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Hi, my name is Jim Macdonald, and I have an odd assortment of interests. In no particular order, I love Yellowstone, I am an anti-authoritarian activist and organizer, and I have a background in philosophy, having taught at the college level. My blog has a lot more links to my writing and my other Web sites. In Jim's Eclectic World, I try to give a holistic view of my many interests. Often, all three passions show themselves interweaving in the very same blog. Anyhow, I think it's a little different. But, that's me. I'm not so much out there, but taken together, I'm a little unusual.

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    Tuesday, May 23, 2006

    Response: Against the Nation-State

    I wrote this under the pen name "US out of North America" on DC Indymedia in response to another one of the endless defenders of the minutemen. The defender of the minutemen is in italics. I've gone out on a limb to take the more radical position against the pro-minuteman position that they are defending the working class against the Left and George W. Bush. In it, I talk more theoretically about anarchism and the rights of nations to the land they have.

    Let’s look at this more carefully.

    First, reaching back to my libertarian days, I may grant you that states with borders are unimportant by themselves. However, states do not equal nations — and nations do exist and people will defend them. Certainly, the display of militant Mexican nationalism that we have seen over the last couple months has not been condemned by the Left. Why shouldn't Americans be free to display their own national and cultural pride? Your post implicitly says there is a Mexican nation and not an American one. Why not?

    My post hopefully implies that there is both a Mexican and an American nation, but my position is that there should not be either a Mexico or a United States. As an anarchist, I am against all displays of nationalism as an inherently arbitrary divider between people.

    This is not to say that the two forms are therefore equally bad. The United States has historically oppressed many of its own people and people throughout the globe, including Mexico. It has used wealth, resources, and military to dominate and serve as an obstacle in the self-determination of people in a way that only the largest imperial powers ever have. So, to the extent that the United States is guilty of a greater scope of oppression, American pride makes even less sense than Mexican pride, which at the very least seems to signify to many a rallying point to signify the common history of an oppressed class, the way being an African does for an entire continent, or being black does for people with that skin color. So, when I see a Mexican flag, it’s not so easy as to say that what I’m seeing is a bald case of nationalism the way it is when I see an American flag.

    Even so, I do not think the state of Mexico is any more legitimate than any other state. Boundaries are used to preserve the status quo and a relationship of oppression. While the Mexican boundaries are smaller than they might have been without the outside oppression of the United States, they are too large for the people who wish to determine their own destiny who happen to live within the control of the Mexican police force and military. This repeats itself all over the globe. There is what scholars call internal colonialism that exists within every country. The United States is a double perpetrator in the colonialist game, as internally colonizing large groups of people within the boundaries of its own borders while exerting its control beyond its borders by using governments throughout the world to do its bidding, without any input from the people of these countries. A power structure stays in place among all the ruling classes throughout all the nations of the world to keep that system in place.

    Because nation-states are still the international norm, our survival as a people, for now anyway, is tied with the survival of our state. Why is it that everyone else is allowed to defend their right to exist and not us?

    Are you having trouble surviving? But, if you are, then I would still tell you it’s not the immigrant who is to blame but the policies of the governments of the world, chief among them the richest countries in the world, especially the United States, and the multinational corporations who have created this mess.
    But, you say that “our survival is tied to the survival of our state,” which is an amazing claim. People make it all the time, but you have a huge burden of proof. I’m not sure how you could possibly know such a thing. And, for the purposes of this discussion, you’ve done nothing more than beg the question.

    And what are you talking about that the land belongs to no one? Of course it does. While your anarachist zines may say free the land, I really don't think you have thought through the consequences of this policy. Should I bring a few dozen of my friends to crash at your house and then angrily protest when you request that I leave? By what right could you tell me to go? Should we all raid farms in the Midwest, eat all the food, and then protest when we are arrested? Do you honestly think such a society could survive? If you are going to be an anarchist, at least be a market anarchist.

    I can honestly say I’ve never read an anarchist zine. However, I am making an ethical point; you are turning it around with pragmatic challenges. First, I’d ask you to consider the ethical point. By what right does anyone own the land? At least John Locke attempted to give a rationale for it however misguided he was. He said that people own the land because they make improvements upon it and therefore can be said to have made the land better and therefore by right has ownership to the land. Of course, I find a lot wrong with this rationale, starting with the questions about measuring what “improvement” is. Presumably a nation claims its ownership of land because it has the ability to protect the space upon which improvements to the land for use by humans can be made. Since that is the first prerequisite of survival, and the nation-state is best equipped to handle this challenge, so the argument goes that the land belongs to a nation. The nation whose people may best use the land have more ownership rights to it. That’s how it goes, right? Is that what you are talking about? If so, let me know before I go further. It’s a familiar argument used throughout the 19th century to steal land from Indians who weren’t using the land well enough.

    Now, to your practical concerns, I wouldn’t know where to start since the problems run deeper than your loaded questions. We shouldn’t expect there not to be problems; there’s nothing utopian about the anarchist worldview. The question is simply what is more just and less oppressive and allows people their greatest empowerment and therefore the greatest opportunity for expression. I would argue that comes from small communities that recognize and respect the wider community of beings in the world, including the land, the animals, and much more besides. Being a so called “market” anarchist makes everything and everyone a commodity, and so its built on an ethos that accepts an oppressor relationship right from the onset. So, it is inherently self contradictory.

    Our policies are bringing them here? How about the Mexican government's? Unless you literally maintain that the United States government must ensure an equal standard of living for every person in the entire world, regardless of where they live or their ability or desire to work, you are saying we can't defend our borders. Who is going to pay for all this — the same American middle class that is getting screwed by both Bush and the Left? And how are they going to do this when the American government, as you just claimed, doesn't have a right to exist? Will you finally go away when we are all living like Third World peasants? Is that the glorious revolution of which you dream?

    I think I’ve spoken to the issue of the Mexican government. Do not confuse the people living in a land with their government. It is not the immigrant’s fault what the Mexican government does when it schemes with the United States for agreements like NAFTA.

    I could argue with you from a consumerist standpoint and show you statistics that show that immigrants of all types actually help the economy grow and therefore aren’t nearly as costly as they seem to you, but I believe that standpoint is flawed. If the disruption of borders ultimately leads to a reduction of living standard for everyone in the country, I still wonder what constitutes a good standard of living – is it the ability to consume what one wants to consume? Isn’t that what often amounts to the American definition of freedom? Or, perhaps, it’s what the upper middle class and rich want to consume? Or what they and the creditors give you choice to consume? So, forgive me if I fail to see what a reduction in what you call your standard of living actually amounts to. Much of the technological behemoth that we’ve created to harness the land and its resources is not making anyone happier, only more alienated and unhappy. People are happy to consume but not happy because they simply can consume. Certainly, those who don’t have the means to do that much are even less happy, but almost all seemed to have bought into the lie that this is what life amounts to. It’s not enough to feed people, we must feed them until they are fat on cheesecake. They have to drive around in vehicles which choke the air and destroy diversity. They have to make enough money at the expense of someone else. And, if you are in one of the many underclasses in American society, you are sold a dream as the only option, and if you dare question that dream, it must be because of your own privileged position. But, all of this points to a general lack of empowerment, and without tackling the systems of oppression, we cannot possibly understand what a “good standard of living” is supposed to look like.

    In the short term, I’m not going to blame immigrants for wanting a slice of this very sick pie; what else is there? In the long term, acceptance of immigrants as the same as us will take us one short step toward dismantling many of the unjust oppressor relationships we have. And, while that will never end, dismantling at least a worldwide system that embraces this as an acceptable reality will, I believe, transform what we consider to be a good life.

    By what right? By the sovereign right of the American people to defend our independence. We do not need to ask permission from our enemies to defend our right to exist as a nation and as a people.

    If only it were the people you were talking about and not the mythical smokescreen we’ve all been taught to believe…all you are defending is an international system of injustice.


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