Wait, why do nations even exist?

During the US visa application procedure, I couldn’t help but think about why nations and national borders exist… We’ve made it so difficult for people to explore the rest of the world. How did we end up this way? What would’ve happened if we had never drawn boundaries in the first place?

This blog post is going to be me trying to understand what might be an extremely simple concept to most people. I can already see the condescending look on your face as you reach for the “close” button on the top of your browser. Stop! Don’t do it! Don’t close the tab!

If you’ve stayed this far, thank you. I want you to participate by liking, commenting or even (the greatest gift you could give me) subscribing. For the uninitiated, subscribing means that every time I post something new, you receive an email about it. FYI, all of these things are absolutely FREE! Leave your email in the input field on the right side of this page. WordPress requires that you confirm your subscription by clicking on a link that they send you, which is a little irritating. It won’t take more than 1 minute of your time. You could probably say no to that cat video your friend sent you… alright maybe not, but you can surely say no to an important task whose deadline is tomorrow. No?


This is what we think the world is:

world-map

And this is what the world really is:

Google-Maps-Gets-Gorgeous-New-Cloud-Free-Imagery-of-the-Entire-World-2

Before you get offended because you think that I think that you’re stupid, I urge you to read on and discover what I’m trying to really address in this post.

Understanding the question

The question that is going to be the subject of this article is very simple:

How and why did nations and national borders originate?

The initial answer to that question might be something along the lines of countries having to protect its citizens. While that might be a satisfactory answer to the question at face value, it is worthwhile to ponder why the concept of discrete landmasses separated by artificial borders habited by people arose in the first place. I’m not talking about the practical reasons that we ascribe today to national borders. These practical reasons include:

  • Protecting the country’s laws.
  • Preserving the freedom and liberties of citizens.
  • Preserving human rights.
  • Safeguarding land that belongs to the respective peoples of the country.
  • Preventing the entry of criminals and terrorists.

If you’re still operating on one of these Reason Planes, I would recommend jumping off and rethinking the question. However, it shouldn’t be very hard to tag along and have an “Aha!” moment soon enough.

reasonplane_diagram


Looking back

Let’s rewind the tape shall we? Keep going backwards in time. Are you running away from a woolly mammoth in a white out? You’re not there yet. Go further… Are you an African ape? Perfect.

Oh look! Another one there! What does he have in his hand? Is that meat? Yum! Let’s go and take some from him. Hey buddy, give me some of that and we’ll be best chums. And so began the tale of the eternal friendship of you and Harry. The only problem was that John, the other ape, had a weapon that could easily kill. So you decided to team up with him. Eventually, your little clique had enough people to be self-sustainable. You were a formidable force to be reckoned with. No one dared stop you! Everyone was happy in your group because all of you shared your profits and earnings. It was a win-win.

It wasn’t all sunshine and daisies for long however. The droughts hit and you were forced to ration your food. You shared those fruits that Mike had stored under his little mud mound. However, a few of them seemed to be disappearing everyday. It was discovered that an outsider was taking away the apples. When Tom found the sneaky little shit, you brought along John’s weapon and massacred the outsider. Thus began the distrust of outsiders.

Eventually, when things got better of course, some of the guys were assigned to protect the group. Slowly, the group developed its own ways of reinforcing a feeling of belonging to the group and the young ones were told about how other groups were evil. The love within and the hatred without grew and grew.

Obviously this is not meant to be an accurate description of how apes behaved and the whole thing was a much more gradual and drawn out process. But it’s easy to understand from the above “anecdote” why operating as a group always meant everyone was better off. It also hints at how groupism began.

It is interesting that there are some animals which are completely independent and not social at all. Tigers are a great example of non-social animals. They don’t live in packs.

Fast forward to a few thousand years Before Christ when humans had become all complex and savvy… the group mentality had already pervaded every walk of life.

From this point onwards, I will be calling it the Group Mentality Monster (GMM) for practical reasons and a teeny bit because of an infantile inclination to anthropomorphize everything.

The Group Mentality Monster weeded itself into things like religion. Religion taught humans to love people who had the same belief system and to distrust (or hate) the others. Religion managed to do this either by providing incentive (a place in heaven) or flat-out threats (you’ll go to hell, your neighbours should kill you if you don’t believe this).

Death to all infidels!
-A few unnamed religions

Roughly around the same time, national borders became bolder. People were claiming that lands belonged to them (the individual) or them (the group). They became very protective and also decided to turn hostile to any outsider who seemed like a threat.

During the times of the African apes, the alpha, understandably, was the strongest member of the pack. Several hundreds of thousands of years later, the concept of leadership changed. The alpha almost never did the physical work. He was mostly designated with the job of organising defenses and resolving internal disputes. Evidently, the systems became more nuanced and being a leader meant different things than just being the biggest, tallest most muscular man in the group. It is still interesting though, that we unconsciously associate size with leadership. Here’s a link to a study in case you’re interested. Respect for the bigger individual is an example of a useless artefact that has not yet been cleaned up by evolution.


Wait! It’s not that simple.

Nothing ever is. Evolution works in “mysterious” ways. The GMM created social constructs entirely on its own, powered by the ignorance of humans. Nationalism, patriotism, fraternity and other big words were the GMM’s creations. Humans remained oblivious to this unnecessary affinity for association with other beings from their regions. They began to build even more complicated walls to prevent the entry of outsiders and promote love for their own.

Truth be told, even racism is a social construct that is primarily aimed at dividing humans from themselves. After all, it is characterised by a collective hatred towards people not of one’s own ethnicity (or complexion).

A rare photo of GMM with his kids
A rare photo of GMM with his kids

It’s time to kill the GMM

We can all agree that racism is not only useless but also something that must be consciously eradicated from the world. However, reasoning why nationalism or patriotism are unnecessary social constructs is a little more difficult since they are still seen as positive things.

What happens when it’s difficult to connect the dots forwards? Easy, we do them backwards!
Consider a theoretical situation in which the GMM and his kids never existed. Where evolution was fast enough that things like religion were not even invented. Imagine a world where national borders didn’t exist. Imagine what would happen if nationalism and patriotism weren’t real things. Imagine a place where racism never was a real thing. [Before I break out into Lennon’s Imagine, I’ll stop saying “imagine” so much.]

There’s no denying that existing and harmonizing in groups was pretty helpful in the past… It helped humans to adapt to hard conditions and survive and propagate the species. But we’ve come a long way from primitive existence centred around survival and reproduction. We can do things now. We’ve sent men to the moon and a spacecraft to Pluto. We’re even thinking about creating artificial intelligence. Needless to say, we should be able to defy evolutionary boundaries and be smart beings. [Keep in mind that this could also be seen as a product of evolution].

The problem exists in that evolution is an extremely gradual process and in the last two centuries alone we’ve probably progressed the equivalent of the Christ – 1500 AD period. So evolution has a lot of catching up to do with our advancement. It has to adapt to the drastic changes that are happening. When evolution hasn’t even been able to understand what’s going on, it’s going to be a while before it takes hold of the reins and does its job. As subjects of evolution which has brought us thus far, it is our duty to help it take charge by taking conscious steps ourselves to ruthlessly eliminate all the useless artefacts that it passed on to us.

Why do we feel good when somebody from our country or town or city does something great? Were we responsible for their success in any way? Did they become successful because they were born in the place that they were born? Or are we proud that we might share the same genes and we potentially have the ability to do great things ourselves? We also tend to give these things fancy names and call it tradition or culture. Aryabhatta invented the number zero. There’s no denying that he’s a great man and contributed greatly to the field of mathematics. But why should I feel good about myself just because I was born in the same region that he was? It’s just absurd. There are entire debates in India going on about who did what and people claiming that the instructions on how to build an atom bomb exist in ancient Hindu scriptures.

The GMM has terrorized humanity ever since humanity overtook evolution. It has torn humanity apart and is dividing us from ourselves. It has been the cause for so much irrationality, violence, destruction and hatred. The GMM has to be tackled, pinned down and slaughtered and the bitter irony is that we all have to do it. Funnily enough, the only way we can stop the GMM separating humans is by embracing individuality. When we operate as individuals rather than as groups of people sharing a common “feeling” because of common geographical or ethnic roots; the GMM is dead.


“How can you be this stupid? You really think you can do this, don’t you?”

Let’s be sane individuals for a moment here. It would be impossible for me to single-handedly tackle the GMM and his kids from a free WordPress blog averaging 20 views per day. However, I just felt that it would be interesting to think and write about. After all that’s what blogging is about. So yeah, curing world hunger would probably be easier than actually changing the way human brains are programmed.

If I’m able to alter at least a minute aspect of even one reader’s thought process it would mean a whole lot to me (and pigs would fly). Don’t forget to share this with friends who you think might find it interesting. Who knows? You might be helping me reprogram your friend’s brain…

If you want to read other posts that might change a minute non-significant part of your thinking (or maybe not), click on one of the links below:

Should you be worried about AI?

The Turing Test Explained

Simplicity

My First Triathlon: Preparation and Training

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8 thoughts on “Wait, why do nations even exist?

  1. I cannot say that I have ever agreed more with a person on this matter. Everything about this post, from the view it presents to the writing itself, is impeccable. Thank you for making a clear case against nationalism.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s awesome! I wasn’t expecting somebody to actually read through the whole thing and still find it interesting, haha. I can’t even describe how good it feels when I find out that somebody actually likes my writing.
      So thank you! It means a lot.

      Like

  2. To be honest it is too long for me but it is interesting yes so I keep on reading it. 🙂
    My interest varies so even if my blog theme is about travel I also appreciate a blog like yours.
    Maybe you would like to know about the old World “Gondwana” as it is also fascinating to learn about it.
    Me and my son love going to Museum and in Wellington NZ we learned about Gondwana and you will realize why some animals gets to where they are now and some aren’t. FYI.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’m aware of Gondwanaland. It is indeed very interesting to learn about the history of animals and their evolution.

      Thanks for taking the time to read my posts!

      Like

  3. I believe the first part deals with a crude concept of the formation of a nation and the second part contends for an opposition to groupism. If I may add, one other point is that nations exist for convenience of administration, as do villages, towns, cities, counties etc. There has been some groupism associated with the aforementioned social units, but it’s arguably lesser than that associated with a nation (probably since they have sparse populations in contradistinction to a nation).

    I do concur that “national pride” makes little sense and in fact wrote an article about it one or two years ago. But an amusing analogy did strike me while thinking of the topic then. Can anyone really be proud of their parents for what they have achieved?

    I hope I haven’t extended your argument to something it did not imply, but I believe you think that a national identity must be relegated to a trivial one, just like height, hair color, gait, predisposition to diabetes etc.

    And I agree. A trait one wishes to make one’s identity should be based on one’s own merits and not of those who share his place of birth. Somehow ascribing their achievements to ourselves makes us feel better so we do it.

    But groupism helps politicians as well (vote banks on caste and religion). If you take these identities away from them, what are they left with? Either they won’t care anymore or they will start voting based on what the candidate has accomplished/his ideas, either one of which is not desirable for the local politician.

    A sense of national identity, as you have alluded to in your post, was necessary when imperial and oppressive forces started appropriating wealth from the country and the process was expedited by efforts which lacked unity.

    But I wanted to take another perspective as well. In the events of natural disasters in parts of the country, would privates organizations from other parts of the country still help if the national identity had been completely trivialized? Granted, other countries do pitch in but whose contribution amounts to the most?

    A counter argument would be that the government of the country would provide aid regardless of whether significant national identity existed or not as that is the duty of the government.

    Then there’s the “geographic proximity factor” where private organizations help people in those regions which are closer to them simply as a matter of convenience. So, during a disaster in Uttar Pradesh, would organizations from Tamil Nadu come to their aid without national identity? But do they do so even with national identity? Just something to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and review my article!

      I agree with the point that nations exist for convenience of administration. But again I would still place it in one of the higher “reason planes” compared to the ‘Why and how nations originated” plane. It might be lower than the other ones I’ve mentioned there though. I’m going to take the risk of appearing grossly ignorant here but I’m going to give it a shot anyway. We might require a body that regulates criminal activity that interferes with any individual’s freedom or liberty. But we wouldn’t need to draw hard, rigid and solid borders that are extremely difficult to cross for that do we? Granted, not having any other form of administration is frightfully impractical but yeah, I’m probably leaning towards a utopian society that might never actually materialize in the future.

      I completely agree with your view on politicians. That paragraph clearly shows the cunning and exploitative nature of politicians. And yes, the people should probably vote for candidates based on their ideas and/or merits.

      And about the imperial and/or oppressive forces. I would say that if we had an international governing body that regulated any sort of exploitative/criminal activity that challenged a person’s freedom and liberties, it wouldn’t have become a problem. Obviously, I’m talking about a completely ideal situation that might be implausible.

      You have read my mind on the counter-argument to the natural disasters thing: the “government” argument and the “geographic proximity factor” argument.

      Finally, I would like to mention my point on evolution. I believe that with the current situation today, if we take the right steps, it might be possible for us to act and behave as individuals rather than as groups. We could potentially “control” evolution but that’s just my intuition talking. It’s also about getting rid of that natural tendency to feel better when in groups. We could also in theory, eliminate the need for administration in things other than criminal or unjust activity.

      Like

  4. So true! We would be much better off without these things now! Instead of being proud of identifying as a citizen of a country, we should be proud of just being a human on this wonderful planet!

    Like

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