On an individual level, the ego creates a sense of separation, of fragmentation of one from the other, and with this sense of division and separation comes self-aggrandisement at the expense of the other beings, as the ego revolves everything around itself. The process at the level of the nation-unit is analogous. The national ego creates a division between one group of people and another and finds rationale for achieving its own perceived aims at the expense of those “others”. These can be concrete things like access to and control of resources of life, but they can just as likely be perceived affronts or humiliations, and an attempt to “save face” or create an aura of domination over others. Every action, of course, is linked in a chain of “cause and effect” so that there are actions and reactions, and then counter-actions until eventually outright conflict ensues. Some of these conflicts have their roots in events that took place thousands of years ago, and they still evoke emotion and energy today to justify acts of vengeance or reprisal.
Sri Aurobindo observes: “National egoism remaining, the means of strife remaining, its causes, opportunities, excuses will never be wanting. The present war (n.b. World War I) came because all the leading nations had long been so acting as to make it inevitable; it came because there was a Balkan imbroglio and a Near-Eastern hope and commercial and colonial rivalries in Northern Africa over which the dominant nations had been battling in peace long before one or more of them grasped at the rifle and the shell.”
“From Morocco to Tripoli, from Tripoli to Thrace and Macedonia, from Macedonia to Herzegovina the electric chain ran with that inevitable logic of causes and results, actions and their fruits which we call Karma, creating minor detonations on its way till it found the inflammable point and created that vast explosion which has filled Europe with blood and ruins.”
After reviewing various issues underlying the pressures of the war, Sri Aurobindo notes further: “Even if that difficulty is settled, new causes of strife must necessarily develop where the spirit of national egoism and cupidity seeks for satisfaction; and so long as it lives, satisfaction it must seek and repletion can never permanently satisfy it. The tree must bear its own proper fruit, and Nature is always a diligent gardener.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 14, The Possibility of a First Step towards International Unity – Its Enormous Difficulties, pp. 120-121