Nationalism, good or bad?
Debate Rounds (4)
Nationalism is loyalty to realestate. To quote the great comedian George Carlin: "I could never understand ethnic or national pride. Because to me, pride should be reserved for something you achieve or attain on your own, not something that happens by accident of birth. Being Irish isn't a skill, it's a f*cking genetic accident. You wouldn"t say "I"m proud to be 5"11". I"m proud to have a predisposition for colon cancer." So why would you be proud to be Irish, or proud to be Italian, or American or anything?"
It is my belief that nationalism is inherently dangerous. Nationalism is defined by thefreedictionary.com as this: "The belief that
nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals." (1)
In a time where humans had to group together to stay safe, loyalty to ones own society makes sense. However This is not the case anymore.
Below I will demonstrate three arguments for why nationalism is not good for society.
1. It allows the government to control the country on the premise of national pride.
Nationalism has been used for centuries as a propaganda tool to manipulate people into buying into the governments agenda. Examples:
-Nationalism was the root of the Nazi campaign in WWII. Hitler convinced an entire nation of people that they had drawn the short stick after WWI, and that they should be reprimanded by any means necessary. (2)
-The Iraq/Iran wars. President Bush used national pride as a tool for invading a poverty stricken otherwise helpless country. America claimed they did it to look for weapons of mass destruction, to keep the nation safe. Nationalism was used to justify the USA's lust for oil.(3)
-Russia. Putin is championing a combination of economic and political nationalism. He's nationalized his country's gas/oil industry and now uses it like a diplomatic bludgeon to bully neighbors into falling into line. He's ordered the murder of dissidents and neighboring leaders. He's bullied the media almost to the point of taking it over outright and muzzled many of the most widely used news sources. (4)
My point is that nationalism is used as a tool for controlling entire nations of people.
2. It discourages international relations and critical thinking toward ones own government
Nationalism creates xenophobes. It creates the idea that outsiders are not to be trusted. It spurs the reasoning that right or wrong, if it's for your country it is ok. Have you ever heard the saying, "If they aren't from here, I don't trust 'em."? Racism was born out of nationalism. Not to long ago, all races where divided by the countries they lived in. People didn't trust anyone who was of a different race then they were. Out of this mistrust, racism was born. If You need examples of this just skim few a few of the examples I previously posted.
This archaic ideology is carried on to this day. The idea of safety in numbers no longer applies. The only real threat to humans
currently are well, other humans. Loyalty to ones nation no longer has a useful place in society. As President Lincoln once said, "A House divided against itself cannot stand." We can now travel to the other side of the earth and back in less then a day. I argue that the house we live in isn't our country, but rather our world.
Instead of focusing on how to improve ones own country, we should be focused on how to improve humanity as a whole.
Imagine if countries where people. If we put all the people together in one room we have the world. Now what would work better, a group of people who where full of self pride, and distrust towards one and other, or a group of people who took pride in the group they where in? Worldism, if you will.
The core of nationalism is however universal to all nationalist movements. That core is one of shared national values and an identification with a single national identity. These values vary depending on the national identity represented they are usually apolitical in nature for example the values may be respect, human rights and so forth. As with any political ideology, nationalism must be considered in relation to some form of practical context. In an American context, nationalism would be restricted mainly to patriotism (such as the pledge of allegiance) whereas in a European context linguistic nationalism may be more prevalent.
I regard nationalism as being a "minor" political ideology in that it seldom functions independently of other ideologies. What occurred in Nazi Germany was fascism, a derivative of nationalism. In fact scholars have argue that yes, fascism is founded on nationalism . However, the African liberation movements were also founded on nationalist ideology, specifically on the principle of self-determination. If we were to completely remove the nation-state, the fundamentals of national identity then we would be left with a society of imbalance in which those with superior feelings of identity seek to dominate those of inferior positions. Only if all people have the amount of national conscience required to safeguard their independence will they ever be truly free from the oppression of one by another.
People are naturally drawn to political activity and organisation; they are by their very nature political animals . This is often emotional as people affiliate to parties and organisations with which they can relate. People want to aspire to something; they want to be part of something great. That greatness is often associated with a language group or a nationhood and should be encouraged as it develops consciousness, which leads to the enrichment of societies under single value systems. The recently passed Mr Nelson Mandela (a nationalist himself) emphasised the need for people to connect to their own (and one another"s) national and linguistic identities when he said, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart."
The point is that nationalism at its core is supportive of foundational principles, which define nationhood and much of modern culture. People want to be part of something and even the idea of "global citizenship" would mean that one would need to relate to a global nationhood.
1.Cyprian Blamires. World Fascism: A Historical Encyclopaedia, Volume 1.
I would like to take an excerpt out of a wiki page here: "From a psychological perspective, nationalism (national attachment) is distinct from other types of attachment, for example, attachment to a religion or a romantic partner. The desire for interpersonal attachment, or the need to belong, is one of the most fundamental human motivations. Like any attachment, nationalism can become dysfunctional if excessively applied."(1)
My opponent argues that:
1. African liberation movements were founded on nationalist ideology.
2. If we where to remove national identity, then then we would be left with a society of imbalance in which those with superior feelings of identity seek to dominate those of inferior positions.
3. Nationalism helps keep people within that nation feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves
If there's one thing we agree on though, it is that nationalism is a powerful force.
1. You must ask yourself, who is in charge of instilling national pride in a nation of people? It is of course the government. Consequently, the powerful tool of nationalism will be used to satisfy their agenda. In the case of the African liberation movement, this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. The problem with nationalism is that it can be used to manipulate the thoughts of entire countries. History has shown that this kind of power, tends to be a bad thing, (Crusades, WWII, Iraq wars) just to name a few. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
2. " If we where to remove national identity, then then we would be left with a society of imbalance in which those with superior feelings of identity seek to dominate those of inferior positions." This is an irrelevant statement because this already happens. People with superior feelings of identity do tend to dominate people with a weaker self identity. This happens regardless of nationalistic pride.
3. His final point in essence is that nationalism helps keep people within that nation feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves, and that this is beneficial to that society. This is true, however this does not negate the detriments of nationalism either. You must weigh the pro's and con's.
The problem with attaching your identity to a nation, (or anything for that matter) is that people don't respond well when their identity is threatened. Keep in mind that identity is at the core of ones ego. If someone insults your ethnicity, you would naturally feel insulted, because your ethnicity is part of your identity. You would feel the same way if they insulted your height or gender, or your favorite football team, you would be offended, because your identity was threatened.
Similarly, if you identify as an American, and someone tells you that they don't agree with american politics, then naturally you would be offended. You might even feel that you have been personally insulted, because they have insulted something that you identify with. This kind of thinking may be OK on a personal level, but when it's applied to an entire country, things can go wrong. If someone feels that their country is part of their identity, then they must look for reasons to defend every decision that their country makes. This discourages critical thinking, and can be used to trick vast amounts of people into blindly following an agenda. This is why in essence, nationalism is dangerous and inherently a bad thing.
My opponent asserts that nationalism is a pursuit of a national goal rather than a collective global goal. I agree however, I believe that it is important that we reflect on the material conditions that lead to nationalist thinking. Language, geographical position and history all contribute towards what one might call "a desire to pursue national interests".
If we were to shift towards "worldliness" as you earlier stated then we should attempt to find the material conditions that would lead to the creation of such a social system on a large scale. The unifying social and political factors globally are limited primarily to artificial economic and political ties between nations such as the United Nations and globalisation.
Now let us consider the state of democracy since it is relevant concerning the conclusion he made. My opponent stated that, "If someone feels that their country is part of their identity, then they must look for reasons to defend every decision that their country makes." I strongly disagree. Your national identity does not necessarily define your political orientation. Once again the question of intensity arises, I argue that just as socialism, capitalism, liberalism and all other political and economic ideologies may vary in intensity so to can nationalism. Blind patriotism is indeed very dangerous.
In all of the examples, you have listed governments that forced wars or political oppression by means of invoking a nationalist furore. There is a strong common denominator concerning what exists in terms of material conditions. It is a social need, which derives from an economic deficit:
1.Nazi Germany was a product of major economic suffering post-WWI. Hitler offered an economic alternative which was very alluring at the time.
2.The USA"s pursuit of oil and gas resources in the Middle East was fuelled by the need for a product.
3.After the collapse of the Soviet Union, major economic imbalances were created in the Russian Federation, Putin is responding by nationalizing resources and cracking down on dissent. The root cause of this is economic in nature and does not derive from a view of national superiority.
It is easier for people to accept aggressive action towards others if they feel it is of benefit to them and seeing that most people naturally relate to their country of origin they will always feel that what is best for the country is best for them. They will however not hesitate to challenge actions, which they deem unjust however; their definition of justice may be informed by their view of the material conditions of which nationhood is one. Nationalism in terms of my opponent"s definition is not evil in itself but is rather open to exploitation just as liberalism, conservatism and other ideological concepts are exploitable. Your actual argument should be that politics is bad since that is what you are ultimately inferring.
I want to look into the definition my opponent provided for nationalism, "The belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals." what we need to consider when looking at this definition is the nature of the modern nation-state. In many ways, modern politics is wholly populist in that it is oriented around elections and therefore politicians seek support by promising services and benefits to their constituents in return for votes. This is a very pessimistic view I will admit but it speaks to the fact that people are interested in their immediate condition- do I have food? Will I have water? Politicians exploit the individual"s feeling of self-need in order to push forward a political agenda. It is the nature of exploitation in politics, which is dangerous and bad, and not the condition of wanting to have the best for one"s country. Internationalism is an artificial construction, which has no cultural, political or social justification other than the assumption that people have common interests, which is a false assertion to make especially if one considers the wars and political oppression listed by my opponent.
My opponent pointed out that someones national identity doesn't necessarily designate their political orientation. This is true. This is a tendency, not a constant. This was a mistake on my part. I should have clarified that in my last argument.
My opponent has pointed out that other political ideologies, when followed blindly, are also dangerous and open to exploitation. This is certainly true. However I assert that because nationalism involves attaching ones identity to it, it becomes very susceptible to being blindly followed. In the same regard that a man might defend his favorite football team, (regardless of any logical argument), people will defend their home country, even at the cost of critical thinking and logic.
It was pointed out to me, that the examples I listed in my original argument, all stemmed from an economic deficit. They are cases in which nationalism was used aggressively in order to get what the country needed, (or wanted). Economic deficit was the cause, nationalism was the means. War, economic collapse, and civil oppression was the result. The point is that Nationalism was used as a tool by the government, to suppress rational thought, in order to meet a national agenda.
I found my opponents conclusion especially interesting. It offers a very insightful (albeit depressing) view on modern day democracy. It also demonstrates some of the root causes for nationalism. " Politicians exploit the individual"s feeling of self-need in order to push forward a political agenda."
He than claims that internationalism, is a faulty construct because it has no political, social or cultural justification. I would like to refute that. The logical reasoning behind this idea is sound. Teamwork is more efficient than selfishness. If these nations where to work together, as opposed to only looking out for themselves, I'm sure the world would be a better place. For this to work though, either all nations would need to be controlled by some kind of global council, or they would have to learn to trust each other. Unfortunately, we are a long way off from this even being plausible.
My final conclusion: Nationalism is a dangerous tool, and a force to be reckoned with. It has been used to control the minds of millions of people, even against logical reasoning. This is because it appeals to ones identity. It's effectiveness increases dramatically during desperate times. It is important to not allow yourself to be tricked by national pride, into believing that your government always has your best interests in mind.
My opponent has a clear vision for one global future and I respect and admire this. However, I feel as if he is missing one point in all of his deliberations: We live in a world in which supply is limited and demand is unappeasable. People will continue to organise into various structures be they nations or global councils in an attempt to access and distribute resources. I am of the belief that even a "world council" would be susceptible to corruption, greed and political competitiveness. Who decides what needs get priority in a globalised world? Do poor nations get industrial support before or after we deal with climate change and is poverty in Ghana more important than crime in Sao Paulo?
Once we have dealt with the dramatic inequalities that exist in our respective societies then we can start talking about a single world agenda. As long as we have, poverty and wealth in varying extremes this will be an impossible ideal. Nationalism is necessary in order to secure national interests, which currently form the basis of the international scramble for resources. Up until such a point where we live in an equal world all political ideologies will be, open to abuse and therefore, I must conclude that, our challenge is one of resources.
Nationalism is not the root of political evil; it is a human condition, the needs and wants of the people, which form the basis of greed in politics. This greed can either work for the people or it can be exploited by politicians who have their own interests at heart (my opponent mentioned Iraq, WWII and the Russian Federation). It is when politicians seek easy solutions that they engage in wars and oppression. Only cowards resort to violence and slander for they know that they lack intellectual grounds needed to defend their views.
Nationalism is devoid of morality, people attach their own morality to the ideology. Nationalism is but another political ideology aimed at solving the resource question, it is amoral and therefore it can be neither good nor bad.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Kc.Nycolle 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This was a very insightful debate. However pro did argue more towards his point.
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