NATIONALISM

DEFINITION

Nationalism
1. Love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it
2. The doctrine that your national culture and interests are superior to any other
3. The doctrine that nations should act independently (rather than collectively) to attain their goals


In the opening dialogue, I asked you to visualise a simple scenario; one where you imagined for a moment, that you were a traveller from another planet, far, far away, and you have travelled for many years in search of intelligent life on other planets. You live in a land some may call utopia, where people are happy in themselves, tolerant of others and have plenty of food to eat. They don’t need stimulants to distract them, know no violence, care for the planet, and don’t need religion because they are not afraid.

They don’t kill animals, live in self-sustaining communities, harness power from the sea, the sun and the wind, and share resources. They don’t need retail therapy, and are not blinded by desire or greed. This is a land where governments don’t exist, there are no guns, no armies, no generals. The oceans and rivers are clean. A planet where life is just about perfect… I would like you to imagine this again right now.

As you silently pass through the galaxies and star systems, a world appears in the distance; small but getting larger by the second, as you approach it. Closer. You see colours of blue, green and brown. Then you distinguish great oceans, mountains and land. Closer. You pass through the atmosphere, you see farm land, lakes and rivers, and closer still you begin to make out small dots…

Could it be? Yes! Your computer system confirms that there is life on this planet!

As you come into land, you can make out buildings, transportation networks, and finally…people; just like you. You excitedly radio back to your base many millions of light years away that you have found what looks to be intelligent life. You are so excited, you beam the biggest smile. After so many years of searching, you have finally found what you set out to achieve – to find intelligent life on another planet.

As you do not wish to cause alarm to the people of this world, you land in an isolated place and make your way on foot to the city. This will be the expedition of a lifetime, to study another planet and its people, and eventually make contact with another human being.

On your expedition, what would you find here on earth? Do not answer straight away. I would like you to consider this very, very carefully.

This is a topic of the utmost seriousness. I wonder if you would find something similar to me when I did this visualization. Now I am not pessimistic or optimistic in my approach to the world, I just try to see it how it really is, and I would ask you to do the same.

My expedition to planet earth : A visitors report

I arrive hoping to find a world like my own. It looks similar. It has breathable oxygen, water, sun, and green land to grow vegetables. The climate is bearable in most areas, and life seems to have permeated across the globe. On arrival, I begin to notice that things aren’t quite the same as at home.
In the first place I visit, I see people starving, begging, full of disease; children with no family, no running water.

In the second, I cannot breathe properly. The toxic fumes from their transportation vehicles are killing me. I see people deliberately inhaling toxins from some kind of device. I feel claustrophobic; there are so many people in such a small space. The buildings rise tall above me, the noise is deafening; loud artificial sounds. I see a man beat another man to take something from him, I see people, so very angry at each other.

In the third, I see men killing each other for no apparent reason, although I did notice they were dressed slightly differently. I see men raping women and killing children, and other men living in luxurious palaces made from gold.
In the fourth, I see the forests being destroyed.

In the fifth, I see people kneeling before an image, with a man killing another man before a large audience of people who are clapping as if pleased with the event.

In the sixth, I see groups, with people whose faces I cannot see, bearing weapons, I see a huge wall dividing land, I see a woman blow herself up killing others, I see anger and hatred. I see men fighting to be the most powerful.

In the seventh, I see a man being tortured, by a man cutting off his fingers one by one. I see paper being exchanged for something whose purpose is death. I see men happily working on a project that can kill millions. I see division of people.

In the eighth, I see men drinking a strange liquid which makes them unsteady and fight with each other. I see a young boy kill an old man. I see such hatred such anger.

In the ninth, I see desperate women raped by groups of men, others killed for speaking in public, and people forced to work all week for no pay. I see people chained up and beaten.

In the tenth, I see women having sex with many men in exchange for some paper and something they inject in their arm. I see cars patrolling the streets. I see fear. I see people hurriedly locking their doors. I see smoke from big factories. I see animals being murdered.

I see no happy faces. But why? The world I see here is abundant and full of beauty. I cannot comprehend the peoples who inhabit this world.
I unhappily return to my spacecraft, and report that, alas, I have failed in my mission to find intelligent life on this planet, and leave.

End of visitors report

I would like each of you to do your own visitors report. Even if it is something you just visualise. You may think that this is unimportant, but it will help you define your world view as it is at the moment. Next I would like you to think about the place you live in, the place you call a country (the territory occupied by a nation). You may not identify with any of what I “saw” as existing in your country. You may think I have only seen the bad in every place I visited, that in fact there are many good things that exist in the world today.

I do not want to get into an argument with you about this, all I ask is that you look around you and tell me what is great about your country. I’m sure you have a thousand answers. High Employment, large disposable income, democracy, free education, and health care for all. How about home-ownership, plenty to eat, negligible violence, and a stable government free from corruption with a police force to protect you? What we are inquiring on here is nationalism. Not the dictionary definition, but what it really means to be nationalistic.

Tell me if you have ever heard the term worldism? I know I haven’t. It’s not an “ism” we have in our language, like atheism, vegetarianism, fascism or racism.

The definition of an ism is “denotes a state or condition, belief or principle,” so tell me, is the world in which we live not worthy of an ism? If the definition of an ism is something we believe in, then it may become clearer why there is no such word as worldism.

What do we actually feel when we feel nationalistic? For me, it’s a sense of pride in people who have the same place of residence on their passport (document issued by a country to a citizen allowing that person to travel abroad and re-enter the home country). It is a feeling of superiority over someone else, not an individual but over billions of people who have a different passport, or who speak a different language. It’s a feeling of belonging to a bigger group.

When you feel miserable, your relationship has failed, and you owe a lot of money etc. there is always the nation to feel good about. Your country. A place whose borders were carved out of war, many centuries ago, and are protected by the army.

Although some borders are invisible, there are many countries who build a physical barrier between themselves and their neighbours, thereby creating division between people who are genetically identical (in that they belong to the family homo sapiens, distinguished slightly by language and subtle defining features). Yet, when physical barriers are put up, people begin to feel different, thanks to the powerful influence of culture, media, tradition, politics and teachers. You are no longer plain old homo sapiens. You are now british, chinese, american, german, iranian, argentinian, australian, swedish, thai, and proud of it! You feel pride (a feeling of self-respect and personal worth, Satisfaction with your (or another’s) achievements). You now say: “I am proud to be british.” “I am proud to be chinese.” “I am proud to be iranian.”

Listen to those statements, what do they mean to you? Well, in relation to nationalism, self-respect and self-worth cannot be applied, as it has nothing to do with your individual achievements. This is the group we are talking about here, the “we”, the group whose one thing in common is the passport they hold. Even if you are of chinese, saudi, indian, jamaican, thai, or somalian birth, once you hold a passport that says “usa” or “japan,” you become part of the group, and that group is your extended family. You are now brothers, bonded by the great nation, the nation that will look after you when you are sick, fight for your beliefs during war, help you find a job, and look after you when you retire.

Let’s face it, nationalism makes you feel good about yourself in a way that worldism never could. Why?

Because, unlike worldism, which by its definition would have to be inclusive, nationalism separates us into individual competing groups each trying to beat the other. War is a great example of this. When politicians and generals decide that another country is doing something they don’t like or they want to invade or occupy, they declare war.

Through government propaganda, they stoke the fires of nationalism and rally support for “our boys, out there fighting for YOU!” In war, nationalism has nothing to do with being morally right or wrong.

In the second world war, the germans had the same nationalistic feelings about their country, as the allies did about theirs. It is a feeling so strong, that if anyone mentions anything bad about your country you’re willing to fight them, in war time, or peace.

Nationalism

Love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it

Imagine that! You who know nothing about the people of the other country (except what your leaders have told you), and are prepared to give your life (and take many others) in the name of your country.

If you actually met a german, british, american, spanish or japanese man, I’m sure you would find most of them very nice, not at all like the demonised image your country leaders gave you of them during war.

You see, stirring up nationalism is good for governments when they need to do something, and they want to enlist your support to help them do it. After all, the second world war would have been no more than a bar room brawl if it was just hitler and his cabinet vs. churchill and his cabinet. Imagine that, they would have sorted out their differences, or even killed one another, and then everybody could have got back to business as usual. Instead, they stirred up the nation, turned individuals into a mob and motivated everyone to go to war.

How can you turn against a whole nation of people? Especially as we were all good friends prior to the war? How can you suddenly hate all british, all germans, all americans, all japanese, and all french? Well, as was proved in the various wars, the key ingredient was nationalism. By instilling a feeling of such superiority over every other nation, and the feeling we are good and they are bad, political and military leaders have – throughout time – been able to appeal to people to forget their individualism and come together as one. One Group. One Nation.

This appeals to us, as it instils a sense of pride in us. We sense we are doing something for the greater good, that the nation is all important, and we dutifully sign up, ready to be cut down by the first bullet, or blown to pieces by a bomb.

By using propaganda that makes us feel as if we owe the nation (after all they’ve done for us), governments can rely on the fact that they will have plenty of willing volunteers to do their bidding; safe in the knowledge that no one will take the time to consider whether it is ethically right or wrong. After all, what’s good for the nation is good for me!

In peace time this is expressed through sport, namely teams or teams of individuals that compete head to head; to be the best in the world. (e.g. the football world cup or the olympics). This replaces war as the method to achieve superiority over other countries. It may not cause bloodshed on the field of battle, but it can in the stands, where people are prepared to fight one another, just because one is wearing a green shirt and the other is wearing a white one!

Have you ever heard football supporters screams, cheers, yells, and the abuse they give the other team? They are like a pack of wolves out for the kill, they have lost their individuality and are now collectively one nation. Proud to be superior.

I love my country

Do you love your country? I’ve asked you before, but what makes you different to everybody else, what really defines you as a nation? What makes you great? Sorry, just before that little voice strikes up, with the voice of years of conditioning, let’s imagine another scenario. Imagine the science fiction films were right and we were about to engage in a world between worlds – that armies from across the galaxy were intent on destroying us. Where would your nationalism be then? What use would it be? What would it matter what colour you were, what religion you were, how you dressed, what language you spoke?

The invaders wouldn’t care about that. To them, you’re all the same, human. They are intent on killing every last one of you, just because they don’t like your way of life, they think you’re all evil, are a threat to their way of life and actually… just because they want to own the earth now! Makes you think, doesn’t it?

So, before you spread division throughout the world with nationalism; before you make children hate other children because they come from a different country; before you dislike whole nations because they look different, or they support a different team, or they belong to the wrong religion… Stop, for a quiet moment, and ask yourself: “What is our ultimate goal as humans? Is it not the continuing existence of life on earth?” You tell me.

Worldism – a term never destined for the dictionary whilst nationalism is still there


by alan macmillan orr

“The Natural Mind-waking up”

2009

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