The Distorted Concept of State

Humans have an inherent propensity for forming associations. These groupings are formed to further the interest of members of the group, and this alone is the intent. It is then understandable that whosoever says that the group, and not its members, should hold precedence, should thrive no matter how bad the condition of members is has some vested interests. The point is when the fundamental unit of the group is its member, how can the group justify its existence without having done something good for all members?

Now consider modern states across the world. Indeed, there are no natural borders that separate them and residents of two or more states often share similar features including faith, colour and race. When people decided to form these modern groups called ‘state’, the intent was good. It was perceived that by having a separate national identity, demarcated borders and by having in place a defined system of governance, all constituents would thrive. Modern states, as recognized today, owe their existence to the same concept of forming a group for the furtherance of interests of members.

But the question is whether these modern states deliver on their promise? A few of them seem to have accomplished the objective. For example, Nordic countries have proved that states do act as facilitators of personal growth of constituents given that governance is good and inclusive growth is sought. But the same idea of having a state to better manage the affairs of the constituents has proved counter-productive in many other cases. The key reason behind this failure is glorification of the concept of nationalism, so much so that the citizens of modern states have been taught, often by propaganda, to believe that their interests hold no value when a choice has to be made between their well-being and that of the nation.

While it may seem a little difficult to understand how this distorted concept of state and nationalism has deprived the ordinary man of development, let’s understand this with an easy example. When some men join forces to work for an enterprise, the hierarchy is comparable with that in the state. The manager acts as a bridge between labourers and owners, and the objective of the enterprise is to generate revenue for the betterment of all these stakeholders. Workers must abide by the norms as citizens abide by the laws of the country. The owner is entitled to some revenue and must distribute some among these workers. But what if the owner seeks absolute precedence of the interests of the enterprise over that of workers?

Indeed, the enterprise can produce and sell more should the workers opt for extended shifts. Indeed, the profits can be higher should the workers stick to same wages despite an available possibility of pay hikes. The owner, when workers commit themselves blindly and not rationally to the enterprise, becomes the sole beneficiary. And the same happens when citizens of the state are compelled to place the state above everything else. What happens is elected representatives or the monarch colludes with capitalists and other powerful men to deprive the ordinary man of what he otherwise legitimately deserves.

The revenue that is collected in the form of taxes levied on even most basic needs is spent less on the betterment of citizens and more on fortifying the state. The money that can be used for health, education, sanitation and such critical aspects is diverted to buying more weapon systems. The state that was formed by its members with a view to prosper and live a dignified life becomes more a liability and less an asset.

Consider the state of India that was formed in its present form when Indians acquired the right to self-rule from the British. The Indian Constitution begins with ‘WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA’ and then declares the intent to constitute the state with a view to further the interests of the people. Indeed, it is here that we must know that people hold precedence over the state. And when the makers decided to have fundamental rights as justiciable rights and fundamental duties as symbolic, they once again made people primary and the state secondary. It was the very intent of the makers to remind the people of India that the state was constituted for them, that they were the building blocks and not the other way around.

Slowly, over the course of years and with different political parties at the helm, the country acquired the status of being a regional powerhouse and then a strong player in the international scene. The country now has a nuclear arsenal and modern military equipment to boast of but what about the promise that was made to the ordinary man when the state was formed? Was this ordinary man told in advance that he would have to sacrifice his child’s education, health and access to clean drinking water, good roads and such other basic necessities in order to let the state achieve hegemony? Was he told that the elite and the powerful will live lavishly even as tens of millions will stare at poverty even in the 21st century?

India fared still better. Countries, for example North Korea, that chose to give the people the least and the state the maximum failed miserably. But that is no excuse for China, India, the US or others to exploit the innocence (read ignorance) of ordinary members of the respective state and further the interests of the state alone. Ultra-nationalism cannot be the tool to divert most of the resources that belong to the people for the exploitation by the elite in the name of ‘national security’ and ‘state dominance’. Citizens, often ignorant that they made the state by agreeing to be a part, deserve to be educated about the same.

PS: National security does matter and it can never be argued that this field can be left neglected. But when the choice is between acquiring latest weapon system (during peace times) and laying of roads (to connect the hamlet to schools), the latter must be preferred.

this nationalistic fervor is a rebalancing act, a reminiscent of nations’ failures

talks and acts of nationalistic blend are a common scene today. proponents are construing this as a valid and belated response to violation of interests of nation’s inhabitants and its sovereignty, while criticisers condemn this by categorizing it as infringement of right to trans-border movements.

did this happen all of a sudden? did the unexpected rise of politicians favouring inward policies was the sole factor that resulted in general populace connecting with nationalism?

let’s talk some rationales.

nations are separated by borders that are internationally recognized and respected, except a few territorial conflicts. why did countries form, why did people gather in settings that differentiated them from inhabitants of other nations?

borders bring with them many pluses. they allow a government to rule over a defined region without interferences from external forces, this promotes making laws and rules for fair conduct in the society.

most of the countries are endowed with resources that are enough for peaceful and thriving existence of citizens; those lacking resources turned into being singapore and switzerland, all backed by judicious decision-making of domestic leaders.

the rest was accomplished by globalization which enabled easy and fast movement of goods, services, capital and labour. this globalization, however, has now breached its justifiable threshold.

it is then upon individual nations to cater to the needs of their inhabitants, to exploit the resources available for the common good of all and to develop an environment of social and economic well-being.

it is this duty, when left unheeded and undelivered, that forced movement of citizens to other nations, in an exceedingly unjustified number that was counter-productive to rights of original inhabitants. similar to how we care for aboriginals and their rights over the land they have lived on and resources that they have used.

it is then not the newly elected president of the united states, donald trump, who stands liable for the present state of affairs in geopolitical landscape. he was elected democratically, on people’s will.

it is rather the failed governments of underdeveloped and developing countries that did not fulfil their task of assuring economic wellbeing of their citizens. had they been responsive to the needs of their people, migration would have been restricted to rational numbers.

the nationalistic fervor prevalent today is thus a rebalancing of past and present mistakes. this will not end with the outgoing of trump or anyone else, it will only recede post-correction of flaws.

individual nations have to start accepting liability to ably serve their citizens.

plight of an indian muslim- will you rise for him?

india is declared as a secular country in its supreme law of the land, the constitution, and many political parties have used this pluralistic attribute for their own advancement. when a poor muslim, who is proven innocent by the cbi, was suppressed brutally by the system, no government or so called saviours of secularism came to rescue.

this story is covered by indian express and is a representative of how sick our society and its polity has become.

irshad ali – a resident of delhi, india’s capital –  was accused of terrorism by the police that initially used him as an informer. to achieve fame and promotion these officers charged him with crimes ali never did. the family went pillar to posts to free the man from jail but was humiliated.

and it took no less than 11 years that the cbi declared irshad innocent and the policemen were proven guilty of misconduct in the report finally submitted.

it was recommended that the destroyers of a family, the corrupt policemen, be held accountable for falsely implicating a man, but the indian system of doing things didn’t allow justice to win, impunity of officials prevailed.

this and many other stories are an evidence how democracy and liberty have failed in the so-called pluralistic indian society.

full report can be read at:

give your verdict

national anthem in cinema halls- coercion or patriotism?

the debate is reignited- is nationalistic pride being forced upon indians, are civil liberties at stake, or yes, india does need this dose of nationalism. the supreme court’s order has a bearing on the lives of all, uninterrupted playing and obligation to stand are now a mandate, does that however mean a win just for conservatives or is this for us all? let’s find out.

not many have asked a question why national anthems are played prior to any international game, be it rugby, football or cricket. nor has anyone raised eyebrows on use of national flags in sports.

in india, and more so in present circumstances, any move toward nationalistic honour can invite furious debate. and so is being done on news channels and in print media.

let us put across a point. the civilised society that we are a part of has to have some borders to keep inhabitants safe. these boundaries become international borders and separate one country from the other. this country bestows upon us rights and liberties that are codified under the law of the land.

why then condemn nationalism when nation is what makes us, you may be a hindu or a muslim in india, elsewhere across the globe, you are an indian.

on the contrary, yes, civil liberties need recognition and liberal interpretation. if national anthem was to be made a compulsion, then much severe form of nationalism may be in making, and this interim order of supreme court may just be the beginning for a harder dose!

give your verdict