Wednesday March 1, 2023
Never is a very, very long time in politics. Yet whenever the topic of secession or so-called national divorce comes up, how often do we hear that “secession will never happen.” It’s difficult to tell if people using the term “never” actually mean it. If they mean “not in the next ten or twenty years,” that’s plausible. But if they truly mean “not in the next 100 (or more) years,” it’s clear they’re working on the level of absolutely pure, unfounded speculation. Such statements reflect little more than personal hopes and dreams.
Experience is clear that the state of most polities often changes enormously in the span of a few decades. Imagine Russia in 1900 versus Russia in 1920. Or perhaps China in 1930 versus China in 1950. If someone had told the Austrian emperor in 1850 that his empire would be completely dismembered by 1919, he probably would have refused to believe it. Few British subjects in 1945 expected the empire to be all but gone by 1970. In the 1970s, the long-term survival of the Soviet Union appeared to be a fait accompli. For a visual sense of this, simply compare world maps from 1900 and 1950. In less than the span of a human lifetime, the political map of the world often changes so as to be unrecognizable.