Nationalism and It’s Effects

In a time where nationalist groups like the Aryan Brotherhood, and the KKK exist how in the world could nationalism be an ideology based on any sort of merit? While these groups may exist, the average nationalist is not a white supremacist, nor are they apart of some hateful cabal that wishes to see every person of color expunged from their nation. The ordinary nationalist just cares for their country, and countrymen, they care for the wellbeing of their “family”.

This not so new idea of a national family is becoming both a less and more present thing in modern society.  Just as the common person, the ideology aligns the same way; it is not one of hatred or supremacy, but rather respect and caring. This respect and caring leads to a more cohesive, and more cooperative society. Since its inception or creation, the idea of nationalism always leads to a society being closer or more consolidated, this sense of togetherness is always evident when talking about a nationalistic community. Nationalism will inevitably lead to a more undivided and cohesive society through a common sense of culture, history, and language.

Nationalism will inevitably lead to a society where people think and act as though they are related, and realistically they are; The people of a nation are ultimately related through a shared interest in wanting their society to flourish and do better than anyone else.  The sentiment of nationalism is not one that has existed for a long time in the grand scheme of things, ideas like democracy, and theocracy have belonged and been used by peoples for centuries before even a feeling of national pride began to blossom. In early societies, mainly European societies, people cared more for their kings or feudal lords than they did the soil of which they were born. It was not until the tail end of the 17th century when nationalism became a fully realized force that would shape people’s lives politically and culturally (“Nationalism”).

Around the time of the British Puritans split from the church of England, the idea of being loyal to one’s peoples became a prevalent viewpoint (Kohn). The idea of being loyal to one’s “kin” or folk was not the only nationalist principle that was seen at the time, the Puritans had a large sense of identity unity and cultural identity within their society, which is a chief nationalistic principle.  While being a mostly innocent idea, the actual practice of nationalism has been given quite a negative view in more modern history, mainly due to the fact that people like Adolf Hitler and Mussolini took the concept of nationalism and contorted it to suit their needs; both dictators used the fact that within a nationalist community people are more willing to go to war to defend their homelands, they took advantage of the idyllic view of keeping one’s people safe (Shears). Ever since World War Two, the idea of someone being a nationalist is usually seen as an inherently unfavorable thing; to this day, the idea of even our commander-in-chief being a nationalist is something that undoubtedly caused some alarm within some more progressive cliques. Recently even the president of the United States of America: Donald Trump, has announced to the world that indeed, he is a nationalist (Cummings).  

In times of conflict one ideology can most efficiently provide for the defense of a community, that, of course, being nationalism. In times of communal strife, where the peoples of a society are threatened by others, either by armies or ideas, this strong sense of community and nation can best prevent the subversion of one’s national identity, or destruction of one’s community. According to Kohn, “During World War II Stalin appealed to nationalism and patriotism in rallying the Russians against foreign invaders.” (“Nationalism”) Joseph Stalin, the leader of one of the biggest nations in history only rose to power because of his use of his current nations political issues, now that is not an entirely awful thing because he used his peoples adamant fear of defeat to the Germans and fought them no matter the cost, and came out victorious in the end. Stalin was not the only one to use this strong sense of nationalism to help combat the opposing forces that sought to destroy or disrupt the average person’s way of life; During the civil war the main thing that held the union together, at least in the north, was the value of law, and the value of the nation. “Lincoln derived his opinions about the Constitution from his desire for national economic growth and federally supported internal improvements… required a broad interpretation of the Constitution that also was well suited to tolerate wartime stresses” (Bezilla). Abraham Lincoln was not a maniacal tyrant who twisted the constitution to his will in order to impose his moral high ground on the opposition, well unless the south was asked, but alternatively a hero who used his strong nationalist sentiments and those of the people and unified the warring states. The phenomenon of a nationalist state faring much better than a globalist state in times of conflict is an interesting one, and it comes down to the romanticization of defending one’s “motherland”

The romanticization can be seen in every nationalist state on the planet, from current ones, and ones that are no longer around; the United States with their Uncle Sam posters, the Germans and Italians with their more offensive propaganda posters, but it holds the same. There is a deep-rooted wish to protect the homeland against incoming aggressors. “Furthermore, nationalism creates conflict between nations not only because it lays a pseudo-romantic base to mobilise troops but because it often fuels the motivation for war” (Shears) While it is true that in most nations that have adopted a form of nationalism; be that ethnic, cultural, or geographical nationalism, do romanticize war or at least fighting for one’s country, that isn’t inherently a flaw or downside. This can act as a major boon for a warring country and can lead to much greater social cohesion during times of war, Something that cost the United States the conflict in vietnam. On the contrast this sense of nationalism was, “…central to the French revolutionaries of 1789, the North in the American Civil War, the national liberation movements of the twentieth century and to Britain’s resistance to the Nazi onslaught during its ‘finest hour.” (McCarthy).

In a nationalist society that shares either a common set of ideas or genetics, the community will bond on the basis of similarity becoming more unified. Nationalism is an idea that has been villainized to the moon and back, and why? On the most basic of simplifications nationalism is just the “feeling of unity or relation beyond immediate friends or family” (Casas) This feeling of unity extends beyond just being a surface feeling that no one acts on, this feeling of unity and togetherness leads to lower crime rates and other related problems. According to U.S. News states like Maine and Vermont have much lower crime rates than other states like California (“These Are the Safest States in America.”) This mainly has to do with the fact that these states have high homogeneity compared to any other state in the union, lowest cultural and ethnic diversity has led to these state being by far the safest states in the United States of America. (add more)

In terms of the lives of citizens, there is much less internal turmoil facing the citizens of any nationalist community, in every known nationalist society, it has been seen that rather than in-fighting the nation/state finds a target that goes against their laws, morals, or even religion. Within these more culturally or racially homogeneous societies Dan Shears states that, “discourses about difference …becomes more exclusionary …while discourses of social cohesion have become more assimilationist This demonstrates just how difficult social cohesion is to achieve between different nations.” (“Is nationalism a source of social cohesion or conflict?”). When every nation sees themselves as the ultimate nation, or when one people see themselves as the best people conflict is a certainty.

It is easy to talk about the benefits of nationalism while trying to ignore the, huge elephant in the room. Nationalism does tend to create nations who will divide their citizens and or war over lost territory, as Shears puts it, “…come into conflict with other sovereign, ethnic based nations or experienced ethnic minorities enter their national territory, violent conflict is likely to ensue.” The problem becomes that with this large sense of cultural or ethnic identity, the nation begins to become consciousness of every one who is not them; the American in the 1920’s, the Germans in the 1940’s and finally Russia in the 1980’s.

In any society where there is a strong sense of unity or togetherness, it is almost guaranteed to find some form of nationalism, be that cultural, or ethnic. In times where a culture or community is under attack; no other ideology can so effectively support the defense of a nation, or peoples as nationalism. When a society of shared culture or ethnicity comes together and represents themselves that is an inherent nationalist society, and when a nationalist community uses these traits to its advantage, the community will bond on the basis of similarity becoming more unified. As it affects a group the benefits of nationalism can be felt within their day to day life, because a patriotic society is one of less internal turmoil and strife; turning their anger outwards to other nations rather than inward like more ideologically diverse nations. Nationalism when compared to other more “modern” ideas like democracy may seem more tribal or collectivist in nature, but the broad effects of this ideology are much greater than any individualistic society, rather the effects of nationalism when it comes to unifying or creating a more cohesive community are too great to pass up. Nationalism is something that every man and woman should have in their hearts be it cultural, civic, or even ethnic, because when it comes to supporting the commonwealth of our “family” it truly does the best.

Written by @ein_volk_ein_siege

Works cited

Bezilla, Michael. “New Book Explores How Lincoln’s Nationalism Helped to Save the Union.” Penn State University, 7 November 2011,

https://news.psu.edu/story/153808/2011/11/07/academics/new-book-explores-how-lincolns-nationalism-helped-save-union

Casas, Gustavo De Las. “Is Nationalism Good for You?” Foreign Policy, 8 October 2009,

https://foreignpolicy.com/2009/10/08/is-nationalism-good-for-you/  

Kohn, Hans. “Nationalism.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 21 Jan. 2019, www.britannica.com/topic/nationalism.

McCarthy, Daniel. “Is Nationalism a Good Thing?” The National Interest, The Center for the National Interest, 10 Feb. 2019, nationalinterest.org/feature/nationalism-good-thing-44077.

Shears, Dan. “Is nationalism a source of social cohesion or conflict?” Academia, http://www.academia.edu/23642241/Is_Nationalism_a_Source_of_Social_Cohesion_or_Conflict

“These Are the Safest States in America.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, www.usnews.com/news/best-states/rankings/crime-and-corrections/public-safety.

Cummings, William. “’I Am a Nationalist’: Trump’s Embrace of Controversial Label Sparks Uproar.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 12 Nov. 2018, www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/10/24/trump-says-hes-nationalist-what-means-why-its-controversial/1748521002/.

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