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(9,685 posts)
Sun Aug 19, 2018, 09:10 AM Aug 2018

Nationalism, isolationism, xenophobia, protectionism. We have been here before. It never ends well. [View all]

America is shut for business. Nationalism, isolationism, xenophobia and protectionism is the name of the game. Nativism is all the rage. Nation hood and national identity are taking centre stage after 50 years of relative globalisation and it is not a good look. Here in the UK the Prime Minister keeps saying we are open for business, which is ironic for a nation that is about to slam shut its borders, and I am very sure that if we did not have an ocean between us and everyone else one of our many right wing wankers would right now be demanding we build a wall to keep the ‘other’ out.

It seems to me that across the west we are currently seeking to redefine ourselves, however the obsession with nationalism and national identity from some (mostly white, mostly left behind communities), being driven by a populist narrative, is more than a little problematic. We against them may be considered understandable by some but as a narrative it teaches you to hate people you have never met. It certainly teaches you to externalise why your life has not gone to the plans you dreamed about when young. Pay sucks? Blame the immigrant. Feel scared? Blame the Muslim. Feel powerless? Blame the minority. Those who cling to national identity over rationality tend to need to look outside their own community for someone to blame for everything that sucks, but they will also vote for the nationalist sabre rattler over and above looking at what is really in their economic best interest, based on a false narrative that somehow, we are better than everyone else. Assertions of nationalism fundamentally stand in the way of the realisation of a ‘nationhood of man’. It excludes rather than includes people.

Populist strong men (and women) are playing on the fears and anger of the ‘left behind’ and the use of nationalism as a tool of control of the masses essentially creates a dichotomy between ancient feelings of communal loyalty and our modem democratic systems of popular sovereignty - of the people and for the people. Nationalism in its most benign form may undeniably expose in us a fundamental part of human nature - a hankering for self-determination and justice (but does not every human wish for this irrespective of where they come from?)– and which is why popular sovereignty is probably the best form of governance of our age. However, when this is inevitably exploited by cynical nasty fuckers what is benign can too often in the 21st century turn into something with dark tribal undercurrents and taken to extremes we see the banning of people from nation states because of their religion or ethnicity and taken one step further, as we have seen all too often, ethnic cleansing and genocide.

The question today is how much we should let them get away with? Bad behaviour, racist behaviour and protectionist behaviour all excused and condoned because of some arbitrary sense of identity based on a loyalty to a border, to a language, to a race? Build that wall, Ban that Muslim. Stop free movement. Looking at it in the context of what is happening today I am unsure if nationalism, even in its most benign from should ever be seen as a force for good. I am unsure that we can justify some the cohesive benefits that may come from national identity with the fact that populist leaders exploit those natural feelings of communal identity into something horrible. If you look at Trump and you look at Brexit it is not overstating the case to say that the concept of nationalism is essentially ethically empty. It in no way feeds into moral choices, individual values or the concept of self-identity. It is a canard. Nation states are arbitrary units. There is no divine right to exist. Nations disappear, but the people who populated that nation remain.

In 1941 there were only 11 democracies left in the world. Are we heading there again? It is a shame that people allow nationalist rhetoric to distort their better selves. Nations are only as good as the people that govern them. And so, we enter an age when history repeats itself. Again.

Just sayin’
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