Why do Nations exist?: A World Without Boundaries
If the heading above could intrigue you, I’m sure you’re gonna enjoy this article ahead but before beginning, I would like to extend my gratitude to Col. Nehru for giving me this opportunity to express my views and encouraging me to write this piece. I have always been a big admirer of the objectivity he has and the level of clarity it brings to his thoughts. Taking inspiration from this quality of Col.Nehru, I would like to approach this article with a similar rational mindset, keeping emotions aside for the time being.
I’ll approach this article in a way which will divide it into 2 parts. Part 1 shall give us context for what shall unfold in part 2. Putting it simply: part 1 is the introduction to the mathematical sum and part 2 is the solution. (Although I am a history graduate, I’ll try my best to express my thoughts concisely. This mathematical sum example is only to keep the science students patient)
A white globe
I quite vividly remember a scene from Amitabh Bacchan’s film “paa” in which he acted as a boy suffering from progeria, a rare disease which makes a child grow old rampantly. As much as Amitabh Bacchan’s acting was astonishing in the very well-written film, it also had a very well-crafted scene in it where Amitabh Bachchan as a notorious teenage boy completely painted a globe he had incidentally found in his school white for an exhibition not to make a statement out of his project but to merely save efforts and as the luck could have it, he accidentally wins the first prize in the exhibition as the judges interpret his project as an intellectual message for world peace.
This scene from the film had a great impact on my mind as a child and I grew up thinking about the concept of “one world” similar to what our prime minister Modi suggested at the COP 26 summit, Glasgow in 2021 where people should work in unity towards making this planet a better place to live healthily. Like my younger self, thousands of people adhere to this philosophy to a level where they altogether discourage and disregard the concept of nations and nationality. The whole concept of state starts to seem like a destructive one to such people.
Studying among the best minds in our country, I met some very intellectual people at Delhi university. I have learned immensely from them through interactions in formats of healthy debates and discussions. It was only when one day one of my friends there mocked everybody around when I stood proudly and attentively for the national anthem. As a friend but moreover as a proud Indian citizen, I was eager to correct my friend on his attitude toward his nation. He gave me some arguments in return during our discussions justifying why he did not respect the whole concept of a nation let alone the national anthem due to the following reasons:
1. The concept of nation and boundaries on the map are artificial in nature and they are not natural hence these demarcations were not sent by God that we should respect them over everything.
2. The concept of nations having territories, flags, national anthems etc. is only dividing mankind while they could all stay united.
Well, we all yearn for a world where we can travel without any complications of a passport and visa, a world where every person can claim their right to the food produced even thousands of miles away, a world where food and medicines can be shared and distributed equally so that no one has to die of hunger and diseases. Certainly, such a world would have almost eradicated the crises going on in Africa where the barren lands can’t feed the population and the developed nations only exploit the remaining resources there for the growth of their own lands very selfishly which is very ignoble. When we think of these countries where people are suffering to such a degree majorly because of these demarcations making people act horrendously, we hope for a world which could’ve been more inclusive and sharing in nature.
I firmly believe that the society we live in today is only an outcome of history and hence to know human behaviour, reading anthropology is one of the best ways to go about it. My thoughts and philosophy about the concept of nations are highly inspired by Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens: A brief history of mankind”. Although what I am going to state is not taken from the book, it has certainly given a roadmap to my mind as to how to trace back and drill into any facet of human civilisation. Countries, Nationalities, welfare, State, business, travel etc. are prime examples of these facets. In fact, these terms are some of the biggest baseline factors on which a human contemplates her thoughts which ultimately lead to action from her side. So now we shall understand that homo sapiens which is our species appeared some 300,000 years ago amidst some other human species already existing such as neanderthals and homo Erectus. There are quite some reasons debated as to how and why sapiens survived the harsh climates and the violent and brutal jungles. We did not have great physical abilities, we were not so well equipped as we are today from the beginning you see. Out of all the reasons speculated we shall talk about only the relevant one today and so it was simply that sapiens knew how to coordinate in large numbers. While all other organisms kept on existing in extremely small pockets, sapiens figured out a way to live together and form tribes. This set us apart thousands of years ago as through this quality we could organise civilisations around Indus Valley and Nile river, and we could manufacture weapons which gave us an enormous edge over others. If we look today, it is the same quality which has taken us to the top of the food chain because clearly a single unarmed human is as good as dead against a rhino or a tiger whereas if it is going to be 15 humans motivated to fight a rhino or a tiger together, they can not just capture the wild being but they can also kill it on their discretion if need be.
In the book, “Sapiens” Harari talks about the concept of “myths” which have united the species. He further talks about how things like money and companies are mere mythical things that are only accepted throughout the whole of mankind and for the wide acceptance of these myths, humans have developed paperwork for corroboration and further engraving them as a divine truth whereas, in reality, these are mere intangible concepts ie: A company is not a visible object nor it is something that is sent by god or was ever-present but it is a myth/idea that is artificially cultivated and is widely accepted. Thus a company has a valuation and employees are ready to work for it in exchange for currency/money.
But today as much as it sounds very convenient, progressive and productive that humans can unite and work in synergy, the downside is that our history is full of violence and gore. From the primitive era to today when we have intellectualised barbarism, it is quite evident how one unit of humans is aversive to the other that look and sound different from it and in fact the basis of racist activities in the past have majorly been all about appearance and language and if not language then dialect. We can very evidently find the remains of racism even today when we have become supposedly “progressive”. Humans can unite for sure but by nature, they are still barbaric, defensive and offensive all at the same time. They wish to have control and they wish to dominate the ones whom they perceive as weak. Hence nations, boundaries and communities were created that can not only school these barbaric instincts of humans and utilise them in a way that can help them live in harmony but also unite several small units/tribes of humans to work in unity. But it is not limited to just that, there may other reasons why nations exist and ill try to enlist some very crucial ones below:
1. Nations help in uniting humans in pockets which are fairly large in population. People may come from different ethnic backgrounds and can be of different colours but they are still united in large numbers because of nations.
2. As stated humans have many unproductive rather destructive barbaric instincts such as aggression, nations help in governing millions and billions of humans all at once and pacifying their primitive behaviour in large numbers through law and policing.
3. Nations are also conducive to globalisation. Yes, that’s true. It is only because of the passport system, humans from different parts of the world can meet and share ideas with each other safely and conveniently as security and identification both are taken care of by it.
4. Nations provide healthy competition among humans for better productivity and progress in evolution. By this, humans utilise their cognitive skills even more efficiently in order to make their country proud or give it the economic upper hand but in this quest, eventually, mankind progresses.
5. With nations, welfare becomes more convenient and efficient and leaders can plan for providing people with food, housing and medication to large numbers all at once in the most effective manner.
These were some of the important benefits of having nations but a question that arises now is why can’t the whole world be a single Nation “X”? The answer is that it is very tough to govern 8 billion people altogether and that too with the geographical and language constraints it will only defeat the purpose then. But we have many organisations which are making many countries work in great synergy and helping cater to the citizens of the world. United Nations is a classic example of such an attempt. How successful the UN has been is a separate debate. While the unfortunate truth is that Tribalism, aggression and violence will never leave humans, by having nations we can manage them to a massive degree.
India is a prime example of how humans who look so different, speak and eat so differently have been united to an extent where they are ready to lay their lives for each other. You see a person each from madras, Arunachal and Rajasthan are all working for a cause they believe in called their motherland – India. The critics can call they are working toward upholding a myth but the undeniable truth is, there was no way a human would have ever agreed to work with some random another human from such a starkly different background. The concept of the state of India made it possible. We have our share of turbulences among different communities which is natural but what we must never forget is that not only we have managed to control and pacify these turbulences to a massive extent but we have also managed to unite a number of 1.3 billion humans for a cause we call as “Bharat”. Out of many reasons why the profession of arms, in fact, is considered as “noble” is due to the same reason as a soldier is protecting the idea of his/her nation in all possible ways which is going to keep this unity and synergy of such different people intact which can otherwise go haywire.
So the next time when you are supposed to stand up for the national anthem or respect the national flag, just think that you are serving the mankind with these small gestures by upholding the concept of this nation that is not dividing but uniting 1.3 billion humans which if it wasn’t for India, would’ve never stood united with this amount of tolerance for each other. Well, On that note let me greet my countrymen Jai hind!
–BY YAJUSH CHATURVEDI