February 21, 2014

Horse 1625 - On Nationhood And Citizenship

Having established that mX doesn't accept the sovereignty of certain countries when even the UN does, that in some cases what constitutes a country is an exceptionally difficult thing to ascertain, I now plunge even further into the murky depths and look at the concept of nationhood.

It turns out that the OED finds the concept of nationhood exceptionally easy to define because they can throw an incredibly large and broad definition at it:
nation - n. 1: a community of people of mainly common descent, history, language, etc., forming a sovereign state or inhabiting a territory.
- Oxford English Dictionary 3rd Ed. (1997)

The problem with such a broad definition is how quickly it dissolves once it is applied in the real world. Are Serbians and Croatians the same nation because they speak pretty well much an identical language? The answer is a very strong 'no'. Do the Kurds form a nation, even though they sweep across parts of  Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey? Again, probably not. Should we include people groups like the First Nations of Canada who are neither Inuits or Métis? What of those people? How about the nations of the United States like the Navajo? How about the Celtic nations? Does Catalunya count as a nation? 

Nations can be born at a single defining point in history too. Abraham Lincoln most famously enunciated this in his Gettysburg Address. 
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.
- Abraham Lincoln, 19th Nov 1863

Four score and seven years before 1863 was 1776; and so there was no doubt in his mind (and indeed everyone else's) that that nation started with the signing of a document; at a defined point in history. It's weird though considering that the convention of delegates which met to form the government which oversaw the nation, began meeting in 1774.

Sometimes those points are simply harder to define though. Is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta a nation, even though it probably only has 3 citizens? What about uncontacted tribes? Believe it or not, there are still a few tribes of people who do not have contact with the rest of the the world in any capacity. Often they are in forested areas like the Amazon or Indonesia and the only reason they their existence is known is because they might show up on aerial photography. Are such people their own nation? 

This brings me to the related concept of citizenship which is incredibly easy to define. A citizen is a member of a sovereign state. Usually conferred with citizenship are various rights such as the right to make contracts, hold property, stand for public office, the right to vote, to sue and be sued and to appear in court.

As far back as the city-states in Greece, Citizenship was conferred upon those people who were not slaves. Citizenship in almost every context revolved around the basic charter of a city-state and this concept expanded with the Roman Empire. Being a Roman Subject was a categoric difference between that of a Roman Citizen and it is curious that Paul who was a Roman Citizen, would not have died of crucifixion since even if sentenced to death, no Roman citizen could be sentenced to die on the cross. 

When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”
The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes, I am,” he answered.
Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.”
“But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.
- Acts 22: 26-28

This brings me roundly to a very strange thought, can you have a nation without a physical country and is it possible to be a citizen of such a nation? Evidently Paul thought so:
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ
- Philippians 3:20

Indeed it's easy to make the argument that the Kingdom of God which has a charter, a judiciary, the rule of law, a set of history, a sort of defined starting point, a sovereign, can be classified as a defined community and which claims citizenship status is a Nation.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
- US Declaration of Independence, 4th July, 1776

This brings me to a rather strange sort of point. Citizenship of some nations is voluntary. As the United States shows in its Declaration of Independence, the people wished to cease being citizens of the British Empire and instead gave their consent to a new nation. Such a thing happens on every occasion when a people decides that they want their independence; the most recent nation to refuse to give their consent to be governed by one nation and instead form their own, was South Sudan in 2011.
Even if we take the Kingdom of God for instance which holds all the characteristics of a nation but doesn't hold physical territory, it still requires the submission and consent of an individual to be ruled by it. People living outside a particular nation and who do not hold citizenship are free to live by whatever ruleset they find themselves in; that also applies to people who do not hold citizenship of the Kingdom of God.

So what can we make from all of this? Citizenship probably isn't equivalent to Nationality. A Nation is not the same as a Country. A Country is a difficult thing to define anyway.
In summary... I don't know.

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