Nationalism Is Dangerous And Should Be Eradicated

Ever since I started this blog I have shown a certain contempt of nationalism, and perhaps it’s about time I explain my reasons for it. To me, nationalism is one of the greatest evils in this world, or at the very least a cause for many evils, and it is for that reason that I am often rather critical of countries such as the US, France or North Korea, while I am much more optimistic about countries in the Middle East. After all, it’s true that religion has caused many people to die, but I doubt any kind of ideology has caused as many deaths as nationalism has.

Firstly, we need a simple definition of nationalism. TheFreeDictionary defines it like this: “Devotion to the interests or culture of one’s nation.” Although that already gives a decent image of the concept, I would like to add something: aside from the fact that nationalism can be considered a devotion to something, it has its basis in pride and heritage, or to be more specific, the place and way someone is born. All of these three, devotion, pride and heritage, are rooted in prejudice and ignorance, and for that reason, nationalism too has its roots in these two evils.

Jane Austen didn’t just call her world famous book “Pride and Prejudice” for no reason, as the two are closely linked, while at the same time, devoting yourself to someone or something always leads to ignoring certain faults to keep up the illusion of perfection. Finally, heritage or the location in which someone was born is no different from their race or ethnicity, and therefore differentiating between people based on that is also rooted in prejudice, not to even mention the discrimination it involves.

Nationalism, in that sense, is no different. We are all irrationally proud of our nation merely for one reason, and that is because we were born there. Had I, as a Dutch person, been born just a couple of kilometres further south, I would have been making fun of those greedy Dutch rather than of the dumb Belgians. It is incredibly artificial, destructive and pointless.

Of course, relations between Belgium and the Netherlands are very good and the jokes we make about each other are all in good fun, like two siblings who quarrel occasionally but at the end of the day have nothing but love for each other. However, that isn’t always the case. When relations are not so good, nationalism leads to death and destruction, probably even more often than religion does.

Think of the two World Wars, the two biggest and most destructive wars the world has ever known. The first one was caused by an irrational kind of nationalism both on German and on French-British side (not to even mention the ultimate cause, which centred around an assassination by a Serbian nationalist), and the second World War was caused by the most irrational and destructive nationalism to date: that of Hitler and his fascism.

One might think that the world would learn from all that, but the opposite seems true: extreme nationalism almost turned an irrational Cold War into an outright stupid third World War that could have reduced the entire planet to nothing but nuclear waste, and even now, in the 21st century, North Korea is testing nuclear weapons and the US and Russia are quarrelling in the Middle East, all for the sake of nationalism because all these countries want to be the world’s super power.

But why is any of that needed? Why would a Russian person feel the need to prove that his or her country is the best and most successful country in the world? What separates the American citizen from the North-Korean citizen except for the place where they were born?

Ultimately, nationalism has very little use. It merely creates differences, disrupts cooperation and causes people to die, and the only benefit is a bit more unison within a nation. Now, perhaps that doesn’t mean that nationalism should be avoided all together. Everyone wants to feel like they belong to a certain group, so a world without borders where everyone is the same would probably just be very frustrating.

However, nationalism should have a limit. The moment an entire nation starts making pledges to a piece of cloth with a couple of stars and stripes on it, something is going wrong. The moment people are sent to war to fight for this piece of cloth and an artificial line on a map, something is going wrong, and the moment the US and Russia feel the need to play political games just to keep up their image as a dominant world nation, something is going very, very wrong. If we want to eradicate discrimination, getting rid of nationalism would be a very good first step.

~

Don’t forget to rate/share/like this post, and if you have any thoughts of your own, please do leave them in the comments! And if you’re new here? Feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates, or try having a look at the list of most popular posts!

More on this topic from Dean Richards:

Western Tyranny and the Olympics: Stop Harassing Russia over its Human Rights Record

America is a Third World Country

War Heroes Should Not Be Heroes

Advertisements

About Dean Richards

A young student with a passion for writing. Aspiring author and human rights activist, but I write about anything. "If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree!" New blog post every Monday!
This entry was posted in Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Nationalism Is Dangerous And Should Be Eradicated

  1. Danielle says:

    Great read. A dose of nationalism is good for ailing, third world countries that are facing problems (most of the time caused by imperialism), but yes, it shouldn’t be taken to the extreme – like everything else.

    However, these world wars have not only been caused by nationalism – I believe it extends beyond the country’s culture. There is always money involved in the process.

    Anyway, this opinion is really good.

  2. Thanks!

    And yes, the world wars weren’t caused only by nationalism, but I do think it was the main reason. You could say that WW I was caused by a lust for power or political motives, but in the end, it is nationalism that causes a nation to want power and it is nationalism that convinced the people living in those countries to take up arms (together with an insane amount of false rumours on both sides, by the way).

    WW II does actually have a very important reason that is not intertwined with nationalism, namely the terrible economic situation, but then again, Hitler’s fascism was the worst kind of nationalism there has ever been, so that pretty much negates it all.

    But yeah, nationalism does have positive sides and the world wars also had other causes aside from nationalism.

  3. Henshaw says:

    I don’t think nationalism is the root of the current Middle East issues. At least from the United States perspective. The vast majority of the American people are very opposed to any action in Syria and it seems the United States is only protecting Europe’s interests against Iran.

    You have to understand the United States protected Europe after the war. Russia did invade Poland with Germany and had shown an interest in expanding the USSR even further. Obviously, no nation is perfect. Nationalism is fine as long as it doesn’t end up on the warpath.

    • Well, the thing is, even though a huge amount of people in the US are against military action, Obama still has a lot of pressure because people do expect him to do something. He is supposed to be the leader of the most important nation in the world, from an American point of view, and therefore he is expected to do something by quite a lot of people. It’s good that times are changing and that the population is no longer fully behind military intervention, but we’re still not there yet.

      Also, it’s definitely not true that the US had to protect Europe from the USSR. The USSR did expand, but they did so in a political way. For example, in Albania the communist party won the elections, and then things to quickly. Italy also ran that risk for a short while, and the US did intervene there, but the thing is… the USSR wasn’t doing anything. It was waiting patiently for Italy to elect a Communist government, and when the US avoided that, nothing happened. In fact, I’d say the US was wrong there because they intervened with a country’s political decision.

      In the end, the only reason the US started programmes like the Marshall Aid was for their containment politics, where they tried to keep or make as many countries Capitalist just because they believed that Communism was wrong. It was very much out of self-interest.

      I do want to add, however, that that is not just the US. Almost every nation does basically everything about self-interest, and that definitely includes aid policies.

  4. nickgreyden says:

    Ok, I’m gonna bite at this one. This will be long as being concise is not my forte. So in the words of Jean-Luc Picard, “ENGAGE”.

    Firstly, I’d like to congratulate you on a well thought out piece. It is becoming increasingly rare to find those still in their early adulthood who are engaged and thoughtful and willing to look at ideas sideways in an effort to see if they stand up to reasoning. While I used to attribute this solely to age, a quick look around those who mindlessly sit in front of a TV and the internet giving them a place to vomit forth what passes for thought via social media, I find it is a sickness in our society and not so much age.

    And while I applaud you for your attempts to be engaged, I must remind you of two things while reading what I write further. 1.) I am older than you… much older than I care to admit. And 2.) I forget because I’m old.

    On the brief digression of being old: Age does not denote intelligence but often wisdom. Life itself is a teacher like none other for those willing to learn and I like to think I’m an apt student. I would also like to remind you (though I doubt this needs be said) just because I’m old does not mean that I’m conservative that dislikes change and resigned to the way “the world” works. But, this is a digression so on to my conflicting viewpoint.

    Nationalism is a good thing when taken in the proper context and with the right view point. You argue that, “devoting yourself to someone or something always leads to ignoring certain faults to keep up the illusion of perfection” assuming that devotion to an idea, a thing, or a place denotes a mindless passion devoid of critical thought. Indeed this can very well not be the case. For example, I love my country. I’m devoted to it. As such I want it to be the best it can be. But to do so, I must be an active and engaged member in the process of making us great. That goal is not furthered by turning a blind eye to failing education, lack of universal healthcare, national economic concerns, social injustices, etc. If you are a blind raving fanatic nationalist, then yes, you ignore the faults and dissenting opinions and facts. But if you are a caring, responsible, apt nationalist, then the faults must not only be accepted, but put under a microscope for investigation to overcome.

    You state “heritage or the location in which someone was born is no different from their race or ethnicity, and therefore differentiating between people based on that is also rooted in prejudice, not to even mention the discrimination it involves”, and I have some serious problems with this jump that I’m sure some Olympic pole vaulters couldn’t make. You imply, born in area + pride in your people = racism. WTF? I’ll not get into the evolutionary need for nationalism/community protection because it isn’t what this is about but you should take a look some time. Really good stuff. But I will say this. Location is very important to who we are. We are going to care more about ourselves than a perfect stranger because we are born into our own bodies, not someone elses. It is important for our survival that this happen. Next we care more about our immediate family than we do strangers. They give us support, we support them. Next we care more about our community than we do other communities. Why? Because we live there, and so we want our community to prosper so we do. And the sphere keeps growing… city, county, state, country, world. Here is the thing, the further out you go, the less the individual gets by that next sphere prospering. There comes a point when it is more prosperous (usually just in the short term) to take than it is to create the support structure necessary and then engage in the often long term actions needed to prosper. Also, the bigger the sphere of influence you are involved with on peaceful and amicable terms, the more people have a voice. The more you have, the shorter the patience, and thus… take instead of trade. This “breaking point” usually involves the populations and cultural differences created via distance on national levels which is why those countries powerful enough to have set their own borders rarely if ever have one city attacking another. On this same line, when some other place decides that it needs to take what we have, it is our own support groups that form up and defend us and those we care about. I mean, not to be a jerk, but if you came up and tried to mug me I’d be friends without whoever protected me… especially if I already knew them. So war breeds nationalism, while nationalism only has an option to breed war.

    Why would a Russian person feel the need to prove that his or her country is the best and most successful country in the world? Easy, because he takes pride in where he lives and what he does. But to be part of something great does not mean you participate, condone, or even like the tearing down of others to take a top spot. Indeed it is the contest of having a rival to pit your skills and abilities against that makes contests fun and real contests.

    What separates the American citizen from the North-Korean citizen except for the place where they were born? Other people around them. His friends and family that will support and protect him while others do not. The infrastructure around him built by his nation, his province, his community, and his own hands. And his desire to see his nation rise above others when pitted against each other in contest and conflict which is a human condition that cannot just be shrugged off. On the best of days, we call that the Olympics. On the worst, we call it war.

    Lastly, I would like to introduce you to a word of which you might not be aware: jingoism. Nationalism is healthy. It is a positive feedback loop. You can be a nationalist and still be aware of and work toward defeating faults while also remaining empathetic and sympathetic to other humans on the world. Jingoism is a disease that infects the mind and runs rampant. It is NOT nationalism, but the fanaticism to which you allude. It is the difference between a christian and the KKK, a muslim and Al Qaeda, and an atheist and Christopher Hitchens.

    • Firstly, thanks for the long and insightful post, there are definitely a few interesting points in there!

      Just to comment on the age part: I’m afraid I do have to admit that age leads to wisdom, but as you say, age isn’t the only factor, and I definitely wouldn’t think that anyone who is above a certain age is automatically a conservative. My grandparents are socialists actually (in the Dutch way, which you can best translate to very, very, very liberal from an American point of view, not to communism).

      Then again, there are definitely some biases between the different age groups. It happens very often that I get evil stares from elderly people because some are quick to judge that someone my age does something wrong, while at the same time, I am quick to think that an elderly person will judge me for my age.

      Anyway, nationalism: Of course, devotion isn’t always irrational, and your kind of nationalism is probably very good. However, that is on the individual level. As a social scientist in training, I often look at the whole or at certain groups, and there you see that it is often quite bad, especially in the US. Just look at the Miss America elections this week: there are very few countries where anyone actually cares about such an election, and there are even fewer countries where people would go into a rant because the winner happens to have Indian ancestry.

      These are generalisations, of course, but generalisations are what the the social sciences thrive on. It is, for example, striking how different nationalism is in the UK compared to the US. But yes, on the individual level, nationalism definitely has more benefits, just as long as it is kept in check.

      Secondly, I think “born in area + pride in your people = racism” is oversimplifying my words a little, because I wouldn’t want to use the term racism. Instead, I find it interesting that we oppose something like racism on the grounds that people cannot help how they are born, while at the same time, people are nationalistic to the point of stupidity for the exact same reason: how they are born. But that doesn’t yet make nationalism the same as racism. It’s comparable, but unlike racism, nationalism has positive sides.

      But again, I agree that nationalism has its uses and that getting rid of it all together would not only be impossible, but also a bad idea. As I mentioned in the last few sentences:

      “perhaps that doesn’t mean that nationalism should be avoided all together. Everyone wants to feel like they belong to a certain group, so a world without borders where everyone is the same would probably just be very frustrating.

      However, nationalism should have a limit. The moment an entire nation starts making pledges to a piece of cloth with a couple of stars and stripes on it, something is going wrong. The moment people are sent to war to fight for this piece of cloth and an artificial line on a map, something is going wrong, and the moment the US and Russia feel the need to play political games just to keep up their image as a dominant world nation, something is going very, very wrong.”

      I think it is probably that pledge to the American flag students are expected to do that really makes me become critical of nationalism in the US. After all, the Cold War was terribly stupid, but it ended over 20 years ago and its peak was even longer ago. However, pledging to the flag still happens today, and so does Syria.

      Finally, I had indeed never heard of the term jingoism. English is unfortunately not my native language, so my vocabulary is still rather lacking… It’s an interesting term though, and definitely one I could use in the future, so thank you for that!

      • nickgreyden says:

        To be fair, the pledge is often not even known to many school age children in the US any more, and fewer still have taken the time to understand what the words they are saying actually mean. In bygone years it was said every day in class, but it is a quirk of mine to not force loyalty on someone. The pledge should be voluntary and the pledge itself is pledging allegiance to the flag and the republic of the United States (more so to the republic for which the flags stands for). The flag itself is but a symbol of the nation as a whole, and while it is expected that citizens should be respectful and swell with national pride, I don’t think it should be forced upon anyone… except those who with to immigrate… but that is another story.

        As for the Miss America pageant, I gave up caring about that stuff long long ago, but I assume this is only news because some stupid bigoted freaks made it a story and those few (you recall my contempt for those types who “mindlessly sit in front of a TV and the internet giving them a place to vomit forth what passes for thought via social media”) no matter how loud, obscene, obnoxious, or vile would pass as the average sentiment of the United States people… I hope.

        • No, of course, it should never be forced onto people, but the fact that it is deemed normal will make many people join in. To refuse pledging to the flag would require a very strong opinion against it.

          But just think about it… How many countries actually do things like pledging to their flag? It certainly doesn’t happen in Europe, Africa or the Middle East. It happens in China or North Korea perhaps, or at least countries that the US is not on the most friendly terms with. It’s typical of the country because in most of the world, such patriotism just does not exist. It would be unheard of.

          Anyway, you’re right that the Miss America controversy is caused by a minority that should just be ignored, but still, there are very few countries where such an issue could actually come up. It’s merely one example, but unfortunately, there are many more.

          Of course, it could be that the general ignorance that surrounds the US is caused by something else, but I personally would accredit it greatly to that patriotism (although, please do keep in mind that this ignorance is generalised and definitely doesn’t apply on the individual level. There are always many exceptions).

          • nickgreyden says:

            I think it is a bit presumptuous to assume that the general ignorance in the US is caused in great part by patriotism. I would more likely accredit a vast amount to the 24 hour news cycle, failing education, non-informational mass media, and prosperity with the latter being the greatest focus.

            If one has no reason to concern oneself with matters outside ones own borders coupled with more shiny and attractive things to do/watch and add to that a failure to have a decent education where one could fathom the ramifications or even background effects of any or no action… it is no wonder so many remain willfully ignorant at best, or woefully uninformed but opinionated at worst. For example, I give you Syria.

            In the US there are a whole lot of people who have a wide variety of opinions on what should and/or shouldn’t happen. The sad thing is this is mostly split down political lines… ABSOLUTELY RETARDED! The reality of the situation is multifaceted and it is a very ambiguous case. Those who are the most informed and understand the situation the best are easy to spot. They simply say there is no right answer and it sucks no matter what happens and continue to think through the problem having no real solution. If someone is actively suggesting action or inaction and are fervent in their belief, they are most likely ignorant to what is actually happening/has happened and the possible results.

            • Perhaps, but the thing is… all those issues exist in Europe as well, and although there is a lot of ignorance everywhere, it’s a whole lot less extreme in Europe. I mean… in the Netherlands we have a liberal party as well, except it’s our right wing party, and the reason for that is because Europe it much more forward thinking and much less conservative in their ways and their beliefs. And that flexibility is exactly what the US often lacks causing many people to remain ignorant of the real world.

              Additionally, I very much disagree with the suggestion that there is no right thing to do in the Syria conflict. Of course, it sucks either way and the problems cannot just be solved, but it seems clear that most of the Middle East is of the opinion that the US should just stick to its own problems, and I wouldn’t say they are ignorant to the reality of the war. After all, they are almost part of it.

              So yes, it is irrational to think that the issue can somehow be solved, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a right thing to do.

  5. Polly says:

    I really agree with your points. Nationalism is extreme when it is used to create and justify wars and to engage in some “best country” battle, which has so many issues in itself anyway like what standards to use. Nationalism does have a limited use of nationalism in developing a sense of belonging, and I think a lot of the problems comes from immigrant families and non-Caucasians actually. As an immigrant myself, I feel that there is a perceived need to belong and establish your identity in a new country and particularly a country where you are different on first glance because of your appearance. You feel and look more American if you pledge to the flag and take on American ideals. Whether there is anything which constitutes being “American” or “Australian” etc is another issue entirely. I also think that the issue becomes more prevalent the higher and more diverse (to bring back my immigrant point) the population is. Take China for example. There simply wouldn’t be any sort of unity if there wasn’t something beyond the government as a form of control. It would just be chaos otherwise.

  6. Pingback: The Dutch “Black Pete” And The Importance Of Weak Politicians | Dean Richards

  7. Pingback: Remembrance Day: Lest We Forget What We Never Knew | Dean Richards

Thoughts, criticism, questions or whatever else, they're always welcome! You can leave them down here, and none (as long as they're civil) will be deleted or denied.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s