Nationalism: A Child’s Philosophy?

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


Measles: find out the latest at:

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”.

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 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 “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”.


Max Weber the eminent sociologist points out that ‘powerful charismatic’ leaders used nationalism to establish their power. 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”.

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’.

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!


Scottish Independence

th[6]It would be very refreshing to have an open debate about the social and economic consequences of Scotland becoming an independent nation. Alas, I fear that pride will raise its ugly th3RCPL0FMhead and logic and reason will leave the room before the debate begins. Nothing is achieved by pride; it twists logic to its own shape.

Pride is a blinding emotion that overrides the attributes of an intelligent mind. It blinkers the thought processes, inhibits thinking and thus reasoning. Unfortunately, pride will stop many people from examining the pros and cons in a systematic and rationale manner.

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us

To see oursels as others see us                 Burns

From what I have read the overwhelming majority of the economic indicators point to the Union as being more beneficial to the Scottish economy. In response the Scottish National Party (SNP) leave too many questions unanswered or partially so.

  • Ken Macleod, president of the UK Chamber of Shipping asks the question about the future of shipping and the funding it will receive. The SNP reply was, “funded by existing arrangements”. That means by the UK tax payer. Not very likely – not very independent!
  • On energy the SNP say that the UK subsidies to the industry should be maintained as a UK wide energy market. Not very likely – not very independent!
  • The most damning and damaging kick in the teeth comes from the SNP insistence on keeping the pound sterling (£). The answer to that has been made abundantly clear. The Treasury at Westminster would insist on holding the purse strings.

In response the SNP claim that it would be more costly to have ‘transaction costs’ across borders. However, Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors while accepting business would not welcome such costs; they would ‘pale in comparison’ with that of an unstable currency.

In addition, Alan Savage head of Orion Group (oil) is quoted in the Huffington Post. He complains that Alex Salmond’s refusal to come up with a currency plan B as a ‘nightmare’ for him to resolve. Therefore we may assume the same will be true for many other businessmen.

Currency unions are fraught with pitfalls. In 1993 money flow from Slovakia (the weaker partner) caused the collapse of the Czech – Slovak currency union in just 33 days. As everyone is now aware the Euro (€) has had € billions spent to save the currency and several countries are still not over the worst of it yet. Meanwhile Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University has warned that many in the ‘Yes’ camp are sceptic about a shared currency. Something needs a good cleaning!

Why would a party adamant about independence insist on maintaining the auld enemy’s currency; unless of course the alternative was not worth contemplating!

A similar problem exists with the question of joining the EU. According to BBC Scotland Politics, four top judges looked at the possibilities and three said that the Scots would have to apply for membership.

P Layden QC of the Scottish Law Commission suggested that because the UN accepted Russia as a successor state that the EU could accept the break- up of the UK similarly. You will have to excuse me but I think that is pride talking or a solid dose of politicking at work.

  • The UN is a completely different body with a completely different outlook on the world.
  • Russia remained as one State. It lost its empire!
  • Russia was and still is a world power and its voice can still be critical in shaping world events.
  • By recognising Russia the UN was accepting that outside of the scope of the UN, Russia could be a highly dangerous rogue state. It’s the old maxim – ‘keep your friends close but your enemies closer’. In terms of world cohesion Russia can play a pivotal role.

The EU in contrast is a very different political empire. When the States of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia broke up the new nations had to apply independently. Why should Scotland be any different?

Nonetheless, the SNP claim they can negotiate a ‘seamless transition’ into the EU 18 months after a ‘Yes’ vote. (op cit) However, Professor Armstrong of Cambridge University describes it otherwise,“legally implausible and incredibly politically risky”. And of course more recently we have Jose Manuel Barroso who more pointedly states that it would be, “extremely difficult if not impossible” for Scotland to join the EU. (Andrew Marr BBC) If we go back about a year the Economist stated, “Scotland joining the Euro without an existing separate currency cannot fulfil entry conditions”. (  That is what some may term a double whammy!

Some arguments have me confused. Mr Lockhead suggests that Scottish farmers could benefit considerably, to the tune of €1bn between 2014 / 2020 as part of the EU. The UK Government point out that the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) budget has already been set. Therefore it does not envisage any member states agreeing to such a settlement.

Moreover, the SNP plan for a ‘seamless’ reintegration suggest a time line of 18 months after independence, that would bring Mr Lockhead’s  farming time line more towards mid 2016 before discussions begin.  It seems they are out of kilter on this one. Who’s right?

The oil debate is a crucial one for many of the separatist camp. But… there’s always a but! Professor John Paterson suggests that decisions on the oil have to be made via international law. The estimates of reserves are also a bone of contention; it all depends on how you read the small print. The most recent report by Sir Ian Wood suggests there could be up to £200bn to be made, with the right investment and if the major companies play ball together. We could see 4bn extra barrels if his plan works. Unfortunately this is a Plan of ‘IFS’ and ‘BUTS’; it relies on too many variables. In the tax year 2012/2013 revenue was £4.7bn but this was down 40% on the previous year. Coping with such volatility when the cost of social welfare is so high could cause a big problem.

There is a need for massive investment either through tax concessions to the big players or direct from the government. Either way you have to pay! A problem for business investment is the currency they deal in; hence Alan Savage’s comment. Research shows that Maritime services generate around £1.2bn for the Scottish economy and support some 75,000 jobs; this includes North Sea oil & gas shipping. After independence will these jobs be open to competition and at what cost to the individual and industry?

Another telling blow to the ‘Yes’ campaign comes from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) who savage the SNP White Paper on the basis that it, “failed to address fundamental issues about state, public sector and personal pension plans”. Furthermore there was, “no clear plan” to deal with EU regulations that require cross-border companies, charities and universities to pump £billions into their pension schemes. The ICAS also point out that there are fewer tax payers for each OAP in Scotland; so the question must be asked as to who picks up that tab.

The economic reality for the whole of the UK is that the South East is dominant. The Labour party only recently announced it was planning to build four (4) new cities around London to cope with the population surge. This coupled with the job prospects tells us that situation will continue for the foreseeable future. Most jobs created in the last two years have been in the South east. Somewhere in the region of one million Scots live and work in the rUK; simply because that’s where the work is, or abroad. I’m afraid that is the economic reality.

There seems a high degree of reliance on the UK in the SNP planning. So why are the SNP embarking on this venture? Is it because they envisage a Scotland awash with riches? An act of nature seized upon as a raison d’etre for separation. But by how much will the ordinary punter benefit? After independence will there still be hundreds of thousands of people on the dole/broo? Will there still be slum housing? Will older people (OAP) still suffer the indignity of deep poverty? Will children suffer likewise and face a poor education system? These questions and many others could fill pages. The question is, can they be answered honestly and with some surety for the future?

Don’t worry about the rich or politicians, they have the ‘me’ gene and will look after themselves. Look around the pub and ask yourself how many punters will be financially better off! When you walk past a school have a look and think to yourself how many weans (children) will be taking the high road and the low road out of Scotland to find a future elsewhere? Who really has the welfare of, jean & jimmy close to their heart and a cup of more than pride to share?thE0VF3GN7

I came across a sentiment that I found very apt. It was a comment on a Scotsman article by someone with the non de plume ‘Ancient Wisdom’:

“What price freedom when you’ve just moved into a different jail”? 14/2/2014

Are Scots really being offered independence by the SNP or is the whole exercise one of manoeuvring for more devolved power? That is why pride must be examined; for leaders down the centuries have used nationalism to secure their armies. Pride is a brilliant and well used manipulative tool that has sent millions to their death. Little wonder that the ancients characterized pride as a deadly sin. Pride in the context of nationalism is a killing word.

Take a moment to consider the words of Richard Aldington (English) after his experiences in World War 1:

“Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on his own dunghill”.

Take a look at Ireland and the IRA, years of killing and massive disruption. What difference did it make to the lives of ordinary people? ……NONE! But the leaders all got good jobs! Say nae mer Jimmy!

Thinking sometimes gives people a headache but better a sore head than a migraine!