Nations, like humans as a group, pressuring and being pressured by leaders, often resort to foolish decisions which are not to their self-interest but are self-harming. A classic example for my readers is the impending exiting of the United Kingdom from the European Union passed by elections by an extremely small margin made up mainly of rural populations in the countryside, a little away from the metropolitan of London, who were proud of their Englishness with a slogan of “taking control back and making England great again.”
The United Kingdom, following the second world war, is reduced to a small island from the former mighty British Empire due to enormous cost in people and treasure. This UK is made up of, roughly speaking, the metropolitan Greater London of several million people of diverse origins, thriving financially, offering services world-wide and especially in the European Union. The second part is the countryside previously mentioned, proud of their Englishness, who with their vote wished to protect.
Then there is the part called Northern Ireland which miraculously have been transformed by their own agreement, to their enormous benefit, from two warring parties between Catholics and Protestants — dating from the time of Cromwell with thousands and thousands of deaths. This multi-centuries strife the now-united citizens of these two parties have called “the troubles.” Now united North Ireland has become an international community made up of many ethnicities, unbelievable in their ability to recruit industry — especially electronics — being made up of English, Jews, Muslims, French, Romanian, and Polish, and others — all holding the national identity of being Northern Irish or of the United Kingdom, or both. They cooperate, they are friendly, they prosper.
Then there is the Scotland, who increasingly behave as a separate country and may itself separate from the the United Kingdom.
Prime Minister May of the UK is taking frantic steps to separate from the European Union. This profitable union lasted several decades to the benefits of all concerned. Except one thing: now there is no way to do it without great harm financially to themselves as well, for reasons beyond the scope of this article, possibly reigniting “the troubles” between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland by recreating an impossible border.
Meanwhile, PM May declares, equivocates, re-declares, and agonizes facing the mandate of exiting with the enormous economic catastrophe to the UK, the results of foolish action.
Meanwhile, the population that consider themselves as “pure English” — who mainly voted for Exit to protect their Englishness — are themselves in a quandary in their economical well-being and grim future outcome.
I wrote all that in order to emphasize the existing reality of modern world, that while we can and should keep our national identities, we should consider ourselves increasingly also citizens of this planet, cooperating in trade, knowledge, population moves, and tolerance and respect of each other’s national heritage.
The wonderful historian Barbara Tuchman, in her notable book titled The March of Follies, brings examples and discusses similar destructive behavior of many nations throughout the centuries. She ends the book with the example of utterly foolish catastrophe for our country’s Vietnam war, both in its inception and longevity.
I hope that this Brexit will act as a cautionary tale for our own country, which is made up of diverse origin of people as well by being a trading nation and leader; remember that our well-being depends on global equitable cooperation and interaction of goods and knowledge with the world nations.
But then, and sadly, “against foolishness, even Gods will contend in vain,” which fueled by the Tribalism which is still embedded in humans from the time of the Savannah.