Following the end of a long drawn 30-year-old war in Europe, the Treaty of Westphalia was seen as a harbinger of peace to mankind. Yet to blame the treaty itself for the quagmire in which the world has cast itself is a matter of argument based on good sense. This masterpiece in world governance that triggered off the international system in 1648 following which world communities grouped themselves into states was to say the least, the best opportunity for a heaven on earth though lack of foresight and wisdom tainted with greed, avarice, competition and whatnot has plunged humanity into a state of unforgivable chaos.
The widely-accepted belief of states having failed is a misnomer, for it is not that states have failed but that man has failed the state.
The philosophical grandeur embodied in this treaty is reflected in its contents where it is emphasised that national interest and goals of states should go beyond those of any citizen or any ruler. Testifying amply to this ís Ceylon’s placement on the eve of independence where all communities stood cheek by jowl under a common political umbrella - the Ceylon National Congress - towards achieving a national objective. The all-inclusive state then called Ceylon is now only a never to be repeated historian’s delight.
Significantly, contrary to the Westaphalian tradition, a forced intra and inter state socio/econ/cultural/political homogeneity invariably has led to disintegration and fragmentation - a marginalisation of all sorts exploding in anti - state unrest where separatist tendencies and global terrorism is on the upswing. This then is not a justification of terrorism, for non-violence understandably is always the refined option to opposing all forms of injustice.
The very dignified tenets in the Westphalia treaty were dislodged with the onset of colonialism enlisting a mercantilist economy worldwide. Also common language, culture, religion and administrative functioning shelved the much upheld sovereignty of states that Westphalia had to offer.
" The mismatch between people’s aspirations and rulers’ offerings was very evident unless the ruler was of the majority community which popularity waned after a while - the reasons being many "
Empire building was not in the Westphalian agenda. Although categorical reference was made to legal equality between states, non-intervention of one state in another’s affairs and states’ sovereignty, the centuries that followed saw a contravening of all such high ideals in what came to be the new international system. Come to think of it, there’s no difference between violators of human rights today and yesteryear.
This in no way implies that two wrongs make a right. As the years went by, territorial aggrandisement found neat replacement in pecuniary avarice. Competition among nations to amass wealth and be among the world’s most powerful and the richest was evident. Britain, Spain, France, Portugal and Holland went ahead in their empire-building endeavours. The intended lofty ideals of an international system ceased to be in which uniformity and not diversity, homogeneity not heterogeneity, conformity in place of challenge were emerging trends which in turn brought in marginalisation of all sorts. At international level it gave rise to the Al - Qaeda, and within nations separatist groups started battling with the state. Global capitalism saw the West’s Christian states becoming all the more powerful and their attempt into creating a common socio/ religious/ cultural econ/political system worldwide. Al - Qaeda points the accusing finger at the Westphalia treaty when the fault lay with the power-hungry western states that took to amassing most unreservedly, wealth at the cost of the world’s poorer states. So much so for global capitalism!
Following close upon its heels was their colonial elite - a replica they left behind to further their socio/econ/political lay out. It is here that we witness for the first time the parallel of global terrorism in local enclave. Consequent to national capitalism and heightened constitutional irregularities coupled with ultra - nationalistic outfit we witness in the Westphalian system of states, the Maoist outrage in Nepal, the JVP outburst, the LTTE uprising, Bangladesh’s Mukthi Bahini, Indonesia’s Free Aceh Movement, the Maasina Ruru of Solomon Islands, the Kenyan Mau Mau and whatnot to name a few that challenged their respective states. The mismatch between people’s aspirations and rulers’ offerings was very evident unless the ruler was of the majority community which popularity waned after a while - the reasons being many. While the Muslim states resorted to Sharía for political power others sent out the majoritarian cry. Yet even that seemingly is short-lived for people to begín to see political expediency.
" The widely accepted belief of states having failed is a misnomer, for it is not that states have failed but that man has failed the state "
Atlee’s victory over Churchill in an election free of moral shortfall displayed how short-lived the war victories were in the British mind. Moral government ís not about winning wars, majoritarian rule and wielding executive powers. If in the absence of equality, human dignity and justice, moral authority fails, here then is a lacuna for rule of law and good governance. Biblical and Quranic references to saintly kings are far too many, not to forget the likes of them that embellished ancient Ceylon’s history. To these illustrious personalities Buddhism, Christianity and Islam remained ínstruments of moral governance and not springboards to power. Yet as long as the thirst for power, and pecuniary gain remains, the rule of law is bound to be undermined. Power blinds moral vision and disengages creative leadership. While it is an undeniable fact that civilisational growth propelled man into material advancement hitherto unknown, it also brought out the worst in him. From spiritual selflessness he plummeted into selfishness impacting every aspect of life on earth including leadership. Once into power, man aspires for permanency there and will leave no stone unturned in realising his objective in the course of which a rule of emotion and not reason is to be expected.