Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Nationalism as a Self-Destructive Force

Mangan has something interesting to contemplate every day, which is why I have him over there on the blogroll. First, read his piece below, and then I'll add my own thoughts.

Paradox of nationalism

HBD Chick linked to a couple of fascinating posts, one by Staffan, which showed that the trait of empathy is heritable and not (very) teachable, and one by Ed West, which discusses how the Catholic Church shaped the formation of the family in Europe.

So this got me to thinking. The Church, in an attempt to get rid of other sources of power, forbade marriage with cousins to such an extent (6th degree in some cases) that in some places people had a difficult time finding anyone to marry. This led to a larger degree of outbreeding than in other societies, hence to larger fellow feeling with the group at large, with little clanishness or nepotism.

Staffan's point about empathy and heritability leads one to think that nationalism, or patriotism, must be largely heritable too, since in fact it's at least partly empathy with a large group, the nation.

Nationalism as we know it arose in modern times in Europe. Other countries outside Europe just don't seem to have the same thing, although there are exceptions, such as Japan, or maybe Turkey. And in fact, nationalism was at one time considered a part of liberalism - which is another European invention. It was one of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, and thought to be an inalienable right.

Other countries that don't have the same history as Europe seem unlikely to develop that kind of nationalism. Think of Iraq, Syria, most African countries, even China: they are more given to clannishness than patriotism.

But now nationalism seems to be fading. It's no longer considered progressive, but the opposite. But why? I would argue that national feeling for the group at large, as opposed to just family and clan, has been transmuted into pathological altruism. Our limits of feeling no longer stop at the limits of the group, and our altruism becomes directed at virtually anyone anywhere in the world. Think of attitudes to mass immigration: when someone argues against it, they're often accused of hating immigrants. While this is most often completely untrue, the pathological altruists genuinely believe this.

So the paradox of nationalism is that the same forces that led to its development are leading to its denoument. But what is to be done about that I don't know.
The original is at:
And I strongly urge you to go there and read the comments. Some good stuff there.
My thoughts: As a self-proclaimed libertarian nationalist, I of course adhere to the concept of nationalism as Karol Traven puts it in the quibcag. Tribes, or extended families, are simply too small to defend themselves against nations. Empires, though sometimes a desirable development, are inherently unstable, due to the centrifugal pull of nationalism. I've explained my stance on that before HERE.

Mangan gets it right. The attitude needed to transition from tribalism to nationalism, that of accepting those more distantly related to you by blood and culture as fellow human beings, worthy of the same ethical treatment you give to your close relatives, can get out of hand and lead to the kum-ba-ya internationalism that plagues us today. To overcome this, we need a little realism. We need to understand that a nation should be based on genetics and culture, not just a random collection of human beings of all sorts clumped together into a geographical region.

Clearly, the concept is fuzzy, as are almost all anthropological concepts. Should Scotland be a nation, or just part of a larger nation? They're voting on that in a few days. Looking at it from the extremes, it's obvious that some groups are simply too small to be viable nations, and don't differ enough from related groups to justify separation. Delaware wouldn't make sense as a separate nation. Neither would Alsace-Lorraine or Tasmania. But some "nations" are really not nations at all, and shouldn't be under a single government. The Soviet Union was a great example of that. India was judged to be too big right at the start, and immediately separated into India and Pakistan. Iraq is a good example of a country that is intrinsically at least three nations — Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish.

You have to look at each case separately, because all peoples are unique. Switzerland, having four languages, would seem to some not to be a viable nation, but it certainly is. One of the most stable in history. Should Catalonia be part of the Spanish nation, or a separate state? Should Quebec be a separate nation? Such questions are perplexing, but the principle remains: human beings function best when they organize themselves into organic nations, related by blood and culture. Attempts to force dissimilar peoples into artificial nations — Yugoslavia springs to mind — usually end up with unacceptable human suffering, and end up falling to pieces in the end anyway. Peace among nations should be the goal. Elimination of nationhood would be a step backwards to savagery, and the reduction of mankind to a mass of undifferentiated mediocrities.
Quibcag: I'm not sure, but I think the saluting girls in the first quibcag are from Girls und Panzer (ガールズ&パンツァーGāruzu ando Pantsā). As for the second, I don't know where the girl is from.

1 comment:

  1. OT:

    You may find this article interesting: