There are a few spots on earth that seem to suck, all the time, every year. Places known primarily for depressing, vaguely anonymous news stories about so an so rebel group blowing up buses, such and such government dropping cluster bombs on schools, everyone throwing rocks at each other and frothing at the mouth. I don’t have nearly enough knowledge to offer intelligent opinions on all of these countries, but I do see a pattern I call “the purity state.”
Since that term is my invention, it’s probably best I explain what I mean by it. A normal country operates to protect the interests of the people inside its borders. In a homogeneous society like Japan, this means mostly taking care of Japanese Buddhists, but not to the legal exclusion of, say, Muslims or documented Chinese immigrants. In a diverse society like Brazil, that means the country’s laws, rights and privileges apply more or less equally to Catholics and Protestants, blacks and indigenous people, legal immigrants from Chile and native born people. A purity state violates these principals and operates for the benefit of a particular group to the exclusion of some other group or groups.
Israel and Pakistan are examples of purity states. Israel is a Jewish homeland that spends much of its legislative energy maintaining the Jewish character of its territory. Pakistan was likewise formed as a homeland for Indus Valley Muslims to the exclusion of undesirable religious groups. Buddhists (not to mention Muslims), are not treated equally under Israeli law as Jews. Christians (or even certain types of Muslim) do not receive the same treatment in the Pakistani system of governance as do mainline Sunni Muslims. These purity states, to simplify, take the notion of a chosen people seriously – they truly believe being born in a certain way makes you special, makes you deserving of an always-inherited, never-earned status as a master.
I would submit that purity states must, with very few exceptions, exist in a continual state of war and violence. The reason for that continual conflict lies with the purity state’s innate belief – some group is superior just by existing. And if you run with this idea that a person is superior just by being born in a certain place, family or religious community, governance quickly becomes unworkable. How am I, in a diverse world, supposed to get a job if I refuse to work for a racial “inferior?” How am I supposed to coexist with my neighbors if I believe I have more of a right to live than they do? How can you expect me to give equal rights and protections to people I believe are my inevitable inferiors? If I believe in my own inborn superiority, asking me to treat a member of an inferior race like a human being becomes an insult. Think of it, how would you react if I expected you to treat dogs as your social equals? It’s exactly the same feeling an inevitably superior Sunni in Pakistan will feel when asked to treat a racially inferior Hindu farmer as his equal.
That which I describe above is pretty much textbook dehumanization and, to me, it explains the blood-soaked, dysfunctional history of all countries where the people believe themselves chosen. Israel, Pakistan and Turkmenistan are, respectively, the main source of a massive international conflict, the best chance we have of facing nuclear war and a depressing hell-hole and yet, these failures are, by purity state standards, relatively benign. Think Nazi Germany, Young-Turk era Turkey and Imperial Japan for examples of how repulsive these monstrosities can become.
What would happen if Israel, for example, acted like a real democracy and let the racial inferiors have equal protections under the law? It would cease to be a Jewish homeland, but so what? That seems well worth the price when you consider the benefits of becoming a normal country with laws that apply equally to everybody – the possibility of peace, the ability to brain drain neighboring countries, normal trade relations, fear free travel, the ability to do like the Romans and sex your enemies until they’re so tied up with your society they can no longer resist, greater diplomatic pull, less vitriol worldwide towards Jews in general – the list goes on.
Which brings us to the problem with the two state solution. It requires ethnic separation (cleansing) and, worse, would create a situation where instead of just one purity state making everyone miserable, there would be two. In any acceptable solution, there are going to be Palestinians who have dying grandmothers in the occupied territories and can’t leave. There are going to be Israeli settlers stranded in what becomes the nation of Palestine. Unless they get equal legal status in the two new states, they are simply going to restart the cycle of suck.
Think of Imperial Japan – one of the most virulent purity states ever devised. When the war ended there were thousands of ethnically “inferior” Koreans and Chinese in Japan, thousands of ethnic Japanese in China and Japan. Even within a super-racist society like Imperial Japanese, every identity group is bound to messy, the community will mixed at some level. One of the very big reasons Korea, Japan and China were able to break cleanly from each other after the war is that the leftover ethnic something-elses generally got equal legal rights as the native populations. Pick any even quasi-acceptable colony/colonizer split and you’ll see the same thing – India and England, the US and the Philippines, South African blacks and the Boers.
That said, it would be a shame to sacrifice the blessings that come with being chosen.
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