What is Nationalism?

By G. E. Gorfu
Nov. 20 2009

Quotes of some prominent people can give us an interesting insight into what they thought of Nationalism: - “Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception.” George Orwell. “Nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race.” Einstein. “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” Charles de Gaulle. “…a set of beliefs taught to each generation in which the Motherland or the Fatherland is an object of veneration and becomes a burning cause for which one becomes willing to kill the children of other Motherlands or Fatherlands…” Howard Zinn. And my favorite: “Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on his own dunghill.” Richard Aldington.

Nationalism is when one gets so devoted to ones fatherland or motherland that one becomes crazy to the point of hating other neighbors or nations? Why does the love of one’s country or nation have to be complemented with hate for a neighboring country or people? And when will we humans grow up to a level when we can see a common worldwide or international goal?

We need to get into the root cause of nationalism in order to understand it and answer the question. From the outset, it is clear that one does not earn one’s nationality, like one can earn an education, a degree, a medal of valor, or a badge of honor. One is born into it, and that is that. One has no say in where one’s fatherland or motherland is to be. When one is born in Russia, USA, China, India, Japan, or Korea, it is pure chance and has nothing to do with the person. One could just as well have been born in New Zealand, East Timor, Malaysia, New Guinea, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Australia, or Timbuktu. Love of one’s country is good and understandable, but why would one get so infatuated with the fatherland or motherland until it becomes insanity, that one is willing to die, to kill, or be killed for nationalism? That is the question.

The sky is just as blue, the sun just as far, the grass just as green, and the water just the same as anywhere in the world, but unfortunately, nationalists think their small corner of the earth is so special that they are willing to die and kill others for the love of that corner. That is the insanity. They go back to their childhood and think the rivers, the hills and mountains, the streets and the neighborhood they grew up in are simply unique and special. But isn’t every corner of the earth unique and special? What then is the nationalistic fervor that takes hold of a person to the degree that one would want to die or kill others for the love of their corner of the earth?

There is a biological phenomenon known as imprinting. When a chick hatches, the first thing it sees moving is imprinted into its mind as its mother. It will then follow that animal or creature, (or even an inanimate object, as has been demonstrated with remote controlled toy cars), wherever it goes. When it comes to nationalism, we human beings do not seem to be much different. The place of our birth seems to be imprinted in our mind and becomes the basis of our nationalism. That, we think, is the root cause for this ailment. Though we think we are above chicken, at least in matters of nationalism, it is clear that we humans are not much above that. leave a comment