What constitutes a nation? Is it its people, culture, habits and customs or its legal framework – or all of it?
On whose authority did the ancient legislators act, Lycurgus, Solon or the Fathers of the American Constitution? There was obviously already a people seeking their services, but perhaps not united or unified? The Constitution became the magic glue that creates civilizations, the contract that defines nations.
The constitutions we have today are no longer sacred, they can be changed at will, according to the most capricious political winds. We have no people, no constitution, no nation. Everything flows together. In the age of the great confluence, there are no fixed points.
Some dream of uniting the peoples of the earth and forming a world government. And then nationalism is just an obstacle in the way. Just as regionalism was an obstacle for the nationalists of the 19th century. Villages are merged into parishes, parishes into counties, and counties into countries, which eventually become empires. And there is no turning back, everything is getting bigger, more powerful and more complex. In a natural and inevitable evolution. Until the day it all falls apart.
The legislator, who is as much magician as hero, can only work in a given context, where the people invoke him and want him to be the one and only giver of life. He is invited to the sacred ritual, the people want to become a nation, the only thing missing is the parchment and the ink on which the oath is to be embossed.
Most people are not interested in such matters. They say they do not understand what it is all about. The carefree life in our concrete cities is more appealing. Without family, nation or history. Modernity. Popular culture. Naked people inventing themselves every morning. With new friends and new adventures. The old is dull, the new is beautiful. People don’t have roots, they have feet. Until the black poison reaches their hearts.
The human bond and the nation-building that follows it is not just a beautiful thought, it is of course also about survival and peace of mind. The nation is in many ways an extended family, made up of people you should be able to rely on through thick and thin, people who share your values and dreams. A sense of belonging. Not just similar foods, embroidery and folk dances. But also coherence, trust, pride in your achievements, and a burning desire to create more.
People like that hardly exist anymore.
Photo från Wikipedia. Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
More about Solon and creation of nations at BAP 123 and 126.