As a descendant of three of the Celtic nations (Eire, Alba, and Cymru), in 2005 I began research with the help of Dr. Rudolph Ryser, director of the Center for World Indigenous Studies’ Fourth World Institute. In my opinion, the geopolitics of the Fourth World (stateless nations) — used as a lens for viewing the current economic, cultural, and social conflicts enveloping the globe — might aid those struggling to cope with the present breakdown and collapse of states as functional institutional forms.
Viewed from the historical context of evolving relations between nations and states, I believe it becomes possible to better understand how to create more stable political structures. Given that all modern states are less than five hundred years old, while nations are thousands — and in a few instances tens of thousands — of years old, they endure as Dr. Richard Griggs of the University of Capetown puts it in The Breakdown of States, “beneath the boundaries of states like bedrock as ephemeral state boundaries shift like wind-blown sand over the surface.”
All of this relates, of course, to the corruption and destruction that so dishearten many-especially the young. As Dr. Ryser wrote in Toward the Coexistence of Nations and States,
The state system is an experiment of human problem-solving; Nations are natural human organisms which persist…Where states fail to serve the needs of human society, they should be allowed to disassemble in a planned process which permits the nations within to systematically reassume their governing responsibilities…In reality, the nation stands as the foundation of human organization essential for human survival…They persist because nations satisfy human spiritual, social, economic, and political (cultural) needs.
While the current process of creating new transitional structures gives me hope, it is not without reservation, but cautious optimism is a much more healthy attitude than the cynicism and hopelessness that presently pervades our society. The new era of nations and states we are entering is full of possibilities to build a democratized international community. For those charged with the task of training our future leaders, it is of the highest order that they inject their students’ discussions with the knowledge and hope of these self-determination movements underway.