By Alina Ostrovsky
Believing in something meaningful that sparks your heart as you are in the pursuit of making it a reality, while being a part of a movement that appeals to your ideals, cumulatively, are actions that help mould your character. Through your actions, you get a sense of what your character is worth, which defines your identity amidst the bigger spectrum of existence. After you get a solid understanding of the qualities that you relate to the most, you look for like-minded people who reinforce your identity. This way, you develop a community, whose values and culture pertain specifically to your geographical proximity, making it all the more unique and relevant to you.
For these reasons, all people naturally yearn to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Striving for the same leads to the development of communities. A collection of adjacent communities creates a nation in which you, as a living being, take pride in being a part of because that specific nation shares the history of your ancestors, your culture, values, language and literature, which ultimately dictate your relation to those around you. However, is there an unethical component to being zealously identified with your particular nation? Is there something wrong with nationalism?
Origins of nation and nationalism
‘Nationalism’ and even the concept of a ‘nation’ are relatively modern implications. In the ancient and medieval period, there were empires, kingdoms, tribal republics and city-states like Grecian Sparta and Athens, but there were no nations. Nations originally rose in Europe after the breakdown of Christendom, separating it into a series of different sects and, also, after trade boundaries developed based on different items of exchange, such as spices, originating from one region, and cloth from another. However, during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and early eighteenth centuries, a ‘nation’ started being identified by the rulers and dynasties, who created agreements between each other, bringing forth the emergence of international laws, which drew distinctions between individual nations.
Still, all of this had not tapped to the modern understanding of what a ‘nation’ is. It is only under the impact of the ‘double revolution’—the French and the Industrial—that nationalism, in the modern sense of the term, developed in Europe. In other words, the modern connotation of it originated in Europe and spread to other continents, where it was used later, during the course of the nineteenth century. Since then, a nation may be defined as an aggregate of individuals, historically evolved, living within a given territory, having faith in a common heritage and culture, living and aspiring to live under a centralised government over the territory.
Nationalism versus globalism
People have many positive and negative views about nationalism, which eventually shape their worldview. The opposing view of nationalism is ‘globalism’. Their advocacy is based on a simple groundwork:
“Imagine there are no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope that someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one”.
The stated worldview can be regarded as overly optimistic and unrealistic, describing a utopian world that, in the duration of human history, has failed to exist due to one problem—flawed human nature. If we were to wipe out an inherent feeling of being part of a ‘nation’ and, with it, mingle all people into a hodgepodge with other people that most likely do not relate to each other, the effect would be quite the opposite—formation of chaos, which existed during the medieval era. Every individual would fend for himself, prioritising his own interest, making corruption overwhelming. Therefore, having the world divided into subsects of nations creates a more global organisation.
Even then, a debater for globalism believes that nationalism is evil because it is dictated by the government that deprives people of critical thinking, which forces people to be in perpetual approval of the doings of their government. However, a debater of pro-nationalism would debunk that premise by explaining that a person’s sense of nationalism doesn’t necessarily dictate their political views; it is a separate entity. Their identification with a nation is driven by a sense of communalism, rather than politics.
Two approaches to nationalism
Nationalism can be understood through two concepts: parochialism and patriotism. The word ‘parochial’ literally means to be concerned with matters of the local parish. One must admit that such matters affect an individual directly, as opposed to global issues, making it natural for people to be concerned about them all the more. A globalist attacks that mindset by believing that it makes people narrow-minded, illiberal, and intolerant, contributing to a sense of xenophobia. This, they claim, has the propensity to cause World Wars, where Nazism came out to be. However, globalists fail to acknowledge that the reason Hitler was successful in creating that kind of ‘nationalism’ was because Germany was economically ruined. Hitler exploited that by giving people a sense of hope to boost the economy by finding scapegoats. Essentially, economic despair made Hitler successful in brainwashing people.
That outcome is unlikely if the economy is stable. In fact, statistics show that the more nationalist a country is, the wealthier it can be. If nationalism is weak, people would have a tendency to not care about others. People would gain financial advantage over others, causing the economy to degenerate into ‘swarms of flies’, with each citizen relatively oblivious to the other’s welfare. By contrast, the nationalist economy resembles a ‘colony of bees’, with members mindful of the well-being of the entire group.
Whatever is described so far is the concept of parochialism, but the extension to it, which globalists also denounce, is patriotism. It is defined by the feeling of love, devotion and pride towards one’s country with a sense of duty and obligations to support and protect it. Globalists do not support patriotism, as it is a commitment to a group that is undermining commitment to the ‘citizen of the world’. However, one must understand that most common men are better able to come up with solutions that entail a series of small goals than big ones. With all this said, Edmund Burke depicted that human propensity beautifully:
“To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind. The interest of that portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of those who compose that [‘love’]; [nobody], but bad man, would justify it in abuse, none, but traitors, would barter it away for their own personal advantage.”
India as a nationalist nation
India is the best example that demonstrates the need for being a nationalist country. Due to the diversity of its languages, culture and religion, India had been a divided ‘nation’. Only during the era of colonialism did India recognise the need to stage a unified front against British oppression. As a result, Mahatma Gandhi gathered people for Satyagraha, a non-violent movement, in order to achieve Swaraj, an independent country. Satyagraha was performed through two movements: the Non-Cooperation Movement and the Civil Disobedience Movement. The Non-Cooperation movement was operated through strikes, while the Civil-Disobedience movement was performed through purposefully disobeying laws set by the British.
In an effort to attain independence, Hindus set their differences aside with the Muslims and the untouchables. The upper-castes collectively acknowledged that, without them, the nation did not have a chance to achieve freedom for another century. However, once they achieved freedom, they went back into being a divided nation.
As a matter of fact, in 1956, the Indian parliament, while constructing the map of India, decided to divide the nation by keeping lingual boundaries in mind, but Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar advocated to implement one national language across all of India, as he warned: “A linguistic State with its regional language as its official language may easily develop into an independent nationality. The road between Independent Nationality and Independent State is very narrow. If this happens, India will cease to be Modern India: we have and will become Medieval India consisting of a variety of States, indulging in rivalry and warfare”. One can see instances of this warning through the Tamil Nationalist Movement, which is a movement that expressed a strong reluctance to accept Hindi as their national language.
Nonetheless, it is one thing to establish a mutual language, but it is another thing to be intolerant of other religions, like the constant tension between the Hindus and Muslims. Savarkar, as an example, writes that every individual who is born in India and who considers India to be his fatherland (pitrubhumi) and Holy land (patrubhumi) are Hindus. However, he considered Christians and Muslims as foreigners, because their holy land is not situated in India. This is an example of modern religious intolerance that nationalists do not approve of. Nations should not be defined by religion, but by language, heritage and culture. This was an early sign that showcased that of all the countries in the world, India must nationalise the earliest.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt
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