Tuesday, December 01, 2009

For Nationalism

'I. Nationalism as a Cause of Mass Murder and Repression. One big problem with nationalism is that it is a leading cause of mass murder.'

Er, no it isn't. Just like the almost completely groundless canard that 'religion is the main cause of wars', the idea that nationalism is 'a leading cause of mass murder' is hard to justify from history.

Imperialism is a leading cause of mass murder. And any decent historian can tell you that one of the most consistent enemies of empires are nations. Over and over and over again through thousands of years of history, empires have broken up on the rocks of emergent or re-emergent nations. From the Jewish and Armenian revolts against Rome, to the Egyptian and Greek revolts against the Ottomans, to the Ghandian peaceful Indian revolt against the British empire, the leading cause of a collapsed empire is a nation reasserting its right to rule itself rather than be ruled by foreigners. By far the leading cause of war throughout history is the desire of some ambitious man or group of men to rule and dominate other peoples nations- to build an empire. Empire building has almost nothing to do with nationalism- that is a link invented by the Marxists, just like so much of the crap served up as learning these days.

Was the empire built by Napoleon an exercise in Nationalism, or a family enterprise created and run for the glory of the Bonaparte family, where brothers and cousins of Napoleon each got a country to run? The answer is clearly the latter.

Was the empire created by Hitler an exercise in German nationalism, or a cabal of determined and clever men who created from a ropey amalgam of German nationalism, pseudo-scientific tribal identity politics and marxist economics a bizarre but effective cover for their empire-building dreams? Yes, it was the latter.

Even the Soviet Union gradually converted from an attempt at communism to a cover for a resurgent Russian empire.

Ilya Somin needs to read more history.

'Fascism and Nazism were, of course, extreme forms of nationalism'

No they weren't. Fascism was an amalgam of half-remembered Roman history and marxist economics. Mussolini tried to emulate Roman empire-building but was a pathetic failure. Nazism we already covered.

'... the mass murders Nazi and fascist regimes committed were justified on the grounds that they were necessary to advance the interests of racially or ethnically defined peoples' So? What has that got to do with Nationalism? When the Hutu rose up and murdered 900,000 Tutsis, did everybody blame it on Nationalism? They blamed it on tribal identity politics, and called it a civil war. You could make a very good case that if there was a Hutuland and a Tutsiland rather than a country called Rwanda, and both had decent armies, all 900,000 of those Tutsis would be alive and well today.

'But many non-mass murdering nationalist regimes still use nationalism as a justification for protectionism, discrimination against minority groups, suppression of dissent, and the like. Nor are these abuses simply the result of misinterpretations of nationalism by unscrupulous rulers. To the contrary, if you genuinely believe that we have special obligations to members of your ethnic or national group that sometimes trump universal principles, consistency requires that you be willing to sacrifice the rights of other groups to benefit your own, at least sometimes.'

The crux is culture, not Nationalism. If your culture decrees that all citizens of the nation are treated equally, whether they are of a majority or minority ethicity, minorities will be fine. If your culture decrees that no matter what religion people are, they should be free to worship as they please, majority and minority religions will be fine. If your culture decrees that it is illigitimate to use government and business leadership positions as a means to employ all your dimwit cousins and friends, nepotism will not destroy the effectiveness of your governance and businesses, and the nation should thrive. So if you compare outcomes between say Christian law-abiding Britain and muslim nepotistic Pakistan, the contrast is stark. Try being a Christian in Pakistan. Or a Balochi. And try getting a decent job if you are not related to the top dudes. And none of this is because Pakistanis are such devout nationalists. Only the Punjabis are massive Pakistani nationalists and thats because they dominate the country. The Pakhtuns, Sindhis and Balochis would be perfectly happy to go their own way.

'In theory, one can be nationalistic without also endorsing a zero-sum game view of the world; but, empirically, the two tend to be highly correlated.'

Absolute crap. While most ambitious, driven leaders throughout history have viewed the world with 'zero-sum game' blinkers, most of their people haven't. And won't in the future; Because they are not focused on power games, on the shifting tides of oligarchic struggles, and can only very occasionaly be motivated to cross borders and fight their neighbors. The people who fight to build empires use paid armies, and when the pay stops so does the empire. Thus it has ever been.

The twentieth century was like no other century in history. Huge citizen armies fought each other in titanic struggles- some to stop themselves from being annihilated, and others on behalf of crackpot marxist/fascist/nazi/militarist ideologies which required the annihilation of nations standing in their way- the way of 'progress' or 'social justice' or 'Aryan purity'. Many countries lost their nationhood during these titanic struggles, only to bob back to the surface after a few decades as pawns in someones ideological struggle. It was hell.

'Nationalism sometimes makes xenophobes even of generally tolerant liberals.'

Whaddaya gonna do?

'Finally, nationalism often leads people to reject good ideas merely because of their foreign origin'

Yeah, I hadn't noticed that. Particularly when it comes to weapons technology, nations are whores. Make that all technology. In fact, industrialisation itself. Oh, and agricultural techniques. And the roads. And sanitation. And peace.

God Bless Monty Python, wherever you are.

No comments: