Nationalism is a political concept that provides a bridge between people and their sense of obligation and duty for their country. I disagree with Mr. Albert Einstein s notion that nationalism is an infantile disease. I believe that nationalism is an extremely powerful and unifying tool for nations and states, because without it many of the colonized nations in Africa and Asia would still be colonized, and there would be fewer democracies in existence. Many African and Asian nations were victims of Europe s mercantile crusade against the third world.
Nations like Kenya, India, and even Ethiopia to an extent, were colonized and thrust under imperialistic regimes. Haille Selassie Emperor of Ethiopia used nationalism to help unite his people against Italian occupation. With his army outnumbered and ill equipped for the rigors of tactical warfare, he called on his people to heed the call of their ancestral birthright to unite and take back their motherland Ethiopia. Had it not been for his ability to connect his nation with the state itself it would have been impossible to defeat the Italians.
While the precept of nationalism according to Einstein may seem like it would appeal to only the most basic and instinctive notions of a people, it s unifying ability cannot be understated. Yes, people are complex thinking beings with the right of self-determination, but sometimes their sense of pride and heritage towards the nation needs to be evoked at times for the greater good of the state. People need to be able to identify with something larger than themselves. Prior to the French Revolution the world was wrought with monarchies and dictatorships.
During the overthrow of the Bastille the French army fought like banshees for the glory of France. The idea of the state was first needed in order for these nationalist to align themselves behind it. This identity with the state and not the monarchy sounded the death knell for many dictatorships. Nationalism helps states become stronger, by helping to channel and consolidate power. This in turn provides an atmosphere in which democracies flourish. Democracy helps to give the people who make up a nation a voice in the determination of a national identity, as well as a say in how they are to be governed.
Many would argue that nationalism often times leads to conflicts, as well as it may hinder nations that are well off from helping nations that aren t doing so well. The argument that being a nationalist inevitably pits you against those who are not like you or from your nation is a weak one. In a civilized world dominated by democracies these instances of nationalism would lead to competition and not conflict. American garment workers are motivated by a sense of pride in being American that makes them turn out a better quality garment.
This sense of nationalism does not cause them to want to go to war against lets say Mexico because their garment workers are our competitors. The key I must reiterate is that civilized democracies must exist. The cold war was an example of nationalism spurring two countries to the precipice war. But it was the competition that eventually determined the victor and not a conflict. The Soviets communist economy was no match for Americas free market economy proliferation machine.
Unfortunately in the case of nations helping one another out, nationalism can provide a hindrance of sorts. People will tend to want to help its own people before helping those of another nation. Yet and still they can provide a great example of a nation banding together to help its own, for other more fractured municipalities. In closing, while nationalism does appeal to the non-thinking emotional sensibilities of a nation, this is sometimes a necessary evil that unites a nation. Nationalism is definitely a political concept that we need in this world.