Thought Archive

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Nationalism Explained

Some might refer to otherwise quite liberal me as a nationalist, which might have some truth to it, although i view things through a different prism.

While modern concept of nationalism is a European invention (or distortion), the old concept of family, clan, and blood loayalties and resulting sentiment of what one would call "soil nationalism" existed from the time immemorial and will always be with us. To deny your roots, your language and religion is a grave sin in the eyes of a nationalist.

What nationalism is remains a hotly contested subject on which there is little general consensus. The clearest example of opposition to nationalism is cosmopolitanism, with adherents as diverse as liberals, Marxists, and anarchists, who hold all people equal and strive to eliminate cultural and ethnic differences. On the other hand, main universal religions - Islam and Christianity, in particular - also to certain degree restrict modernist nationalism, while unwilling to restrict ethnic one.

Reliance on ethnicity to spread religion is a major boon. Nations that have fused religion into the sense of nationhood are almost unassailable - like Jews, Armenians or Iranians. They will have less internal conflict but will receive double reinforcement from the two powerful ideas: ideas of sanctity of blood and sanctity of Revelation. Nations where religious affiliations divide, generally fare worse - like Yugoslavia or Northern Ireland. So called post-religious Europe is in fact still very culturally Christian anywhere from a small hamlet to a big city (although maybe in denial of it).

In this sense true non-expansive and non-chauvinist nationalism is still a parochial force, for it does not strive for imposition of international values and is content to maintane values specific to a certain tribe or ethnicity. It carries no universal values and therefore does not clash with whatever other values a person can hold dear.

Recent non-western example of confusion between specific ethnic and religious sentiment is Pushtun problem hapless Americans now finding themselves in. The reason it may not be possible to fight Taliban in Pakistan or elsewhere it is because in a sense Taliban are Pathans, who are fighting for and within the bounds of Pushtunwali code and in this sense they are "freedom fighters", however barbaric they may be for Europeans. All should remember that Afghanistan is a gravesite for all of its invaders and occupants, irrespective of their might.

4 comments:

Riri said...

In this sense true non-expansive and non-chauvinist nationalism is still a parochial force, for it does not strive for imposition of international values and is content to maintane values specific to a certain tribe or ethnicity. It carries no universal values and therefore does not clash with whatever other values a person can hold dear.Maybe but I do not share your optimism or rosy view about nationalism. I think it has done a lot of damage through adding a divisive force to incite people to fight and shed blood. I find the idea of a nation quite ridiculous as it manages somehow to combine all instinctive tribal tendencies into one super loyalty bomb. And take Patriotism - nationalism bastard child, do you not find it utterly disgusting how it is used (as a concept) to brainwash generations and generations of citizens? (the case of the USA is noteworthy, although you might argue that they needed some super-glue to bind them as a society together with them being a bunch of immigrants with no common roots).

I suppose that if you unpack nationalism, you will find the old ethno-religious tribalism. I don't see what nationalism has really added (or removed) apart from the nasty institution that is the Nation State.

david santos said...

Really great work! Have a nice week!

Hazar Nesimi said...

I agree with you about concept of nation state which is build upon nationalism, but nationalism is first and foremost is a feeling - a sentiment. It is belonging to the tribe and associated trappings of it, it is bred in with mothers milk. Most of blood in the history of the worlld was shed for some universal ideas - religions in the past, communism and nazism in the last century and liberalism this one. The nationalism of empires is not pure belonging - it turns in desire to dominate snd dictate to the world. Empire is supranational for it is far removed from subjects.

Riri said...

I am not sure what you mean Nazim. Here in Algeria we've been have a deep crisis in our nationalist 'sentiments', the nationalism which was enforced upon us by the November Revolution and well prior to that by the National Liberation Front in order to fire us up for the upcoming revolution. Before, Algerians were living in tribes and villages, small communities. I don't know what being Algerian means, many Algerians mistake themselves for Arabs (meaning Middle-Easterners). I say 'mistake' because I can't understand what on Earth we have to do with the Middle East apart from language and religion. But it might indiciate that Algerians, for lack (or want) of a distinct national identity, have no other option than to fall back on religion. Ethnically and historically, we have much more links with Europe and the Turks.

I don't know whether the failure on nationalism in our case is to blame for our disintegration as a civic society. Because I think there is no Algerian civic society, hard to imagine but there is no other way to describe the anachist state of our society from a purely civic perspective.