"Who needs a homeland?" (was: How can this be justified?)

Russell Turpin deafbox@hotmail.com
Wed, 3 Oct 2001 08:38:55 -0500


Jeff Bone asks:
>> For that matter, why do the Jews need a "homeland"?  
>> Why does anyone need a "homeland" in this day and 
>> age?

Wayne Baisley writes:
> A breathtaking transition from "people's interests are 
> supreme" to "people, who cares what they want", and 
> in just 24 hours!  I musta missed some something.

Since you missed it, I will endeavor to point out one 
of the larger themes that has been discussed in this 
thread.

(1) Since before we were people, groups have fought
over "homeland." Even many of our pongid cousins
do this.

(2) As far back as history records, groups have
created a mythology to justify this, often involving
some special relationship between the gods and the
group, a mythopoetic explanation of how the group
obtained or deserves their homeland, and an
ontology that sets the group above all other 
groups. Prehistoric archaeology gives tantalizing
hints of the same. If we can't label this primitive,
then nothing deserves the label.

(3) Throughout history, this primitive "want" has
resulted in constant war. The practical reason is
that homelands are limited, and a homeland that
is any good, or even marginal, has many peoples
who stake a claim to it. Moreover, a group 
that strategizes along these lines will fight to
expand its homeland when its population grows.
The inevitable result has been continual 
territorial warfare. This "want" has been at the
root of the most inhumane wars, because the
primitive mythology where each group posits
that they are "chosen," "more human," "more
advanced," etc. justifies the most horrendous
acts. Added to this, there is a practical
consequence of wars fought from this kind 
of ideology: unless you genocidally destroy 
the enemy, their children, practicing the same
ideology, will be compelled to fight again for
what they view as their homeland. In some 
of these mythologies, the need to commit 
genocide is turned into a command from God:
"Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy
all that they have; do not spare them, but kill
both man and woman, infant and suckling,
ox and sheep, camel and ass." [1 Samuel 15:3]

(4) This primitive "want" is so strong, that as
far as I can tell, history shows only two ways
that different peoples can live together in 
piece. (a) Some group is so successful in its
conquest that it establishes a nation or empire 
in which the conquered groups no longer fight 
each other. While not always ideal, it is what
we typically imagine when we use the term 
"civilization." Greece, the empire, not Greece
the squabbling set of city states. Britain, not
the Picts, Welsh, Norse, and Saxons.
(b) Modern democracies give rise to secular 
states where all ethnic and religious
groups are given the same legal standing. This
works so well, that it legitimately gives rise
to the question: "Who needs a homeland?"
American Jews are safer and freer than 
Israeli Jews, and given the dim prospects for 
peace in Israel, this ironic state seems likely 
to persist for the foreseeable future. 

(5) If squabbles between different peoples
over a homeland are still fought in the 22nd
century, they will be fought with smart,
biological, and nanotech weapons, whose
damage is very likely to spill over into the
civilized areas of the earth.

(6) Given the desire to secure civilization 
in the 22nd century, and the ability of modern
secular states to provide a relatively safe 
polity for different ethnic and religious groups,
yes, I will urge that these needs should take
precedence over the primitive wants that 
lead to continual war of group against group. 
The western democracies should make it a 
long term goal to persuade, induce, bribe, 
intellectually pollute, browbeat, and sometimes 
even threaten more primitive states into 
dropping all legal prejudice with regard to 
ethnicity and religion. State racism and state 
religion have no place in the distant future. If 
we're to have a distant future.

Russell