We live in the present; it comes us at with an array of problems and structures.
Disembodied voices speak to us. Our loyalties are tested at every moment.
We try to understand it while pursuing our goals. The nation-state system may be
repellent as a structure but it exists, it is real and will be for the foreseeable future. So,
we look to see what it is up to.
Oh, it is challenging a terrorist
network. Ok. We have orientated where we are. We are here, not watching the Chancellor Herr Hitler cheering on the goose-stepping soldiers or watching a pensive Lincoln as reports come in from Bull Run, or seeing massive demonstrations in Washington D.C. on behalf of a cause. We are looking at the state response to terrorism and its awful possibilities.
And why should we have any concern or notice it at all?
Answer: Because no man or woman who wants to be real to themselves can afford to ignore the reality of
the state. It may not determine our life but it is a shape and form that we can't escape.
And the good one always calls for the need to intelligently assess what it does
and not let it evade the responsibility it has to the institutions, to the people, to the world.
So, we watch and listen.
Intelligence tests itself by leaping against the steel jaws of power. The brave person even allows himself to get devoured and passed through once or twice just to see what the experience is like.
We live in the present but know the past. And know it and know it as well as we can; from
the first generations two thousand years before Christ, to the present. And each generation is comprehensible to itself, as a complete and self-sufficient entity. I doubt, for instance, that the Romans of Aurelius' day gave a thought to nuclear weapons but, a good one would have known about starvation and given some thought about it. And they lived quite willing to know their own time but not caring a whit about the future except as a vague projection of their own times forward. And for most of history they were correct. It's only been the jarring of the past several generations that has tipped history in a different direction.
We are in the zones of the unprecedented.
Nothing we believe or know has any certainty of a future. Nonetheless, we live and believe it will and perhaps it saves our sanity; without such a belief
would we not enter that terrible polarity that seems so apparent today? That is, between non-belief and nihilism on one side, and bone-chilling fear on the other? Paralysis, in other words, because it literally doesn't matter what we do or believe. Or, so it seems. And so the planes fly, the tanks roll, the bombs explode, the women wail, the men die.
And our grand gesture is sitting in front of the television, half-asleep, waiting for ballgames or sex ads.
We have a nation-state system that makes sense to those who are protected by it. I, for one, wouldn't want it to go away anytime soon. I seriously doubt whether the world would be a "better" place if it were to disappear tomorrow. I seriously believe it would drown in a nightmare centuries in duration.
So, there is that at stake. And I am conscious of this because, on some level, I have felt
the sting of power. I have been helped by power. And I can perceive a region connected by
networks of power that are like little systems inside vaster systems. And these systems bring me everything but peace of mind. They bring me worlds. They bring me comfort. They bring me taxes and problems I scarcely know how to deal with. And on top of it all are the national governments that seem to collect vast power and dispense it well or poorly.
I may think that the "greatest good for the greatest number," is a boring concept but there it is. What would one replace it with? And what is the greatest good? My great good may not be your great good. So, who is to decide this? The majority is fine, as long as that majority doesn't stomp me out because I disagree with it.
If the nation-state means anything it means that human beings are able to exercise their abilities at the highest level, with the widest circumference, at the very depths. At that point, the nation-state makes sense as an entity. "Ah, it is not a fear-driving entity but a protective one that allows me to enjoy my freedom and to exercise my potentials. Ah good, I support it then."
And that then permits us to think on reality at a level that the nation-state itself can not afford to. If the nation-state is a barrier to thought because it is formed out of the systems of governance and economy that the daily wheel grinds on, then it is a false entity. If it does not permit the impossible thought from occurring then it is a repressive system; just as much as the old king tyranny of former ages.
So, there is a lot at stake when one thinks about the present and what is going on. One assumes the nation-state is a reality; perhaps not the ultimate reality but a large one. And that the nation-state is ruled by a person or persons who have either been elected, appointed, or bullies his way like Hussein. So, we pay attention to what these folk say and do between each other.
And because the nation is in a physical place we can locate other nations in a physical place and taken together they form an Earth. So, there is a physical place, the Earth, on which all of this takes place. Therefore, we look at the physical place and it appears significant to us.
Often it doesn't please us but then the world is here to be suffered.
Posted October 6, 2004
I invite comments on this column. Use
the convenient form below and thanks!
Go back to War back to War on Terrorism
Back to Events
Back to Media Resource page
Back to Media Resource page
March 27, 2003