As I was reading about the Hanseatic League, Hanse in Low German, Hansa in Latinate language, it struck me how basic such organization and binding is to human activity. The bonds of kinship are the first and strongest, followed by those of mutual dependence, what Fukuyama calls altruistic. Outwards from those survival, war, commerce, and community development forge ties that can bind people together in more or less, usually less, permanent mutuality.
Acquisitiveness, suspicion, greed, fear, and dissatisfaction can loosen the bonds so that these leagues or groups dissolve or evolve into a variant form. The study of history is essentially the tracing of this evolution. The Catholic Church eventually became not so catholic as Protestants founded their own forms outside the established church and then established their own which were in turn diluted and divided. Many nations have suffered from a deep centrifugal tendency with China being an amazing exception, having maintained its territorial, cultural, and governmental integrity over a couple of millennia.
The United States in less than a hundred years bifurcated only to be welded back together by extreme violence and to see a renewed bifurcation after the second century of its existence with even open talk of secession at times and labels like neo-confederacy freely applied. One of the joys of scholarly pursuits is watching processes like these unfold reading books like American Nations which realign the sociopolitical map of the U.S., and guessing how soon Taiwan will reunited with China.
Attempts by workers to organize unions, by ethnic groups to capitalize on temporary unity enforced by recency in arrival, political parties’ desire to promote an agenda, are often labeled oppressive by those unaffiliated or unsympathetic to those groups. The sacred mantra of individualism is evoked to call us back to unfettered independence from others and, of course, the vulnerability of a man on an ice floe. But it’s quiet; all you hear is the cracking of the ice.