The struggle of the nation state

With the collapse of the communist bloc in 1989, the average levelheaded European citizen believed that there would be no more ideological fanaticism, that empiricism and the logic of the «feasible» would prevail as a political outlook, at least within the boundaries of Europe. However, this conviction was belied almost immediately and an insatiable greed for new horizons shook the very foundations of the nation state in Europe, although not without resistance, it must be said. The result was the creation of a rather schizoid state of affairs, such as that we are currently seeing in France. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, a rather brilliant politician, adopted measures aimed at protecting French firms, provoking the discomfort – if not the outright wrath – of other EU states; meanwhile, he also sought to liberate the labor market, provoking passionate demonstrations from frustrated French youngsters. The simplistic conclusion to draw from the above is that liberalism or globalization and the preservation of the nation state – in the absence of imperial acquisitions or a government with the influence of that of the USA – are probably incompatible concepts. It is no paradox that the only country that operates effectively within a globalized environment without any major domestic upheaval is the USA, where – for more than 200 years – fulfillment has been considered primarily on the individual rather than on the social level. It is also no surprise that patriotism is more intense in the USA than anywhere else in «Old Europe.» Some radical groups may protest from time to time but they are a small minority. Let us return to our own affairs now, to the marginalized country called Hellas, where 185 years ago certain unknown and insignificant individuals revolted against the Ottoman Empire. The first ambassador of the Habsburg Empire in Athens, Count Prokesch-Osten – whose, now decrepit, house is still standing on Fidiou Street – in his «Diplomatic History of Greece» mentions the three tradesmen from Odessa who founded the secret society «Filiki Etairia» (Society of Friends) and subsequently exploited all means to establish the independent Kingdom of Greece. Their initial aim was not to overthrow the Ottoman Empire but to transfer the responsibility of governance back to the Greeks as the incompetence of the Ottomans was holding back the development of the West. This argument was promoted in a very eloquent and well-documented fashion by Prince Mavrokordatos in his letter to the chancelleries of Europe in 1820. The creation of an independent Greek state was actually a concession from the original aim and the new goal became the creation of an exemplary kingdom of the West in the East with the aim of civilizing the people of the Ottoman Empire. The nation state, which was created thanks to much effort, blood and sacrifice, has been gradually distorted over the past years during its absorption within a unified Europe but has failed to find any new mission. In our country, there is no culture and a state of ideological confusion prevails. And just to consolidate our religious tolerance and liberalism, polytheism was legitimized last week. Without any real grasp of developments in Europe, where the nation state is trying to reaffirm its presence as it struggles to acknowledge the effectiveness of European unification, the stances of Greek leaders border on the ridiculous. Adopting practices of ideological fanaticism similar to those embraced by discredited communist regimes which claimed to be based on the truth and on indisputable recipes for progress, reform and economic growth, the new order in Greece is disrupting social cohesion rather than adapting to the new state of affairs. The result is a rather comic spectacle as politics is not supposed to be practiced on the basis of some abstract principles – even if these are freedom, justice and equality – but upon the basis of what is feasible, as determined by the particular constitution of each nation.