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Why it is time to kill off nationalism

20 July 2010

Nationalism. What a horribly deluded concept. The idea that each people should have its own nation where they can speak their own language. Madness.

La liberté guidant le peuple

“Messieurs: eyes up front, s’il vous plaît!”

It all started about 250 years ago: by the time of the French revolution, the idea ‘One people, one language, one nation’ was born and it quickly caught on. All over Europe people stood up and demanded independence, reshaping the map into a grid of nations. Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Bulgaria and later Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and many more became nation states.

Each nation created its own mythology on how it came into existence, composed anthems to drum up patriotic feelings and designed flags and crests to be used as unifying identity marks. The rulers of these nations became human symbols of the national pride and sense of cultural superiority and were regarded with an almost religious reverence. And the unfortunate people of “foreign” cultures still living in these new states were degraded to 2nd class citizens, since they were seen as a threat to the national identity.

Hitler, Netanyahu, Blair, Khomeini, Bush, Stalin

Faces of nationalism.

This sense of a national identity and cultural supremacy made people easy prey for propaganda, which enabled unscrupulous leaders to create powerful totalitarian societies – based on fascism, Nazism or communism. Wars fought between nation-states tended to be bigger and (due to complex alliances between nation states) caused both of the world wars, making nationalism the biggest source of human suffering after religion. Over all, it’s difficult to find even one forgiving feature of the nation state concept.

Let me give you an example of what happens to a people when they get a nation of their own. For centuries the Jewish people have been living in Europe and the Middle East, peacefully minding their own business – even when horribly persecuted and mistreated. But then, after the end of World War II, they were given their own nation – Israel – in the region of Palestine, and things immediately changed. The Arab nations in the Middle East didn’t see kindly on the intrusion of their national space and several wars have been fought in the region as a result. Even today, 60 years later, there is constant unrest which threatens to escalate at any moment. But it’s the change to the mentality of the Jewish people of Israel that’s most intriguing. They went from philosophers to warriors in less than a year, and Israel now one of the most openly aggressive nations in the world – a nation that wage wars on its neighbours, attack humanitarian aid convoys and place civilians in concentration camps. All this because of the creation of a nation.

Now, I’m not saying that the Jewish people don’t deserve to have a nation state of their own. What I’m saying is that no one does. Nation states are bad news. If you create a nation, you can expect a war. Create many nations – expect a world war. And in the last 20 years, 27 new nations have formed in Europe alone. I wonder what will happen next..?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 20 July 2010 19:45

    I’m curious, if we don’t have nations, how will we manage our affairs? As much as I’d love everyone to start governing themselves, I don’t think it will happen. Nor do I think we will ever break the connection individuals have with other human beings. So how to end nationalism?


    • 20 July 2010 19:57

      I don’t think we should put an equal sign between society/human interaction and nationalism. We did after all manage without nation states in the past, and it’s only in the last few hundred years we got into our heads that states need to be ‘national’ ie based on language, culture and heritage. My view is that a more multicultural (anti-national if you like) state is a better, more stable state.


  2. 20 July 2010 19:49

    A brilliant observation Mr Heinakroon. In India we have an old saying that wealth, women and land (roughly translated) are the root causes of all wars, somehow our ancestors forgot to add religion. But after reading your post I feel nationalism or nationalistic/linguistic chauvinism could safely be added to the list!
    Thanks for a great post.



    • 20 July 2010 20:07

      Thank you for you comment!

      Yes, since we have at least 5,000 languages in the world today (many hundred of which I believe in India alone!), we would have a huge number of small states if we were to create nations for all people with their own language! Better to co-exist by region instead, I think, and educate people in cultural tolerance.


  3. Andrew Lawrence permalink
    22 July 2010 14:51

    Its funny that you should be doing this blog on nationalism, ive just been argueing against nationalism on the manxforums recently.

    the false dichotomy of “MANX NOT BRITISH” was infuriating me as so many people who are proud of being manx were reading the slogan and instantly feeling anti british sentiment, despite the fact no one is actually forcing them to make a choice.

    It pains me to see simplistic methods like this actually having an effect.

    Nationalism is an oudated concept, and should be scrapped along with religions, and the paranormal industry.



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