National Identity and Nationalism

National Identity and Nationalism


Hi! My name is Ann Dawson and I like
nations. But what do I even like about them anyway? I established in my last
video that I like flags, but I also like national anthems, statistics, rankings.
I even like borders. Less so what they are in practice and more so how they are
artistically drawn on maps. Basically I like nations the way they might look on
baseball card esque info sheets. Where you can tell me the win-loss ratio of all
your wars. I’ll trade you a Peru-Bolivia and a gold edition Mexico for your
first edition Bavarian Soviet Socialist Republic. It’ll complete my collection of
failed socialist states! So what I find I like about nations is incredibly trivial.
The problem with this way of thinking though is that nations aren’t just
Wikipedia articles. Nations are groups of people, large groups of people even, who
share in some sort of common cultural connection. And when I view nations in
this baseball card esque format I’m really reducing entire peoples and
cultures down to tiny manageable data points. Which is a bad way of thinking
about things because people aren’t data points and seeing the world as a bunch
of data points is bad because failure to see people as people … It leads to
terrifying atrocities to say the least. Okay? Can we – can we agree on that people
are people not data? Nations however are how we are trained to view the world.
From movies to history books to cars and to food, we are trained to categorize and
sort the world through national characteristics. In fact it’s hard to
even imagine a world without nations but indeed there was once a time where the
world was not framed in this way. Feudalism was the dominant political
system for a large chunk of human history. Not all of it of course but
enough of it for me to make my point. Under feudalism no one really cared
about one’s nationality they only really cared about one’s loyalty to a liege. A
monarch could be a ruler of many different nations but not be culturally
connected to any of them. You could have a polish king
of Croatia and just the same you could have an Austrian king of Spain. No one
cared about nationality so much because feudalism placed its political
legitimacy under the concept of a divine right to rule. A king was a king because
God said so, more or less. You could say that under feudalism the world was not
so much divided along national lines as it was divided along religious lines. In
our modern era the divine right to rule is not usually considered a good enough
source of political legitimacy. Instead in our modern world, we place political
legitimacy with the support of the people.You know a government only rules
by the consent of the governed. A ruler is a ruler because the people allow them
to rule. In a world that places political power in the hands of the people the
nature of the people has become much more important to the political order of
the day. Nowadays appeals to rule are made with promises of some sort of
supposed national interest. The religious based feudal kingdom has made way for
the nationalism based nation-state. We can define nation-states as a government
of a people. Nation-states represent attempts to form political boundaries
based off of rough geographic approximations of where people of a
culture group live. The idea is to essentially form a government of a
people in order to express the will of that people. This might at first seem
like a better way to organize the world and to establish fair and justified
governance, but is it really? I mean surely it’s better than feudal kingdoms
and the divine right to rule, but how was the Divine Right to rule proven? Usually
it was proven through the sword. You know a ruler would conquer a territory and
then they would say it was God that allowed them to conquer the territory
therefore God wanted them to be king. The divine right to rule was essentially a
roundabout way of saying they ruled by right of conquest. Under feudalism,
religion was a justification for authority But it was violence that
established and maintained that authority. But hey, whatever, who cares
really? Because I just established that modern nation-states do not place their political legitimacy in the hands of God they
place it in a people. However there are still some problems with that. What if a
people of a nation-state happen to live outside of the territorial boundaries
established by that nation-state? And what if there are people who don’t
identify with the primary culture of a nation-state that they happen to live
within the territorial boundaries of? History does show us that nation-states
try to solve these problems with violence. They solve these problems with
the sword. One nation-state might try to invade another nation-state in order to
expand its borders in an attempt to include people who it believes to be of
its culture but happen to live outside of its current boundaries. One
nation-state might also decide to employ forced assimilation and even genocide in
order to remove or “bring into line” peoples who are of a culture but not of
the nation-states culture. It sounds to me, much like feudal kingdoms, nationalism
is merely a justification for authority but indeed it is violence that
establishes that authority. Through these thoughts I hope that we can see that
modern nation-states are truly no more legitimate than a feudal kingdom. Both
only exist as the result of violence and both only justify their existence after
the violence through the lens of religion or nationalism. Nation-states in
particular are intrinsically flawed because the idea of nations is
incredibly fluid and dynamic. Nations, as we identified earlier, are groups of
people who share some sort of common cultural identity. However, people change.
Cultures change. Cultures go on to mix and mash with other cultures, often
producing new unique cultures that continue to go on mix and mash with
still other cultures. Nation-states however stay still. Nations do not
create borders but nation-states do. A government based around a culture will
be threatened if the culture changes too much. If a culture changes it could
create contradictions with the nation-state based
around it. And those contradictions can create antagonisms as people now do no
longer culturally identify with the nation-state and rather culturally
identify elsewhere. A nation-state will try and enforce its culture on the
people in order to maintain its legitimacy over the people. In order to
do this, a nation-state might have to define its culture which inevitably ends
up boiling down all of their unique and rich tangible cultural connections into
text on a legal document. They turn their culture and their people into a data
point. A data point that is then used as criteria for inclusion and criteria for
exclusion. Nation-states, which assert that their political legitimacy is
derived from the people, will insist that they are loyal to the people – but in
practice will demand that the people they rule be loyal to the nation state. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” The ultimate goal of a nation-state is
inevitably to establish homogeneity between its peoples so that it may
continue justifying its existence. This homogeneity goes against the
natural course of culture and can only be established through force. “Fascist power is the natural form of the nation-state. Fascism is the nation-state
in its purest form.” So what the fuck do I like about nations again? I mean I said I
like flags, national anthems, statistics, rankings, classifications – all things
that the state established in order to define itself and the culture purports
to represent? Or is it that I only like these things because this is the only
lens I was ever trained to view nations through? And that because I naturally
like nations I am fooled into thinking that I like
nation-states? I like nations because I ultimately like
people. I want people to be free and therefore I want nations to be free, but
the only way for nations to be really free is to destroy the nation-states
that capture and bound them. So … revolution? (SONG: System Meltdown by Enter Shikari) “Fuck all borders and fuck all boundaries. Fuck all flags and fuck nationalities. You’ve gotta give us a chance before we reach the … system meltdown … meltdown … meltdown.” (Song ends) It is often said in socialist ideologies
that states will naturally wither away after an overthrow of capitalism and the
ruling class – the only real beneficiaries of a nation-state and nationalism.
However the most successful revolutions only ever succeeded in overthrowing
their capitalist nation-state and in its place establishing a socialist
nation-state. These socialist nation-states would then go on to try and
remove ones national identity in favor of a new socialist national identity.
These nation-states would demand loyalty to the nation-state, they would reject
uniqueness for the sake of unity, and they would promote conformity towards
homogeneity. These policies, which are typical of a
nation-state, would lead to these revolutions ultimate failure either
through the collapse of the nation-state as seen in the USSR or by the betrayal
of the revolution by the nation-state for the nation-state at the expense of
the people as seen in China. From all of this I can begin to conclude that a
government – regardless if it is based on divine right, national characteristics,
or even workers solidarity – will only ever seek to maintain itself. A
government will not simply vanish or wither away once it can no longer be
justified because that government will always seek to find new justifications
for its continued existence. So if there is a revolution, if it intends to be
successful and successful in the long term, I would agree that it would need to
abolish the concept of the nation-state. But I would argue that it must not
confuse the abolishing of the nation-state with the abolishing of national
identity. Simply, we must transform how we think about nations and how we think
about nation-states. We need to separate these two ideas because they are indeed
separate. What I hope we would get out of a revolution, one of many things, would be
to free nations from the prison of the nation-state. Hello viewers! I’m Tera. If you enjoyed Ann’s video please like, subscribe, and
hit the bell icon. Do you want to learn more about this topic? Check out the list
of recommendations in the description below. Thanks for watching! We hope to see
you next time!

14 Comments on "National Identity and Nationalism"


  1. Wear those cat ears with pride sista! For real though, there's nothing wrong with someone taking pride in the country they're from. However, problems may arise when they base their whole personality and raison d'etre on their nationality.

    Reply

  2. Thanks, Ann/Andrew! 😀 You seem to be off to a great start with your channel and I subbed. Let me know if I can help with any of your projects. Easiest way to reach me is on my Twitter @datafaucet

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *