Unity And Division Without Limit

There is no nation, no matter how large, that does not have at least some desire to make itself larger through some form of union with others, and there is no community of people, no matter how small, that does not face some sort of division as a result of the divides that exist within it. How are we to reconcile this dilemma between the constant desire of communities and institutions to divide as well as to unify in order to solve the problems that face them? Sometimes these two solutions manifest themselves at once, such as where a Catalonia or a Scotland desires to be free from a nation that it is a part of, however unwillingly, while simultaneously wishing to be a part of a larger union at the same time as it wishes to be free of the next level of union above it that it struggles against. How are we to account for this?

Throughout the course of my life I have seen a great many efforts at union, be it the trade unions of various continents that have formed or even efforts at political union between what were once separate nations involved in fierce rivalries against each other. Just as persistently, though, I have seen efforts at division within nations, states, counties, and cities, to say nothing of the division within institutions like churches that has dramatically shaped the course of my own life. In many ways, the desires of people to form greater unions spring from the hope that there may be gains in efficiency from the reduction of harmful barriers to trade and transportation and travel between neighbors, where hope and perhaps a bit of greed lead people to think that longstanding problems of poverty and corruption could be solved by creating larger groups of people who share common purposes and interests. Similarly, groups face threats at division when there are within these larger identities groups that are too different with interests too much at cross purposes to come to harmony, and where there is mistrust that those who rule will keep the interests of minorities in mind as they pursue the power that results from rule. If it is hope that allows for the olive branch of union to be extended, it is fear that leads to the threat of division, and neither hope nor fear are very distant from the mental horizons of any human being.

Both the process of combination and separation present challenges that are often ignored or minimized while they are going on. When the desire is to combine ourselves with someone else, in the hope that we may gain thereby, it is not often sufficiently considered just how successful the union is likely to be, how much common interest and common concern for the well-being of everyone involved exists within the parties who are seeking to join together. Issues of logistics or character are often brushed aside as being unimportant or something that time will resolve, only to rear their head later on when they become the basis of irreconcilable arguments between rivals for authority and resources in a troubled union. Similarly, when we desire to separate from others, the costs of that separation in terms of the bad will that prevents people from acting in concert with others, or barriers to trade and travel or restraints of trade are not taken into sufficient consideration either when it comes to the price that we will pay to be separate from those whom we were once unified with. A divorce, whether in a family or in a political community, always leads to a duplication of effort in building separate institutions for what was once a united whole, and that always involves some sort of waste and inefficiency.

At the basis of both union and separation is the issue of trust. When we work in concert with other people, we trust that their interests and our own coincide in some way, and that the people we are working with will not sacrifice our own interests for their own selfish benefit. Other people trust us to do the same. So long as we demonstrate ourselves to be people of character and discipline, to say nothing of kindness and graciousness, we may preserve unions for a considerable time or between people who may have very limited basis for cooperation. However, when this trust breaks down, even people who might have a great deal in common in terms of their history, shared interests, or culture may not find it possible to work in harmony simply because those who are in power simply cannot be trusted with the offices they have or the authority that they wield. And this trust, once lost, is extremely difficult to rebuild. By the time that serious movements to separate are afoot, there is a long train of abuses as well as a formidable array of fears that motivates people to defend their own interests, even at the cost of a greater union that they once celebrated being a part of. And once we recognize both the momentum for ill-advised unions or hasty and wasteful divisions, it may be impossible to prevent them from taking place, with all of the predictable and lamentable suffering that results from either being too hasty to put together what does not belong together, or too hasty to separate what should be kept together.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in International Relations, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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