Nationalism: A Child’s Philosophy?

nationalism_cartoon[1]“Nationalism is an infantile disease…It is the measles of mankind”. Einstein

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationalism

 

Measles: find out the latest at: www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Measles/treatment.aspx

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

www.newlearningonline.com/literacies/chapter-1/gellner-on-the-logic-of-nationalism

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.

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationalism

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

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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

Lead on!

Lead on!

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

Instantly it

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!

 

He’s Here!

 

thCAAXS9NGShush! Don’t make a sound. Don’t stand up! He’ll put you down. Big Brother has arrived. His arrival is much later than envisaged by 1984 author George Orwell, neither did Orwell anticipate that the controlling hand would stem from a democratic rather than a totalitarian regime. Few could have foreseen the rise of the troika, renamed ‘The Institution’.

Poor Greece it doesn’t stand a chance against the might of the EU and its enforcers, the troika, the faceless: the European Commission (E Comm) the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) all unelected. It is their way or the highway.

This is your Europe where democracy does not matter, where decisions will be made for you. The democratically elected government of Greece tried to uphold the principles by which it was elected but has been brow beaten by ‘The Institution’. Greece wanted to opt out of the austerity economic plan followed by the rest of Europe. The new government wanted to reverse the savage cuts imposed on its workers by ‘The Institution’.

As far as the faceless are concerned there is no alternative to their adopted policy. They are wrong, very wrong. I can point them to two Nobel Prize winning economists, a Harvard university economist and a Cambridge university economist who all advocate a positive alternative to the austerity / neoliberal model now in force.

    • J.E. Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality
  • Paul Krugman, End This Depression Now!
  • Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox
  • Ha-Joon Chang, Economics: The User’s Guide

 

Greece did not cause this mess, though the propaganda would have you believe otherwise. What Krugman p177 calls the Big Delusion when he points out that Ireland and Spain both had budget surpluses and low debt prior to the banking crisis of 2008 but ended in the same bog as Greece. So it was not that Greece spent more than it could afford. Krugman p179 goes on to suggest that the political, financial and banking leaders are deeply committed to their version of events. Others may define their logic as ‘groupthink’.

A large part of the blame rests with the introduction of the € euro currency but they will never admit their complicity in creating a mess. At the time of the discussion to adopt the euro many pointed out that while America had a good model, “Europe fell far short of that model”. Krugman p173   Stiglitz p30 is equally scathing in stating that there was no “…political or institutional arrangements to make it work, and they will pay a high price for that failure”. I think we can all agree they are.

Moreover, it’s not just Greece that’s in trouble: Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus and Italy are trapped in the same bog. These nations have opted to wield the axe and cut the life blood of so many families by cutting jobs by the thousand, cutting welfare, lowering wages and refusing to increase the minimum wage and allowing privatisation which entails job cuts.

Ha-Joon Chang p105 therefore concludes, “With the austerity budget, the prospect for economic recovery in many of these countries is dim”. That they might even face a ‘lost decade’ as Japan suffered in the1990s and Latin America 1980s. The point is supported by Krugman p186, “…deficit countries have been required to impose…draconian…spending cuts and tax hikes—programs that push them into deeper slumps…” Krugman p42 suggests that the ‘Institution’ should look at the work of past economists e.g. John Maynard Keynes, Irving Fisher and Hyman Minsky to find an alternative to the neoliberal austerity package.

Why Austerity?

The IMF, the World Bank and the Federal Bank of the USA are commonly referred to as the Washington Consensus as these are the guys pushing the neoliberal model, free trade and globalization. Rodrik p171 opines that it is a “damaged brand” and has abundant evidence to support his statement.

The role of the IMF is quite confusing:

  • In the years 1978 – 2009 the IMF found 173 cases of fiscal austerity in advanced countries, “And what they found was that austerity policies were followed by economic contraction and higher unemployment”. Krugman p237
  • In February 2010 the IMF document Rethinking Macroeconomic Policy, suggested that central banks such as the ECB in Europe “might be better to aim for 4% inflation rather than the 2% or less that has become the norm for ‘sound’ policy”. A policy of ‘groupthink’. P161
  • In 2011 a study by the IMF found that inequality in income affects the economy on the demand side and suggests that ‘reduced inequality’, the reverse of austerity, can lead to sustained growth. Stiglitz p114

The conclusion drawn by Stiglitz p288 is that, “The worst myths are that austerity will bring recovery and that more government spending will not”. Support comes from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “…income inequality has a sizeable and statistically negative impact on growth”. Guardian 14/12/09

Nonetheless we find the IMF as part of the ‘Institution’ that is promoting austerity in Europe. Who are the faceless that they can disrupt the lives of millions and simply walk thILH29564away with their own pockets filled? Stiglitz p290 condemns them as akin to blood letters of the Middle Ages who cut to release bad blood and when the patient didn’t recover argue that more of the same was needed. They are fixed in their opinion. Groupthink!

 

“Groupthink is one of the most dangerous traps in our decision-making. It’s particularly likely because it taps into our deep social identification mechanisms – everyone likes to feel part of a group – and our avoidance of social challenges. But consensus without conflict almost always means that other viewpoints are being ignored, and the consequences of groupthink can be disastrous”. (p137)

Dr Nicky Hayes, Understand Psychology

A telling point by the author comes with the observation, perhaps tongue in cheek,     “…our understanding of what it is and how it happens doesn’t seem to stop politicians and others from doing it”.

The Greek people were not alone in rejecting austerity the Netherlands and France voted out pro-austerity parties in 2012. A year later the Italians did the same. Chang (p106) It will be interesting as other elections come up how the people will respond but will it make a difference. The ‘Institution’ has set its parameters and seems unlikely to budge. Can people power move them? Or are we powerless against the ‘bureaucratic order’. He’s Here. Are we witnessing the start of the overt rule by the faceless? Democracy, write it in your diaries for your grandchildren to read.

Do some good—————–join Robin Hood.