Technology, Ukraine and the fading of the nation-state.

Technology is what enabled Westphalia and is what is now slowly fraying it. Our national identity has weakened significantly as we’ve become far more exposed to other people and cultures. The nation state grew because communication was and could be constrained to language and geography. Moscow and Beijing still believe they can control that narrative because the nation state is nothing but a cultural narrative. For much of the rest that narrative no longer is strongly controlled. Especially in Europe that process started after WW2 but has accelerated with widespread English literacy and internet access. Now, some Y generation columnist said on Forbes that HBO needs to release episodes of the hit series Game of Thrones at the same moment globally because non-US fans aren’t going to wait. They want to partake in the global debate as it happens so will download the show illegally. And they’re doing so in the millions. The very point for that generation has become to instantly partake in the narrative regardless of borders or language. That isn’t to say nationality isn’t going to be with us for a long while yet, it will remain a defining identity and legal entity especially in terms of ownership of resrouces. But it’ll be nothing like what it used to be. It no longer can be enforced the way the Prussians envisioned it. Scotland, Catalonia, Ukraine, Syria and other nations all in their own way experience the weakening of national identities and the growth of competing ones.

We’ve seen Ukraine become liberal over the last 20 years. Ingredients: internet, a relatively free press, 20 years of unrestricted access and increasingly free debate, the experience of 2004. Resulting in a Ukrainian identity that is increasingly at odds with the Russian one and far more akin to the Polish one. The mere thought of using violence in the political process is an affront not just to the young but also to the vast numbers of people in their 40’s and 50’s (many of them Afghanistan vets) who man the barricades and believe in their identity and  independence. Ukrainians look to Poland and further west. They don’t necessarily want EU membership nor does the EU necessarily grant it to them. Rather they want what we take for granted. A liberal democracy and rule of law. An end to the culture of corruption. Membership of the EU isn’t the issue, our values is that they want. Far too many of us grew up taking those values for granted and can’t imagine how valuable and attractive they are to those who have tasted them but see them taken away.

Short of using nuclear weapons, the US or Russia cannot meaningfully guide the decomposition of the nation. The Kremlin is afraid that what will happen in Kiev will happen in Moscow and some day in the not too distant future, it will. The conspiracy has a name: technology. There is no answer to it other than the sort of nation that the USA and EU represent, one that bases identity not on nationality or ethnicity or religion but on a shared belief in liberal democracy and on positivism. Even in North Korea South Korean TV soap is available, smuggled in with USB sticks and watched on small portable devices such as smartphones. Technology is unstoppable. It is powering this, just like Gutenberg’s press once powered the spread of protestantism and the early nation state.