I am going to discuss a matter that is near to my heart right now…it is the fact that I have Jewish and non-Jewish friends who adore the topographically beautiful country of Israel…who support the nation despite the widely documented violence towards the displaced and stranded Palestinians. I am half Lebanese, a nation that shares a border with Israel. I know the particular area of the Middle East, and I know the culture. One can appreciate and adore the region, also known as the Levant, but also separate these feelings from a cognitive recognition that nationalism of any type is dangerous. National borders are dangerous.
National borders are a human construct. Before the advent of “property,” national borders did not exist. In “The Social Contract” (1762), Jean-Jacques Rousseau discusses this manifest. He describes the process of creating property and national borders as part of a sacrifice that the individual makes of certain natural freedoms, for those that can be gained from being a dependent member of human civilization. This “social contract” has been theorized extensively in western political science and philosophy. Even Sigmund Freud draws from Rousseau in his book, Civilization and its Discontents (1930), where he delineates and philosophizes which exact freedoms are sacrificed and gained from this barter, and the impacts that this has on the individual’s psyche.
Freud is often disparaged as a speculating quack. In many ways, he is. However, his philosophy is a valuable example of someone poking into the deeply embedded roots of our human constructs of thought. This questioning, and hopefully understanding, of the roots of our human constructs is perhaps the most important endeavor to take on in contemporary times, in the face of artificial intelligence (AI), military drones, and other modern technologies that may have the power to shift humanity from our current paradigm of existence to the next, for the better or worse.
Human constructs are the broad ideas, and assumptions, that justify current specific ideas, which are seemingly raw, or seemingly manifest without roots. For example, race is a human construct. There is no scientific basis for race. In other words, race is a pseudoscience. At one point in human development, it became a dominant notion that there were biological differences between human beings apparent via skin color. This is simply not true. Skin color is a qualitative sociological variable; it does not indicate that there are biological differences between those of different skin color. These notions, including that of race, appear correct when there is actually no scientific, empirical, or metaphysical basis for them to be true.
These human constructs even create branches of subsidiary “facts,” which can become topical and dominant, because people have not closely evaluated the verity of what they claim in addition to their roots. History is an important tool for remembering these roots, however, an oppressor can also wield it to maintain dominance. This is why the sub-discipline of philosophy, critical theory, and applied anthropology are important; they reach for and study the underlying roots and processes giving rise to dominant ideas about history.
Fascism occurs when the oppressor is successful in using the tool that is history to their advantage ideologically; the oppressor tailors history to their liking to brainwash a public to believe that their political agenda is what is best for the nation and for the public as individuals. In the case of Israel, the nation’s conservative Prime Minister Netanyahu has tailored history to the advantage of his political platform. In this, he is collecting support from those who fear that they will lose socio-economic dominance if Israel does not implement capitalist and imperialist policies and actions. This is ideologically able to occur, because this fearful public has not deeply evaluated the human construct of nationalism. If it did, it would realize that nationalism — or the idea that one ought to be patriotic about one’s nation of residence or birth — is based or rooted in a fabricated idea that national borders are essential, or have a valuable essence.
This essentialism is problematic, because people are led to believe that national borders are purely true and correct. Essentialism is a conflation of ideas that appear to be connected and true when the roots of these ideas have not been evaluated, questioned, and come to terms with. The condition for this belief is almost biblical in the sense that the idea of creationism insists that the human condition simply became without a progression or series of prior and/or smaller actions and manifestations. In the case of national borders: they have existed our whole individual waking lives, why should they not continue to exist? Essentialism is dangerous, because it breeds inaction.
Nationalism and national borders breed complacency of thought. We need to deconstruct the human constructs that are nationalism and national borders. These must be disentangled from the real truths, or what can be learned from this widespread mistake being made repeatedly by human civilization…the truth inherent to the process that is understanding how human constructs are able to become dominant, and how to crumble this hegemony efficiently for the better.