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The Button, The Wall And The Myth Of Nations

The Button, The Wall And The Myth Of Nations

Robert C. Koehler

The most toxic force on Planet Earth is nationalism.

"In our contemporary mythology, the defining gods, especially here in the “developed world,” are hulking, dangerous entities called nations, which stomp across the planet endlessly pursuing their interests."(Photo: Adam Fagen/Flickr/cc)

The worldwide movement to defang nationalism has started, everywhere. It’s based in people talking to each other, sharing information and opinions. It’s facilitated by the Internet. It’s not only bad ideas and falsehoods that get retweeted.

I like the idea of the jaguar as the symbol.


I very much appreciate your contributions here Robert Koehler—thank you!

Why have homo sapiens blazed a path whose end destination is likely the 6th extinction? What are the toxic forces behind this?

While I agree that nationalism is a toxic force (just got into a heated debate over the damn pledge of allegiance the other night).

If we could wave a magic wand and make nationalism disappear from the face of the earth that would not be enough to keep Homo sapiens from destroying the biosphere.

Anthropocentrism could still be an existing toxic force without nationalism.

We need (ed) to have a collective consciousness that has reverence for all life on the planet and tragically---- given we can’t even unite as humans (as egocentric as most humans are)----- I don’t think that is possible.


yes, we do live in the belly of the beast. what better place to upset the monster’s digestive system,?



In our contemporary mythology, the defining gods, especially here in the “developed world,” are hulking, dangerous entities called nations, which stomp across the planet endlessly pursuing their interests.

. . . unless he gets congressional approval for his lunatic wall, estimated to cost between $68 billion and $158 billion to build. “We need it. We see the drugs pouring into the country, we need the wall,” Trump said.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one . . .”

exactly, robert! if we wish to save ourselves and so many endangered species, we must outgrow this childish “king of the hill” mentality. nationalism is the bane of humanity!

p.s. this morning i clicked on a mail alert to reach BAR, but the site is no longer available. let’s not back down! speak out as if our life depends on it!


Nationalism is an outgrowth of the human psyche writ large.

Tribes, clans, larger and larger, nations now, perhaps a world self-identification in due time.

Even in the tribes, there has always been room for the individual ‘divergent’, as there is in nations today - be it a rock star, an artist, or the poster here on Common Dreams.

Always there is blowback from the least tolerant human beings, grudging acknowledgement from the main body, and celebration for the few who appreciate in the frontal cortex the value of diversity.

The traveler is universally treated well, by and large, presumably there is some group advantage in doing so.

The tension between the individual’s longing for personal freedom and the social and protective benefits of the larger units in any and all societies are what makes much of life interesting.

Diversity, but not too much - patriotism and nationalism, belonging - but not too much - balanced by the yearning for personal freedom and the natural sense of justice inherent in each of us.

Utopia is for dreamers - dreamers are also generally respected for their good intentions and personal attributes.

Mostly we seek relief from boredom - we must have challenge.

We need then an impossible mission to gather round.

Surviving the twenty-first century looks like it to me.


The second most toxic is capitalism, especially its corporate manifestation.

The combination of these two magnifies their toxicity, to Earth and all life thereon.


Your description fits Israel as well.

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Are not the stateless ‘multinational’ corporations that very combination?

And yet I view them as transcending historical and contemporary nationalism, becoming mega-nations unto themselves.


You are right. They are the spawn produced, fed and nurtured by that combination.

“Not all those who wander are lost”, a line from the poem “All that is gold does not glitter”, written by J. R. R. Tolkien for The Lord of the Rings.

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I can attest to that ~

If one is prepared to risk all - that is almost always all that is required. One can always be unlucky, of course. In the mountains it is referred to as objective danger, i.e., not under your control.

But fortune does indeed seem often to favor the bold, or, perhaps also realistically, the foolish - a matter of interpretation I suppose.


Just saying - from a long life - the most toxic force on Earth is indifference.


It is certainly at or near the worst, I agree. Also from a long life, I would posit that indifference aids, abets, and helps the normalization of many of the most toxic forces/ideas/belief systems.

In other words, any toxic system becomes ingrained and accepted when aided by indifference.

One could say much the same for Dickens’ two most dangerous things: ignorance and want. Of course these are compounded by indifference.

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The quote from Dear John says it all…I’m not the only one…I have a dream that might destroy some myth’s and a little nationalism’s. Let us remove our borders here in North America and all of us become North Americans. Inclusion. Everyone. No more Canadians, no more Americans and no more Mexicans just North Americans. A new larger identity, so big and diverse to confuse nationalism. No one group could be special or better than. One big gigantic melting pot of souls. Difficult to do, to re-imagine who you are/were/will be.

i thought you’d get that tolkien line! those of us who “wander” experience life in ways those who remain sheltered and secure within the walls of ‘civilization’ cannot imagine.

Lin - I am presently disgusted by much on Common Dreams - the racism, which so many pretend to decry - manifests in the dislike and outright hatred of the Jewish People and their new, and ancient homeland - Israel.

And now - right here on CD - character assassination of Trump appears the new game, and I do mean game - that played by the immature.

Age has little to do with immaturity.

Rex Tillerson, appointed by Trump - is a first rate choice for Secretary of State - the new book “Fire & Fury”, by an author who has admitted he cannot vouch for the veracity of much of the contents, and made no attempt to exercise journalistic expertise - is a smear campaign, in the best traditions of politics as it is ‘played’ today, by the pretend “Adults in the Room” (Yanis Varoufakis).

Tell me it is worth staying here on CD - because it seems a thankless pursuit ~

Mike in Calgary

gee, mike, i’m at a loss for words. there is so much anger in this world and i do make an effort to avoid “guilt by association” type thinking. i self-define as an eclectic dyslectic empirical philosopher. from my very first friend in grade school on through college i’ve had many close jewish friends. i’ve also had friends from iran–shia and sunni. when it comes to politicians i always attempt to maintain a healthy degree of skepticism. as for rex tilerson i stand firmly against the exploitation of earth’s natural resources–especially hydraulic fracturing. long ago researchers at exxon-mobil connected the dots between global warming/climate change and oil drilling, but for the reason of protecting profits kept that knowledge hidden. and that i cannot respect.

back in 2007 i found a great cyber-friend, a <a href=http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/edmontonjournal/obituary.aspx?pid=159705014>professor from edmonson. we exchanged emails until a few months before his death. i teased him about the keystone pipeline as a direct line between his home in alberta and mine here in texas. wayne remained active in studies of the pros and cons of mass transit and you may have read his name in the paper? i had not remembered before checking old emails this morning, but wayne introduced me to “a great article by Phil Rockstroh”, Punching holes in Bubbles.

i do enjoy your contributions, mike, but get what you mean by “a thankless task”. like phil and robert i speak out for peace and the protection of earth’s resources that belong to all who share this planet with us. however, we belong to very arrogant and jingoistic species. i do not look to the political class for solutions, because all of us need to put Love and honesty above money and power if we are to survive. so i continue to speak knowing i cannot change the world. i guess that’s all any of us can do.

look like my embedded link to wayne didn’t work? i’ve doubled checked but here’s the link http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/edmontonjournal/obituary.aspx?pid=159705014

Thks for that Lin ~

I checked out the obituary, and the Phil article from 2011 - I am a big fan of Phil’s - in the way Geronimo would consult with the Apache ‘dreamers’.

I am afraid I am far from a dreamer however.

This is a tough world - survival of the fit and the lucky seems to be the main rule of the universe.

The word ‘exploit’ is heavy with negative connotations.

The big fish eats the little fish, plants compete for space and light, using what a human would call chemical warfare, microbes and viruses, prions and who knows what else do things we don’t understand at all - it is unclear to me if there is a real difference between life and non-life - stars are born, die, and have children…

My brow is furrowed as I write this, contemplating the world today.

I could opt out, and I have - but it is not in my nature apparently to stay out forever.

I think we are already collapsing - Yemen and Venezuela, Puerto Rico, many others - entire countries and political entities are now little more than basket cases, and this is just the opening round of resource scarcity and environmental Armageddon.

Maybe I just need a break. I find myself right now updating my geology, from William Wertenbacker’s 1974 classic “The Floor of the Sea: Maurice Ewing and the Search to Understand the Earth”, to geology by astrophysics, 2012, Dimitar Sasselov’s “The Life of Super-Earths: How the Hunt for Alien Worlds and Artificial Cells will revolutionize Life on our Planet” (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics).

We need food, water and energy Lin - and we are short of all three, and are living on borrowed time.

You make some good points, but from my perspective, I do not need to read the book “Fire and Fury” to vouch for it’s veracity EVEN THOUGH IT MAY NOT BE 100% CORRECT. In my view, the book was written more for $$$$, than a way to smear Trump, even though it accomplishes it, because Trump smears himself ever day with his insane twitters.

Only the most naive cannot see that Trump is not mentally dysfunctional and unfit to be POTUS.