Can nationalism—which advocates territoriality, hardened borders, military might and political independence—produce world peace?
No, the Baha’i teachings say:
… an idolatrous world passionately and clamorously hails and worships the false gods which its own idle fancies have fatuously created, and its misguided hands so impiously exalted. The chief idols in the desecrated temple of mankind are none other than the triple gods of Nationalism, Racialism and Communism, at whose altars governments and peoples, whether democratic or totalitarian, at peace or at war, of the East or of the West, Christian or Islamic, are, in various forms and in different degrees, now worshiping. Their high priests are the politicians and the worldly-wise, the so-called sages of the age; their sacrifice, the flesh and blood of the slaughtered multitudes; their incantations outworn shibboleths and insidious and irreverent formulas; their incense, the smoke of anguish that ascends from the lacerated hearts of the bereaved, the maimed, and the homeless. – Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 113.
That frank analysis, written by the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith in 1941, just as World War II was about to begin, called on the world’s leaders to unify. It warned them—reiterating Baha’u’llah’s warnings in his letters and tablets to the world’s kings a rulers in the late 1860s—about the consequences of their failure to unify; and at the same time laid out a compelling rational blueprint for unification:
At so critical an hour in the history of civilization it behooves the leaders of all the nations of the world, great and small, whether in the East or in the West, whether victors or vanquished, to give heed to the clarion call of Baha’u’llah and, thoroughly imbued with a sense of world solidarity, the sine qua non of loyalty to His Cause, arise manfully to carry out in its entirety the one remedial scheme He, the Divine Physician, has prescribed for an ailing humanity. Let them discard, once for all, every preconceived idea, every national prejudice, and give heed to the sublime counsel of Abdu’l-Baha, the authorized Expounder of His teachings. You can best serve your country, was Abdu’l-Baha’s rejoinder to a high official in the service of the federal government of the United States of America, who had questioned Him as to the best manner in which he could promote the interests of his government and people, if you strive, in your capacity as a citizen of the world, to assist in the eventual application of the principle of federalism underlying the government of your own country to the relationships now existing between the peoples and nations of the world. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, pp. 36-37.
Many people, including historians, philosophers, futurists and planners, are now coming to the same exact conclusion:
The most momentous development of our era, precisely, is the waning of the nation state: its inability to withstand countervailing 21st-century forces, and its calamitous loss of influence over human circumstance. National political authority is in decline, and, since we do not know any other sort, it feels like the end of the world. This is why a strange brand of apocalyptic nationalism is so widely in vogue. But the current appeal of machismo as political style, the wall-building and xenophobia, the mythology and race theory, the fantastical promises of national restoration – these are not cures, but symptoms of what is slowly revealing itself to all: nation states everywhere are in an advanced state of political and moral decay from which they cannot individually extricate themselves. – Rana Dasgupta, The Demise of the Nation State, The Guardian, April 5, 2018. (author of the upcoming book After Nations.)
At first sight, 370 years later, the nation state seems to be flourishing. While there were only 70 independent, sovereign countries in 1945, there are now 193, the most recent being Montenegro, East Timor and South Sudan. Palestine and Kosovo are waiting to join the UN. But this proliferation of countries is a sign of the nation state’s weakness, not of its strength. – Mark Lyall Grant, Can the Nation-State Survive?, Chatham House/The Royal Institute of International Affairs, March-April 2018.
The Baha’i teachings say that our old system of nation-states, in existence since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, has outlived its usefulness. The world has changed dramatically since then, but our system of governance still clings to the outmoded ways that worked centuries ago. Rana Dasgupta, one of the world’s leading thinkers on this issue, puts it this way:
National governments themselves need to be subjected to a superior tier of authority: they have proved to be the most dangerous forces in the nation-state era, waging endless wars against other nations while oppressing, killing and otherwise failing their own populations. …
If we wish to rediscover a sense of political purpose in our era of global finance, big data, mass migration and ecological upheaval, we have to imagine political forms capable of operating at that same scale. The current political system must be supplemented with global financial regulations, certainly, and probably transnational political mechanisms, too. That is how we will complete this globalisation of ours, which today stands dangerously unfinished. Its economic and technological systems are dazzling indeed, but in order for it to serve the human community, it must be subordinated to an equally spectacular political infrastructure, which we have not even begun to conceive.
… our nation-state system is already in a crisis from which it does not currently possess the capacity to extricate itself. It is time to think how that capacity might be built. We do not yet know what it will look like. But we have learned a lot from the economic and technological phases of globalisation, and we now possess the basic concepts for the next phase: building the politics of our integrated world system. – The Demise of the Nation State, The Guardian, April 5, 2018.
Baha’u’llah’s teachings anticipated this sea-change in world affairs, and revealed the architecture of a democratic global system—along with the spiritual foundation needed to construct it.