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Cultural Recidivism: In defense of Nationalism
By: Adam Dahmer
In the next few articles, I plan to explain how nationalism, communism, and pastoralism – ideologies which today find few serious proponents because of historic pitfalls in their attempted realization – were successfully employed in ancient times as foundational pillars of human culture, and could once again be turned to as viable solutions to the many problems that plague the modern world.
In this article, I will discuss nationalism – primarily because of the timeliness of the issue. True to historic trends, as the international economic recession drags on, nationalism intensifies. Just as in the depression-ridden Germany of the 1930s, fascists stalk the streets of Berlin, preying on Turks, North Africans and Levantines as they once persecuted communists and Jews. In Athens, a similar coalition of ultraconservatives collectively known as the Golden Dawn, not to be confused with the Hermetic Victorian society of wizardry bearing the same name, has sworn to rid the country of non-Greeks. In England, too, the nationalists are afoot, with the leaders of the British National Party calling all members of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora to return to their ancestral homeland in hopes of making the population more solidly Caucasian.
Considering the popular association of nationalism with movements like these, it is no surprise that most mainstream intellectuals look on the term with derision. But should they? The near equivalency which now exists among the terms nationalism, nativism and racism is highly disadvantageous to society, because the former concept, unlike the latter two, is neither morally wrong nor logically indefensible.
On the contrary, it is not only moral and logical but also societally beneficial and practically essential to the self-actualization of human beings in the modern world. In explaining how, I will begin by analyzing the relationship between nationalism and the state.
The state – an autonomous group of people living in one region under a single governmental administration – is the most stable and efficient politico-economic unit in the modern world. States must exist in order to create safe markets for the exchange of goods, services, and ideas on a large scale – the basis for the accumulation of wealth and knowledge that makes society possible. In most cases, the alternative to the state is anarchy, and people living in a chronic condition of anarchy tend to become emotionally unfulfilled, economically unproductive and socially unsophisticated.
States must be unified in order to function, and the most effective unifying agent that can be employed within a state is nationalism. States comprising people of one nation – nation-states – tend to function more effectively than states comprising peoples of multiple nations. This may at first seem a false assertion, given the tremendous success of seemingly multinational states such as the United States. The important thing to bear in mind is that the term nationality is not synonymous with ethnicity. In current political parlance, a nation is a group of people who share a common set of guiding principles, values, and laws. Thus, America is a nation-state consisting of people who willingly live according to the ideals and laws enumerated in or emanating from the United States Constitution. Although citizens of the United States hail from various national backgrounds, they willingly subordinate their ancestral national identities to the collective nationality of the nation-state. Thus, when a core national identity can be established even from culturally diverse sources, diversity becomes a strength and stability is preserved.
By contrast, states that are truly multinational – comprising disparate peoples unwillingly united and living under different sets of guiding principles, values and laws – tend to be highly dysfunctional. Prime examples are the states created arbitrarily in Africa and the Middle East during the era of European colonial expansion. These states incorporated peoples of various national identities which shared few if any collective goals or beliefs. The result was unremittent strife that has periodically erupted into intense violence ever since. These nations suffer the poverty, educational deficiency, and widespread discontent that invariably accompany such instability, and which could have been avoided by dividing the states according to the national allegiances of their citizens.
Thus, we can see that nationalism is actually good rather than bad. National pride, if allowed to develop distinctly from notions of race, is a healthy human impulse that can be nurtured into a thing of beauty. As Walter Scot once wrote, “Is there any man with soul so dead/ he never to himself has said/ This is my own, my native land?” All people ought to live in the earnest belief that their nation is – if not the best in the world – then at least as good as any other. If not, they should either join a new nation or strive tirelessly to improve their own. Furthermore, all nations should be entitled to their own state. It is not right for one people to impose their beliefs, values and laws on an unwilling other. It was this principle – the fervent belief in the right of statehood for all nations – that spurred the long-overdue transformation of American Indian reservations from virtual prison camps into sovereign tribal lands, compelled the visionary Zionists of the last century to reestablish a Jewish homeland, the displaced Palestinians of this century to demand the restoration of their ancestral territory, the Chechen desire to cleave from Russia, and the Kurdish dream of an independent Kurdistan.
So in future, when you think of nationalism, don’t immediately visualize neo-Nazis. Think instead of patriotism and the natural right of all people to live according to the doctrines of their heritage and cultural inclination. Too long has nationalistic fervor been hijacked by fascism. It is time that we reclaimed it for the deserving majority.
Photo Courtesy of Google Images