Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter VII Part II

The necessity for the federal heterogeneous aggregate

The hard problem is to shift from the national aggregate to a heterogeneous, multinational paramount state or empire. This means that at the level of thought the nation-idea has to shift to the empire-idea or trans-nationalism; and at the level of dynamism there has to be a shift from a physical, territorial unity to a broader and visionary political unity. Such a shift has to concern itself at three stages:

  1.         The first concern is the natural body of the human aggregate. This body needs firstly a geographical bond and secondly a common bond of descent and past association (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg. 326). In earlier times, when communities were less firmly rooted to the soil and were more mobile as nomadic groups, the bond of common descent was more important; such groups could migrate to distant lands and at an optimal point in social development consolidate as nation-units. However in settled modern communities the geographical necessity to unite becomes more important and can impose itself to obliterate disparities and differences that disturb racial unity. Indeed, in the absence of geographical bond, West Pakistan could not remain united with East Pakistan despite a preponderously common religious bond; the geographical discontinuity supported a cultural and linguistic discontinuity that could not be obliterated by a common religious allegiance.

    In the case of a huge heterogeneous super-nation, the question of the natural body changes its perspective. The erstwhile British and French Empires were spread over several continents. However, such transnational Empires could not be based on geographical and racial bonds and hence functioned practically as protectorates. Such alignments could not strengthen the sense of psychological unity where each sub-unit should not regard its own physical space but the Empire as the Mother. The inevitable outcome was dissolution of the empires. Today some other equation has to be worked out for a new transnational aggregate.

  2.        The second natural concern is a common life and vital interest for the sub-units constituting the larger aggregate. This requires “a necessity of economic unity or habit of common sustenance and a necessity of political unity or habit of common vital organization for survival, functioning and aggrandizement” (Ibid). Here there are two considerations: 

    Firstly, it is to be noted that economic unity has to compliment political unity. It is incorrect to assume that mere economic unity will build a heterogeneous aggregate and be a precursor of political unity.  As Sri Aurobindo elaborated in his unpublished article - The Bourgeois and the Samurai - written around 1906-1907, “The doctrine that social and commercial progress must precede or will of themselves bring about political strength and liberty, is a... very dangerous lie; for a nation is no aggregate of separable functions, but a harmony of functions, of which government and political arrangement is the oldest, most central and most vital and determines the others”. 

    Secondly, if economic interests of the masses are persistently violated, it can provoke “the bitterest revolt and ends in one of Nature’s inexorable retaliations” (Ibid).

  3. The third condition for maintaining a heterogeneous aggregate is “a conscious mind or sense of unity and a centre or governing organ through which that common ego-sense can realize itself and act” (Ibid, pg. 326). In olden times when the consciousness of the common people was more resistant to forces of mutation, great warrior-visionaries had to explore and conquer distant lands to impose what was perceived as deeper Truth. With the progress of History the Idea began to magnify and the words of the thinker spread in an unprecedented way; the thinker became “more and more an inquisitor, a critic and enemy of fictions” (Ibid, pg. 325). What a single Alexander or Asoka thought and acted out is now available in its present orientation to the thought-field of a globally conscious population. Human unity is no longer a fiction at the level of the idea and we have a world-anthem today – ‘We are the world’ - that rings from Ethiopia to Eurasia. Today the world has caught up the idea of Internationalism. If through education and enlightenment this idea can be consolidated and allowed to percolate in the psyche of mankind, a true sense of psychological unity can manifest to support large heterogeneous aggregates. Perhaps a loose confederation would ideally characterize a federal heterogeneous conglomerate where the right of self-determination would be dealt in such a way so as to support ‘particularism’ instead of ‘separatism’. A multiple unity where the sub-units of a heterogeneous aggregate would retain their uniqueness while surpassing their limitations would be the transcript of the future.

Date of Update: 3-Dec-11

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu