What is a “nation”?
In general, it is accepted that to define what the word “nation” means is a very difficult problem in science, due to the lack of criteria that can be acceptable universally. For example, should the criterion be birth, or race, or religion, etc?
It is amusing that famous encyclopedias usually do not have an entry for the word nation. If they do, the reference is insignificant.
As with most problems, the best solution is the one that is the simplest. So, on the basis of this assumption, at this point of human evolution, we can define a “nation” as the human community in which people have:
1. A common language
2. Common music
3. Common dance
All these three characteristics are based on the human instincts.
In the case of language, since according to Noam Chomsky the core of all languages is the same, we can say that all humans belong to one nation [a happy conclusion!], so we can say that all local languages, that is, the epidermic aspects of the core, are also based on the human instinct.
All other local characteristics of a human community [customs, religion, food, ideology, etc] are secondary in defining a human community as a nation. Also they are acquired and are not based on the human instinct.
A search in the history of the roots of the word “nation” is quite interesting and instructive:
The Greek word for nation is “ethnos”. [Hence, the word “ethnic” in English, which means “a member of a minority group”. A notion of discrimination that is revolting for most modern Greeks, except for the Nazis]. The root of “ethnos” is derived from the Greek word ”ethos” the dominant meaning of which is: “moral nature”. The word ”ethos” entered intact in the English language, but not in the community of the WASP elites.
The Latin [Roman] root for the word “nation” is “natio” which means “birth”. The word “nation” entered the English, the French, and the German languages. Actually the Germans improved the value of the “birth”, originally introduced by the Latins, by changing the letter “t” into “z” transforming the word “nation” to “Nazion” which was shortened to “Nazi”.
Of course, “patriotic” Americans will claim that their “nation” is an exceptional one, or better that it is a divinely “chosen nation” as the various “races”, etc have been melted in a pot and the result is a happy homogeneous society.
Strangely, however, none other than Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the “resident” intellectual in John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s “Camelot” wrote a book in the 1960s, titled “Beyond the Melting Pot”, in which he expressed doubts about the “effectiveness” of the melting pot.
[Note: in 1965, the US installed, General Suharto, one of the worst monsters of the 20th Century, as a dictator in Indonesia, who in turn, at the bidding of the US, massacred his people by brutally killing hundreds of thousands of leftist Indonesians. In 1975 Suharto invaded East Timor and exterminated one third of the population. At the time, Moynihan was Washington’s ambassador at the United Nations. At a later date, describing with pride his participation in the East Timor massacre, Moynihan wrote: “The United States wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.”]
Also, the American nation, which basically is a nation based on the “birth” criterion of the Romans and the Nazis, to show more humanism, used the trick of “naturalization” to fill the melting pot. However, only people like Zbigniew Brzezinski make it to the upper levels of the WASPs.
The Greek word “psalmos” means song or prayer. Since the age of five I have been hearing a rather silly Greek maxim: “Short psalm Hallelujah” [no verb] used to denote repetition or something, which gave me the jitters. Anyway, there are about one hundred and fifty songs in the “Psalms” of the Bible.
Once more, we see that for more than two thousand years the medium for the propagation of all sorts of political, religious, medical, etc “products” was the Greek language. [Whether this was good or bad will be decided after the extinction, with the help of the western “thought”, of the human race on our planet]. For example the number one book in the history of the planet has been the “vivlion” [“book” in Geek] anglicized to “biblion” and shortened to “Bible”.
The songs of the “Psalms” were composed by anonymous “poets” and were recited repeatedly, mantra-like, by the religious people. Which, indicates that the top dogs of the religious community, who constituted the “committee” that edited the “Psalms”, instinctively understood the value of repetition in indoctrination, millennia before the advertisers, or the modern media understood it.
Let us now return to Handel and his “Messiah”:
What is a “nation” for the Bible?
- “For I shall cast out nations before you [the people of Israel], and enlarge your borders; neither shall any man desire your land …” [Exodus, 34: 24. The New Oxford Annotated Bible]. Therefore, non-Israelite peoples are a different kind of people designated with the word “nations”.
- “… then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you [the people of Israel], and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves.” [Deuteronomy, 11: 23, The New Oxford Annotated Bible].
In the Messiah Jennens, the librettist, did not use the “Authorized Bible”, also known as the “King James’ Version” of the Bible, but he used an earlier translation of the Bible. So, Handel put to music the above mentioned text, as handed to him:
Why do the nations so furiously rage together,
and why do the people imagine a vain thing?
- The translation of the “Authorized Bible” is blunter:
Why do the heathen rage ,
and the people imagine a vain thing?
Of course, “heathen” are a people that do not acknowledge the God of the Bible and therefore are second-rate people.
[Note: The authorization was given by the Almighty through King James of England in 1604 and possibly confirmed by President George W. Bush (the Son, a.k.a. “Dubya”) who definitely has a direct access to the Almighty, as proven by the permission given to him by the Almighty to spill the blood of the Iraqis.]
The “New Oxford Annotated Bible” offers the following text:
Why do the nations conspire,
And the people plot in vain?
Finally the Greek translation reads:
Why were the nations horrified,
and the peoples studied [contemplated] in vain?
Undeniably, translations are tricky and “dangerous” undertakings. So, were the nations in “furious rage”, or were they “horrified”? Or were they, “imagining”, “plotting”, or “studying”?
But, let us leave the rather mythological world of the Bible and enter the world of reality.
In recent history “nations” did “rage furiously together” and did “imagine a vain thing”.
- The ‘Protector” Nations.
In the 19th century the powerful “nations” of Europe got together and after furious study they created what they called the Concert of Europe composed by Austria, Prussia, the Russian Empire, the United Kingdom, and [at a later date] France. They considered themselves and called themselves the Protector Powers!
For example, the Greeks started their struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821. By 1830 they had gained their freedom, with the help of the “Protector Powers”. So the “protectors” started shopping around Europe to get a king for the uncivilized Greeks. Finally, they chose Otto, a teenager, son of the king of Bavaria as a King for the Greeks. He was 17 years old. This protection for my country, Greece, has never abated. Later, in 1941, the Germans sent the “Wehrmacht”, Hitler’s army, to refresh the protection, which protection, has lasted to this day as Doktor Angela Merkel decides how many Euros should be my pension.
- The “League of Nations”
After World War I the powerful nations, once more, decided to “protect” the entire world, this time not only little countries like Greece, and in addition maintain world peace. So, in 1920 they created the “League of Nations”. Woodrow Wilson the President of the US, at the time, was the “soul” of this feat. Of course, Mussolini and Hitler, the two respected “gentlemen” according to Churchill, the greatest of men, and other world elites, at the time, enjoyed the membership of their countries with Italy and Germany, in the League of Nations. Sadly, in spite of the “furious” efforts and the intense “imagining” about world peace it was not very long before the world entered World War II. For example, among those efforts to “maintain peace” was the help given to Hitler by Du Pont, the US chemical colossus, by offering him the formula for the production of synthetic rubber and thus enabling him to secure transportation for his armies.
- The “United Nations”
After World War II the “League of Nations” demised and, once more the Great Powers, in 1946, created a new “protector” for the world, the “United Nations” [UN]. There is not much to say about the UN. It is sufficient to say that this very minute the Israelis are dismembering infants, children, and women in Gaza, while the US President, the real “manager” of the UN, repeats, for the umpteenth time, that “Israel has the right to defend itself”.
The US, already, since the middle of the 19th century sensed that it was “destined” to dominate the world. So, it is not unreasonable to interpret the active role of the US in the creation of both the “League of Nations” and of the “United Nations” as constituting a conscious crafting of instruments to this purpose, of dominating the world.
Lesser nations with white populations had already prepared the terrain for the US, as during the previous centuries they indulged in the art of nation-carving on the map of the world; Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, etc. However, it was Africa where the burden of the white man reached its peak, where there was an orgy of nation-carving by the Christian elites of Europe, especially by royal murderers as King Leopold II of Belgium.
[Note: A few days ago in the July 22, 2014 issue of the Global newspaper, “The International New York Times”, we read: “Exports from sub-Saharan Africa leapt from $68 billion to more than $400 billion from 1995 to 2012. A total of $300 billion of that came from natural resources, the extraction of oil, natural gas, precious metals and diamonds. Angola, pumps 1.8 million barrels of oil a day, which is why its capital, Luanda, hosts fancy designer boutiques. … The African development Bank … defines someone as middle class if that person earns $2 a day or more.” Verily, King Leopold was right: “it was worth it”, to use the celebrated dictum of Madeleine Albright.]
Ultimately, reality demands that today [and possibly always] when we use the term “nation” we mean nothing else but the ruling elites of a geographical entity. For example, for more than half of the 20thcentury the American “nation” was de facto embodied in the persons of the Dulles brothers, John Foster, the brutal lord of the world, and Allen, the perennial sneak of the world, head of the CIA, etc. That both could have been instruments of David [Rockefeller] does not change the vulgar reality.
Finally, we should realize that, if we were to use the term “nation”, for any reason, besides the above mentioned: language, music, and dance, there is one more fundamental aspect that should define a nation as a human community. This is the relationship of one human to another human.
“The word ‘citizen’, in fact, appears sporadically or late in the history of the cities. Quite commonly, the citizens of a community denoted themselves as ‘brothers’, a term in widespread use throughout the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Men and women in the towns and the cities of the past visualized their relationship in terms of familial connectedness.” This is Murray Bookchin in his monumental book “The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship”. [Sierra Club Books, 1987, page 28]
Of course, in history there was the word “comrade”, a socially very important word, which however the reactionary part of humanity succeeded in blemishing. However, that in countries like Turkey the word “brother” is part of any conversation is hope for all of us. The same holds for the Black men and women in America who call one another “brother’ or “sister”.
[Note: About 60 years ago I had to serve as a draftee in the Geek army. It so happened that while I was serving in Corinth, a usual destination for St. Paul of the Bible, my fellow soldiers originated from the northern part of Greece, Macedonia. I thought it was very important to hear these young Greek men refer to a close friend as “kardes”, the Turkish word for “brother’].
That one of the most popular works of music, Beethoven’s “Ninth”, in the words of Friedrich Schiller, tells us that:
“Alle Menschen werden Brueder” [ All men shall become brothers],
At least for me, is more than moving. It is the solution.
The [coming} collapse?
“The economy of Greece is in shambles, internal rebellions have engulfed Libya, Syria, and Egypt, with outsiders and foreign warriors funning the flames. Turkey fears it will become involved, as does Israel. Jordan is crowded with refugees. Iran is bellicose and threatening, while Iraq is in turmoil. AD 2013? Yes. But it was also the situation in 1177 BC, more than three thousand years ago.”
This time it is Eric H. Cline, professor of classics and archaeology, in his book “1177 BC The Year Civilization Collapsed” [Princeton University Press, 2014, page xv]
There is something very “scary” in this conclusion of Eric H. Cline. That the civilizations from Greece to Mesopotamia disappeared we are rather ready to accept. What is rather frightening is that they “withered and disappeared, either immediately or within less than a century”
Also, that the reasons for the collapse were multiple and among them earthquakes had their share for that collapse, in my opinion is very important. As a professional civil engineer for more than fifty years I have been pointing to the problem of quakes in relation to the way we construct our buildings. It is a pity that all our efforts go to build a better mobile phone, a better tablet, or a better drone, not in solving the problem of buildings in relation to quakes.
If Cline is correct, which I believe he is, then any article about the “nations” of the world is irrelevant.
Once more here is the list of cities or “nations” that are apt to be hit by quakes: Athens, Salonika, Istanbul, Lisbon, London [hit while Handel was there], New Madrid [USA], Iran, Armenia, Italy, and on, and on.
Finally, will we, once more let what is happening in Gaza today, July 30, 2014, go by as if nothing happened?
Is it possible that, once more, the words in Handel’s Messiah:
All we like sheep have gone astray
Is applicable to us?