Territory on a map, while important, always has been an incomplete indication of actual power. Many a sprawling country is composed of mostly mountains and desert. Land is in the crudest sense just a box of earth and air to contain the real source of a group’s power and identity—its people. After the emergence of rapid transportation and mass communications during the 20th century, geography no longer means what it used to. We no longer spend our whole lives in a single farming village, immersed in a strong communal culture by default. No one place is inhabited by just one group. Even Utah, the holy land of a world religion isn’t even composed of 2/3rds of the faithful it is meant for. Representatives of every people are found nearly everywhere. We might live in several different cities in a single decade going wherever there are jobs. The capability of movement invites us to play a lifelong game of arbitrage, going wherever we can get the best deal. As such, political secession based on geographical affiliation is an obsolete idea. Lines on maps matter less than the invisible lines between class and breed. The nebulous things we now call “subcultures” begin to coalesce into something more concrete. The future leads to neo-tribes that rely on no particular place for identity. The idea of secession will come to mean cultural and economic separation rather than political and geographical.
In less than a century we have transitioned from being farmers to semi-nomads who drift from place to place with no ties to physical territory or traditional cultures that come from peoples who spent centuries in one place.
Scattered nomads must compete for scarce resources but we aren’t yet allowed to fight directly. There’s still a strong state that maintains a strict monopoly on violence, its functionaries oblivious to fundamental changes. Under a seemingly placid surface of law and order, emerging factions endlessly trade passive aggressive barbs.
When neither war, nor control of land, or even elections decides conflict between groups, conquest and pillage is wrought through the quieter means of economics. Commerce becomes war by other means. Instead of launching invasions, colonies are established by dominating real estate and desirable job markets. From this struggle to control wealth we see the rise of neo-tribal societies from the ruins of monolithic 19th century nationalism. Everyone who captures wealth is no longer just a free agent, they become steadily more aware that they are soldiers on the battlefield and every gain they make is also a gain for those most like them.
When we pick up a penny on the sidewalk, we capture a unit of wealth. If we imagine wealth as territory, the Empire of You has expanded by an amount of value worth 1 cent. Money can be created any time, out of almost anything, and is just a means of exchange, but whether tender is backed or fiat it represents control over forms of wealth constrained by scarcity. You have that much more force to bring to bear in pushing the world towards your vision. Whatever group or culture you are part of also gains by that same amount. This increase in strength represents a loss for your enemies. For you and your tribe every penny is a tiny piece of ground captured after a charge across noman’s land under machine gun fire and artillery. Wealth is dear because every scrap of it represents victory against all the opposition in the universe—the pitiless impersonal forces of nature and one’s fellow man.