two cheers for nationalism

I despise globalism and all its works, which should logically put me in the nationalist camp. Which it does, up to a point. The trouble is that I have certain reservations about nationalism.

For one thing, nationalism is a liberal concept.

My main reservation about nationalism is that it has tended to erase regional identities. Regional identities have been fading under the relentless assaults of liberalism, nationalism and modernism for a couple of centuries now. Traces of such identities still survived until quite recently. I can recall stating in a bed-and-breakfast in Cornwall in the early 80s and making the mistake of referring to the landlady as an Englishwoman. She indignantly informed me that, “We’re nothing to do with the English here.” I must confess that I thought that was rather wonderful.

But nationalists have had little time for such regional identities. The aim of French nationalism was to turn Gascons and Bretons into generic Frenchmen. The aim of German nationalism was to turn Bavarians and Swabians into generic Germans. The aim of Italian nationalism was to turn Lombards and Sicilians into generic Italians. The aim of British nationalism was to turn Yorkshiremen and Cornishmen and Welshmen into generic Britons.

I’m not comfortable with any of that. I’m a multiculturalist. That’s why I dislike multiculturalism so much – in practice it seeks to destroy diversity and to replace multiple cultures with a single global culture. I like the idea of a world with countless different cultures.

I also prefer the idea of ties of loyalty that grow naturally, such as loyalty to family, or to a local community bonded together by a common faith, language and customs. I consider loyalty to a king to be a natural loyalty as well, or at least it was in the days when we still had actual kings. I’m not overly keen on the idea of loyalty to a government.

And nationalism can all too easily become loyalty to the state rather than the nation. Even worse (as in the case of French nationalism and American nationalism) it can become loyalty to an ideology.

If I have to choose between nationalism and globalism I’ll choose nationalism, but without any great enthusiasm.

4 comments on “two cheers for nationalism

  1. James Higham says:

    That’s why I identify as Northumbrian. 🙂

  2. Amfortas says:

    All very sensible. (He said…. a Coventry-kid, with a shamrock in his turban)

  3. Twisted Root says:

    Take your point about nationalism attempting to erase local identity, however it is and was very unsuccessful. I view nationalism as a stepping stone away from globalism.

  4. Unknown says:

    I don't like this kind of 'dualistic' thinking with its either/or.Regional identities clearly exist best under an umbrella of empire. Local identity is not the enemy of larger civilizational blocs, but symbiotic with it.Globalization/nationalism/regionalism – each have some legitimacy and truth in them. The Western world has been trapped in dualistic thinking and tries to develop into one-sided extremes for some time now.We need to become whole people again, attentive to reality in all its facets.No more either/or – but like the Ancients, like the old Christians, like the old Orientals, we need to become a people of 'both' in due proportion and correct measure.But you are of course correct that an exclusive devotion to nationalism is as barbarous as an exclusive devotion to globalism – and was in fact the first broadside in another of Europe's one-sided extreme developments.

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