Wednesday, May 4, 2011


mythbuster profile image 
Nationalism Kills

Nationalism - Technically, according to the masses and so-called "experts."

Nationalism is a term that alleged experts have trouble defining but which most people can agree pertains to:
  • Devotion to one's nation
  • Devotion to the interests of one's nation
  • Devotion to the culture of one's nation
  • Holding a strong belief that nations will benefit and progress in a positive way via independence from other nations rather than collectively and with emphasis on national rather than collective international goals
  • Aspirations to gain national independence in a region/country that is under foreign domination

Nationalism - The Reality

It doesn't matter WHAT definition Nationalism is given, its effects are questionable because agreement to view self and closest neighbors as one unit while determining far away neighbors to be "the others" is ALWAYS A DANGEROUS WAY to think about other human beings.
While Nationalism can generate strong bonds and feelings of unity and togetherness, shared purpose in the target group of nearby neighbors, it necessarily separates them from farther away persons... now if something happens to affect the relationship between the mutually far away neighbors (different nations/nationalities), then it takes almost no effort - and even less thought - to place differing national groups against each other.
People get wrapped up in nationality as an integral part of their identity (a HUGE mistake) so that when a nation is insulted, the individuals each feel the insult as a personal attack to their identity and personal self...
I'm Canadian.
I fight feelings of nationality all the time (I was indoctrinated for over 30 years) - now that I've become aware of how complex nationalism is - and how dangerous it is to buy into, especially without critical thinking applied to its effects.
I'm proud to be me and I live in Canada. I'm proud of a few Canadian persona accomplishments and I do say "eh" all the time... I don't know when that started...probably when I was a kid, eh? But I am not what is meant by "the ideal Canadian" by any means.
I think the Canadian flag looks "kinda cool, eh?" but I do not wave it patriotically or as an inherent and active nationalist. I am more inclined to use the Canadian flag I have in ways that are probably not legal in my country (but are extremely practical) lol so I'll dummy up on that now, eh? I kinda don't wanna lose my practical household fabrics anytime soon.
You'll note that I'm not using very technical or academic language here. Partly this is because I've sifted through the academia on "nationalism" and much of it is displayed in complicated Political Science books and documents...but when one steps back or aside from these things, it is sort of like seeing the whole elephant in the room - instead of being so close to the animal that you can only feel, see, and describe the kneecap... The Poli-Sci stuff - when seen from a few paces back - especially where it praises nationalism as a people-bonding "good," - looks rather like the manual for a strategic chess game...and politicians are the bishops, rooks, knights, kings and queens...the nationalist public crowd are the pawns.
The realities involved with nationalism are:
  • creates bonds (which can be manipulated for good or bad effect)
  • creates stereotypes
  • creates "the other" which is anyone NOT within the national bond group
  • becomes attached to each individual identity - acts like a cell of the original within the whole
  • can exist without critical thinking about it - and this sort of nationalism is most prevalent but also most dangerous
  • is really "prejudice" for likeness and PREJUDICE against "the other" or differences
  • can be used to create and start, maintain and promote - wars, violence, hate crimes, hate in general - of any group outside of the nation/nationality group in question
  • can be teamed together in allied groups (WWI, WWII, etc) for astounding damage to humanity and earth in general
  • is so complex that only critical thinking can get to the bottom of the cons of nationalism
  • is so complex that lack of critical thinking actually promotes/allows for nationalism (it's an EASY concept on the surface ie: "you belong" "this is your country" but is infinitely complex underneath).
Do you love your country?
Are you a nationalist - are you patriotic?

If you're Patriotic, If you're a Nationalist

Here are some things you might believe or some ways you might think about life in general if you are patriotic/if you're a nationalist:
  • My country is the best country in the world
  • My country is better than other countries
  • My country and its people are best in the world and better than in other countries
  • I have a duty to my country
  • I have a duty to my country, its people, its interests
  • I have a duty to go fight for my country if I am asked to do so by authorities
  • If I am asked to fight to defend my country I agree to kill other human beings in this dedication to my country, its people and interests
Not all, but many nationalists or patriots have these thoughts. Certainly very patriotic people who talk often of patriotism have the thoughts and beliefs above.
Now if you dissect the statements above... they're all unhealthy statements lined with prejudice or lack of rational content. Most of the duties are not duties at all - they're "responses" to authority! No critical thinking is necessary to say "If I am called, I will go to fight for my country." This is then called "patriotic" and a person who will do this is a nationalist who will go or act against common human rationality and actually kill another person just because that person isn't on his or her same nationalist "team."
How humane, or how rational is this?
If you're interested: The Nationalism Project: What is Nationalism? (information about Nationalism, links to essays, journal articles.

No Difference From Other Illogical Positions of Prejudice

Religion has been used in the same way that Nationalism has been used - since forever - and currently. To influence people, to control people, to start wars, to manipulate economy. Religion and Nationalism aren't very different at all, except for their respective titles and spelling of such...
Because intense dedication to religion and religious peers is NOT DIFFERENT THAN NATIONALISM. Religion is just about a different topic... sometimes and only in a very literal sense. In a figurative sense, there's no difference. As well, structure of heirarchy in religion is markedly similar to structure of heirarchy of governments.
People can get the same results from people not thinking critically in a religious group as from people not thinking critically in a country.
I'm not sure WHY people use the term "religious war" and think that drastically different things are happening with religious wars than in regular warfare or conflicts. People are "indoctrinated" into nationalist and patriotic beliefs just the same as they're indoctrinated into religious belief systems...
The bottom line:
In both religion and nationalism we mostly find illogical positions of prejudice. Religious groups and national groups usually view themselves each as THE BEST, and their members as superior to other groups and each will battle for supremecy (this is a POWER struggle, not a struggle for "rights" - not if it is against another self-identifying group... power struggle against AUTHORITY is the only thing acceptable to call a "fight for rights."), as apparent from all our history books as far back as we can trace.
Any group - nationalist, religious, or any other - which can be influenced to believe its members are superior to any other group just based on membership or geographical region - is DANGEROUS and has been led far, far away from critical thinking.
THE ULTIMATE BOTTOM LINE:NATIONALISM AT ITS CORE IS "SEPARATION" and prejudice. It breeds discomfort with differences and is a seed from which hate can grow. Hate will grow BEST where the most intense feelings of love also grow... Nationalism creates a dissonance in the human mind where emotions reside... it is very easy to tip the balance and allow hate, fear and negative things to grow - with the same intensity as love we might be aware of. In order to feel two things very strongly at the same time we have to separate them in our psyches.
Concepts of "community" can accompllish the same things that we expect nationalism and patriotism to accomplish (if we're trying to view nationalism and patriotism in positive ways) - WITHOUT the damage of "othering" far away neighbors, the differences in others, etc.
Think about the ultimate bottom line, will you, please?

Bring on the Critical Thinking

There's obviously no way to get away from nationalist groups forming but with a great deal of critical thinking, we can transform unhealthy and dangerous nationalist groups and behaviors. Frankly, there is need for "grouping" because we have billions of people on this earth and we do need some governance and order...
The only way to have groups is for large numbers of people to reach toward critical thinking and transform and transcend physical boundaries. People in one geographical location are NOT superior to others in another geographical location in their entirety.
Mostly, I think that high percentages of peoples from each country around the world quite unanimously wish for the world to be a peaceful place. It is mainly when governments via media, laws, etc., influence people that individuals learn to hate other nations/peoples. Most people, if they are away from their TV sets, radios, etc., and if you ask them to discuss "what would a peaceful world look like to you?" they have many of the same ideas despite geographical location...
Almost everyone from every country appreciates family units, friends, nature, enjoying good physical health...
So why do so many of us INSIST that our national group is SO DIFFERENT than other groups and also insist that our national group is superior to others?
Believe me, (and if you don't believe me, get out some textbooks, go ask some people - foreigners included - and find out for yourself) human beings around the world hold more fundamental similarities than differences. So many of the same needs for food, clothing, shelter, safety, friends, family, good health, etc., why would ANYONE WANT TO impose upon all this sameness with Nationalist beliefs?
Nationalism is one of the most dangerous social constructions ever to affect humankind. The term wasn't common until the last hundred years or so but the "othering of perceived enemies" has been with us for a long, long could describe most or all of the past ancient peoples' wars as nationalist groups pitted against others...the need to be bonded with neighbors has always been with us - we're social creatures... Positive and amicable bonds like this have a different name - "community" but politicians, particularly in our present day, influence us to believe that community and nationalism mean the same thing...and that if we are acting for our country or national group, we are serving community...
Sorry but nationalism does NOT serve community - it destroys community - and also, in a very sneaky, NON NEGOTIABLE WAY - it ends up DESTROYING BONDS...because nationalism often KILLS people - in the form of "patriotism" and "fighting for your country."
In the social construction of nationalism what has happened is negative influence by authorities for ages...this nationalism makes people believe that they are DOING RIGHT by killing people outside their own nationalist group.
Let's stop getting "community" mixed up with "nationalism" and things supposedly good for our countries. The only people benefitting from nationalism are people so far at the top of the political manipulation games that they're not close to our human communities, anyway.
If you're interested in reading, I recommend a book by Benedict Anderson called "Imagined Communities." All about the origin and spread of Nationalism. On google books, the entire text can be read, save for the bibliography portion of the book. (I have this book in my personal library - if there's a particular reference you really need I can look it up for you).
* Note - not a book easily skimmed through - rather - you shouldn't skim through this material.

Responses to Jason R. Manning

Because there are a number of distractions and side-arguments going on in the comments from Mr. Jason R. Manning, I've choosen to respond in a module set aside for this purpose.
In my opinion, Mr. Manning uses a number of arguments which begin from questionable premises and/or lead to fallacy, including arguments in the style of ad hominem, appeal to emotion, Ad Hominem Tu Quoque, appeal to tradition, argumentum ad consequentiam (appeal to consequences of belief), begging the question and many more. In fact, most of Mr. Manning's arguments are bad argument style, full of passion but little logic or based on improper evidence... perhaps the greatest evidence source is Mr. Manning's passion - however - articulate, impassioned words still require reason (not "a reason" but "reason/critical thinking") to be valid. Some example of bad arguments and fallacies: Bad Argument Tactics: Ad Hominem and More
Before I start rebuttals of sorts, I'd also like you to view Mr. Manning's hub, Ungrateful Whine: antinationalist poison just so you can get a well rounded sense of Mr. Manning's viewpoints on Nationalism. I've supplied the link to Mr. Manning's hub as I'm pretty sure he wrote it in response to arguments that first started on this "Dangers of Nationalism" hub and I'm also pretty sure that I am the Ungrateful Whine-r Manning intends to insult (ad hominem - nice) by the writing and publishing of his "Ungrateful Whine [...]" article.
Dangers of Nationalism - arguments and comments Mr. Manning has placed before me:
1. Mr. Manning: "I am curious; you do realize that you have been given a gift to dispute Nationalism? Do you think that you would be given the right to say what you are saying in China? Or better yet, North Korea? (in the 1st comment block Mr. Manning placed on my hub).
(Firstly, I have to ask... which issue are we discussing, Mr. Manning? The issue of Nationalism (and MY apparent lack of respect for nationalist benefits, etc?) or the human rights or lack of human rights in China - and in North Korea?) response to the "gift" question... I answered appropriately in comments, however, I will extend my point of view right here:
  • the issue of "right to speak" is no gift according to the laws and human rights documents in my country. Furthermore, I observe the rights that other people have and regularly respect when they make use of their right for free speech - without belittling or launching ad hominem or other disrespectful attacks on the speaker.
  • the "gift" Mr. Manning speaks of is no gift to me but rather, the "freedom of speech" concept I grew up with demands that I be RESPONSIBLE in my statements, (if I am allowed to speak, I must speak carefully and considerately and from critical thinking to avoid unnecessary harm to others...I must not use my freedom of speech to oppress another, harm another or do intentional damage to another person, group or people) for freedom of anything never comes without accountability and responsibility surrounding the thing being allowed as a "right." I have been exercising my freedom of speech and my responsibilties to share knowledge about what I have learned about Nationalism via concerted efforts and study beforehand.
  • My viewpoints on Nationalism are not simply my deeply held emotional responses to ideas about Nationalism - in fact - in learning about nationalism I had to OVERCOME the indoctrinations, common ideologies of my region and times in order to understand HOW DANGEROUS NATIONALISM IS...I did not choose to speak out against nationalism until I understood its dangers very well.
The question about China... no, I probably wouldn't have the right to speak freely in China while holding the positions and viewpoints I do - and I am very grateful not to be expressing myself in China or from under Chinese forms of Nationalist oppression and control.
The question about North Korea... I must give a similar answer as, I'd likely not be speaking freely without inviting danger to my person if I were voicing my opinions about the dangers of nationalism in North Korea. Again, I am grateful not to be in danger of being silenced in any way by powers of Nationalist oppression and control from North Korea.
To sum up my thoughts on these three topics... It's still not a "gift" to be able to speak freely in North America. The right to be respected and the responsibilities to respect others happens to be something more complex than a bunch of founding fathers of ANY country - and early military personnel from a recent but earlier generation - making this "right" available to me.
Manning: "[...] it was Nationalist’s and Patriots that fought for our right to turn around and tear down the men and women who elevated our countries."
My response: (it should be "Nationalists" not "Nationalist's")
I feel that I use the right of freedom of speech responsibly. I do not make HEROES of past military personnel who fought for any portion of North America to gain its freedoms and the rights of its people. I am truly grounded in how our "rights" and "freedoms" documents and laws were brought about and am grateful without buying into the myths about war, founding fathers, etc., that are taught in North American schools as indoctrination into Nationalism and Patriotism. I am also highly aware of the social constructions of family, religion, dominant ideology in society and do not promote those constructions which are harmful to society or seem to be primarily used to the detriment of society - such as patriotism and nationalism.
  • I also do not share in Mr. Manning's opinion of our "elevated" countries. I do not believe that Canadians or Americans are inherently better or more elevated than people in other countries. That is, in the "worth" aspect, Canadians and Americans are not worth more than Sudanese people, the people of East Timor, people in Malaysia, North or South Koreans, Greeks, Brits, etc. Some of us behave more poorly, according to the social constructions we're trapped in or are sometimes completely unaware of, but we are all worthy of life, respect, freedom from oppression, social interactions, etc., from country to country.
  • The borders of countries are SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONS... nobody "owns" any particular area or region but leaders CONTROL and use tactics of oppression to define, guard and extend borders. We allow, by manufactured consent and by ignorance of the rights of others and even misunderstandings about the rights we have individually, our world leaders to outline, control and manipulate our borders and the people within and without.
2. Mr. Manning: "I just wonder for the sake of this conversation if you find it respectful to disrespect the sacrifice’s of the many?"
My Response: (it is "sacrifices" not "sacrifice's")
I have intended no disrespect regarding sacrifices past generations have made, Mr. Manning. In the interest of ad hominem your question/point seems intended to make me appear like I am unpatriotic and non-nationalist (actually true, I am not patriotic, I am not a nationalist), and therefore steer me into an area, for future readers, where I am in a bad light. I think, by my past articles and certainly my language on this hub, readers will be able to ascertain that I mean no disrespect here. I only intend to avoid presenting an illusion that I would gladly make heroes of past military personnel and glorify anything of the events and consequences of past wars. Regardless of the benefits that some wars have brought to countries like Canada and the U.S.A., I never intend to highlight the benefits without also drawing attention to the cons. In fact, so many people are aware of the perceived benefits of past wars that I don't even have to focus on the pros... I can safely keep discussing the downfalls of past wars without anyone ever forgetting to mention something they view as a positive (and, usually erroneously positive) aspect of wars. The price paid for certain sorts of liberation has been too high and too few have learned any proper lessons from wars in our past, Mr. Manning. I would be an irresponsible Canadian, North American, and Global citizen if I were to take on your viewpoint just because you pressure me with ad hominem and other fallacy arguments.
Manning: mention of Winston Churchill, Queen Victoria and Seward... "It was Winston Churchill who rallied the Briton’s to stop Hitler. Queen Victoria was instrumental in using her diplomatic skills to secure Canada’s future, not to mention many other devout Briton’s. Seward helped divert attention from American’s salivating over Canadian property when he helped purchase Alaska."
My response: (it is "Britons" not "Briton's" and "Americans" not "American's")
What do Sir Churchill, Her Highness Queen Victoria and Seward have to do with "Dangers of Nationalism?" Besides the fact that your assessment of these peoples' involvement in our recent past is a "pop culture" version and you have picked a few items of action from these people and disregarded their OTHER ROLES in the creating and funding of global warfare in our recent past... these people have all been considered powerful Nationalists who have all caused detrimental events upon people of numerous nations, Mr. Manning. To continue to address a line of argument or discussion involving these individuals will be complete distraction from the Nationalist topic at hand while your attempts to use very shaky points on these people to support your ad hominem attack on me is just non-sense. Your use of Churchill, Victoria and Seward are about your attack on my character and my "ungratefulness" toward those you see as heroic in some way... not about Nationalism.
Mr. Manning: "There are times in our lives when it is just that simple, us against them."
My Response: the statement is a statement of oppression, using "us" and "them," implying that one group of people has more inherent worth than the group being compared ie: US is better than THEM... One cannot use this statement universally and switch who US and THEM are, so I reject this statement as being a voice of oppression, a voice of intended intimidation and intended to display a "superiority" over the "them" group. Also - nothing involving human beings, their well being, aspects of power, control, ownership/use of regions of the globe, etc., should ever be considered "just that simple." Nothing is ever this simple. Determining complex situations to be "simple" will always result in band-aid "simple" solutions or actions which will always fall short...
Mr. Manning, are you and your "us" (in this case, your Americans) group more worthy than any 'them' you can compare against? Are you aware that "us" and "them" are illusions of social construction? Are you aware that, across the world from you, they are "US" and you are "THEM?" This still isn't right - but nationalism and "othering" those that people don't understand or feel immediate kinship toward happens from all areas of the globe. The "us," "them," "they" and "other" are conveniently built into our English language and I believe it is a good idea to only use these words to denote a group I am talking about when I cannot quickly or conveniently put a name to a group I am speaking of - without the connotations of power and control these terms also carry. I used "they" above, for example, but only to refer to a non-specific group of people somewhere - not to convey that "they" have less worth or power or that "they" includes a threat to another group.
Mr. Manning: "Do you believe that Muslims will leave Jew’s alone if they just quietly give up their tiny little state and walk away?"
My Response: (it's "Jews" not "Jew's")
I believe that, as an American, you are being very high-brow and overly forward to suggest anything one way or another about Muslims and Jews. How is this question directly related to my hub on Dangers of Nationalism? You mention two groups of people shown to be as dangerous as any other who hold erroneous beliefs about power, oppression, other groups as well as notions about their own superiority over other individuals and groups. You are not excluded from being dangerous or holding dangerous and erroneous beliefs by being the one to point fingers, either, Mr. Manning.
(BTW the argument here/information on Muslims and Jews is a fallacy argument: false dilemma tactic, also a distraction tactic - away from the real issues. My arguing this point either unsuccessfully or successfully doesn't add or take away from my points in "Dangers of Nationalism" ie: winning or losing this side-argument won't change the validity of my points about dangers of nationalism or your weak/invalid, fallacy arguments on the same subject. Arguing about Muslims and Jews might be interesting but won't prove any point suggesting that nationalism or patriotism are good, if that's what Mr. Manning is hoping for or if that is his intended position).
Is a Muslim or Jew living in your neighborhood in need of different things than you are, Mr. Manning? Food, clothing, shelter, social interaction and relationships, peaceful communities and community interaction? I believe that most Muslims want peace - wherever in the world the Muslims live and that Jews, likewise, would like to live with ample food, clothing, shelter, social and community interaction and relationships and that Jews, like any other group of people, would like to have interactions with any neighboring groups or individuals.
Actually, instead of talking in strictly "nationalities," you are now including "race" and "religion" into your argument style, leading me to believe that you might be issuing racist slurs and fanatical statements - also based on emotion and lack of critical thinking. Since racism, religious fanaticism and nationalism all rely on tools of oppression, "othering" and power, they're all extremely close to the same thing, so perhaps we're going to cover a lot of ground basically on the topic of OPPRESSION here some day.
To Sum up: Mr. Manning it may be no business of yours whatsoever to say or imply what Muslims or Jews do or how they interact together - certainly it is little of your business to assume how Muslims and Jews feel in their own peer groups and toward other groups - particularly when you are assuming yourself (or speaking from a position which tends to lead) to be superior in knowledge about Muslims and Jews or what is right or wrong in their interactions with each other.
I am certainly not qualified to answer the question, "Do you believe that Muslims will leave Jew’s alone if they just quietly give up their tiny little state and walk away?" How would I know - how would ANYONE know if Muslims will leave Jews alone of if struggles to own and control a "tiny little state" will continue or not? Is it YOUR state, Mr. Manning? Do you have a real interest in that tiny little state - or just an interest in pointing your finger at 2 groups of "them-others"?
Mr. Manning: "I make no bones, I feel compelled to show respect to those who died so I can have a better life. I certainly am not going to spit on their graves and call them backward for being Patriotic. But hey, I am just one man talking here. Good Day."
My Response: I'm pretty sure we're both above spitting on graves, Mr. Manning. A good day to you, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment