Chapter XXXIII Part I
Internationalism and Human Unity
From nationalism to internationalism
Normally one does not find any inhibition to identify with one's family or with one's nation, rather one does it spontaneously. However the idea of internationalism does not seem to arouse a similar sentiment for the idea of humanity or universal human unity has still not become "a central motive and a fixed part of our nature"(The Ideal of Human Unity, pg.554) even after Sri Aurobindo wrote these words in 1918.
It was easier for the family idea to become a psychological motive and need as it arose organically out of primary "vital necessities and instincts". (Ibid) The identification with the clan and tribe rose from the vital necessity in human nature for aggregation. After all, natural aggregations were evolutionary forms of group behavior that could be traced to an atavistic past as even primates lived in social groups.
The nation idea did not arise organically, it was grafted as a secondary or tertiary necessity from a circumstantial situation or environmental evolution and arose not from a vital but a geographical and historical necessity. At times it was created by the force of circumstances and at times by a more direct physical force when the king or dominant tribe created military and dominant State. Paradoxically, the nation-idea could also develop as a reaction to domination and conquest even by foreign power as in India where the masses who were geographically, historically and even culturally one, lacked the power of cohesion and remained too conscious of an original heterogeneity. "But still the necessity was there and the nation form after and after many failures and false successes got into being, and the psychological motive of patriotism, a sign of the growth of a conscious national ego, arose in the form as the expression of its soul and the guarantee of its durability". (Ibid, pg.555) The ancient empires could not afford such durability that arose from a conscious soul and thus failed to create nations. At best they could create small scale regional nations of brief duration or loose structure or created artificial empires which eventually disintegrated.
However, there seems no compelling necessity to consolidate any form of international unity that needs an identification with humanity as a whole; such an identification still lacks the fervor of patriotism with which the ordinary person is concerned if his primary vital necessities of life and instinctual needs are satisfied. It is only the idealists and thinkers who are concerned with universal humanity and internationalism; such people are always in a minority, albeit an "ineffectual minority" for the vital man can make a "pitiful parody" of a high ideal. (Ibid)
Is there any compelling geographical necessity of developing an international unification? In 1918, it was expected that Science could magically lessen physical distances but that would not concomitantly guarantee a lessening of psychological barriers. Even in the post-World War I period, it was appreciated that an evolution of international relations would be the initial step so that at least the constant dangers of war could be avoided. Thus, even if the psychological reality of human unity could not be immediately created, some tentative framework for international co-operation could be advanced based on economic, political and mechanical needs.
A hidden Idea
However, behind the externalities of nature, there is always an internal necessity, a subconscient power, a blind will, a mute idea which seems to have a premonition of some future necessity and this itself creates conditions for something new, even constructs a form that would manifest the idea. This is true biologically otherwise we would not have discovered gadgets to increase mortality. Sri Aurobindo points out that this is not only true biologically but also, "in a more subtle and variable way, psychologically true". (Ibid, pg.557)
Therefore what today is Utopian may be eventually irresistible despite the hurdles of resistances and failures.
This will in Nature should be allowed to act out which might be executed by force of circumstances or even if needed by physical force since Nature can use any necessary machinery. Even the outer form or body might be created first so that the soul can grow in the body. And we need not be disheartened if at first there is an artificial formation without any viable psychological reality. "For the nation too was at first more or less artificially formed out of incoherent elements actually brought together by the necessity of a subconscient idea, though apparently it was done only by physical force and the force of circumstances. As a national ego formed which identified itself with the geographical body of the nation and developed in it the psychological instinct of national unity and the need of its satisfaction, so a collective human ego will develop in the international body and will evolve in it the psychological instinct of human unity and the need of its satisfaction." (Ibid, pg.558)
Date of Update: 20-Apr-20
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu