From its creation, on throughout its existence, and finally onto its demise, the concept of the state is inherently violent. It seems as if it can only be birthed with huge suffering and pain, it is then maintained with yet more blood loss and violence, before eventually succumbing to the inevitable, and self destructing in another wave of brutality. Why is it that we as people put so much faith and pride in the state? Why do we value its existence so highly?
I have heard from many that the loss of the state would be a tragedy. It would mean a loss of identity, a loss of a great source of pride and prestige. However, I believe the loss of the state is not such a bad thing, quite the opposite in fact, it should be encouraged, and greeted with joy. For those that would mourn the loss of their identity and their history, it needs to be made clear, that this would not be so. The nation can continue to exist with it’s cultures, heritage and beliefs, without the continued existence of the state. After all, the nation, and the state, are two separate entities.
Does the state give to us, more than it takes away? Does its continued existence justify the blood that has been shed in its name? I don’t believe that it does. I don’t believe we need an overarching entity that claims to embody the political spirit of the people it falsely represents. I believe the people are fully capable of deciding their future, their laws and their system. I believe the people would be able to do this were it not for the violence, actual or threatened, inflicted upon them by the state that they are members of.
The creation of states has been top down, it has occurred not to benefit the people it will unite, but for the benefit of those who will rule. The borders on maps have been drawn at gunpoint, using the blood of those that have been killed.
Let us look first, at the creation, and the birth of Germany. Germany only came into existence as a result of two major European wars, the Austro-Prussian war and the Franco-Prussian war. Prior to these wars the German state, as we now know it, consisted of many different autonomous states and regions with their own rulers, boundaries and regulations. The French revolution which led to the establishment of the French republic was also an incredibly bloody affair. As were the wars fought for Italian unification. The establishment of the Soviet Union provides more evidence showing the violence that is present during the creation of a state. North Korea, Algeria, Haiti, The Republic of Ireland… the list is almost endless.
Even today there are movements and organisations that are fighting for the creation of their own state. And though I support the fight for independence and freedom, I do not support the concept of a state. However, I do realise that nobody is able to disagree with statehood, until they have had it. The people need to own it, before they are able to give it up. Basque separatists continue to fight, Kurds still wait for the creation of Kurdistan, Palestinians have been robbed of their state for decades, and Chechen’s stand opposed Russia.
From the creation of the state, we look at its continue existence. Though the violence here is not as obvious, it is still present. In order to exist, the state needs violence. And if you doubt that statement for one second I encourage you to refuse to pay your taxes and wait to see what happens. The threat of violence looms over the citizens of the state at all times. For the large majority of the citizens, this threat is enough, but there are times when actual, physical violence will be used. Police arrests, police shootings, the mobilisation of the army, are all acts of violence by the state upon its own citizens. Under some rulers, those that refuse to serve the state by being active in the military face jail time. Under some rulers, those that refuse to fund the violent and immoral actions of the states leaders are imprisoned. It is under some rulers that even speaking out, voicing your opinion, is met with a swift, and brutal, state reaction. Max Weber believed that a state is “a monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force”, but I am more inclined to go with the controversial abbreviation of Weber’s quote, the state is a “monopoly on violence”.
A violent birth, a violent existence and inevitably, a violent end. According to the Human Security Report Project there are three to six times more interstate conflicts, whereby states are fighting internally, than there are intrastate conflicts, whereby states fight other states. After decades of fighting, and dying, for this entity, they are now pressing the self destruct button. Yugoslavia, Sudan, the Soviet Union, Syria currently, and even the United States of America, have all been guilty of spilling the blood of their own people in order to keep the state intact.
I shall end with a quote, “The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence.” I couldn’t have put it any better myself. Thank you Mahatma Gandhi.
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