The Israeli author, Amos Oz, gave an an address to a group of settlers in Ofra (the first settlement founded in the West Bank). He recounts the episode in one of his books (the name of which I cannot seem to remember). Oz writes,
We can all agree, without difficulty, that what Zionism means is that it is good for the Jewish people to return to the Land of Israel and it is bad for people to be scattered among the nations. But from that point on – we disagree….
This is the place to make my first shocking confession – others will follow. I think that the nation-state is a tool, an instrument, that is necessary for a return to Zion, but I am not enamored of this instrument. The idea of the nation-state is, in my eyes, “goim naches” – gentiles delight. I would be more than happy to live in a world composed of dozens of civilizations, each developing in accordance with its own internal rhythm, all cross-pollinating one another, without any one emergence as a nation-state: no flag, no emblem, no passport, no anthem. No nothing. Only spiritual civilizations tied somehow to their lands, without the tools of statehood and without the instruments of war.
I think Amos Oz would agree that if you cherish your family, clan, people, culture, civilization… then you are bound to defend it, and from that moment on you have a wall, an army, and a state. The only way it could be otherwise is if there were no enemy or nothing worth defending. But Oz would like the nation-state to go away. His words are reminiscent of those of another poet,
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
But what happens when all countries and religions disappear? I know Marx seems to have thought that the state apparatus would whither away in the end but does anyone else really believe that? Did Marx even believe it?
Lennon acknowledged that his song is virtually a Communist Manifesto; that it is “anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic, but because it is sugarcoated it is accepted… Now I understand what you have to do. Put your political message across with a little honey.” It worked worked for Lennon. The song went on to become his number one hit solo and perhaps one of the most covered songs every composed. Richard Dawkins hailed it as the ‘atheist anthem’. (Wikipedia)
The song asks us to imagine, to dream… of peace and unity. The mortal enemy of this beautiful dream is fascism. News anchors, politicians, academics, movie actors…. all agree on this point. Fascism is our enemy! But Lennon’s beautiful vision of world peace for our times, when translated into a political manifesto, shares more in common with fascism than not. Consider Mussolini’s definition of fascism,
The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian, and the Fascist State – a synthesis and a unity inclusive of all values – interprets, develops, and potentates the whole life of a people (The Doctrine of Fascism, Mussolini).
Both fascism and socialism seek salvation in an all-embracing political unity, a ‘synthesis inclusive of all values’. Fascism glories in power, socialism embraces equality; both seek to build the city of God on earth, until Leviathan comes.
Of the two, socialism may be the more dangerous for its true nature is buried under a heap of noble sentiments. And its vision encompasses not just ‘a people’ but ‘all the people’. It seeks to gain power by democratic means rather than with the blunt instrument of force (at least this has been true in the West for the most part since WW2). The more democratic the society, the more susceptible it is to socialism’s message of equality. Perhaps this explains why politicians on the left are pushing for more universal suffrage that includes prisoners, kids as young sixteen, and people who are not citizens. The electoral college will also need to go at some point. Everyone must have an equal say. Everything should be done properly and democratically. But…
Power rules the world, not opinion. It is power that makes opinion. Anyone who wants to dance the tightrope will be alone. (Pascal, Pensees 303)
It is worth bearing in mind that Caesar Augustus subverted the Republic by pretending to embrace it; by maintaining the fiction of a functioning Republic long after the senatorial offices were consolidated into his hands. The Forum Augustum, Ara Pacis, and Pantheon retained all the trappings of Republican symbolism but they deified the State and its Emperor in a manner unthinkable to an earlier generation of Romans.
If our democracy meets with a similar fate, I suspect it will not be at the hands of an individual, but by a media and entertainment complex that will convince people to trade their freedom and responsibilities for security and entitlements. Perhaps nowhere is their power of persuasion more readily perceived than in the realm of art and architecture as Tom Wolfe documents in his books: ‘The Painted Word’ and ‘From Bauhaus to our House’. So-called “artists” ally with art critics, publishers and museums to sell fraudulent art to wealthy clients whose taste in art has lost all connection with Truth. Imagine if a similar process were to play out in the political and economic spheres. It isn’t hard to do…
Sometimes as I consider with myself how this illusion daily more and more enthralls and impoverishes our mental life by cutting off from it all the rich experience of the past, it is as though we were at sea in a vessel, while a fog thickened, closing in upon our vision with ever narrower circle, blotting out the far-flashing lights of the horizon and the depths of the sky, throwing a pall upon the very waves about us, until we move forward through a sullen obscurity, unaware of any other traveller upon that sea, save when through the fog the sound of a threatening alarm beats upon the ear. (Paul E. More, cited in R. Kirk, The Conservative Mind, 433)