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Brexit, Nationalism and World Unity

Rodney Richards | Aug 28, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Rodney Richards | Aug 28, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

By now you’ve heard plenty on the news about Brexit. Hundreds of articles, news reports and opinions have covered the referendum question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”

So now that most of the shouting has died down, let’s review. The United Kingdom has four national entities—England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Here’s how they voted:

England 53.2% to 46.8%, Leave

Scotland 62% to 38%, Remain

Wales 51.7% to 48.3%, Leave

Northern Ireland 55.7% to 44.3%, Remain

Essentially, England and Wales decided to go it alone, to retain full sovereignty over their nations, while Scotland and Northern Ireland chose to retain the benefits of full EU membership by ceding part of their own rulemaking authority.

A group of people protesting the result of the EU Referendum in the UK

A group of people protesting the result of the EU Referendum in the UK

In the Baha’i view, without ceding some sovereignty rights to a world authority, or in this case, a limited federalized political body, humankind will remain in the throes of disunity and self-destruction.

That’s not to say that every union, whether 50 states in the U.S. or other political unities, began perfectly or operates seamlessly. We here in the States still try to form “a more perfect union” every day. When European countries started to cooperate economically in 1951, only Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands participated. Now there will be 26, not 28 European Union member states, and loud voices, especially in the Netherlands and France, urge those nations to do what the United Kingdom has just done.

Now we will see how history views their decision, and what effects will occur. Already the British Pound has suffered significant value loss in the markets, and the United Kingdom itself is questioning the wisdom of pulling out of the EU permanently.

The Baha’is and others have known for some time that diplomatic unification of peoples and nations has become a necessary, critical process toward permanent world security and peace. As early as 1941 the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, wrote about the dangers of exalting nationalism above international peace and unity:

The theories and policies, so unsound, so pernicious, which deify the state and exalt the nation above mankind, which seek to subordinate the sister races of the world to one single race, which discriminate between the black and the white, and which tolerate the dominance of one privileged class over all others — these are the dark, the false, and crooked doctrines for which any man or people who believes in them, or acts upon them, must, sooner or later, incur the wrath and chastisement of God. –  The Promised Day is Come, pp. 113-114.

A return to isolationism, or a backward march toward “the good ole days” of pure nationalism is a chimera. It cannot be done in a globalized world. Every understanding person knows the old, obsolescent doctrine of pure national sovereignty will never succeed in a shrinking world governed by constant change. In the 21st century, a century of light, globalization is the road to life, as so evidenced by economic realities and banded unities such as the World Trade Organization.

The Baha’i teachings equate nationalism with war, and advocate an ongoing process of global unification to counter the chaos of pure national sovereignty:

Contrasting with, and irreconcilably opposed to, these war-engendering, world-convulsing doctrines are the healing, the saving, the pregnant truths proclaimed by Baha’u’llah, the Divine Organizer and Savior of the whole human race — truths which should be regarded as the animating force and the hallmark of His Revelation: “The world is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” “Let not a man glory in that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.” And again: “Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.” “Bend your minds and wills to the education of the peoples and kindreds of the earth, that haply … all mankind may become the upholders of one order, and the inhabitants of one city…. Ye dwell in one world, and have been created through the operation of one Will.” “Beware lest the desires of the flesh and of a corrupt inclination provoke divisions among you. Be ye as the fingers of one hand, the members of one body.” And yet again: “All the saplings of the world have appeared from one Tree, and all the drops from one Ocean, and all beings owe their existence to one Being.” And furthermore: “That one indeed is a man who today dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.” – Ibid., p. 114.

“Loves his kind” has been interpreted by many, too many, over 17 million in the case of Brexit, to mean only one’s countrymen—at the expense and detriment of others.

I for one hope that the native England of my wife’s war-bride mother will survive and thrive, somehow, and regain its senses. Perhaps we will see a Referendum such as: “Can we regain our position as one unified nation among a group of unified nations?”

Yes, there may have been “good ole days” for some; but certainly not for all Americans or British or any other people. I for one, and many others, look forward to and work hard for better tomorrows, not a return to a mythical yesterday.

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  • Fred van Zuijdam
    Dec 15, 2019
    I am disappointed with British politics. If the British want to leave the EU let them go. It is like a rollercoaster from hope to dispear. Now we have more clearness. It is not the outcome I wish but dealing with a partner who does not know what he or she wants and only have critics on you is not good either. If people do not want to listen they must feel the consequences of their decisions. Then they can learn what good is or wrong. Pulling on a country who does not want to cooperate makes the situation worse ...than it already is.
  • Lil Osborn
    Sep 3, 2019
    I am deeply shocked that this highly politicised and frankly naive article is being published on what appears to be a Bahai site. I understand that this is a personal view but people could misunderstand it to be an official stance and one which the majority of the people of the UK would find difficult to understand given the apparent apolitical stance of the Faith.
    • Rodney Richards
      Sep 4, 2019
      Lil, It is a personal view and I agree, it should have been clearer that it was. You are also correct that I as an American cannot truly understand the emotions and implications of Brexit on those in the United Kingdom. My point of view is to say that I believe strict nationalism over international cooperation, treaties and alignments, is outdated and harmful to progress in this complex interrelated world.
  • Mike Hoffman
    Sep 5, 2016
    Well done Rodney. Does this mean that Scotland and N. Ireland will stay in the E.U.?
  • Frank Welsh
    Aug 29, 2016
    Looking at the Brexit vote reveals a division, but not necessarily an anti-global stance. I believe that the EU may not be the avenue to a coherent and fair system , and I don't think Brexit voters should be thought of as anti-global or nationalistic. Every effort towards globalization should be thought of as an experiment.
    • Susan Wright
      Feb 6, 2017
      Thank you. I regret that this post is so political in nature, in that no country should be ruled by a small group of unelected officials not really answerable to any elected body. In the Baha'i order, except, at this point anyway the Institution of the Learned, governing bodies will be elected. This post is why I seldom read Baha'i I don't know who reviews these articles but I do wish they'd recommend a more complete view of the differences between the World Order of Baha'u'llah and problems with the E.U.
  • Hooshang S. Afshar
    Aug 29, 2016
    Well said Rodney. Nationalism the last bastion of scoundrel.
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