The Need to Subordinate Nationalism to Internationalism

It is difficult for us to see, given present circumstances, exactly how and in what manner the idea of the Nation-State will subside and give way to the sense of the oneness of all humanity without the hard divisions of national borders.  Yet if we observe history, we can see that earlier self-identified groupings of humanity eventually gave way to the dominating spirit of the Nation.  Families, clans, tribes, communities, villages, towns, cities, regions, districts and states are all terms that humanity has found a way to subordinate to the larger unity we call the nation.  The pressure of the time is forcing humanity forward along this path and eventually the nation, despite the aggressive resistance made to maintain it as a primary grouping of humanity, will have to give way to the larger unity.  There are numerous pressures that are moving humanity already in this direction under the surface, for instance the internet, air travel, global communications and mass media, multi-national corporations, global trade, world-spanning religions and religious movements, and the pressures accompanying the potential for world pandemics, world wars, and cataclysmic climate change, along with the accompanying dislocations that quickly overwhelm national boundaries and force humanity to cooperate as s whole if it is to meet these challenges.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The present obstacle to any such extreme consummation is the still strong principle of nationalism, the sense of group separateness, the instinct of collective independence, its pride, its pleasure in itself, its various sources of egoistic self-satisfaction, its insistence on the subordination of the human idea to the national idea.”

“It is only by a growth of the international idea, the idea of a single humanity, that nationalism can disappear, if the old natural device of an external unification by conquest or other compulsive force continues to be no longer possible; for the methods of war have become too disastrous and no single empire has the means and the strength to overcome, whether rapidly or in the gradual Roman way, the rest of the world.  Undoubtedly, nationalism is a more powerful obstacle to farther unification than was the separativeness of the old pettier and less firmly self-conscous groupings which preceded the developed nation-State.  It is still the most powerful sentiment in the collective human mind, still gives an indestructible vitality to the nation and is apt to reappear even where it seemed to have been abolished.  But we cannot argue safely from the present balance of tendencies in the beginning of a great era of transitions.  Already there are at work not only ideas but forces, all the more powerful for being forces of the future and not established powers of the present, which may succeed in subordinating nationalism to themselves far easier than we can at present conceive.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 26, The Need of Administrative Unity, pp. 226-227