Thursday, August 02, 2007

The State Is Insane

As the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence towhich it owes its very existence.
- Mohandas K. (The Mahatma") Gandhi (1869-1948)

Gandhi was not the first to consider states (countries) as soulless machines. More recently we have noted large corporations so dubbed because of their devotion to making money (profit) with no consideration given to who may suffer or what part of nature may be destroyed.

It's the lack of conscience that caused Gandhi to use the word "soulless." If a person had the qualities of soullessness or lack of conscience we now understand both states and large corporations to have, that person would be termed a sociopath (formerly known as psychopath). That person would be imprisoned or confined to a psychiatric institution.

Large corporations will lie in their income statements to deceive investors and employees alike into believing that their bottom lines are healthy when they may be bordering on bankruptcy. It keeps up the prices of corporate shares, which pleases the boards of directors who hire the top executives who get paid extraordinary sums because of the healthy profits of the companies those executives lied about.

States act in similar manner when they cut off health care funding for the poor or reduce social services budgets or refuse to maintain valuable infrastructure such as bridges and dykes so that their leaders will be popular and be reelected. At the national level a leader may involve his country in war to provide "jobs" for poor people who can't afford to continue their education past high school (and can't get another job due to their lack of sufficient education) and to profit political supporters who bankroll their election campaigns.

For governments or corporations to be considered without conscience isn't a stretch for most people. Where does "violence to which it owes its very existence" come into it?

Most states as they exist today came into existence as a result of violence, usually a revolution, sometimes a coup d'état. In the Americas, only one country began without a revolution. That is Canada. Canada was part of the British Empire when the USA fought its war for independence, but gained its own independence a century later when Britain couldn't afford to pay to keep Canada defended.

The wars for independence bring violence into the mindset of the people of a new nation because their history comes to be written in such a way as to say that violence was the only way to make it happen. In the US, for example, even the constitution was worded in such as way as to make carrying a weapon at all times legal, in case those sneaky British decided to invade again and kill unarmed American citizens.

As time passed, reasons were found other than immediate threats of invasion for carrying weapons as citizens began to kill each other.

We have a worldwide mindset that believes carrying weapons is a way to maintain security, as a personal method for defence and as a right. Many countries still maintain large armies--China, for example--despite the fact that the armies often have nothing to defend against.

In every country the vast majority of people want peace, for the world, for their country, for their community, for their family and for themselves. Yet at the national level most people favour having a well armed military to defend against imagined threats that in a practical sense no longer exist. They believe their leaders who claim that a threat could come at any time.

Today the world runs on power of the economy, not on power of the military. Yet much of the tax moneys of most countries goes into national defence.

The concept that no country wants to invade its neighbour and destroy the trade system it has built up with that neighbour and the trade allies of both has not filtered its way into the national psyche. War destroys economy, so is inherently destructive to the health of a nation in today's world.

When we have national votes, we should consider whether we will vote for the candidate who imagines threats from abroad (or from next door) that don't exist, who will likely engage our country in military struggle, or whether we will vote for the candidate who wants to advance the economy and the health of the nation.

If we elect the candidate who favours military might to protect us against imagined threats (as was the case in the past but is highly unlikely today), then we must be prepared to pay the price of a lower standard of living.

Today no one wants to shoot the goose that lays the golden eggs. But it would pay us well to determine where that goose is and who owns it before we cast our ballots.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the tough questions of today's world a bit easier to understand.
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