DAVID: Not a fashionable conflict, Kashmir. http://kashmir.ahrchk.net/mainfile.php/v2n2/273
REHMAN: [...journalist Habib R. Sulemani wrote in English daily of Pakistan, DAWN, on Dec 27, 2003, and I quote: ‘The people are deprived of their basic human rights. Being a nationalist in this region is to lay yourself open to the charge of being a foreign agent….Those who take the issues of basic facilities, such as electricity, drinking water, elementary health care and education etc are named as troublemakers’.] says the link.
DAVID: I understand why nationalism seems a good way to resist occupation or oppression from outside. It has been the ideology of many anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist movements since 1848.Religion can be used. Language can be used. Class ...can be racialized. Historical events are seized upon and turned into myths of identity. Serbs, Croats and Muslims are a good example. These were members of one people with different group histories. Nationalism is as liable to lead to human rights violations, before or after its victory, as is the colonial mindset. Consider the cases of the Tamil Tigers, who invented suicide bombing, and the Irish Republicans. The better class of colonial regimes was at least committed to working with the local population and bringing in the ambivalent benefits of education and technology. The handful of British in India could never have ruled on their own. Free market ideology led to starvation in Bengal, as it did in Ireland, but the British made attempt after attempt to control epidemics, despite the resistance of major princes, in whose lands epidemics raged uncontrolled. Education was limited to an elite, but it created a national leadership. Railways and telegraphs united a patchwork of very different territories, even if we see resurgences of nationalism. A bad thing, on the whole? Probably. The British wrecked the Indian economy, because their theories and needs were very different from what was happening on the ground. Was the nationalism that pushed them out an unmitigated good? Probably not, because it unleashed the horrors of religion-based nationalism, the consequences of which are still with us. The Bangladeshis discovered that religious nationalism could be far worse than colonialism, even when it was their own religion. The foundational theory of nationalism, springing out of late 18th-century linguistics and built upon German resistance to Anglo-French "civilization," then seen as a process rather than a thing, was built around "Kultur," a static ethnic phenomenon. One language = one culture = one people = one land = one nation state. The potential of such a view for the oppression, or expulsion, or slaughter of ethnic minorities is obvious, especially if that minority speaks the language of the dominant power. Supposed outsiders such as Jews and gypsies are very vulnerable. Unscrupulous politicians can use scapegoating as the route to power, as we saw in post-Tito Yugoslavia and its component parts. People who had intermarried and live as neighbours for centuries suddenly became murderous strangers, killing their best friends. Even recently invented ethnicities, as in Rwanda, can be used. Thanks to the lines drawn by Partition, as in the Middle East and post-colonial Africa, the problem of Kashmir was almost inevitable. The mixed communities were the target for two hostile nationalism. Can the beauties and prosperity of Kashmir be restored? Is Kashmiri nationalism the answer? Perhaps, but only if it is based on all the people within the territory. Only if the two powers allow a reunited Kashmir to exist under their joint protection. The political power of the Islamists and the BJP makes this unlikely, and local elites are inevitably enmeshed in the power and ideology of the dominant powers. Nationalisms that have been permanently based on all who live in the land are almost unknown. Sooner or later, the most powerful group, such as the Kikuyu in Kenya, will build their longstanding contempt for smaller groups into political dominance. Having run the colonial regime, having led the liberation struggle, the Kikuyu were able to shut out the Luo and the smaller cultures. Power and wealth for a small inner circle became the purpose, as soon as Jomo Kenyatta began to decline in health. Nationalism is tempting, but almost always a pitfall. Nationalism can move masses, but usually at the cost of some other group. Marxism used to offer an internationalist creed, but its collapse has led to ethnic nationalism, to reactionary elected governments, or to dictatorship in one country after another. The lucky ex-Communist countries can be counted on one's fingers. Perhaps on one hand. Is there an alternative to nationalism? None with equivalent power occurs to me. Finding or developing one is the task, I would suggest, rather than taking the easy option.
REHMAN: David! Thank you very much for explaining nationalism scholarly. I think globalization with its actual essence is the only answer to peace and prosperity of the entire world today. I totally agree with you that nationalism is tempting but almost always a pitfall. I've not read Mr. Sulemani's article, quoted in your given link. However, I know he once called the nationalists intellectually bankrupt people. lol!
DAVID: I don't know that nationalists are necessarily bankrupt. Cosmopolitanism can be a hard cross to bear, which is why it has so often been ascribed as an insult, especially to the Jews in Germany, Russia and South Africa. It provides no abiding city, no clear moral standpoint. Relativism is much despised, but a modicum of it is indispensable for the cosmopolitan. It is often said that a citizen of the world is a citizen of nowhere. Diogenes the Cynic was the first to describe himself as a cosmopolitan, and he certainly wished to detach himself from the ties imposed by the Greek city state. Globalization can be a terrible thing. It rips apart rural communities in faraway places, just because a bank is engaged in commodity speculation. It turns self-sufficient peoples into mere slaves to market forces. Even its benefits, such as cultural communication with distant lands, can be very corrosive. However, it has happened before, to a lesser extent, and we must just try to make the best of this latest increase. It is less easy now for bad things to happen unnoticed, although human insularity can stop the ears of those who do not want to hear. What I fear is that increased contact between cultures will bring about greater hostility, as we see today with Muslim immigrants in Europe and American TV in Saudi Arabia.
REHMAN: ...but, but… I don't think so, David! Increased contact among cultures will bring peace to our terrorized world and this is the real essence of globalization not only merging of banks and companies... yes, I agree, today, a citizen of the world is a citizen of nowhere... but tomorrow belongs to this group of people!
TERRI: It's true in human development that in periods of flux or change the adjustment can be difficult and painful, and the same for communities and cultures. We have seen this in individual countries and we will see it as we share more globally.... In the past there have been many struggles as individuals and countries developed their identities and were threatened during that process by other countries who were eager to extend their boundaries and power. Thus some Nations' identities and development were arrested. The idea of Nation evolved in the transition from the serfdom and monarchies of the Middle Ages into the emerging sense of self of the 'Age of Enlightenment' around the time of the French Revolution........I believe, David is the expert in history! The 'sharing' was, has been, more a robbery - still is for some global corporations - yet I hope we are developing enough insight and wisdom to insist that only fair, negotiated commercial exchange is viable long-term between individuals and countries. The Fair Trade movement is gathering strength.. We have hopefully begun the transition from warring adolescence to calm and just adulthood, and thus Rehman's vision of peace will - as hoped for in the peace culture of the Seventies - come to pass. I have felt for a long time I am a citizen of the world, and feel no particularly strong alliance to any country. I would love to see each country retain their culture - the fascinating differences which add to all our experience of life - yet sans frontiers, with free and peaceful movement - a world without fear, one world, one people without fear to explore and experience the whole world.
TERRI: But sadly it is also true that each generation have to learn their own lessons and memories are short.. so we take a backward step for each two [hopefully!] forward. As people move around more, there will be pockets of resistance, driven, I... believe, by fear. The outsider perceived as invader - a country's collective memory remembers their parents' fear, handed down generation to generation, of their country ravaged by war, by invasion and occupation. Thus the discernible outsider is viewed with the same suspicion - most uncomfortable at first and some return, unable to bear it. Some stay though and some make friends who realise these people come in peace... I felt all this during a year in France - for three months I longed to return home, but then began to know and understand the people and see their racism was driven by fear - they have been invaded and occupied so many times! You see, Europe has had its share of invasions and robberies and arrested development - hopefully coming through now. It all takes time. Nature aims towards balance and the sea calms, gets rough, and calms again.. :)
REHMAN: Lol! Terri! You're so kind. But let me confess here that my ‘vision’ is borrowed from my friend Habib Sulemani, who along with his family members is facing tyranny for expressing this vision in our, as he says, tribal society. O’ yeah—I've also confessed in my Facebook profile this fact: "In the company of learned people, I became a sort of them!" Thanks for providing me an opportunity to learn more from you and David. Other friends may join us too...
TERRI: The learning is always mutual Rehman, We all know a little about a lot and a lot about a little [except David whose brain has a warehouse capacity :0]
DAVID: The jury is still out on intercultural contact. After all, the Germans and the Poles lived alongside the Jews for centuries, and active hostilities broke out fairly regularly, whenever a scapegoat was useful. Euro-Americans and native Ameri...
TERRI: Perhaps, in the short term.. but we can't talk of the change happening this year. It will take centuries. But look at the world a few centuries ago...
DAVID: But look at the world a few centuries ago... I'm not sure what you mean. They didn't have nuclear bombs, death camps, chemical weapons, or even automatic guns. Vast conscript armies are another modern development. Offhand, I can't ...think of any wars before 1800 that had anything like as high a death toll, among both soldiers and civilians, as several wars since then. The Napoleonic War (or wars) was the first of the great world wars, although it might be regarded as the culmination of a longer but intermittent Franco-British conflict which spanned the globe. When one looks back at previous pitched battles and military campaigns, few of them cost the lives of more than a quarter of a million people, and those were absolutely exceptional. The Kalinga War (265-264 BC), for example, cost Ashoka the Great 100,000 of his troops and 100,000 soldiers and civilians from Kalinga. This was the most brutal war in Indian history and led Ashoka to adopt non-violence for the rest of his reign.
TERRI: I'm hopeful there's a trend towards a burgeoning human consciousness, David. Development is never straightforward, however. There's a cliché.. things get worse before they get better. We're still living in primitive times in terms of world history... perhaps adolescence?? [can you tell us anything about Genghis Khan? How many did the Romans slaughter in their campaigns? I know they razed Aix-en-Provence to the ground - and anyone who dared to resist - I tend to think the French had their fill of invasions!]
DAVID: >>>>a burgeoning human consciousness. The ant's nest? The bee hive?>>>>We're still living in primitive times in terms of world history. What does that mean? Primitive compared with what? Dinosaurs? If humans obliterate themselves and/or the world tomorrow, will they have run their course to old age? As for Aix, it was a Roman city, built after the notorious defeat of the Cimbri and Teutones, when the women of those Germanic tribes killed themselves en masse. The Romans did not have anything to do with the French, a people yet to be invented. Of course, the Franks were one of the peoples who attacked Aix after the decline of Roman power, as did the Visigoths, Lombards, and Saracens. The later Roman emperors, such as Julian the Apostate, did have dealings with people whom the Romans called Franks, but they were then a relatively obscure people. It was, obviously enough, the Franks who emerged from their Germanic homeland under the Merovingian dynasty and conquered the area we now call France. What am I supposed to be telling you about Chingghis, the great khan?
TERRI: Primitive compared with eternity David...:P ;))) And... I visited the ruins of a settlement on the outskirts of Aix which claimed to be the Aix which the Romans razed to the ground because they resisted... I even have a photo :) I felt deeply sad to see that, knowing how the French are accused of cowardice in allowing Germany in without a fight.. but in fact they were forced to do so by the Vichy government. Regarding Chingghis or Genghis I'd be interested to hear your view but... you need not tell me anything you don't wish to :) Now be nice as this is not our space!
DAVID: Name of it?
(Illustration by Karim Rehman)