In the past two hundred years, an evil has infected Iranshahr as well as the whole world. Europe was infected first and as its power spread so did this disastrous concept infiltrate every corner of the Earth, either through colonial policy or by nativist reaction to European encroachment. It is a great lie that has caused wars, genocides, and chaos. This great lie is called nationalism.
Nationalism takes one of our most human flaws and expands it into a political ideology. This flaw may have been what saved our species when we were small bands of hunter-gatherers, but now it causes millions of deaths every year. All humans have what is commonly called in-group, out-group. This is a psychological trait that allows people to create allies out of nothing while creating enemies by not having them be in the group. It is a fear of the unknown “other.” A group of people with similar characteristics to a particular person is more trustworthy and less threatening than a group of people with fewer similarities to that person. That person’s group will then band together in opposition to that other “different” group. This process is so ridiculous, that merely by making two teams for a soccer game from a uniform group of people and giving the teams separate colors, the in-group out-group process occurs, where a baseline dislike of the other team begins to emerge.
Now take this inherent distrust of people a group has not met and expand it to millions of people. Make the history books reflect how the group (an ethnicity or country) has always been the best people, and that other “lesser” groups outside or inside the country are always trying to destroy a perfect way of life. Collectively, the group never takes responsibility for its failures and always takes all the credit for its successes. It creates scapegoats in religious or ethnic minorities that need to be purged or punished occasionally. Finally, let the group’s government spout this great lie so that it will always hate the enemies on its borders or within its slums, but never hate the government that causes most of the group’s hardships. Nationalism is a tool of power for governments to wield. Nationalism is a drug societies use to reflect on glorious pasts (whether real or imagined) and forget about a miserable present or future. It is a curse that divides peoples perpetually, causing groups to fragment into smaller more specific groups. This is the evil that started about two hundred years ago and has continued to cause human suffering.
There is no way to eliminate this hardwired flaw called in-group out-group, but there are ways to mitigate it. One way is to educate people about it so that each person can recognize this foolish process as it occurs in a person’s everyday life. If an individual can see when she or he has a moment of distrust for perceived “differences” then that person can self regulate her or his attitudes toward the “other.” Next is to expand the in-group. This can only be done by instilling tolerance and open-mindedness into a society which is not an easy task. People tend to become less afraid of anything, if they are exposed to that unknown until it is a known. Creating opportunities for dialogue and interaction through a common goal seems to be a good start to creating tolerance and open-mindedness. Though this chapter is about the Great Lie called nationalism within Iranshahr, it was necessary to discuss this foundational problem of in group out group. Tackling this human flaw would solve most problems relating to race, sex, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. For the remainder of this chapter, Iranshahr’s pre-nationalist and nationalist history shall be recounted, and how to eliminate this hindrance shall be discussed.
Iranshahr’s history is one of continual migrations. Each migration and settlement added a new layer of culture and blood to a land with no dominant group. The major groups of Iranshahr can be loosely placed into three groups: the Semites, the Aryans, and the Turco-Mongoloids. The first recorded cultures of Iranshahr were those of Mesopotamia and the Indus valley. The Sumerians, Elamities, Babylonians, and Assyrians of Mesopotamia are the descendents of Semite immigrants to Iranshahr’s western fringe. Then a great migration of Aryans settled from central Anatolia to Kashmir, from the Persian Gulf to the Aral Sea and the Caucasus Mountains. These Aryans were the Armenians, Persians, Medes (now Kurds), Parthians (now Khorasanis), Soghdians (now Tajiks), Scythians, and many smaller nations in the mountains, valleys, and steppes. Some Aryan groups like the Persians and Medes absorbed the rich traditions of Elam, Assyria, and Babylon, while others like the Soghdians absorbed the Indus Valley cultures. In fact the ancient Aryan religions and Zoroastrianism share the same roots as those of the peoples of India while incorporating many concepts from Mesopotamian faiths.
After three hundred years of Mede and Persian rule, the Greeks conquered the region but were themselves absorbed by Iranshahr’s culture. The Greek ideas were incorporated and added to the rich Semitic and Aryan traditions. After Greek rule, Parthians and Persians ruled together for six hundred years. On the fringes of Iranshahr, Arab Semitic and nomadic Turkic tribes began to interact with the Aryan states through trade and warfare. Hostile interactions between Iranshahr and Byzantium allowed the newly united Arabs to conquer Iranshahr under the banner of Islam, and for Turkic tribes to migrate into north eastern Iranshahr. Rather than Islam absorbing Iranshahr, Iranshahr incorporated Islam like all the other traditions before it, creating something new and unique within Iranshahr.
It is this time period of Islam’s marriage with Iranshahr that the fusion of Semites, Turkics, and Aryans truly began. Arab dynasties gave way to Aryan dynasties who gave way to Turkic ones. For six hundred years this process occurred, ending with the Mongol conquests, the last migrants to be absorbed by Iranshahr. The cultural and genetic makeup of these elites were distinct from their origins. They no longer had much in common with their old homelands. Semitic, Aryan, and Turko-Mongol had become Iranian. Were there great differences between the Abbasids, the Samanids, the Buyids, the Ghaznavids, the Seljuks, the Khwarazamshahs and the Shirvanshahs, or the Ilkhanids and Timurids? No, all were Iranian dynasties ruling over Iranshahr.
Though Islam came to dominate Iranshahr’s religious makeup, six hundred years of interactions with the other religions and philosophies of Iranshahr created an Islam to suite the layers of culture. There were great periods of religious conflict but never true ethnic conflict. One characteristic of this Iranian world was a lack of nationalism. Ethnic communities were fluid, peoples mixing constantly. Elites of the various ethnicities had more in common with each other than with their fellow peasants of the same ethnicities and the reverse holds true as well. During this period, the culture of Iranshahr contains the literary and political structures of the Aryans, the religion of the Semitics, and the warfare of the Turco-Mongoloids. Even after Iranshahr was split roughly between the Ottomans, Safavids, Mughals, and Shaybanids, all carried the Iranian traditions beyond the borders of Iranshahr.
The beginning of the Great Lie starts a little more than two hundred years ago. Russia and Britain had their encroachments in Iranshahr before this period, but they were miniscule and these powers did not yet fully become infected with nationalism themselves. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1200s AH/ late 1700s and early 1800s CE, solidified this political ideology that united rich and poor of a nation-state against the rich and poor of other nation-states. This idea of one state for one ethnic group has been the source of Europe’s woes ever since.
Once the French shadow had passed, Britain and Russia took their hard won military might and began to eat away at the old order, hoping to outmaneuver each other as if in a game of chess. Iranshahr at this time consisted of three empires with tiny statelets moving in and out of varying spheres of influence. Russia subjugated vassals in the Caucasus and Central Asia from the Ottomans and Qajars one by one, While Britain chipped at the Mughals and carved out a piece of Khorasan and called it Afghanistan. The Mughals disappeared into the Raj, the Qajars became a little balancing board for the bear and the lion, and the Ottomans clung to life until the Great War destroyed them.
Iranshahr was under new masters, who looked at the world through race and social Darwinism. The British and Russians played divide and conquer very well. They drew arbitrary lines on the maps. They started giving powerful privileges to one ethnic or religious group. In this way the exploited “other” groups would hate the new local elites as much or more than the foreigners, and the new elites would cling to the colonial masters to keep them safe from the “lower” races. In this way neighbors whose ancestors had lived together for centuries side by side competed for their new masters’ love. And it did not matter if the communists replaced the Tsar, or if the British lost their empire. The lines were drawn and the hatred was already established within two generations so that no one could remember a time before distrust or fear of their strange neighbors.
With the dissipation of the Soviet Empire, Iranshahr fragmented further till in this modern era, there are more than fifteen states that claim a piece of it. And nationalism continues to pull these states apart. Afghanistan and Pakistan are countries always at war with themselves. Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, and Uzbeks, who have lived side by side for centuries, despise each other. Azerbaijan and Armenia slaughter one another because of Soviet manipulation. The Kurds are split between four countries and persecuted by all four governments. The Caucasus is a powder keg always ready to explode under Russian oppression. Iran, which is the remnant of Iranshahr, is slowly making enemies of its non-Shiite Persian citizens. Iraq is a bloodbath where the Arabs of Iranshahr slaughter each other over small differences in faith. And the evils of nationalism and religious extremism have unleashed the demon that is Daesh, which threatens to bring all of Iranshahr into chaos. This is the Great Lie, that all these peoples are so different that they must hate each other. This Lie which destroyed Europe and only through the most strenuous of efforts has averted more bloodshed in the land of this Lie’s origin, is destroying Iranshahr.
And while the peoples of Iranshahr slaughter and oppress one another, their tyrannical governments continue to rule, continue to extract wealth that belongs to the people. While the common people blindly follow Western style nationalism, the wealth flows out of the ground, out of the peoples’ labor and sweat, and goes to London or New York as assets of the ruling elites. When the people start getting restless towards their corrupt governments, the governments start saber rattling saying that the nations’ problems are due to “foreigners.” They blame the minorities or outside interference on other countries within Iranshahr. None of the peoples living within Iranshahr are foreigners. It is false.
Now while these illegitimate governments manipulate the masses, they make deals with actual foreigners. The resources are extracted rarely by natives but by American, European, Russian, Chinese, Japanese corporations. The resources are sold by the small political elite at a discount so that the businesses make a profit and the elites get their cut which travels to foreign banks where it will never be returned to the people. Great powers are a real threat to Iranshahr, not the many ethnicities that have lived side by side for centuries. When a land is composed of many small competing nations, great powers dictate whatever terms they want. Corrupt small states are even weaker in relation to great powers. They can never truly negotiate the terms of trade. Trade with great powers is not wrong, but when the people receive no benefit, then it is wrong.
Now Iranshahr as a region has only about fifty years to move beyond the primitive fear of the “other” before this land is at a total disadvantage compared to the rest of the world. The political, religious, and ethnic elites need to stop acting like children and look at the paradigm shift occurring. The nation-state is an outdated idea. It works when the population is full of narrow-minded fools who blame their own mistakes on others. But this century will require cooperation, perhaps not global but regional. The age of empires is returning. Only the nations with large landmasses and peoples will dominate this century. And because there will not be complete hegemony, competition between great powers could lead to conflicts. Conflicts between great powers always affect weak powers. Small nations are always drawn into great nations’ ambitions. Iranshahr better make sure is not composed of small nations.
While the developing world is trying to split up the current political bodies, the newly developed and developed are forming larger political bodies. In the Americas, the United States stands as the symbol of regional cooperation at its finest, a federal system that covers a great land mass, and functions well enough to be the economic powerhouse. MERCOSUR could become the framework to unite Latin American states into a federal state.
Europe, the founders of nationalism, are seeking to move closer under the European Union. With such racist and xenophobic currents moving through Europe currently, it is hard to say whether the EU will become a “United States of Europe,” or if the demons of nationalism will hold them back. The EU is a threat to Iranshahr’s territorial integrity, because the illegitimate governments of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan want membership. Europe does not extend south of the Caucasus and does not touch the Caspian. The EU would treat this region as its resource extraction frontier, nothing more. If Georgians, Armenians, and Azeris believe that they will ever be considered Europeans or treated as equals, then they are fools. If Russians and Turks are not considered Europeans then ethnicities with extremely little direct contact with Europe will never be part of Europe.
China has a history of regional unity longer than Iranshahr and a massive ambitious population. China is already an empire, but its success will hinge on how the elites can keep the Han happy while not oppressing their minorities towards militancy (they are slowly failing on both accounts). Modern India is the first empire on the subcontinent to “control” so much land. India is not stable but it could be a great power with enlightened policies. Southeast Asia may move closer into ASEAN which could become a confederacy to block China’s expansionist tendencies.
The most direct threat to Iranshahr’s wellbeing will be Russia. Russia has been the most troublesome power in Iranshahr alongside the United States and Great Britain. Russia lost its direct political control of northwestern Iranshahr and northeastern Iranshahr when the Soviet Union dissolved. The economic power still remains, and once again Russia seeks hegemony. The Eurasian Union will steal back half of Iranshahr. Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan are potential members. Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Turkmenistan have said they will not join but power can change minds. Russia has had a long history of getting its desired outcomes in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Only an Empire of Iranshahr could keep it away.
The final potential empire is the Gulf Union. This would be a confederacy of monarchs who have little care for human rights and who allow their political elite to fund extreme Wahhabi and Salafi strains of Islam that in combination with American foreign policy ineptitude have created Daesh and other militant groups. If more enlightened rulers were to lead this potential empire, then Iranshahr might be safe from the south. If an Empire of Iranshahr and a Gulf Union were amiable partners, that would bode very well for the greater Middle East. But in the mean time, such a union would mean having another great power bordering Iranshahr.
What seems like a digression from the Great Lie, is in fact my way of illustrating two things. One, the paradigm of nationalism and the perfection of the nation-state is being pushed aside by regionalism and empire. This is occurring on all inhabited continents except Africa which is plagued by nationalism. This means the successful states (successful in not being manipulated and dominated by other states), will be larger, much larger. Small states will only keep their sovereignty intact by banding together with other small states or submitting to the protection of great powers. Second I want to show how many potential great powers there will be in two or three decades. How many could there be bordering against Iranshahr?
Today the United States and Russia play an active role of meddling in Iranshahr’s politics. China and India today seek economic influence, but how long will it take before the thin membrane of economic influence passes into political influence. Britain and France are both former empires and prominent members of the EU. Both have had their fair share of Iranshahr related adventures and they are small. Imagine if the EU were to politically unite? The economic and political interests of these two major players would in some way become Europe’s interests. Finally a politically united Gulf Union would have little trouble with all its financial capabilities getting its way with the little states of Iranshahr. From everything I have explained does nationalism and the nation-state still seem like the best direction for Iranshahr? Can the peoples of Iranshahr really hope that these old and new great powers will just respect their small state sovereignties? Half of these empires will be democratic and half will be authoritarian. The United States as proven that democratic empires are just as willing to meddle in other countries’ affairs as monarchs, dictatorships, or oligarchies. Therefore if Iranshahr wants peace, stability, liberty, and prosperity, the small ineffectual nation-states need to be replaced by an empire, preferably republican with high citizen participation.
If India and Europe are uniting; regions that have been disunited for most of history, then why should Iranshahr, a region united if not politically then at least culturally for two thousand five hundreds, remain divided and weak? Iranshahr is most similar to China, a regional unit united by empire, dissolved and reformed again and again. When China was split, it was at the mercy of outside forces. When the warlords were swept away and a mostly stable government was put into place, outsiders could no longer manipulate the nation. Iranshahr is ruled not by warlords but by fear-lords, none of which rule the state for the people. They seek a status quo by terrorizing their own people and upholding the illusion that one ethnicity with one state is the best model. It is a lie. The nation-state has not brought prosperity to the ethnic group who supposedly holds power. Only a diverse defensive minded confederacy of Satraps can muster the resources, human talent, and legitimacy to last in this new century of regionalist capitalist empires.
A multiracial and multireligious society under one political body is not just another Western concept, it is an Iranian concept, proven effective for thousands of years. The path to a revival in Iranshahr’s fortunes will not be through fifteen or more puny nation-states competing with one another, but uniting under a common union though decentralized through autonomous Satraps. The fake borders and faulty nation-states should be swept away by a confederate empire. To do that, the recent atrocities committed by the warring ethnic and religious groups must be reconciled. The false nationalist narratives of history must be turned into patriotic narratives devoid of militancy and racist supremacy. A realization must occur that nationalism is a Western concept that weakens all who adhere to it. Only by reestablishing that Semitic, Aryan, and Turko-Mongolian ethnicities are all equally Iranian, all rightful heirs to Iranshahr, can this region be brought from its knees to stand up to the great powers all around it. After reconciling the three main groups, the idea of “Iranian” must move away from associations with Iran or Aryan towards the title of an individual who trades allegiance to the Empire for rights and duties given by a constitution that only the individual and her or his fellow citizens can change.
This process will not be an easy or free of conflict. Nationalism taps into our primitive instincts and makes us irrationally distrustful. The rulers of Iranshahr use nationalism for legitimacy and the great powers would hate nothing more than a large and powerful state in Southwestern Asia. But it is a natural process. Iranshahr has formed, fallen, and reformed for two thousand five hundred years. In the last two hundred years, Iranshahr has stayed fallen due to the Great Lie. It is time for it to reform and purge this land of that lie. The peoples of Iranshahr must stand united or remain low divided.