Do Away with Nations?

(A clarifying defense of an abused term.)

By raising such a question, the reader suspects that an abstract discourse follows about remote matters. It might be telling about a folly that something like “Nations, Yes and No” is not a distant theme any more. For liberal-globalist, the nation, due to the loyalty it commands, is a subject for spiced polemics. The charges against nations and nationalism, are serious. Increasingly, the once insider theme is becoming a public one.

“Nationalism” as a cursed target has reached the center stage of global politics. A sign of that is Mr. Macron’s openness at the celebrations to commemorate the end of the First World War. Unsubtly lecturing Mr. Trump, he observed that “Nationalism is rising, it advocates the closing of borders.” Today’s political battles “resemble” the 1930s, Nazism and the War. The First World War, “teaches us the absurdity of bellicose nationalism.” No admonition targeted Putin or educated Turkey’s Erdogan about the errors of locking up the opposition.

Let us backtrack to determine how “good” or “bad” nationalism might be. One of the evolutionary advantages of the human species is the ability to form cooperating communities. The glue holding these formations together is a perceived common interest and compatible ways to live. Nations appeared once a common language and a territory were added. Their smooth operation depended on the commitment of its members. With the awareness that united the population, we got nationalism. This ended a process that started with individualism, proceeded to the family, grew into tribalism, and ended in loyalty to a nation.

This loyalty grew out of a commitment to a group whose values and way of life expressed the traits and goals of its members. Man’s achievements unfolded due to membership in a society that has created a state to secure the common welfare. Conflicts between individuals and among states correspond to human nature. Avoiding them without abandoning essential interests is a sign of statecraft, while ignoring the caveat is treason, confusion, or cowardice.

The ultimate form of our conflict-oriented nature is war between states and their nations. While a sign of the breakdown of reason, war can be “just” or “unjust”. Nationalism, once it degenerated into chauvinism, fought unjust wars to deprive others of their land and liberty. Similarly, defensive wars to protect the homeland and the identity of its people, have also invoked nationalism. By these standards, nationalism is neither good nor bad but natural. That is a reason why our own nationalism, -as Macron’s France claims- is “good”, while featuring a different brand, -Trump’s-, is “bad”.
It is a mistake to deny that nationalism, once it mutates into chauvinism, derails by moral standards. This feature it shares with all other “isms”; the violent record of religions and modern secular faiths are the proof. At the same time, nationalism is only a commitment to a community, in which its members feel at home. That sentiment of belonging is one of inclusion and of sharing. In this function, it expresses the members’ individuality raised to a higher level. In the case of successful societies, the perceived distance between the government and the people is a short one. It is nationalism that serves as the bridge between these poles.

Feeling as a committed “member” has multiple reasons. Formal citizenship is not part of it. Commitment to an idea for which the community stands is a must. We also associate nationality with the use of a language. However, while the command of the nation’s tongue is a requirement of “fitting in”, in private patriots might use “another” language. Like language, religion or ethnic heritage are also customary bonds. Even if the list can be lengthened, no criteria will apply in all cases. That leaves us with the earlier assertion that national identity is the upshot of a feeling that leads those that share it to commit to a society and its order.

Contrary to its foes’ claim, nationalism and democracy are not contradictions. Consciously felt national identity increases the perceived interest in the “system”. That creates the feeling that the country and its government express the citizen’s will. This does not exclude the emergence of parties; however, it does augment the ability to cooperate and it supports the notion that the system serves the individual’s interests. This happens to be a foundation of a functioning democracy. As the individual identifies with the country’s order, following its rules is voluntary and not due to an obedience extorted by threats.

In our time, nationalism surges. Traditional and newly created entities avow to be nationalistic. In the Americas this is the case in the US and Brazil. Examples in central and eastern Europe abound. In Russia, the sentiment is provoked by the shrinkage of her significance and is expressed by expansionism.

Even if not protected against derailments, nationalism is gaining ground and it deserves to be defended. This happens in part as a reaction to the pressures exerted by globalist-internationalism’s advocates. Their ideal goal is to unite mankind in supranational entities. They are not to bear a relationship to nations, value-systems, traditions, and the level of development. Indeed, such a global system would, in theory, eliminate the possibility of wars between nations.

Whether other forms of conflicts would be overcome is a matter of speculation. On paper, peace would prevail as supranational government would preclude conflicts. Such an idealized system’s performance depends on overriding identity, nationality, group loyalty, race, and religion. Your personal commitment and identification with the United Nations or in Europe with the EU reveals the limits of loyalty to non-national synthetic governance. Telling is the expected missing sense of commitment, and the lacking internalization of the system’s commands because of the absence of spontaneous identification and obedience. The missing elements of voluntarily good citizenship need to be replaced and can only be provided by command structures that will be perceived as being external. Therefore, there is no personal freedom without the independence of the community. The latter is the key condition raised by the demands of identity conscious nationalists. This means that good government can be relatively uncoercive and, being an expression of the general will, a bulwark against tyranny. Abstract multiculturalism cannot do the trick.

In the context of the migration-crisis, multicultural left-liberalism discovers in identity-centered defensive nationalism its enemy. The support for unlimited migration on demand and as a basic human right is a globalist goal. Since that abolishes the national character of communities that are commanded to abandon their sovereignty and identity, the resistance to the project and to the rule by a supranational elite is pre-determined.

It appears that the preferred venue of the struggle is central Europe. This is the region which, due to its recent experience, endows sovereignty with a high value. If a community has been deprived of its independence through forced membership in an alien, non-national entity -such as the Warsaw Pact- then “independence” means “liberty” and becomes a good that is rated over everything else.

Accordingly, the region rejects the pursuit of the national interest as an evil aberration. Here patriotism rates as a virtue, and so, the closing of borders to keep unwanted masses that disregard local culture, has a majority. Accordingly, countries, such as the V4, oppose the EU’s transformation into an artificial state without a people. Similarly, despite the disapproval of international elites, the UN’s attempts to play “world government” -as in the case of the refugee pact, also snubbed by the US and Australia- is doggedly rejected.

To counter that national reaction, the united elites of all countries amplify their push for arrangements that are to tie states together and to dilute cultural homogeneity within countries by inserting migrants. The stronger the insistent drive to unify mankind by eliminating nations, the greater the resistance of those charged as ethnocentric populists. Not surprisingly, the two camps have no appreciation for the striving of their antagonist. Elites across borders and cultures have more in common with each other than with their own masses. Motivating -and frightening- is that the supranational solutions advocated would be run by the “select”. Finally, the exposure of the chosen to the unpleasant consequences of their advocacy is, in “good” districts and in gated communities, less direct than Average Joe’s.

To plain people, the crimes they experience and the emerging alien state-within- the-state point to multiculturalism’s failure. Even if vilified as “isolationists”, in defiance of their own “leading element” they hold that good fences make good neighbors. Although your neighbor might be a friend, that fence will have served you well if it keeps him from depositing his garbage in your garden. Therefore, the general commitment to the national state will hardly abate in the near future and thereby globalist elites will remain separated from their peoples

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