Saturday, March 03, 2012

Quakers and Nationalism

The AFSC has clearly bought into the nationalist model for organizing human affairs.  This has much to do with its history with the UN and the legacy of the 113 history of the British Empire, which gave rise to nationalism in its modern from.  Gandhi was a nationalist.  The split of India and Pakistan into separate nations, largely along religious lines, demonstrates the consequences of nationalism.  Now these are both nuclear weapons states, which would have upset Gandhi greatly.

Albert Einstein was more skeptical of nationalist programming.  He'd lived through the rise of German nationalism and saw how the Third Reich manipulated people into responding viscerally and emotionally to its symbols.  Humans are designed to process symbolically and to channel the archetypes by this means.  If an alchemy goes awry, the consequences may be deadly.  Ideologies channel energy and drive behavior.  If they're out of sync with the Holy Spirit or Noosphere (as some call it), nightmare scenarios may ensue.

Will humans a thousand years from now, a hundred years from now, look back on our 190+ national sovereignties as a passing phase / stage in evolutionary development?  A lot of us hope so.  However the picture is more nuanced in that one may conceptualize in terms of nations at the same time as one looks at other organs of governance on other levels.  As people continually point out these days, many a corporation has assets and annual budget exceeding those of some smaller states.  The 190+ states already share the stage with a number of other actors, including the world religions, with their own capitals such as the Vatican and Mecca.

Some people talk about Friends Center as the Quaker Vatican.  I like this nickname because it reminds us of non-national governance structures that have a global aspect.  Quakers need not be nationalist, anymore than they need brand themselves "Christian".  Like nations, religions are long-running PR campaigns, memeplexes, designed to manage human emotions and marshal behavior.

I'm interested in working with Quakers who are distancing themselves from Christianity partly because the Christian brand has lost so much of its luster in its service to nationalism and the goals of Manifest Destiny.  The institution of Pope, based in Rome, inherits from the position of Roman Emperor with the title of Caesar (Czar).

Christianity has worked hand-in-glove with imperial powers, of necessity, and absorbed much of the apparatus of nationalism.  To question the efficacy of nations, of dividing the world into a jigsaw puzzle of "nation states" is to think "outside the box" where many Christians are concerned.  It's taken for granted, to the extent that its resultant ills and pathologies are overlooked.  "Could the whole concept of 'nations' be sinful and against God's will?" -- that's not a question that gets asked much.

Moving away from nationalism does not mean strictly avoiding its core concepts ("when in Rome...") but it does mean brainstorming ways to reduce its influence.

Using world maps and globes that show no nations, or do so optionally as an overlay, is one aspect of the youth programs some Quakers have been working on.  Our Multnomah Monthly Meeting has a Fuller Projection in the childrens classroom.

Adult Quakers may have interest groups wherein a future without nation-states is contemplated, along with the question "how do we get there from here?".

Does this de-emphasis on the importance of nations put some Friends in conflict with the AFSC and its overtly nationalist programming?  Do we side with the AFSC and it's proposed "two state solution" for the Israel-Palestine conflict, or with Rabbi Lerner and his vision of a "no state solution"?  Clearly I'm more biased towards the latter solution, as are many religious leaders.  The nation-state "system" is too broken and psychologically immature for the long haul.  Humans will eventually outgrow it.