Any given country is made up of two components: the nation and the state, state meaning the center of governance and power.
“Nation” is an umbrella term that refers to the groups and subgroups that make up a country’s culture. The diverse values of its citizens are embedded in the nation. The nation is chaotic, disorderly and lacks efficiency, for it requires constant bickering to achieve the compromise and conciliation that are needed for effective action. All too often, the outcome of this bickering is an obsession with the common welfare.
The “state,” on the other hand, seeks power and authority so it may bring order and stability to the nation and impose upon it its own values of conquest and exploitation. Its power tends to puddle in one or more centers. In the case of America, it has puddled in the Beltway, Wall Street and the Pentagon, America’s own feral trifecta.
Traditionally, constitutions and common law are in place to protect the nation from the state.
The state achieves power by co-opting the nation’s values, corrupting them, and using them not as instruments of welfare and peace but as justifications for repression and home and conquest abroad. It recasts these values as absolutes that are propagandized to produce compliance and obedience.
The nation thrives on diversity; the state thrives on conformity.
If the nation represents the chaos of a life force that maintains itself in a constant state of tense equilibrium, then the state ultimately expresses itself as death, through incarceration, execution, and the sacrificing of the flower of its youth to advance its interests. The end is always the same: the enhancement of the state’s power. There is no other rational for its existence.
To thrive, the state must twist Christianity, with its message of love and universal brotherhood, into a message of God’s wrath and retribution, making of the state a wagon train drawn into a circle and surrounded by a dark, alien force. Church and state work hand in hand to undercut freedom so they might protect “people of faith” from the “evil” forces that would destroy its civilization by strapping a nuke to a camel and sending it for a stroll down Wall Street.
The state achieves its ends with a rhetorical arsenal that includes “inversion of language, verbal inflation, libel, rumor, euphemism and coded phrases, rhetorical wantonness, redundancy, hyperbole, such profusion in speech and sound that comprehension is impaired, nonsense, sophistry, jargon, noise, incoherence, a chaos of voices and tongues, falsehood, blasphemy.”
To succeed, there must be a disconnect between the state and its citizens. These citizens must be reduced to a passive horde so wrapped up in themselves that they could care less about the antics of the state.
A good citizen is one who mistakes the fiery sword of conquest for the shepherds crook.
 William Stringfellow
Sunday, May 16, 2010
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Very good essay -- work up, republish far and wide?
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