The Crimes of National Pride

“Thailand and Cambodia have,” according to BBC News, “reached a ceasefire after a week of fighting along a disputed border …. Both countries said the truce was struck following talks between the two militaries.” The border between the two countries has been contested for years, and “nationalist sentiment” has continued to give rise to intermittent violence. In the past, elections have enkindled the ongoing, if sometimes dormant, dispute, and the latest skirmish comes with elections looming in Thailand.

The language of statism has a remarkable capacity for transforming a turf war between two gangs of thugs into an all-embracing conflict between two nations. The notion that the disputed land “belongs” to either state, that a government could possess rights in any legitimate sense, reveals the derisible assumption underlying the power of all ruling classes.

Because the state is simply systemized aggression, it cannot so much as exist without violating rights. Any claim of right it asserts, then, is an invasion, a trespass against true freedom, and — in the case of land — a theft. Through confrontations like the one between Thailand and Cambodia, crimes are ennobled as matters of national pride.

Politics is necessarily and inevitably divisive. Since political solutions are, perforce, coercive, they are not solutions at all, merely subjecting some to the will of others in violation of the latter group’s autonomy. The common man, the worker who goes about his life peacefully, producing and trading to fill his needs, should not at all identify his interests with those of his government. Appeals to patriotism are the gilding used by the political class to garner popular support for conflicts for power, stemming from power, with no mind to the woes of the productive class.

Rather than a specific implication of the same sort of pride one feels with regard to her familial group or community, patriotism stands opposed to the kinds of friendly ties that bind human beings. It asks Cambodians and Thai to hate one another because they stand on the opposite side of a line on a map, one that has been drawn arbitrarily by members of a ruling class that have no interest but to plunder the societies that exists within their own borders.

Besides its more obvious uses, war is of service to the elite in that it obscures the alignment of interests — across all national, cultural, religious and language divides — between all those who would use only nonviolent, voluntary means in their relations with others. Market anarchism, in advocating mutual respect for individuals’ rights and consensual exchange, does not prescribe a fixed or predetermined vision for society without the vulturine impositions of the state.

It asks only that the ruling class be forbidden from using the artifices of the legal structure, ultimately enforced at the point of a gun, to gain from the constructive achievements of others. Renouncing the hope that the state “could be made an instrument in the hands of the oppressed to alleviate their sufferings,” Lucy Parsons understood that governments are always a vehicle for “the machinations of the scheming few.” And those few do not stand in for the people of Thailand or Cambodia, for the land itself, for separate individuals, or for society at large.

The absurd nationalism at the heart of the Cambodia-Thailand clash, a needless waste of life for the elevation of governments — not people, displays the vile reality of statism. Thailand and Cambodia alike would be better off without their respective states, without a few malefactors exploiting people who could get along just fine without them.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory