My basic assumption is that the big civilizations or high cultures on a large scale develop along the same lines with the same phases and durations but at different times in history.
But the civilizations all have their own identity. Some are more like each other than others. They all have their own conception of art, politics, religion etc.
Here I will look into the concept of a nation with a focus on our case, The West, and what I here will term the Oriental civilization.
The Oriental civilization flourished from 0 to around 1300 from the Balkans to North Africa and the Middle East. It thus comprises Byzantium, the Parthians,the Sassanids, the Jews, the Arabs and many others. Also south Slavonic peoples and Greeks (since around year 0) and of course Turks and Iranians belong to the Oriental Civilization.
The West flourishes from 1000 to around 2300 with focus in Europe and North America.
The concept of a nation in the two cases
What is a nation?
At least since the end of the middle ages we in the West have developed a concept of a nation, where each nation is a "people" with an assumed ethnic homogeneity, which is most often more a shared language than shared genes. Like people speaking French or German.
Geographical organization of nations
Each nation in the West covers a coherent territory of a certain area. The borders to other nations are clearly marked. In the West each nation ideally has a state.
We can term this macro- segregation.
What is a nation?
Most often a nation in the Orient is a religion or sect in combination with a certain ethnicity. The combination of ethnicity and religion is unique for each nation.
Geographical organization of nations
The nations in this culture are often spread out between each other in a patchwork pattern. We see small enclaves between each other, and they are often so small that they take the form of ghettoes.
But each enclave is not the nation. The nation is the sum of all enclaves with the same people. All the Armenian enclaves in the Middle East and elsewhere together constitute the Armenian Nation.
This can be termed micro- segregation.
The Balkans 100 years ago is a good example. The map at the bottom of this post shows nations in a part of the Balkans under the Ottoman Empire.
The map may be imprecise in the detail, but it gives a vivid impression of the way many nations lived in small areas between each other within the larger Ottoman state. And remember that the map does not show the smaller enclaves and the segregations within towns and cities!
In many countries in the Middle East today Sunnis, Shiites, Druze, Alawis, Jews and different Christians like Armenians etc. live the same way. Ethnic maps of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq look much like the old map of the Balkans.
Also when Oriental people immigrate to other civilizations, they in the beginning form ghettos.
The Jews lived like that in Europe for centuries.
Today many Middle Eastern immigrants live this way in Europe and North America in so called parallel societies.
The westernization of the Orient
As described elsewhere in another blog post, the Orient is now on the way of becoming westernized. This process concerns more aspects, also the concept of a nation.
As the westernization conquered and conquers the states in the Balkans and the Middle East, the Oriental nations are becoming transformed into Western nations. They now need larger ethnic pure territories. This is the deeper sense in ethnic cleansing.
Turkey, Armenia and Greece were involved in mutual ethnic cleansing already about 100 years ago. The two former countries exchanged people. All Greeks moved to Turkey and vice versa. The Armenians in Turkey had a far worse destiny: Extermination in a genocide.
Different parts of the Yugoslavian area had many early examples of cleansing, but the state was artificially held together till Tito died. In the 90-ies of the last century the brutal wars cleansed 100s of thousand people from their homes.
I assume that the Arab World will follow now. At least the countries with heterogenous populations.
In Iraq radical Sunnis are now trying to cleanse areas for both Christians and Shiites. In Northern Syria the same groups are already now attacking the area of kurds. The Christians and the Alawis could follow after the fall of Assad. It would be a nightmare if the christians would have to leave Egypt, which could happen under a revenge-full rule of the Moslem Brotherhood.
The disappearance of Tito, Saddam Hussein and Assad was and is the opening of a Pandoras Box. The nations fly out and cannot be put back into the box!
As described there are two steps on the way to westernization:
1) Oriental micro-segregation.
2) Ethnic cleansing.
And what comes then? After this there are two possibilities. Either the state is simply partitioned in territories, one for each now westernized and cleansed nation. Or somehow, maybe after some more time, a fully integrated Western type state develops, that is not segregated, a state with all former nations unified into one nation:
3) A divided nation or one integrated state.
What should the World do about states threatened by violent ethnic cleansing?
Ethnic cleansing in its ugly violent version should of course not be tolerated in any form for obvious humanitarian reasons. But a turn to macro-segregation on religious and ethnic lines may be unavoidable, as the nations within the states become Western nations with a need for territorial national states. It is probably not possible to force through in a short time the transition to a modern integrated state without segregation. So the partitioning of the territories of states like Syria and Iraq may have to be allowed in order to diminish bloodshed.
But the splitting up of states into fully independent smaller states cannot be permitted. The splitting up of Yugoslavia may already have gone to far.
This process if applied too many places creates precedence for instability in other parts of the World. Instead the segregated nations within the states should form a confederation like the Bosnian.
The segregation on a bigger level probably should not be on the most macroscopic level. Dividing non kurdish Iraq between Shiites and Sunnis in the form of too large territories would mean that millions of people are moved. Unrealistic and inhumane! An intermediate level of segregation may be the best way. Larger ethnic clean stretches of land between each other.
This process should of course be peaceful and guided to avoid violence.
Later then, we can hope, the confederated nations in a state could begin to mix to form non segregated nations.
Of course states with a very strong domination of one nation like Tunisia and many others are not in need of any separation of nations. Here the danger is the conflict between fundamentalists and modernists.
Al Qaida and this type of people and organizations besides fighting the Western civilization are also already partly westernized. This follows from the fact that these groups openly advocate attacking Christians and Shiites. This is of course an ethnic cleansing and thus a Western tendency, that runs counter to the more than 1000 years of micro-segregated coexistence of these people with the Sunnis.
Logical for the present phase in the Middle East would be ethnic separation of Israelis and Palestinians in the form of the two states solution. Instead Israel is trying something like the first step, the old oriental micro-segregation. Jewish enclaves were established in the West Bank. They are then gradually growing together now leaving the Palestinians in enclosed enclaves.
This policy is running counter to history and is doomed to fail.
A third type of nation is the Greco-Roman city state, where the nation simply is the sum of inhabitants (or at least those with full citizen rights) of a city and its surroundings.
At the end of the Modernity phase every civilization is united by a universal state. This happened with the Roman Empire uniting all city states in one universal state 30 BC. And with the Seljuk and later Ottoman Empires uniting all the Oriental nations around 1100. We in the West may be approaching this phase in the end of this century.