In so many words the United Nations declared itself bankrupt today. On BBC lunchtime News, a senior UN spokesman said that the UN can’t cope any longer with the sheer mass of refugees of internal wars . . . that are now piling up in different parts of the world. And which, seemingly, are only getting worse. Actually, the UN was bankrupt many decades ago when it fell down on its fundamental purpose of bringing peace to troubled countries. It has only been able to mediate in a fraction of these situations. Today that fraction is almost nil. And now we’re finding that the UN can’t even cope with the relatively cheaper job of looking after refuges.
The United Nations has failed, just as its similarly idealistic predecessor, the League of Nations, failed — as also why the European Union is failing today — because its proponents thought that rationality could succeed above nationalism. Well, it can’t. National entities are simply scaled-up versions of the hunter-gatherer group which shaped our emotional genes for millions of years. Even if there are any such entities as passably united nation-states, very rational constructs according to politicians and civil servants, then they, too, are breaking up into smaller class concentrations, cultural regions, ethnicities, religions, what-have-you.
By now, the more intelligent politicians and civil servants ought to have realised (though they probably do, in private) — after all, enough detailed history of the last few thousand years is available to them in any bookshop or local library — that specific cultures are more powerful and more persistent than the empires and nation-states that have been militarily inflicted on them since the dawn of civilisation. And the smaller the culture that’s considered, the more fervent its internal loyalty and cohesion.
There are only two ways that groups of millions of people can be held together by a government in a reasonably unified peaceful manner. One is if the government imposes an overwhelmingly oppressive top-down control over the population when the cultural conditioning from childhood can be so complete that the adult population remains placid for almost ever. The ancient Incan and Egyptian civilisation are good examples. Only an exceptional shock — geological, climatic or military (from the outside) — can disturb the equilibrium in such a society.
The other, dating from 1780 in northern England, is when there’s a promise of social aspiration and more personal possessions and a higher standard of life than ever before is seen as more or less possible for all. To use the famous phrase of Warren Buffet, when a rising tide lifts all boats. But which, in fact, doesn’t take place uniformly everywhere.
The evenly rising tide, we are now discovering, is impossible. Economic growth requires constant innovation, and this in turn — since all other ordinary practical methods have been largely exhausted — requires scientific discovery, and this, in turn requires a high level of research, and this in turn requires a high level of education. But this cannot be spread around quite so easily as social aspirations are by television or mobile phone.
This is in complete contrast to the orthodox economic and political notion that took hold of Keynesians after World War II. Get the exchange rates right, stop protective tariffs by individuals countries, apply sufficient financial investment and — lo and behold! — Buffet-like economic growth will spread everywhere around the world. And we’ll throw in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to help. It won’t be easy-peasy, of course, but there are no real snags to prevent it. But there is. There is one snag.
The snag is that we are group-centred, culture-centred beasts. We don’t take kindly to be told by others what to do. Because all those wonderful consumer goods are available we want them NOW! We are not prepared to change the way we think, to overthrow superstituous views, and to start the long tedious process of education for, maybe, two or three hundred years, which, in time, would yield sufficient scientific innovation within our culture, within our nation-state, within our region, so that we can hold our own in producing goods and services in high value international trade. We want our rights NOW bcause, after all, we are HUMAN, just like you.