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Was Einstein’s view blurred by the atrocities of the Nazis on the Jews and others? He lived in a period of great barbarity that utilized nationalism to forward its cause. Hitler’s ally Mussolini did likewise. Several leaders past and present have played a similar game. Is it just a tool used by leaders to mobilize their people to march, not knowing to where or what?
Some will say it’s the love of their country. But they don’t love a country and, there are people in the country they don’t know and others they don’t like. The neighbour for one! It’s pride but where does the pride emanate from? Is it natural or instilled? The answer is obviously instilled and that means we have been manipulated into a belief that we may not have otherwise endorsed.
“Contrary to popular and even scholarly belief, nationalism does not have any deep roots in the human psyche”. Ernest Gellner
Nationalism for many writers was akin to the slogan ‘workers of the world unite’, long before Marx coined the phrase. It was driven by the desire to free the masses from their servitude. The breaking down of feudalism and the growing knowledge that there was life beyond the village prompted the growth of nationalism.
There seems to be a consensus, a ‘modernist’ view that the emphasis was based on the rights of the individual and, “the human community as above all national divisions”. www.britannica.com/topic/nationalism
Exemplified by the French nationalism as expressed through, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, that such expression was a proclamation for all people not one distinct group. Hence Britannica.com can state, “Nationalism is a modern movement”.
Change was the spring as society moved from the ‘mechanical solidarity’ to the ‘organic solidarity’ as Emile Durkheim has expressed it. It was a move away from a feudal society to a capitalist system of production. In its early gabardine it looked to the wider community and not an ethnic one.
Philosopher, A.C. Grayling describes nations as ‘artificial constructs’, “their boundaries drawn in the blood of past wars”. Note the powerful point made in britannica.com “The nation state was non-existent during the greater part of history”.
Furthermore Grayling reminds us that, “…there is no country on earth which is not home to more than one different but usually coexisting culture”.
It is obvious that Grayling has no love of nationalism as he says it’s ‘inherently divisive’, ‘potentially oppressive’, and allows manipulation and thus control of the masses.
This view gains support elsewhere, “…but the very nature of nationalism requires that boundaries are drawn”. www.legacy.fordham.edu
Max Weber the eminent sociologist points out that ‘powerful charismatic’ leaders used nationalism to establish their power. Wikipedia.org. This movement of nationalism has brought us an understanding of the term that we all recognise from 20century history books and the kind that Grayling wants to berate.
Another great writer and thinker, George Orwell lambasts
the whole concept of nationalism. He states that those involved are “…power-hungry tempered by self-deception”. Wikipedia.org
His vociferous attack suggests that nationalism is akin to classifying people like insects. That it becomes an obsession that folks will defend even if proven wrong. Blind adherence?
Similar to the other great writers he denounces it as a ‘desire for power’. Moreover, Orwell retains some bile for Celtic nationalism which he portrays as having a ‘strong tinge of racialism’. www.orwell.ru
The problem with nationalism in our everyday understanding of its meaning is the mix of jingoism and propaganda. In the build up to war we are fed a daily diet of jingoism and propaganda as the media become xenophobic.
However, true nationalism can be found side-by-side with propaganda. In the work of the poet Rupert Brooke:
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.
Contrast that with the later work of Hugh MacDiarmid:
Auld Moses took
A dry stick and
Floo’ered in his hand. (Flowered)
Pu’ Scotland up,
And wha can say
It winna bud
And blossom tae.
From: A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle. (Is there a clue in the title?)
These works give credibility to nationalism as they come from seemingly intellectual sources. Therefore nationalism does not differentiate on the bases of mental ability. It’s political!
The world cannot grow until men learn how to!