The death of custom and the rise of nationalism in the post-colonial state
An observation: whenever some outside force – the colonial powers of the 19th and early 20th century; the Soviets in Eastern Europe – disrupts the traditions and customs of an occupied or dominated region, the population of these places inevitably fall back into some sort of ad hoc nationalism or revanchism once the occupying power leaves. Perhaps this is a modern phenomenon. The modern nation-state has evolved alongside the collapse of the major colonial powers and in parts of Europe only really began to take shape after the first World War. When the Soviets took control of Eastern Europe they did so at a time when nation-states were just emerging from post-imperial territories. Largely agrarian ethnic sub-groups were thrust one on top of the other. Old customs were erased and the secular Soviet dogma was imposed to bring chaos to order. Or something like that.
Or take India and Pakistan after British colonial rule. While Muslims and Hindis were never exactly friendly, the imposition of outside order and the subduing of local custom led to the greatest slaughter that region had ever seen.
In any case, what strikes me about this is that it would appear that in fact custom and tradition were themselves the bulwark against this sort of massive slaughter, this rise in fierce and bloody nationalism. In a sense the gradual passing down of tradition from one generation to the next is a sort of firewall against radicalism, and thus a vehicle for true and lasting progress.
With this in mind, our foolish overseas contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan look even more foolhardy, even more likely to end badly and with more bloodshed. As I am wont to say lately, more on this later…