Saturday, April 30, 2016

Where is the old sovereign state in Europe?

The old idea of a state associated to a currency, a language, an army, a flag, a monarch... is dead. The still frequent habit of associating a language to a country's flag is a symbol of a more general mismatch between symbols and reality. When I see the Spanish language associated to the Spanish flag I feel a current of cognitive dissonance, because I empathize with all the hundreds of millions of people who have Spanish as their language and who do not live in Spain. And I empathize with all those Spaniards who also have other languages as their own. In Europe, our army is NATO, whether we like it or not. We have our national flags coexisting with local or regional flags, and with the European flag, and with many other flags that are important for some people, expressing sexual orientation identity or sports preferences. Our monarchs are more and more becoming like the kings of Southafrican tribes, mere touristic attractions and actors and actresses in old useless rituals. In the eurozone, our currency is the Euro, although we may also use digital or local social monies (none of them is a national currency any more). We use one language for one function and another one for another (some fanatic socio-linguists in Catalonia don't like this, but that is just because nationalists tend not to like facts), and more and more we will use one jurisdiction for one thing and another one for another. The peace deal of Northern Ireland some years ago was in this sense much more interesting than the in-out referenda that have become fashionable in the United Kingdom more recently. That deal was based on a broad agreement that involved both Ireland and the UK, and both populations endorsed it in a referendum, as part of a process of complex agreement, not of simplistic division. Ireland and the UK became united again to decide on a very important topic (peace) although they kept different instutions for other things: we may argue that although citizens believe they belong to independent countries, they share their most important public good: absence of violence. The Scottish referendum was much more divisive, but it also illustrated that creating a sovereign state is not what it used to be, as even the secessionists did not want a new currency or a new head of state. What remains of the old sovereign nation-state is the myth, which is used to fight for local political control. It is the political media market that is still national, our leaders (and media outlets) are mostly still national. And they are fighting for your mind. But the real stuff is no longer national.

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