Leopold Kohr, The Breakdown of Nations (1957, 1978).
INDIVIDUAL AND AVERAGE MAN
'The average man ... is to history what sea-level is to geography.'
ORTEGA Y GASSET
The natural internal democracy of a small state. Position of the individual in the small state. The mass state and its political particle, the average man. The passive form of speech of the mass-state citizen. Transformation of quantity into quality. Mass and Man. The greater personal dignity of the small-state citizen. Aristotle on the ideal size of the political community. External democracy of a small-state world. Possibility for multitudes of political systems to exist side by side. Freedom from issues. The Tower of Babel. The blasphemy of union.
The Political Argument
Chapter V attempted to show that the small-cell principle is not, as so many political theorists tell us, a reactionary concept as compared with the modern concept of unification but, on the contrary, a principle of advance and progress or, better still, the principle on which the entire universe is built. As a result, it seems justified to deduce that what is applicable in the universe as a whole as well as in all special fields such as biology, technology, art, or physics, should be applicable also in the field of politics. If large bodies are inherently unstable in the physical universe, they are in all likelihood unstable also in the social universe. If large cells are cancer in the human body, they would appear to be cancer also in the political body. And if health and proper balance demand their destruction in our physical systems they would seem to demand their destruction also in our social systems.
If we recognize this, we shall understand the purpose of a small-state concept with considerably greater appreciation than was possible before. At the beginning of our analysis we viewed it simply as a device of expediency which would make a number of obnoxious social problems such as war soluble. Now we see that it seems not only a matter of expediency but of divine plan, and that it is on this account that it makes everything soluble. It constitutes, in fact, nothing but the political application of the most basic organizing and balancing device of nature. The deeper we penetrate into its mystery, the more are we able to understand why the primary cause of historic change -- explaining our changing institutions, forms of government, economic systems, philosophies, and cultures -- lies not in the mode of production, the will of leaders, or human disposition, but in the size of the society within which we live. If a society is too large, it breeds, as we have seen, social miseries such as aggressiveness, crime, or tyranny as a result of its very size. But also social blessings are concomitants of social size -- small size. This is why only a small-state system is able to ensure both internally and externally ideals such as democratic freedom and cultural enlightenment, or why, as the following chapters will show, the worst of small states provides greater happiness to man than the best of large ones.
l. Internal Democracy
The reason for this seems clear. Man's greatest happiness lies in his freedom as an individual. This is inseparably connected with political democracy. But democracy, in turn, is inseparably connected with the smallness of the collective organism of which the individual is part -- the state. In a small state democracy will, as a rule, assert itself irrespective of whether it is organized as a monarchy or republic, or even as an autocracy. Paradoxical as this may sound, we do not need to go to great length to realize the truth of this proposition.
The small state is by nature internally democratic. In it the individual can never be outranked impressively by the power of government whose strength is limited by the smallness of the body from which it is derived. He must recognize the authority of the state, of course, but always as what it is. This is why in a small state he will never be floored by the glamour of government. He is physically too close to forget the purpose of its existence: that it is here to serve him, the individual, and has no other function whatever. The rulers of a small state, if they can be called that, are the citizen's neighbours. Since he knows them closely, they will never be able to hide themselves in mysterious shrouds under whose cover they might take on the dim and aloof appearance of supermen. Even where government rests in the hands of an absolute prince, the citizen will have no difficulty in asserting his will, if the state is small. Whatever his official designation, he will never be a subject. The gap between him and government is so narrow, and the political forces are in so fluctuating and mobile a balance, that he is always able either to span the gap with a determined leap, or to move through the governmental orbit himself. This is, for instance, the case in San Marino where they choose two consuls every six months with the result that practically every citizen functions at some time during his life as his country's chief of state. Since the citizen is always strong, governmental power is always weak and can, therefore, easily be wrested from those holding it. And this, too, is an essential requirement of democracy.
While every kind of small state, whether republic or monarchy, is thus by nature democratic, every kind of large state is by nature undemocratic. This is true even if it is a declared republic and democracy. It is therefore by no means unnatural that some of the world's greatest tyrants such as Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, or Stalin arose on the soil of great states at the very moment when republicanism and democracy seemed to have reached a pinnacle of development. French coins bore the inscription: Republique Francaise, Napoleon Empereur, which was a contradiction only on the surface. Any government in a great power must be strong, and any great multitude must be ruled centrally. But to the extent that government is strong, the individual is weak, with the result that even if his title is citizen, his position is that of subject. The mobile balance maintained amongst the individuals of the small state translates itself in a large power into the heavy stable balance maintained by the colossal and dangerous mass of people on the one side, and the equally colossal and dangerous power of government on the other.
A citizen of the Principality of Liechtenstein, whose population numbers less than fourteen thousand, desirous to see His Serene Highness the Prince and Sovereign, Bearer of many exalted orders and Defender of many exalted things, can do so by ringing the bell at his castle gate. However serene His Highness may be, he is never an inaccessible stranger. A citizen of the massive American republic, on the other hand, encounters untold obstacles in a similar enterprise. Trying to see his fellow citizen President, whose function is to be his servant, not his master, he may be sent to an insane asylum for observation or, if found sane, to a court on charges of disorderly conduct. Both happened in 1950. In 1951, a citizen spent $1,800 in eleven months in an effort 'to get the President's attention'1 -- in vain. You will say that in a large power such as the United States informal relationships such as exist between government and citizen in small countries are technically unfeasible. This is quite true. But this is exactly it. Democracy in its full meaning is impossible in a large state which, as Aristotle already observed, is 'almost incapable of constitutional government'.2
2. The Average Man
The chief danger to the spirit of democracy in a large power stems from this technical impossibility of asserting itself informally. In mass states, personal influences can make themselves felt only if channelled through forms, formulas, and organizations. It is these latter rather than the individual who become increasingly the true agents and asserters of political sovereignty, so that we should speak of a group or party democracy rather than of an individualistic democracy. As a result, the individual declines, and in his place emerges the glorified average man of whom Ortega y Gasset writes that 'he is to history what sea-level is to geography'.3 An individual can now have his will only to the extent that he comes close to this mystical average, and it is on the strength of his being an average, not an individual, that his desires can be satisfied. There is no average citizen in Liechtenstein. What citizen Burger gets is not what some average citizen wants, but what citizen Burger wants. In a large state, even a democracy such as ours, everything is patterned after citizen average, and what citizen Thomas Murphy is able to get is only what citizen average wants. 'Anybody who is not like everybody,' to quote again Ortega y Gasset, 'who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated.'4
But who is this mystical, glorified, flattered, wooed, famous, inarticulate, faceless average man? If he is neither one individual, nor all individuals, he is no individual at all. And if he is not an individual, he can only be one thing, the representative or reflex of the community, of society, of the masses. What we worship in the individualistic fiction of the average man is nothing but the god of collectivism. No wonder that we overflow with emotion when we hear of government of, for, and by the people, by which we express our adherence to the ideals of group or mass democracy, while as true democrats we should have nothing in mind but government of, for, and by the individual.
Thus, however democratic a large power may try to be, it cannot possibly be a democracy in the real (though not original) meaning and glory of the term -- a governmental system serving the individual. Large powers must serve society and, as a result, all genuine ideals of democracy become reversed. Their life rhythm can no longer depend on the freedom and interplay of individuals. Instead they become dependent on organization. But good organization presupposes totalitarian uniformity and not democratic diversity. If everybody were to follow his own way in a large state, society would soon collapse. Individuals must therefore be magnetized into a few groupings within which they must stand as stiffly at attention as tube travellers during rush hours when they are likewise forced into directed, synchronized and magnetized behaviour by the condition of crowding. Man the individual, the active, is replaced in mass states by man the type, the passive.5 Nothing illustrates more tellingly this transformation than our increasing preference for the passive voice in our speech. We no longer fly to London. With a touch of pride we now say that we are flown there by the government or an air line. We no longer eat, but are fed. We are housed, entertained, schooled, evacuated, and taken care of in many important respects by mother government and father state. Previously we allowed ourselves to be treated as passives only as babies, invalids, or corpses. Now we are treated in this manner all our lives and, instead of resenting it, actually demand it. Our intelligence seems to have become collectivized along with the necessary collectivization of modern mass states, and lodged itself in the government which is taking charge of managing our lives in an ever-increasing degree. Painful as we may think this is, the mass state leaves us no other choice. The law of crowd living is organization, and other words for organization are militarism, socialism, or communism, whichever we prefer.
This condition must by necessity produce a fundamental change in the outlook of the citizen of the mass state. Finding himself perpetually living in the midst of formidable crowds it is only natural that he should begin to see greatness in what to the inhabitant of a small state is a stifling nightmare. He becomes obsessed with a mass complex. He becomes number struck and cheers whenever another million is added to the population figure. He falls into the error against which Aristotle has warned, and confounds a populous state with a great one. Quantity suddenly turns before his dazzled eyes into quality. Platitudes, pronounced in chorus by the multitudes, turn into hymns. A new, red, bloodshot sun arises out of a fiery dawn -- the community, the people, the nation, humanity, or whatever he may call the monster whose only sign of existence seems its voracious appetite for human sacrifice. Ecstatically he announces that the new thing that has formed itself out of our collective flesh is greater than the sum of us all, though this greater thing is completely illiterate, has never been able to pronounce a single word, has never written a poem or expressed a thought, and has never given anyone a fond pat on the shoulder. It depends on government as its constant interpreter because in its mongoloid development it has not even been able to master its own language. After thousands of years, Dr. Gallup has at last succeeded in endowing it with a vocabulary of two words: yes and no. Till Eulenspiegel, the medieval prankster, accomplished that much with a donkey.
3. The Collectivisation of Individuals in Large States
Yet our mass-state citizen has invested this grunting low-grade organism with the attribute of divinity. In contradiction to all the meaning of creation, he has begun to place aggregates above the individual and to worship what should worship him. The nation to him is no longer simply something apart from the individual but something superior, on whose orders one must sacrifice all those who are less numerous such as wife, children, or oneself. Its symbols such as national anthems or flags become sacrosanct, and its offices become more dignified than the persons who occupy them. When President Roosevelt, during his last inauguration, stood on a platform whose railings were draped in the national colours, he was insulted and accused of infamy by a group of citizens on the ground that he, a mere individual, had dared to place himself above the flag, while the code demands that the flag, representing the nation, must at all times fly above the heads of individuals. And when President Truman, in a healthy outburst of an offended father, wrote a violent letter to a newspaperman who had criticized his daughter's singing, he was taken to task even by some of his friends who thought that the dignity of the presidential office ought not to be subordinated to personal feelings.
But all this worship of the masses, the people, the nation, and of the institutions representing them, is collectivism under whatever name it goes. And collectivism is irreconcilable with the ideals of democracy which, like Western civilization, is inseparably linked with individualism. It is logical nonsense to accuse the Marxists of collectivist thinking because they place society above man, and then proclaim ourselves that the nation stands above the individual. Either no community ranks above the individual, or all do, be it the people, the state, the empire, the class, the party, the proletariat, the organization, or the nation. The difference between the individualist and the collectivist is not that the one denies the existence of the group and the other of the individual. Their difference lies in the value which they assign to the one in relation to the other. The collectivist thinks that the organism whose purpose we must fulfil is society, and that man's significance is a derived one -- derived from the measure of his service to the community. Hence the latter's justification for demanding continually the most promiscuous assertions of affection and loyalty from its members. The individualist, on the other hand, thinks that we have our own purpose for which we live, and that the purpose of society is a derived one -- derived from its usefulness to man, not man the type, but man the individual. To the individualist, the nation and all its symbols therefore stand not above but below himself, and he will serve it not because it represents value in its own right but because serving it means to serve his own ideals, as he will shine his shoes not in order to worship their beauty, but because well-shined shoes enhance his own appearance. To an individualist, therefore, President Truman's much blamed threat to punch the face of a music critic to pulp was not an indignity to the high office he occupies, but a laudable assertion of the still lingering democratic individualism in American life according to which no office of the nation, however exalted it may be, can ever outrank the infinitely superior position of being the father of a beloved daughter.
However, populous, large, powerful nations cannot withstand the collectivizing trends of crowded living indefinitely. Weak as the individual is, he is by nature at first oppressed and then impressed by physical strength. Representing an infinitesimally small share of his country's sovereignty, he has no chance of resisting the influence and spectacle of mass deployment which must eventually swallow him up in an orgiastic cloud of panting nationalism. Being outclassed, out-towered, outnumbered, and out-awed on all sides by packs and groups and gangs and clans, he will at last lose faith in his own significance and replace it with a new faith -- faith in the significance of the organized group. The happiness he found previously in his home and in the circle of his friends, he now finds in parades and brigades, and in the excitement of continuous communion with the multitudes. The new man of, for, and by the people, having for ever the welfare of humanity in his infected mind, becomes a callous brute to his friends and family when they venture to claim a personal share of his existence. When he hears the bugle call from the masses, he gets up from his dinner table, grabs his overcoat and flag, and steps over the arms of his crying children into the arms of his new mistress, the people, to whom he belongs and to whom he thinks he owes primary allegiance. If humanity demands it, he will slaughter all objects of his individual affection, and his fortitude and choice will be entered on the heroic pages of history as we have done with that virtuous Roman general whom we are still taught to admire because he executed his own son on the ground that, though he had won a great victory, he had done so by disobeying orders.
4. The Meaning of Neighbourhood
No such development can occur in a small state, in which the organized power of the people can never become strong enough to frighten the individual out of his faith in the personal existence and destiny of man. In contrast to his counterpart in great, populous states, the small-state citizen has much greater personal dignity, representing, as he does, not an infinitesimally small share of the state sovereignty, but a proportion that can defiantly assert itself. Since the concept of sovereignty does not increase in quality with the increase in population -- as even our political theorists still concede by granting precedence amongst states to alphabetical position rather than political and military rank -- the effect of increasing population is the diminution of individual importance. A Liechtensteiner's share in sovereignty is 1/13,000th, a Russian's 1/200,000,000th.
Thus, the greater the aggregation, the more dwarfish becomes man. But this is not all, for along with the decline of a person's share in sovereignty goes a decline in his share in government. Since effective legislatures cannot expand their membership in proportion to the growth of their countries, increasing population must ultimately lessen democratic representation. In 1790, the average constituency of a member of the House of Representatives in the United States comprised 33,000 citizens. If this ratio were still to prevail, the membership of the House would today be in the neighbourhood of 4,560, a figure that would make any sensible legislative action all but impossible. As a result, as our population increased, adjustment had to be made by increasing not the number but the burden of representatives, so that today the constituency of an American congressman contains on the average almost 350,000, and in some instances more than 900,000 people. By contrast, as the following figures show, the burden of representation is lessened and its effectiveness increased as the population of a country is smaller. Thus the average constituency comprises 81,000 citizens in Great Britain, 66,000 in France, 42,000 in Belgium, 30,000 in Sweden, 24,000 in Switzerland, and 11,000 in Israel.6
All this shows that only the small state fulfils the requirements of both individualistic and democratic existence. It is individualistic because it fits the small physical size of man so much better than the colossal robes of large powers which, far from clothing and protecting the individual, smother him. And it is democratic because of its physical inability to overwhelm the citizen, who is at all times capable not only of participating in government but also of resisting governmental encroachments without the intermediary of powerful organizations. The citizen can go his own way in pursuit of his happiness without needing to conform to organized opinions and ways of life simply because they are upheld by the multitudes. He is free, not because freedom is laid down as one of his constitutional rights but because no authority disposes of enough power to impede his freedom, which is much safer. He will never be annihilated by the 'dignity' of offices whose purpose is to be at his disposal, and whose sight will hardly delude him into believing in the functional superiority of those whose constitutional task it is to be his inferiors. It is quite different in large states, where we begin to address the public lavatory attendant, once his lavatories add up to impressive enough totals, as His Excellency and call him Minister of Public Hygiene, from whom we consider it an honour if he lets us wait not more than fifteen minutes.
Finally -- and this is again because of our small physical stature -- we can find the fulfilment of our happiness only within relatively narrow geographic limits. We may sing expansively 'From the Mountains to the Oceans', but we need only put a patriotic mountaineer to the ocean for which he clamours, or the seafarer into a peaceful Alpine haystack, to realize the magnitude of their misery and the meaninglessness of vast area concepts when it comes to the question of personal happiness. What we love is not distance but neighbourhood. They alone have a personal meaning for us. This is why the President of the United States will for ever go to his Hydepark, Independence, or Gettysburg, if he wants to be truly happy. To be President in Washington, in spite of all the glamour and power of his office, is an exacting burden. There is no charm in his relations with his people, who must be fed with a continuous outpouring of oratory, prayers, and citations of God. But to be President of the United States in Independence amongst neighbours and friends, with whom one does not orate but chat, that is something quite different. The burden becomes pleasure, as everything becomes light and bearable within narrow limits. Only within small units can man, in his small bulk, feel at home.
5. The Ideal Size of States
There is one other question to answer in connection with the problem of a state's internal democracy. What is its ideal size? Up to what point can a political community grow without endangering the sovereignty of the individual? And conversely, down to what point can it shrink without defeating the purpose of its existence? Is it possible that a state might be too little as well as too large?
The size of everything, as we have seen, is determined by the function it fulfils. The function of the state is to furnish its members with protection and certain other social advantages which could not be obtained in a solitary pioneer existence. This indicates that a state composed, let us say, of only five or six families, might indeed be too little. But we have already seen that this constitutes no serious problem, for whenever things, be they physical or social atoms, are too small or lack in density, they begin to form aggregations and 'run together naturally for mutual help and readily coalesce to form stable tribes and communities'. The question is, when does a community become stable?
From a political point of view, it begins to fulfil its purpose at a population figure that may conceivably be lower than a hundred. Any group that can form a village, can form a stable and sovereign society. A country such as Andorra, with a present population of less than seven thousand, has led a perfectly healthy and undisturbed existence since the time of Charlemagne. However, a community has not only political purposes. It has also a cultural function to perform. While it may produce an ideal democracy at its smallest density, this is not sufficient to provide the variety of different individuals, talents, tastes, and tasks to bring out civilization as well. From a cultural point of view, the optimum size of a population must therefore be somewhat larger. Economically, it is big enough when it can furnish food, plumbing, highways, and fire trucks; politically, when it can furnish the tools of justice and defence; and culturally, when it can afford theatres, academies, universities, and inns. But even if it is to fulfil this extended purpose, a population needs hardly to number more than ten or twenty thousand to judge from the early Greek, Italian, or German city-states. With a population of less than a hundred thousand, the Archbishopric of Salzburg produced magnificent churches, a university, several other schools of higher learning, and half a dozen theatres in its little capital city alone. Thus we can say that though there is a lower limit to the ideal size of a community, it is hardly of any practical significance, particularly if we have only its economic and political purpose in mind.
The main question, as always, concerns the upper limit. Aristotle has answered this with clarity and precision in the following passage from his Politics (VII, 3):'A state, then, only begins to exist when it has attained a population sufficient for a good life in the political community: it may indeed, if it somewhat exceed this number, be a greater state. But, as I was saying, there must be a limit. What should be the limit will be easily ascertained by experience. For both governors and governed have duties to perform. The special functions of a governor are to command and judge. But if the citizens of a state are to judge and to distribute offices according to merit, then they must know each other's character: where they do not possess this knowledge, both the election to offices and the decision of lawsuits will go wrong. When the population is very large they are manifestly settled at haphazard, which clearly ought not to be. Besides, in an overpopulous state foreigners and metics will readily acquire the rights of citizens, for who will find them out? Clearly then the best limit of the population of a state is the largest number which suffices for the purposes of life, and can be taken in at a single view.'7
From a political as well as a cultural point of view, this is indeed the ideal limit to the size of a state, a limit that provides a population large enough 'for a good life in the political community', and yet small enough to be well governed since it 'can be taken in at a single view'.7 It is this kind of state that exists in a number of Swiss cantons where alone we can still find the old and cherished institution of direct democracy. They are so small that their problems can be surveyed from every church tower and, as a result, be solved by every peasant without the befuddling assistance of profound theories and glamorous guessers. However, modern techniques have given some elasticity to the concept of what can be taken in at a single view, extending the population limit of healthy and manageable societies from hundreds of thousands to perhaps eight or ten million. But beyond this, our vision becomes blurred and our instruments of social control begin to develop defects which neither the physical nor the social sciences can surmount. For at that point, we come face to face with the instability which nature has imposed on oversize. Fortunately, there are few tribes on earth numbering even that much, considering that the great powers are not homogeneous tribe states but, with the exception of the United States, artificially fused conglomerates. And even the United States, though a homogeneous large power, is composed of a number of small states which may ultimately break down its present homogeneity.
6. External Democracy
So far, this chapter has discussed the inherent internal democracy of small states. If, in addition, we now assume not only the existence of individual small states, but of a small-state system, imposing a lacework pattern of littleness on entire continents, democracy becomes a reality also from an external point of view, bringing its benefits not only to various individuals but also to various groups and societies. It is quite obvious that the multitude of different individual and regional wills and preferences can be much better served in a small-state world than in a large-power system or, worse still, in one super-colossal single world state. In a tightly united one-power continent, for instance, embracing three or four hundred million people, the form of state must either be republican or monarchical in its entire expanse. Its form of government must either be democratic or totalitarian. Its economic system either socialist or capitalist. In each case, the system existing in one corner of the map must exist also in the opposite corner. A huge mass of people must accept one special system though nearly half of it may be opposed to it. When Italy voted to become a republic after World War II, the entire southern part of the country, though voting overwhelmingly in favour of the monarchy, had to go along against its political wishes with the rest of the country because it was inseparably linked with a predominantly republican North that outvoted not only its own monarchists, but the entire population of a different external geographic region -- the South. The flexible adaptability to multitudes of individual desires, which is such an essential feature of true democracy, is thus completely lacking in the rigid framework of large-power organization whose very oneness represents a smothering totalitarian characteristic.
Now let us see how the picture of the same political landscape looks if organized on a small-state pattern. A mountain-valley state decides to go anarchist and abolish government altogether. A city-state wants to be a republic; another wants to be ruled by a hereditary prince; a third by an archbishop; a fourth by triumvirs; a flfdi by two consuls; a sixth by a constitutional king; a seventh by oligarchs; an eighth by a president to be chosen every three years and endowed with semi-dictatorial powers; a ninth by a president chosen every seven years and with no function other than to receive foreign diplomats and kiss their ladies' hands; a tenth wants to combine socialism with monarchy and democracy; an eleventh communism with monarchy and absolutism; and a twelfth a co-operative system with a sprinkling of aristocracy.
If man had not manifested so many different political temperaments and economic desires, history would not have known so many governmental and economic systems. None of these has any inherent superiority over others. Their only value is that they are chosen by their peoples. Since no absolute value adheres to any single institution, why should not as many Individuals have as many different institutions as they like instead of having all to use a single costume which half of them might consider not to their taste? If freedom of choice is considered an advantage economically, why not also politically? For, with a great multitude of systems prevailing in an area inhabited by hundreds of millions of people, it becomes mathematically inevitable that far more individuals are able to obtain what their hearts desire than if the same region were to permit only a single system, even as in a restaurant many more people can obtain satisfaction if the menu includes a great variety of dishes rather than a single one which can be made palatable to all only through the propaganda of the cook. Since variety and change are essential prerequisites of democracy, uniform systems, however excellent they may be, spreading over vast regions, are necessarily totalitarian in space and, since it is almost impossible to change them, totalitarian also in time.
But the chief blessing of a small-state system is perhaps less its flexible ability to create satisfying political conditions for a much greater number of individuals than is possible in large-state set-ups; it is its gift of a freedom which hardly ever registers if it is pronounced because it is of a kind that seems to have become extinct long ago. We no longer feel its absence, so accustomed have we become to the nightmares of our day. It is the freedom from issues.
7. Freedom from Issues
Ninety per cent of our intellectual miseries are due to the fact that almost everything in our lives has become an ism, an issue. When we want to build a house or a street, we face the issue of city planning which is a battle-ground between traditional and modern schools, functional and artistic designs, American or Russian concepts. When we talk of education, we face the issue of pragmatism or great bookism. When we talk of children, we face the issue of inhibitionism or dis-inhibitionism. When we talk of sex, it is Freud versus Jung. When we discuss politics, we cannot pronounce a single word that is not an issue. Artists get into guilt tantrums if they find they have painted something that has nothing to do with the social issues weighing down on our cocktail hours. Professors get upset when they discover they have served the truth instead of the commonwealth. Our life's efforts seem to be committed exclusively to the task of discovering where we stand in what battle raging about what issue.
But what are issues? Sparks kindled by some spontaneous combustion of minds and flitting aimlessly through people's brains which act as involuntary conductors because in modern crowd life we stand too closely together to escape infection. They are uncontrollable phenomena of large-scale existence, transmitting themselves across the entire surface of the globe and creating the necessity in those they brush of participating intellectually in whatever movement may arise in whatever corner of whatever continent. If a Korean soldier crosses the 38th Parallel, we are hit by shock waves in New Jersey, and if a Siberian Eskimo sneezes near the North Pole, some Chileans and Englishmen will be jerked into battle positions off the shores of Argentina. The littlest causes sweep like tidal waves over the world from one end to the other, forcing us to take sides wherever we are, to debate them at lunch with our friends in a hundred languages, and to start divorce proceedings against our wives if we disagree on them in our beds. In the intellectual oneness of our world community, we react to every force like the interlocked springs in those old mattresses. Even if we are not immediately touched, we are depressed by them. Every damn thing in this world has become everybody's issue.
The blessing of a small-state world now seems quite clear. With its countless isolating boundaries, the problems of remote regions remain remote. They cannot transmit themselves universally because they are held back by the autochthonous problems of other little regions which, confined within narrow limits, cannot become issues. Instead of being in a perpetual state of war, one will now be intellectually involved in it only if it comes to one's own boundaries -- which happens relatively rarely. Instead of being the involuntary participant in daily bloodshed, murder, massacres, which is the cause of our hellish existence, we shall become their witnesses only when they happen next door -- which again happens only rarely. Instead of being reduced to perpetual mourning by our forced participation in everybody else's passing, we shall be free to enjoy the pleasures of life, experiencing the sorrows of death only when it strikes near us -- which again happens only rarely. A small-state world, by dividing our universal, permanent, impersonal miseries into small, discontinuous, and personal incidents, thus returns us from the misty sombreness of an existence in which we are nothing but ghostly shadows of meaningless issues, to the bliss of reality which we can find only in our neighbours and our neighbourhoods. There alone, love is love, and sex is sex, and passion is passion. If we hate a man, it is not because he is a communist but because he is nasty, and if we love him it is not because he is a patriot but because he is a gentleman. In neighbourhoods everything becomes part of our personal experience. Nothing remains an impersonal issue. The tabloids with their delight in printing unadulterated detective, sex, and crime stories in a world in which everything else has become a part of highbrow social attitudes show our still lingering yearning for the one freedom which no political theorist ever seems to appreciate and which nevertheless was the chief reason of the happiness of past generations even in the absence of other freedoms -- the freedom from issues.
8. The Unifiers, Aristotle, Shaw, and God
We have seen in this chapter that the only chance for democracy and its underlying individualist principles, without which Western civilization is unthinkable, lies in the little state and a little-state system, and that the principal danger to our cherished heritage of personal freedom lies, not in our disunion which preserves littleness, but in the process of union which obliterates it. Yet it is precisely this which our schoolmasters prescribe for us. Crushed by the intellect-killing but emotionally appealing weight of great physical power, they have drawn their scornful daggers against the small and placed everything that has size, bulk, or mass on glittering altars. They have persuaded us to worship the colossal and then were amazed that we worshipped Hitler who was nothing -- but he was colossal. They have praised to the heavens the enormity of the Roman empire and were amazed that we worshipped Mussolini along with the ancient Caesars who were nothing -- but they were enormous. They have praised the development of massive powers, of the unification of East and West, of the creation of first two worlds and, finally, glory of glories if it comes, of the one world, though the one-state world is nothing but totalitarianism projected into the international plane.
They cannot see that the great word unity, which they pronounce with such solemnity and preach down to us from every pulpit, is to a true democrat what to a boxer's eye is his adversary's fist. If driven too far, it not only destroys the individual but the state as well, as Aristotle, to quote once more this most lucid of all political theorists, so concisely reasoned when he wrote in another passage of his Politics (II,*):'Is it not obvious that a state may at length attain such a degree of unity as to be no longer a state? -- since the nature of a state is to be a plurality, and in tending to greater unity, from being a state, it becomes a family, and from being a family, an individual. So that we ought not to attain this greatest unity even if we could, for it would be the destruction of the state. Again, a state is not made up only of so many men, but of different kinds of men; for similars do not constitute a state. It is not like a military alliance . . . Again, in another point of view, this extreme unification of a state is clearly not good; for a family is more self-sufficient than an individual, and a city than a family, and a city comes into being when the community is large enough to be self-sufficing. If then self-sufficiency is to be desired, the lesser degree of unity is more desirable than the greater.'
Only in a time of crisis has unity sense, when individuals and peoples are bound to live in a 'military alliance' and many of our ideals must temporarily be suspended. But in all other periods unity, which is the great ideal of the totalitarians and collectivists, is the principal danger confronting the democrats. They do not want to have single parties but several parties, not single states but many states. Their principles are based on diversity and balance, not on unity and its natural concomitant, tyranny. It is for this reason that the British, once World War II was won, closed their ears to the appeals for continuing their superbly functioning war-time unity, and chose instead a much less efficient and much more bungling party government. Similarly, the American electorate, in a healthy assertion of democratic principles, rejected in the presidential elections of 1948 the candidate who campaigned loftily on the platform of national unity. With the war over, they saw no reason why they should not return to their customary ways of partisanship and bungling in government which, as long as it can be afforded, is always a guarantee of freedom from governmental interference into one's personal life.
Unity, to a democrat, is a dangerous vice. It obliterates the sovereignty of the individual. But beyond this, as the preceding chapter has shown, it is contrary to all purposes of creation. The law of the universe is harmony, not unity, which, even intellectually, we are almost unable to grasp. Whenever we lay our hands on something that appears as a unity, a oneness, it seems to dissolve. We may lay our hands on space, and suddenly it melts away into the fathomless depth of time. We may hold something as a piece of dead matter, and suddenly it disappears in a flash and vibrates in form of energy.
So contrary to man's purpose are the concepts of union and unity that attempts at establishing one-world systems seem almost blasphemous. It would be a good thing if our modern unifiers would re-read the story of the Tower of Babel to learn what God Himself thought of union. It might cure at least some of them of. their mental affliction. In the dawn of history, as in our day, men became obsessed with a mania for unification, and they wanted not only to live in a single state, but in a single giant tower that was to be taller than even the new headquarters of the United Nations in New York. But unlike our modern politicians and many a bishop, God was not at all pleased with this. He considered it an arrogant challenge to His design. Having created men as sparkling individuals in His own image, He justly resented their wanting nothing more ambitious than to exist as mass-men in the depersonalized animal warmtli of a communal hive. So, instead of praising them, He considered their undertaking blasphemy, and punished them by taking away even the little unity they had possessed up till then, the unity of language.
And this is what unification still constitutes today -- blasphemy, leading, as all blasphemy must, not to rewards but punishment. The nations have been created to live apart, not together, as otherwise they would obviously not have created themselves in the first place. Such was even the opinion of the Secretary General of the League of Nations, not the real one, of course, but the one of Bernard Shaw's play Geneva who, when contemplating the terrors of unity, mused:'The organization of nations is the organization of world war. If two men want to fight how do you prevent them: by keeping them apart, not by bringing them together. When the nations kept apart, war was an occasional and exceptional thing: now the League hangs over Europe like a perpetual war cloud.'9
1 New York Times, 13 November 1951. Another incident concerned Dewey Williams, a marine cook, who was arrested in a Chicago railway station and fined 110.00 on disorderly conduct charges after he had placed a telephone call to the White House and insisted on talking to President Truman in the hope of getting his job back. (New York Times, 16 September 1951.) In 1952, Lieutenant Robert P. Hasbrook was reported to the air police by a San Antonio (Texas) hotel detective who had overheard him trying to telephone President Truman. (New York Times, 15 April 1952.)
2 Aristotle, op. cit., 1326 b.
3 Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses. New York: The American Library, 1950, p. 17.
4 Ibid., p. 12.
5 Typical of this transition is the rise of such new symbols and terms as: Mother of the Year, Boy of the Month, Anystreet, etc.
6 The figures of this paragraph are taken from Emanuel Celler, 'Can a Congressman Serve 900,000 People?', The New York Times Magazine, 11 March 1951.
7 Aristotle, op. cit., 1326 b.
8 Many other political philosophers and reformers were more specific though less profound than Aristotle in defining the ideal size of their communities. But it is interesting to find how many placed so great a value on the smallness of the social unit. Plato thought a population of 5,040 was the best. Thomas More's towns in Utopia held 6,000 families. Charles Fourier's phalansteries contained 400 to 600 families or 1,500 and 1,600 individuals. Robert Owen's parallelograms comprised 500 to 2,000 members, and Horace Greeley's associations were to number from 'some hundreds to some thousands of persons'. William Morris envisaged a return to a society from which all big cities had disappeared, and London dissolved into a number of villages separated by woods. It is also significant that so many ideal societies such as More's Utopia, Campanella's City of the Sun, or Bacon's New Adantis, were placed on islands whose enchantment our imagination invariably attributes to their seclusion and the narrowness of their confines. As Marlowe says, there are 'infinite riches in a little room'.
9 George Bernard Shaw, Geneva, Cymbeline Refinished, Good King Charles. New York: Dodd, Mead Co., 1947, p. 61.