by the morality preached by the great religious teachers of mankind; self-interest will predominate. Yet, significantly, the core message of these great leaders is that respect for fellow humans is imperative. Those teachers who offer mankind (and the rest of the universe) a Creator as a Prime Cause also indicate that humans, as the creations of this Cause, are thereby mutually bonded to one another.

In the event, there may yet be hope for the nation-state as a cocoon of comfort for coherent and consolidated societies.

The author, Raja Arasa Ratnam, accepts that the nation-state has replaced tribal boundaries and that its integrity has therefore to be guarded. Refer chapter 2 ('On subservience'), chapter 4 ('On governance'), and chapter 8 ('On national identity') in his latest book 'Musings at Death's Door.' For relevant background refer

Source: EzineArticles
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