We live in a world where there are approximately 200 countries. To be exact, there are 195. Each country has its own flag, its seat at the UN and vis-a-vis that seat, it claims to represent–on the world stage–a group of people.
Some states are big, others are medium-sized, and others are small. They are all, in principal, at least–equal members of the global community who are bound together by international law. This is the worldview that most of us live with and that the vast majority of us were born into.
It is, however, a worldview that is only several decades old.
Throughout the annals of history, most people have lived in political units that did not even pretend to represent a single people. Even till today, conflicts and ambiguities remain regarding what sovereignty is, who it applies to, and under which context.
Tribes, peoples and nations have, over the course of time, created empires. The art and act of creating an empire is a universal one. It is a phenomena that has neither been confined to a particular place or era–but one that has emerged and reemerged over thousands of years all across the globe.
Are nation-states–as they exist today–a plausible and necessary alternative to the ideology of an empire? This ideology presumes that a people should assert their right for self-rule, usually vis-a-vis a democratic process. This idea, itself, however, is not universally applicable across the world–even if it is espoused as a zealous Western ideal.
From dictators, to monarchs, to kings, to presidents to parliamentary cabinets–the right to rule or self-rule has taken on a vast variety of different forms based on context, history and the sweeping array of circumstances that led to that moment in time when that structure was solidified.
A nation, an empire, a kingdom or even a tribe, is not a natural unit. Much like humans, they have been born and they have died. They have come and they have gone. They have emerged and they have vanished.
What is significant about the empires that were born was their ability to set the context in which society was created. But that, too, is a temporary and unnatural state of affairs.
Sooner or later, new empire builders are born… and with that, a new nation is reborn…with a brand new destiny.