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2014-06-05

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June 14, 2014 - 12:05am

Social Disorder: The dead end for nationalism

BY NURLAN ORUJLU

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial/Wikipedia

The European Parliament elections that took place about two weeks ago may have an historic importance as the far-right and anti-European Union politicians are gaining more power in the largest single assembly in the world. Even though the right-leaning parties performed worse than they did five years ago, there are more than hundred non-affiliated lawmakers, most of whom are expected to join the alliance of the rightists and the nationalist.

As the Eurozone crisis revealed the deficiencies of economic policies of the EU, considerable amount of political parties in Europe became willing to attack the EU system while bringing back the ideas of nationalism and patriotism. It sounds quite scary when someone simultaneously uses the concept of “nationalism” and “Europe” as we get enmeshed in unpleasant recollections of Adolf Hitler’s Germany, Benito Mussolini’s Italy, and Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union — where multiple nations were living under the strident Russian nationalist propaganda.

A famous extremist in Greece, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, is the leader of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and a firm supporter of anti-immigration laws. Michaloliakos is also known for his admiration of Adolf Hitler. It’s that same Greece that fought a war against the Nazi Germany and lost 5-10 percent of its population. Meanwhile, its Jewish community was almost exterminated. Despite the staunch efforts of the Dawn party supporters in Greece they’re still lacking a significant foothold in the country.

The best portrayal of nationalism comes from a controversial journalist/polemicist Christopher Hitchens: “I have often noticed that nationalism is at its strongest at the periphery. Hitler was Austrian, Bonaparte Corsican ... The most extreme Irish Republicans are in Belfast and Derry (and Boston and New York). Sun Yat Sen, father of Chinese nationalism, was from Hong Kong…” I see the quote is missing a very important piece. Joseph Stalin — a Georgian dictator — was the leader of an empire that was established after the Russian invasion of free Republics, including Georgia (country).

Although nationalism sounds like an unhealthy ideology to me, it’s also important to be able to distinguish it from patriotism. I would like to describe the difference in a hypothetical way. Let’s assume that I was born in China and immigrated to Sweden when I was a teenager. Subsequently, I can become a Swedish patriot after growing a deep affection for the country. However, the same scenario doesn’t work with the idea of nationalism. With no Swedish heritage and cultural background I cannot declare myself a Swedish nationalist. Thus, the leaders mentioned above could have been patriots at their best before they abused the nationalist propaganda to carry out their hawkish policies.

Patriotism could be a means to contribute to the prosperity of countries as long as it’s not being exploited in any wrongdoings by the morally corrupt politicians, which unfortunately happens a lot. A prominent 19th century Russian satirist Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin’s reference to the aforementioned case is flawless: “They are talking a lot about patriotism — must have stolen again.”

In my sincere opinion, I don’t believe that nationalism is a progressive theory that aims to prosper nations without harming anyone. It’s the worst enemy of peace that ironically supports peace through strength. To be clearer, nationalism shows more hatred towards other nations than respect to your own. No one wants to see the repeat of the Holocaust, deadly battles that claimed the lives of many brave people or the gang-rapes of innocent Germans that took place during the invasion of Germany.

Nationalist movements that are firm supporters of the anti-immigration laws will eventually acknowledge the fact that there’s no room for xenophobia in modern societies anymore as the integration of nations becomes common. Who knows, maybe a hundred years from now it will sound ridiculous to our descendants that there used to be borders and nationalities in our world. That’s a discussion for another day as I don’t want to sound like an anarchist.

What’s more important for now is that people realize the irrelevance of one’s nationality when it comes to determining his/her individual values. Nationalism will not prevail because it’s senseless to be proud of something that isn’t an accomplishment, but has been randomly assigned to you.

In loving memory of the heroes and victims of the World War II
Only June 6, 70 years will have passed since the Invasion of Normandy

Nurlan Orujlu can be reached at norujlu@umich.edu.