The Nation State

Past, Future and Present Challenge
September 11, 2001


NOTES regarding this document:


I was in the last hour of a three day learning exercise about the Taylor methods when the news came in about the attack on the United States. Returning to my hotel in Utrecht I watched CNN almost continuously for a week. I was in not able to get back to the US due to the disruption of the system and wanted to see the story unfold from the perspective of a single source. Why I choose CNN, I will go into later. During this period, I did a great deal of thinking as well as note taking. After returning to the US on the 18th, I started getting e-mails from associates. This was the first time that I reviewed perspectives other than what was presented on CNN. Some of these I will include in this document as they offer interesting nuances to the thesis I developed sitting in that hotel room.


Starting September 20, I began to organize materials for this document so that a complete statement can, utimately, be produced. It will be a long time before it will be developed into anything approaching a finished piece. I did not “publish” this statement prior to this time, as I usually do, because the material is too easily taken in a way that I do not intend. I wanted to get the material organized in my mind first - this will, hopefully, help minimize the risk of misunderstanding.


The key points that I make here will not be popular - most likely they will offend almost everyone on the several sides of this debate. They are not made superficially nor in disrespect to our Nation nor to any other cause. Nor, do they ignore the true pain and suffering that has been caused by this incident - nor the suffering that is about to come.

However, my conclusion is that we in the United States fundamentally do not understand what we are facing and this is the result of a self-induced blindness. A blindness caused by the strength of our own paradigm and our own worthy accomplishments. Taken in the larger perspective of the last 100 years we are not victims - we are unconscious participants in a scenario we have been equally responsible for making. It is only if we shift our mental ground will we be able, as a society, to avoid a tragic acceleration in the fall of the Nation State [link] and the end of liberal democracy as we know it.
I have long believed that we are in the later stage of the Nation State and that a new model of social organization is emerging. This model, however, is still nascent. And, the Nation State has imposed certain distortions on global society that are best resolved by the Nation State, itself - not left as debris from a premature collapse with nothing able to effectively fill the void.
I do not believe that we are engaged in a struggle with some fringe crazies that can be discounted as merely being insane, inhuman and incomprehensible. I believe we are engaged in a struggle with dedicated, often brilliant, people whose aim is to create a fundamentalist regime that directly challenges our entire western culture at the core. Further, they are employing a strategy that will use our system on itself - weaknesses and contradictions included - to make it implode upon us. I suggest that they are at least one step ahead of us in this struggle and have anticipated our response. We are likely to do just what they want which can help them ignite the entire Mid-East in rebellion.
If these assumptions are valid, we are walking into a trap of our own making.
Given the demands of my schedule and the complexity of the issues, it will take a number of months to get my thoughts comprehensively presented in this document. Given, however, the fact that public debate now underway is one of the most significant choices we have ever had to make as a Nation, I am going to open this to real time scrutiny as I write it. Please be careful how you approach this and how you respond to it. What I have to say does not fit easily into the conservative nor liberal position nor does it take sides for “war” or “peace” as these are usually positioned.
I have been watching this scenario unfold for a long time. My perspective goes back to WWII. To me, it is not “unbelievable” what happened on September 11 - my wonderment is that it had not happened before. Our ability, as a society and a nation, to discount others of different race, beliefs and cultural experience has made us complacent to a reality of staggering consequences. We react with shock because we have been ignorant of the world around us. We cannot relate our driving habits to our energy policy to the vulnerability of the concentration represented by the World trade Center.
A certain innocence was lost on September 11th. It is tragic that it took so much destruction and pain for this to happen. It will be even more tragic if this event unleashes a series of events each an order of magnitude greater in proportion. We face the choice of defending ourselves or the entire human race. We choose between promoting our life or ALL life. In this decision we face the greatest challenge to our way of life in our entire history. How true we remain to our best principles and how willing we are to grant freedom to everyone else - even those we disagree with and whose interests challenge our own - will determine the difference in the margin.
We, in the US - nor in the whole world for that matter, can not meet this challenge successfully without changing ourselves. In all respect to our past, we have to rebuild our future. This starts with understanding our history and re-framing our present (creating a new context [link]) and taking full responsibility for the consequences, short and long term, of our own actions. This is our task. In saying this, I do not make the actions of those who are challenging us “right.” They also to need to challenge the root of their own assumptions. I am saying that we, when we take full responsibility for our actions, will better understand how to defend ourselves and how to be part of the making of a better world.

The Nation State

Past, Future and Present Challenge
September 11, 2001

by Matt Taylor


T.S. Eliot, in a criticism of criticism, said that there are four steps necessary for making a valid criticism. First, the standard of the GOOD must be clearly stated. Secondly, examples from history have to be be brought forth that demonstrates the validity of the STANDARD and the parts that constitute it. Then, the work, or issue in focus, has to be analyzed in relation to the standard. How does it meet, fail to meet or exceed the standard? Last, reasonable suggestions have to be offered that indicate how the work (or state of things) can be improved to better make the good. He did not say it this way but indicated that anything less than this was merely a “cheap shot.”


This is what I am going to do even though my subject is large and beyond the possibility of a single effort. My concern is the Nation State, it’s ultimate passing and what will replace it. In this context my focus is the recent tragic attack on the United States, the implications of this, and what might be an appropriate response.


Clearly, this is the subject of many books and does not fall within the scope of a web site treatise. Circumstances, time and my background do not support responding in this way. A book is a long cycle, at best, and accessible to few in the short term. At this moment, there is not time for this. Policy is being made as you read. Actions are being taken. The “set” of the US response will be history in a matter of days and weeks. A history we all will be dealing with for a long time.


Each of us has many thoughts about what happened and why it did happen. My purpose here is to go beyond this. I want to make a set of models that provide a framework for a constructive dialog. The models do not have to be perfect to serve this purpose. They have to be adequate. They must, however, re-frame the dialog. They have to allow us to see in new ways. Because if we do not, the logic of the moment we propel us into a situation we have played out before - in one of several predictable variants. Only this time the damage may be beyond imagining. This is a crisis of our civilization but, perhaps, not in the way it first looks or the way that the current administration presents it.


There are a number of concepts that need defining prior to any criticism. Included are legitimacy in social structures, the role of intellectuals, propaganda, the press and media, civil liberties, the notion of human rights, the size, scope and nature of modern organizations, the operations of a global economy, issues of individual and collective security. The history of the Nation State itself, economic theory and free markets, philosophies, religions and dogma, the historical roots of conflict, The uses of power, State Capitalism, the framework in which an issues is considered, and what happen if opportunities take advantage of the situation. Even the concept of design strategy has to be reviewed.

An act is called necessary military action or terrorism based on two determinations. The first is the LEGITIMACY of the organization doing the attacking. The second, which precedes from the first, is if commonly accepted - among organizations who consider each other legitimate - RULES-OF-ENGAGEMENT are followed. A terrorist organization, in return, doe not recognize the legitimacy of the organization it is attacking. Right or wrong in their assessment, they do not believe that they can accomplish redress for their issues within the rules of existing, legal institutions - even my fighting them according to the rules. They believe they have no alternative but to destroy their perceived enemy outside of any commonly accepted framework of so-called civilized conflict. In turn, legally constituted states do not believe those who fundamentally challenge them have legitimate cause either. They consider their attacker “terrorists” and believe them to be in the no-man’s land between a criminal and and a legitimate enemy force. This is the basis for what today we call asymmetrical warfare. In this situation, the US does not want to grant it’s opponent the status of criminal or warrior nor the due process that is usually granted to either. This is, in my mind, is a dangerous president and unacceptable ethical lapse. Nor, is it practical. You become what you eat, as well as, who you hate.
The threat to the US from the “War on Terrorism” is not the loses we will suffer. The price we will pay will be the self-inflicted wounds we will propagate on ourselves and millions of innocent people whose only crime is having been standing in the way. I happen to believe that on some senior levels, our opponents understand this and their strategy is to provoke us to a level of self destruction that they could never directly accomplish themselves.

The Nation State

Past, Future and Present Challenge
September 16, 2007

by Matt Taylor

It seems that I can never get to the full explication of my thoughts on this matter. Yet, I keep coming back to it - with a certain reluctance that is sure. It is not that my thoughts are not in the main stream on this subject and I am uncomfortable with this - I am used to being in the odd-man-out position although I do not seek to be this way - there is no fun nor profit in it. It is, I suppose, that the issues underneath this subject cut to the core of our American society and the criticism tends to penetrate too close the quick of out identity as a nation. It is not easy to write about these issues even by someone who, for whatever reason, never “bought” the prevailing paradigm. Bought is the correct work because that is what we Americans do a great deal of. We consume as a way of life. We have, as a whole a fair grasp of reality and a decent sense of ourselves and our fellow humanity - yet we go out and buy something else entirely in the marketplace of ideas and goods, We consume this merchandize with great gusto, with little thought and relentless vacant passion. Our actions, as a whole, do not reflect our stated values nor our own seductive myth of who we are.
With the first two attempts of writing on this subject, I quickly ran out of gas. I may do so again as I am very busy now with demanding work. Yet, this also can be - no matter the importance and value of this work - a form of self-indulgent consumerism which neglects many things which are critical to life. I have made some edits, and small additions, in 2003 and 2005, to the first two Introductions above. These were not substantial. I am starting over now because so much time has elapsed that I do not want to risk “back dating” my thoughts. I think they are mostly the same yet six years is too much of a gap and too subject to a shift in focus. Those who know me do know that I believed then and do now that our response to 9/11 was wrong as a general strategy. My proposal for Ground Zero - not pursued nor developed - is perhaps the best statement of my thanking at the time and remains unaltered. This can stand on its own feet [link: ground zero appropriate response]. So, I will start anew not having to worry if I represent things exactly as I would have six years ago.

As I write these words I am in San francisco celebrating my birthday. I have been alive for 69 years and a few hours. I have seen a great deal in this time including a World War and its aftermath close up. It seems that violence is what we humans do best. We are, as much as I know, the only species who systematically kills over abstractions. And, over the last few centuries, the modern Nation State which was created - in the ideal telling of it - to bring security and justice has become the greatest instrument of this ongoing destruction. The fact that this is often done in the name of a “just cause,” and according to the rules-of-engagement that the powerful can impose and which suit their capabilities, does not mitigate the numbers of the dead and misplaced. It only points out the impoverishment of our imagination and the narrow use to which we put wealth and power. In the 60 years since I walked the streets of a city devastated by war, where a 100 thousand people died in one night, it seems that humanity has learned little. Too many believe that they can gain total power and they will do the right thing when the have it. History, it can be pointed out, is not the most popular of subjects.

The Nation State has well understood protocols by which war is avoided, fought and then peace is secured. One can argue that these could be better yet at least they establish a framework within which some humanity, in a devastating circumstance, can be maintained. The same is true in the combating of crime which provides even more care, protection and justice for all the parties involved no matter their role or the rightness of their actions. In the circumstance of asymmetrical warfare, no such set of protocols - almost by definition - exist. This lack is to the great disadvantage of a legitimate Nation State. Often, even when the “terrorist” loses, the terrorist wins. How to maintain a free and just society in the face of systemic terrorist attack is one of the central issues of our time. An issue which seems to be ignored. How not to generate even greater terrorism, as a consequence of defending against it, is a complex task facing many Nation States today. How not for a nation, or for the very concept of the Nation State itself, to lose legitimacy in the eyes of Humanity while conducting defensive operations is perhaps the greatest challenge of all.
These are some of the issues I pondered while watching the immediate coverage of the 9/11 atrocity. I saw an response forming immediately, minute by minute, hour by hour, week by week. This response could not have been better designed to grow and perpetuate the ongoing situation if it were a deliberate attempt to do so. In cybernetic terms, the response was one huge positive feedback loop with all self regulating negative feedback mechanisms, severely compromised or eliminated.
The last six years has done nothing to relieve my concerns. What has taken place has confirmed them. Over the last two hundred years, the steady advancement toward the securing of rights-for-all has been one of Humanities greatest achievements. I will argue later that because this - as impressive as it is - has remained the province of the minority of Humanity is one of the major causes which swells the ranks of terrorists today. The other is our response to terrorist acts. This is not to deny that there are some really bad people out there whose purposes, goals and means have to be stopped. It is to say that they use this vulnerability against us just as they use the better aspects of our society - such as open access, freedom of speech and movement, and laws which protect the criminal - against us. It is tempting in the moment of confusion and pain, when assaulted, to throw way what took centuries to create: an equable society. We have learned to do this in the majority of criminal situations yet more rarely in response to an assault such as 9/11. It is this temptation, and over reaction, that must be resisted for to give in is to lose by default, and for terrorism to triumph. Once Law is gone it matters little who holds the chains of power. Some regimes may be “better” than others - according to personal preference - yet they are all the same at the root.
Before going into all of these issues, I want to address several underlying causal elements. These include:

State Terrorism when the actions of a legally constituted state - even one of benign character - creates a circumstance that can only be described as terror to those of lessor power who are on the receiving end of a combination of power, policy and geopolitical actions no matter their intentions.

When State Capitalism becomes dominate and the benign power and good consequences of a free economy are turned into an instrument of exploitation, including the exportation of practices illegal at home, by those who can control a great portion of the system.

When the use of modern Conventional Warfare methods which, when employed on a certain scale, become indistinguishable from WMD - in fact are WMD.

When the Body Politic is so compromised that discourse is lost and shouting, spin, propaganda, cheating, winner-take-all practices replace a healthy political dialog and evolving, improving circumstance.

When the Division of Power principle is compromised within government - by the capture of a single party (no matter how good or bad their intentions) - coupled with the loss of an independent and aggressive Press.

When the Pursuit of False Self-Interest and hedonism destroys the social commons and dominates the actions of a large segment of the population.

These tendencies have been with us a long time and will no doubt remain so. They ebb and flow as our society tries new opportunities and powers, moves to excess, and then backs up to a more reasonable place. When, however, these all peak together on a global scale and become the new MYTH, there is great cause for concern. This is our present circumstance.
There are other challenges to the continued dominance of the Nation State as the primary model of government. Sheer size and complexity is one. The spread across multiple bio-economic regions with distinctly different religious and ethnic populations is another. In a world of growing change and complexity it becomes increasingly difficult for remote governance to be sensitive to the general (national) and specific (local) requirements of these diverse populations. In this circumstance propaganda rises on the part of the state and powerful interests. Truth becomes a species in danger of extinction. The paradox is that the Nation State came into being in part because of its ability to resolve these kinds of conflicts. Despite modern communication (which is more messaging than communicating) the great state is losing this capability. It has become increasingly vulnerable to terrorism be it the consequence of repressed people with legitimate unattended grievances who have no other way to fight or the deliberate acts of tyrants/madmen-to-be seeking power by causing/exploiting a situation. It is interesting to note that when terrorism is neutralized is is almost always “won” on the local level. Perhaps we have been attacking at wrong “causes” and seeking impossible solutions. The central state too often resorts to crises to consolidate the necessary political will to act. External threat aids the state in this way. Terrorism from an external source and the state’s ability and desire to control its own population can become locked in another positive feedback loop. This, in turn, can truncate legitimate solutions emerging at the local level. What made the state great and useful can make it wrong as disbelief and dissent spreads within its own borders.

When these circumstances exist so do a set of interlocking patterns:


The state itself distorts information in order to convince it citizens to a course of action in support of a preexisting political agenda which the “facts” are twisted to support.

External threats are invented or exaggerated.

Specific populations become targeted as the “cause” of whatever malaise exists or is said to exist.

Nationalism tends to rise. Calls to “higher authority” increases. Dissent is ridiculed, then threatened and ultimately repressed.

Interest groups likewise distort the facts and shape their message to win at the sacrifice of honest open debate. They seek to influence and control members of the government to gain their ends thereby breaking the barrier between the private and public sectors.

Long fought for and hard won political rights and social liberties are suppressed in the name of safety and social cohesion - individuals think more of keeping their jobs than preserving a nation.

Media amplifies all this exploiting conflict, crisis and sensationalism while abandoning research, objectivity, analysis, and true evenhandedness. Political debate become pundits (of the two or three sides considered legitimate) shouting at one another via channels of distinct bias and candidates (those who were covered enough to remain such) answering canned questions made up in advance while the pundits rate their performance against expectations they themselves set up (not the candidates or citizens) as if it was a sporting event.

Externally, friends and enemies are threatened and manipulated with the powerful states ever more resembling sandlot bullies looking for a fight and weak ones either folding to this coercion (you are either for us or against us) or turning every more radical and militant.

Meantime, the Roman Circus erupts doing its job to entertain, mollify, propagandize, distract, build and support the underlying social gestalt.

One or two incidents and the match is lit. A crises is born. With a little hot air and favorable circumstances this ignites into storm. In time, the scale, magnitude and reality of an imagined threat becomes real the full circumstance having been created. All sides in the conflict are in complete agreement - they just hold opposing sides of the same socially constructed paradigm.

The economy shifts its focus, those with the right connections make lots of windfall profits, the negotiations for peace (when the time comes) resemble a laundry list for those in power, millions are displaced or killed, a huge landscape is destroyed, the task of rebuilding falls to the well connected (not necessarily the competent), the seeds for future conflicts are sown among a new generation of disenfranchised, traumatized, impoverished and radicalized people. Of course, those most responsible for policy are rarely effected. Sometimes, a few lose office for a cycle or two until people forget.

The whole affair is promoted as proof of how dangerous the world really is and why more wealth and genius must be poured into the creation of the tools of destruction rather than the building of a peaceful, prosperous, sustainable Earth equably shared by all people.

After the flair up, things settle down for a period until another red tide disturbers our tranquility. It can be argued that these things come about by bad people or conspiracies or the nature of Man. I think they are generated by the SYSTEM we have created and are a consequence - no matter the particular causes at any specific time - of poor design and social negligence.
Our political economic system is a consequence of design. The purpose of a system is its output. If you do not like the consequences you can blame people and try to get control of the system yourself (to do better, of course) or you can redesign the system. The global political economic system of the modern world cannot be understood nor controlled. It can only be redesigned by an emergent process that is requisite with its complexity. This is not a simple task and it will take understanding, thought and significant time after we have decided to do it. We can, in the meantime, stabilize the system we have in order buy the time needed. There are two major steps to this which can be taken immediacy. First, put in place needed self-regulating negative feedback loops which provide high frequency, low magnitude attenuation. The second is to exercise a measure of reflection and restraint. Humanity has to learn that just because we can do something does not mean it is necessarily a good idea - at least for now in present circumstances.
more coming:

Further thoughts on the vulnerability of the Nation State as an organizational principle.

The network organization of present day terrorist groups and the consequence of not understanding what this implies.

An alternative model to the Nation State and how we may evolve to this.

Practical short terms steps to stabilize the system we have, reduce its negative effects and increase its benefits.

Proposal of a method to engage the world in a political economic redesign that creates large system stability while protecting small systems uniqueness, autonomy and integrity.

Return To Indexature
GoTo: Structure Winsature
GoTo: A Future By Design - Not Default ture
GoTo: A Future By Design - Worthy Problems
GoTo: Katrina - the RDS Response ture
GoTo: The MG Taylor Mission ure
GoTo: Quessns Die Proudly ture
GoTo: Rebirth at Ground Zero ure
GoTo: ValueWeb Architecture ture
GoTo: Worthy Problems ture
GoTo: Zone of Emergence Model ture
Matt Taylor
Utrecht, Holland
September 11, 2001
Palo Alto
September 20, 2001
San Francisco
September 16, 2007

SolutionBox voice of this document:


posted: September 11, 2001

revised: September 18, 2007
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(note: this document is about 60% finished)

Copyright© Matt Taylor 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007



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