The trouble with countries

I’m not a big fan of countries as a way of organising and getting things done. I mention this in case we ever get opportunities for a radical restructure.

For a lot of purposes, a country is too small a unit to be useful. Many issues cross borders – pollution, crime, climate change, rising sea levels, food security, war, refugees from war and climate disasters, extinction, human rights. These are all things that do not care about borders, can’t be controlled or stopped at borders and where the actions of individual countries aren’t enough.

For many other things, the modern country is too big a unit to be of much use. In the UK (a small country compared to many others) we see routinely how a government operating out of London fails to grasp or pay attention to the issues of everywhere that isn’t the south east. Taking the economy of the country as a whole, for example, means that The City of London money moving operations can make it look like our economy as a whole is healthy. Meanwhile, in most of the rest of the country, local economies are in poor shape. I expect larger countries suffer bigger distortions than this.

Most of us feel remote from politics. We aren’t a big part of the decision making process most of the time. Every few years we get the option to replace the current set of suits with a different set of suits. Sometimes it seems there’s not much to choose between suits. For most people, it’s difficult to tell as well where relevant power is held, and that’s alienating. We have a lot of layers of government – parish councils, town, district, and county as well as country are all in theory democratic, all spending money on behalf of the people. All making decisions that radically impact on our lives, and on the options available to the tiers below them in this political structure.

I don’t know what a meaningful unit of organisation for political purposes would be, but I am entirely convinced that modern countries are way too big. We end up with these crazy stories about national identity that are supposed to bond us to a vast number of people – most of whom we have nothing in common with. These stories are increasingly used to make us resent other people for no good reason. I’d like to be part of a much smaller unit, held securely to world standards. It wouldn’t be perfect because nothing is, but it might be more relevant, accountable and meaningful.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

5 responses to “The trouble with countries

  • With love, Caroline

    Really interesting point of view ! I do believe that one of the biggest problem of this is, as you mentionned, that it leads to some sort of nationalism resulting in xenophobia most of the time. I think it has good aspects, though, to maintain a national identity (in terms of culture, language, traditions, etc.) but it shouldn’t be a mean to spread hate on others… ! 🙂

  • angharadlois

    Back in January I read Ada Palmer’s ‘Too Like The Lightning’ and was totally gripped by her vision of a future which had dispensed with the nation state – or, rather, preserved it as a sort of cultural ‘team’, in the same way that supporters of Liverpool FC feel a kinship with one another no matter where in the world they live.
    Her world has clear problems, but the philosophy and world-building behind some of her ideas is fascinating. I keep meaning to write about it, but I have so many other things to write about this year.

    I have chipped in on SO MANY debates since June 2016 to remind everyone that Britain has always been a multicultural nation, since before it was a properly independent nation. If anything, the existence of Wales (and so many other ‘nations-within-a-state’)shows that the linguistic and cultural identity and heritage of a nation can survive without being a political entity.

  • jrose88

    You’re right, nothing as big as a country could adequately represent everyone and every place in it. And then ridiculous things can end up happening in the name of “our country.” As Terry Pratchett said in one of his books, “You take a bunch of people who don’t seem any different from you and me, but when you add them all together you get this sort of huge raving maniac with national borders and an anthem.”

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