The Ice Moon Interviews: The State
Monday 29 June 2015 13:30
Dear readers, it’s not often we get a chance to interview an abstract entity. The last time this happened was probably during the famous occasion when Abraham got a chance to chat to God on top of the mountain. Today, The Ice Moon brings you an exclusive interview with THE STATE.
IMB: May I begin by saying how singularly honoured I am, on behalf of the citizens of the world, to have you here today.
STATE: No sweat.
IMB: Right, well thank you anyway. I wonder if you could take us through your biography a little. Many people argue that the modern state came into being as a replacement for a monarchy and that’s why we still use the term sovereign.
STATE: We need to move forward. History really teaches us nothing. The state is about now, not about some possible date in the past.
IMB: (Coughs, scratches out five questions in a row) Right. So the past is gone. Philosophy, theory? Gone too?
STATE: You got that right.
IMB: (Scratches out three further questions) So, what it comes down to is this: Why is there a state? or put it another way, What is the state for?
STATE: I said no theory.
IMB: But this is a question that puzzles citizens the world over.
STATE: They vote, most of them. I don’t see what the problem is.
IMB: But a state is there for its citizens, right? I mean it is citizens who make states, who establish states, often by great sacrifice. Citizens wrest states from colonial powers, or monarchs or dictators...
STATE: No fucking history right? I don’t do history. Don’t give me all that shit about revolutions, it’s unrealistic.
IMB: ...so they feel they are the state, the state belongs to them...
STATE: Get real. the state is bigger than people. The state is an international legal and geographical entity with rights and responsibilities. Surely even you can see that? Think of a corporation. Corporations are international legal entities, but nobody says ‘The corporation is for me’. The corporation has a life of its own.
IMB: Ok, I accept that no one person can say ‘I am the state’. Well, someone did say it once at least, but it’s ok, that’s history. Moving swiftly on, what I’m suggesting is that citizens of states have, I would argue, a justifiable belief that the state exists for their benefit.
STATE: In reality the state is for no-one. What I mean by that is, the state is like a complicated weather pattern, like these weather systems you get here in Ireland. It has pressures, forces that are applied to it. You can’t argue that a weather system is for the people who experience it.
IMB: Ok, so what are these forces?
STATE: The markets obviously. That is probably the biggest set of forces that come to bear on a state. Trade agreements, international diplomacy, international law, alliances – all of these play a huge part in the continued existence of states.
IMB: Who are the markets for?
STATE: Markets are another abstract entity like weather systems. They’re not for anybody. Like states they just exist.
IMB: Like a natural law...
STATE: No philosophy!
IMB: Ok. Who benefits from markets?
STATE: I wouldn’t know really.
IMB: So if the state is for the markets...
STATE: I didn’t say that.
IMB: So the state is not for the people?
STATE: No, the state is not for anybody. It is subject to forces.
IMB: Of which the people is one?
STATE: Every four years or so...
IMB: In between it’s just the markets and the other stuff, the international trade agreements and stuff?
STATE: I was simplifying for your benefit. Of course there are other forces at work. Political parties, for example, have a Darwinian drive to perpetuate themselves. That’s a very strong influence on a state. And there are actual external factors. Climate change would be a good example.
IMB: And the people..?
STATE: You keep using this loaded term ‘the people’. Don’t think I didn’t notice. You say ‘the people’ but there are always only ‘people’, individuals. People want the state to get on with it and not interfere too much in their lives. I would say that when people start to think about the state the state is not doing its job properly. It should function perfectly smoothly without any interference from people. And that means a lot of things that I know you’re in favour of, hospitals, schools, running water, sewerage and so on. The state is a receptacle which holds people in the palm of its hand and nourishes them.
IMB: That’s a beautiful image. The state as the great hand...
STATE: An invisible hand...
IMB: ... guided by the great frontal systems of the markets, international trade agreements, law and so on.
STATE: You put it very well. Weathering storms, nourishing the soil...
IMB: ... and basically ignoring the people.
STATE: Without people there would be no state.
IMB: But why would the people want a state?
STATE: That question, if I may say so, is absurd in the strictest meaning of the term. The State is. There is nothing more to be said. The perpetual existence of the state is a condition of its existence.
IMB: That statement, if I may say so, is absurd in the strictest sense of the word.
STATE: I think we’ve reached an impasse. there’s nothing to be gained from continuing this interview.
IMB: Because I insist on believing that the state should be for its people.
STATE: Exactly. Despite all the evidence you see around you. You’re one of those people who can’t look straight at reality. States exist. They are perpetual motion machines. They go on, for better or worse and they have a natural inclination to continue.
IMB: That’s the third metaphor you’ve used today I think.
STATE: I do metaphor rather well.
IMB: In debate though, metaphor is generally a way of masking uncertainty.
STATE: (Leaning forward) Mark my words, there is no uncertainty. the state is not for you, or anybody like you. You and your like are minor characters at best in the great drama that is the State.
IMB: Yet another metaphor. You’re beginning to sound like Hamlet, or at least Polonius.
STATE: I told you I don’t do history.
IMB: Well thank you so much for doing this interview. I’m sure you’re busy, I won’t detain you longer. You’ve clarified a great deal for me.
STATE: I have? Look, people like you give me the creeps. I don’t know what you’re going to make of this interview, but I’m telling plain and straight now, get this ‘for’ business out of your head. It will come to no good. It has got a lot of people into trouble in the past. Stay away from all that shit. It’s for your own good.
IMB: But we’re not doing history, right?
STATE: Can you call my taxi for me please.