Updated: Apr 17, 2020
If I was to ask you "Where are you from?" I'd receive a variety of answers. You might tell me the name of the last town you lived in. You might tell me where you were born or grew up. Or you might tell me your nationality.
If you are a N.Z. Maori you might name the waka (canoe) your ancestors travelled in many centuries ago when they left the Cook Islands to navigate the oceans between old land and new land, Aotearoa New Zealand, and the names of those ancestors that guided you.
In a relatively short time humanity has experienced an unprecedented level of change.
And consequently we are confronted by an unprecedented range of differences. How do we as an international body accommodate this change and diversity?
Change is an essential feature of life. If something is remains changeless it’s a pretty good indication that it’s dead.
This applies to people and also to countries.
Around 1,500 years ago the Roman empire appeared invincible and yet it fell apart. This must have been as unthinkable at the time as for those living through the collapse of the Egyptian rule. Ditto for Greece, the Incas and Aztecs, the Soviet Union, the British Empire and so on.
Our previous model of living in ‘countries’ is being gradually overtaken by recognition that the whole world is made up of nation-states; people with common attributes and characteristics, with organised political systems exerting sovereignty over their defined spaces, with borders agreed by other nation-states.
This would have been unthinkable prior to the coming of Baha’u’llah. But today, try to imagine a world without countries – you can’t. Our whole sense of who we are, our loyalties, our rights and obligations, is bound up in them.
But they’re not really that old. Until the mid-19th century, most of the world was just a sprawl of empires, unclaimed land, city-states and principalities, which travellers crossed without checks or passports.
As industrialisation made societies more complex, larger systems of governance were required in order to manage them. Those best able to unify and coordinate their activities – their physical regions, languages, records, economies and actions - grew more powerful than their neighbours.
Greater communications unified language, culture and identity. Gradually the nation-state model spread worldwide; there are now 193 nation-states ruling the world.
But their seemingly invincible rule is rapidly diminishing. This nation-state with its borders, centralised governments, common people and sovereign authority has been becoming increasingly out of step with the world.
The case against the nation-state is hardly new. Twenty years ago, many were anticipating its imminent demise. At the same time futurists anguished that globalisation would spell the end of a nation-states’ power to enforce change. Without that control, what dire effects could this have on businesses, finance and people?
The exciting, new internet seemed to herald a borderless, free, identity-less future. But clearly the world in its present state is not ready for that.
The teachings of the Baha'i Faith are a blue print for a new borderless world based on justice and unity that also celebrate the identity of humanity as one family.
In this developing world we retain the best of our prized cultures and languages, but increasingly adapt to new facets like the need for a universal language and currency, a system of weights and measures, and a world tribunal capable of governing the needs of this unprecedented organic world of the future.
Throughout all these future changes, the principles of unity and justice will remain supreme, under the divinely inspired guidance of one universal system; the Universal House of Justice.