Patriotism versus Nationalism (versus Internationalism?)

Patriotism versus Nationalism (versus Internationalism?).

Also syndicated here.

Patriotism to me can be a love for the place where one lives, which need not necessarily exhibit irrational feelings of superiority or inherent exceptionalism. It also can mean a love for the exceptionalism (which may be incidental or dependent on factors other than race and geography) of a culture, often within geographical confines. It can extend to a willingness to die to preserve the place or the ideas in question. Patriotism can manifest itself in both agreement and dissent.

Nationalism, on the other hand, is blind love for a specific geographical or racial entity for irrational reasons, such as perceived inherent superiority or traditional feuding. Most often it is manifested in a subtle form of groupthink, the consequences of not conforming to include: ostracism, ridicule, bigotry, prohibitions of expressions of culture or language, and even confiscation of property. In extreme forms, and much less subtle, overt violence and genocide. It is often mixed with or perhaps intentionally covered by higher ideals. Democracy. Social justice. Equality. Brotherhood. Humanity. Liberty. To this extent is has an appeal with both the base and the virtuous, and is thus pervasive and not even all those who hold some of the views (for very few hold all of them) realize where they originate, or what their intended purposes are in the form they are presented.

Both ideas rest on that of taste. One acknowledges it as a personal preference and in relations with others it either defends from attacks (ideally not overreacting) or promotes its underlying ideas through persuasion and not force, and the other (according to its own idealism, though not always according to the practice of its leaders) seeks to foist it equally upon all (assuming, of course, you are one of the ones it suffers to live), the consequences and human rights be damned.

According to these definitions, which are my own but not too far distant from how they are defined by others, individual persons and conventions of persons, experts in fields and students of ideas, nationalism is very much the more problematic of the two.

And if you break it down further this is true for two reasons. One is the way it treats outsiders (geographical foreigners, ethnic inferiors, and so on). The other is the way it treats its own. Eliminating nationalism and replacing it with a generic internationalism (some would call this world government) only eradicates the first problem in the best case scenario. A highly decentralized internationalism (some would call this globalization) would go a long way towards reducing, and in some cases eliminating, both problems.

Amongst those that agree that globalization (even those afraid to use the word for fear of being associated with, or who recognize that the word has been misused by; those who either openly embrace, or whose proposals and ideas in some way perpetuate; world government) is a good idea, there is some disagreement about the way to go about it. I won’t go into arguments for or against (uni/bi/multi)lateral/free/managed trade or international law as it pertains to evident violations of human rights or other controversial subjects with well meaning and intelligent individuals on either side of the argument. I would instead like to delineate between potent attempts at world government and relatively impotent (but still menacing in their own right) attempts.

In the first category (potent) I would put imperialism, where it should be obvious that internationalism is in fact just nationalism applied to the world stage. Attempts such as this never fully succeed (partly because they may not really be conscious of what they are doing, or if they are, may have different goals in mind than that of tyrannizing the globe) in subjugating the entire world, but are potent in the sense that they cause much suffering and disorder and do so under a gradually increasing authority (in terms of both power and geography).

Also there is mercantilism. This often goes hand in hand with imperialism. Sometimes they have the same origin. Other times they just “benefit” from each other. And still there may be some combination thereof. In a sense, aspects of it have been practiced by every “traditional” empire going back to the Sumerians, but not until the rise of the modern, benevolent, humanitarian nations did it come into its own. France, Britain, the United States. And though not “true” mercantlism in the sense of application to one nation, several aspects of it have been incorporated into the cooperative efforts of the civilized nations (treaties and alliances; NATO being a prime example, the IMF another).

I wouldn’t even rule transnational corporations (in some instances being creations of, though not always faithful servants to, the state) and Non-Government Organizations out of having at least a small part in this category (potent attempts at world government), but at the present I would like to refrain from theorizing about possible conspiracies.

In the second category (impotent) I would put such things as failed attempts at international cooperation. Take the League of Nations or the United Nations. I do not deny that they were/are to be feared. But the reason has more to do with the stupidity and inefficiency of bureaucracy than it does the greed or violence of imperialism. But more than that it is not so much the bodies themselves that should be of concern, but rather the ways they may be used by the member nations in their imperialistic and mercantilistic endeavors. 

Things such as the World Trade Organization I would have a hard time categorizing. Besides, as I said, I do not wish to formulate arguments on the issue of trade nor delve into conspiracy theories.

New Discovery: Jacques Delacroix (I had not read his piece in its entirety until moments ago, so I hope no one thinks I wrote this as some sort of response to it) goes into all of this as well (I had no idea until, for the purpose of seeing what others had to say on the subject I did a search for “WTO” on my friend Brandon Christensen’s blog), but is far less charitable to these types than I am (I think mirroring his overall more establishmentarian variant of libertarianism).

Anyways, at this stage I am not a flag burner. But neither am I a flag worshipper. At the present, this one will do:

File:Flag of Montana 1905.svg


7 thoughts on “Patriotism versus Nationalism (versus Internationalism?)

  1. Oro y Plata! Gold and Silver. Love it. I did not previously know that is the motto of Montana. West Virginia also has an inspiring, if meaningless in reality, motto: Montani Semper Liberi, Mountaineers are always free. Good essay though I need to re-read it when it is not 2:30 a.m. EST. Keep up the good work. -LMN

  2. Nice flag. I blindly got all excited trying to mascot the American flag during my “Yay Ron Paul is going to win!” days. Then Daniel Lewis pointed out how… well… anti-America the flag really is, and I Good Will’d anything I possessed that was flag related. I feel pretty countryless. I’m not sure if that’s what you were getting at, that emotion, and how we arrive there. Now flags don’t even make sense to me, the entire concept of representation by anything just feels… smothering. Thanks for the big word read, your posts are like a free Brain Training app.

    • It’s the pre-1981 Montana flag. I was in a rebellious mood, so I figured why not be even more so by winding the clock back to 1905 (actually the flag is older than that, it was just officially recognized in 1905), when Montana, and America no less were much freer places to live. I’m a big advocate of states’ rights as a tool against the encroachments of the federal government, but not as ends in themselves, because states too are capable of encroachments. It just so happens that it is easier for the people or jurisdiction on the tier below, because the more local something is the more accountable it can be made to be, are less likely to do so, and are more likely to jealously defend its members or citizens against their common foe. Likewise, I am an advocate of supporting county commissioners and the sheriffs department against state government. And when the conflict is between a county and the federal government (like when, on occasion, a sheriff department refuses to comply with the unlawful orders of the DEA or the FBI), all the more reason.

      So, I’m not a big fan of Old Glory myself either. I tolerate it. You’re right that flags are kind of silly, but I think symbolism is good so long as the idea is solidarity rather than oppression or forced obedience. Like the Gadsden Flag: Don’t Tread on Me! But on the grand scale of things, the government of Montana has been far less of an agent of plunder than some I could mention. Though it did conveniently place itself in charge of the area where the American Indians once resided before they were rounded up by the US Cavalry. Hmm…

      This particular flag (1890s-1981) is no longer a government symbol, at least. Just a cultural one.

  3. Hey, was reading this just now and thought of you. How do you feel about people proclaiming the right to establish their own nation? I’m just now learning about the State of Israel and Zionism. I read these statements about being UN approved prior to the play and an emotion of the right to establish a country… but wasn’t there already a country there? Is this when patriotism becomes nationalism? Anyway trying to be brief about something I have 10,000 question marks about, but want to hear your vocabulary on it if you’re interested (given this post’s subject.)

    • The word nation originally referred to specific races. A nation is therefore a race. There is nothing wrong with nations because there is nothing wrong with races. But you can begin to see the inherent similarities between nationalism and racism. Nationalism has become obscured from racism because the nation, to the modern consciousness, is a region with borders and a sovereign government because it has been melded with the state. Hence the term “nation-state.” Most, if not all, countries today are nation-states modeled after 1648 Westphalian Sovereignty (look that up on wikipedia for more detail).

      Nation-state nationalism (even where race is not the focus, this is often much worse than just plain racism because it can attain a monopoly on violence) too has been obscured by various forms of internationalism (the “good” kind could be defined loosely as just the integration and tolerance of all races, and the “bad” kind as the collusion or subjugation of the nation-states), but the basic model is still present. So now nationalists, rather than focusing on race (though some nationalist movements still do), they focus on other arbitrary things, like exceptionalism or traditional boundaries or past hatreds.

      So nationalism really is a broad range of things, and I suspect that Zionism, most definitely a type of nationalism, with a specific race/culture in mind (though not exclusively so), also had/has a broad range within it. On the one hand you can understand it: the Jews were oppressed and wanted to get away from their oppressors in Europe (though even this is an oversimplification of the facts), but on the other: two wrongs don’t make a right so who are they to oppress someone else (Palestinians)?

      Also, Zionists had been advocating for a homeland of their own for a long time. Some wanted it to be in Palestine. Others were content to stay in Europe. So after the Holocaust we assume that the western powers gave the Jews a homeland in Palestine out of pity for their plight, but a more accurate rendering would be that they were kicked out of Europe once and for all, accomplishing what Hitler couldn’t do with a war machine and gas chambers, with the international community and land grabs instead. Consequently, many Jews who weren’t even Zionists, or Zionists who could care less where their homeland was were pressured to aid in the establishment of the state of Israel.

      And then the disingenuous arguments that are made in favor of Zionism, such as it was originally the Jews’ land so the Palestinians are guilty of the crime of receiving stolen property, or it is a requirement for Christians to support Israel, always tick me off, because both of those are empirically false.

      Some overlooked (by those making such arguments) facts: Jews and Palestinians have approximately equal genetic and “racial” claim to Israel/Palestine, so the confiscation of Palestinian property is wrong even according to the arguments of Zionists. If Zionists just wanted things to be like they were in Biblical times, they are certainly lagging behind their plans, not the least of which would be the way that property was traditionally distributed, being according to tribes. Were they to abide by this tradition and not one that does not even apply to them, Israeli Jews would only be entitled to the land formerly owned by the Tribe of Judah, not the entire ancient Kingdom of Israel and the state of Israel would have to be about one third its present size, not too mention around one tenth its size in 1967. Christianity is more common among Palestinians than it is among Israelis. There are even Palestinians Jews who had their land taken, or made war upon, by Zionist Jews.

      Having said all this I have no idea what can be done to solve (and the most pragmatic solution might not even end up being the most just one) the current messes over there. One state? Two states? Kick the Jews out? Kick the Palestinians out? Leave things the way they are? Let things escalate until there is a clear winner? But what I do know is that the United States government should stay clear of it.

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