Saturday, January 24, 2009

How would you know a state when you see it?

If you walked into a city, a small town, or a village, how would know if this place lived within a state, and how would you know if that state was effective or mattered in people's lives?

What does a state feel like?

If the African state was a body, what would it feel like?

Would it feel bloated, with a stomach that extends too far? Would it feel weak, with flimsy girl arms and the posture of an old man? Would it feel too strong for its own good, with such big muscles that it knows only how to bully and not play nice?

Would it have a hard time socializing at parties, standing in the corner, remote and distant from the people in the room?

Or maybe the body analogy is misleading. Maybe the state is more like a vehicle, which can be occupied by whomever happens to be strongest. Maybe strong, effective states are like Hummers and Mercedes (Germany), with ineffective states like Ladas (Chad), with lots of Skodas and Buicks somewhere in the middle (Bolivia, Morocco). Strong states can run people over, and have big enough engines to run for miles and miles. The weak ones can also be driven by the strongest people around, but they still won't do much for you.