Friday, July 16, 2010

Nationalism

Why is it the folks who are most suspicious of nationalism want to nationalise everything?

Comments off the left seem to regard nationalism as Fascism Lite, or at best, an unstable attitude that could descend into vengeful war at any time. Whenever my uncle sends me one of those checklists that purport to show how the Tea Party/George Bush/conservatives/yahoo-of-the-month are causing America to descend into Nazism, nationalism is always prominent. Yet we have just partly nationalised our health insurance/care and auto industry, and have numerous czars for all manner of bypassing usual channels (red tape, if you hate it; legislation, if you like it) to get things done.

I don’t mean to simply be playing with words or pointing out ironies here. When there are questions of policy and direction, I try and create an analogous situation from a different era, to see if that illuminates anything. When others do this, they tend to choose either the time of the founding fathers or the time of their own childhood as a comparison, nearly always unfavorably to the present era. Both of those have too many other associations for us to clearly isolate a single factor, so I try and choose other places and times in American history.

We are currently in an all-in-this-together mode in terms of federal social legislation. That may be the best place to be, but it certainly isn’t common in our history. Consider the late 19th C, say 1880. We are looking at 1) midwestern farmers from northern Europe, 2) recent immigrants to NYC from Eastern Europe, perhaps Jews, 3) recently freed slaves farming 40 acres in Mississippi, and 4) a ship’s crew based out of Boston. If any of them hear that one of theother groups has widespread illness, even deathly illness, do any of them believe it is their job to do anything about that? Perhaps if the need is especially dire and affects many people, their houses of worship might collect money to send. But government collectors showing up and insisting that money be handed over to fix such problems would be greeted with blank stares. What is that to us? I feel bad for them but why is it my problem? We take care of our family, our neighbors, maybe people in the next town in an emergency. Our own.

I am not here debating whether that is a superior attitude or whether our current system is better. Well, okay, I am debating it a little. We have drawn the circle for which we are responsible ever wider throughout our history. Family, town, county, state, country. The people who insist that each widening is obviously more moral are coincidentally the ones who personally benefit from the widening, because they get to be in charge of more stuff. Funny thing, that. And they do it even over the objections of the smaller governmental divisions. Ultimately, because they have the power, I guess.

Got distracted. Sorry. My point is to ask, if nationalism is such a danger, who is it that is being more nationalistic, claiming that all issues must be addressed at a national level?

5 comments:

Gringo said...

Why is it the folks who are most suspicious of nationalism want to nationalise everything?.. My point is to ask, if nationalism is such a danger, who is it that is being more nationalistic, claiming that all issues must be addressed at a national level?

AVI is on a roll.
I see the following thoughts. National control is better than local control. International control is better than national control. Certainly the desired levels of control vary according to one’s belief.

Some would be content with an international veto on use of US military force: an attack dog under international control. How an organization like the UN, which has serial human rights violators like Cuba, China, and Saudi Arabia on its Human Rights Council, is a considered a more enlightened decision maker compared to the US government, is beyond my ken. Only through the old saw of viewing the UN through its ideals, and the US government through its actual behavior, can one reconcile seeing the UN as a more enlightened decision maker.

Some want a fulfillment of the supposedly disparaged Internationale “dream.” (for the translation, click at the left of views) The Communist dream paradoxically believes that through dictatorship of the proletariat, we will be led to the collapse of all government. More control leading to no control.


All centralizations of decision making presume an elite that will make better decisions than the hoi polloi.
.

Texan99 said...

Nailed it as usual.

I think I had it drummed into my head in youth that local control meant the Scopes Monkey Trial, while federal intervention meant the good guys desegregating schools and prosecuting the murderers of civil rights workers. It took an awfully long time for it to occur to me that the roles could easily be reversed.

David said...

The implicit assumption that the larger government entity is inherently more moral than the smaller government entity is, in the U.S. at least, partly a result of historical accident. It was the slave states that seceded from the Union; it could have been the other way around--say, if New England had seceded to avoid enforcement of the fugitive slave laws. Or, suppose that in 1933 the powerful Prussian state government had forceably opposed the centralizing Nazi regime, as was apparently within the realm of possibility.

Ymarsakar said...

I think most of it goes back to this.

In the days that have gone since we enunciated these statements so confidently I have had many occasions to see that this cataloging of people as either “right” or “left” has led to more confusion in American life than perhaps any other false concept. It sounds so simple and so right. By using this schematic device one puts the communists on the left and then one regards them as advanced liberals -after which it is easy to regard them as the enzyme necessary for progress.

Communists usurp the position of the left, but when one examines them in the light of what they really stand for, one sees them as the rankest kind of reactionaries and communism as the most reactionary backward leap in the long history of social movements. It is one which seeks to obliterate in one revolutionary wave two thousand years of man’s progress.

During my thirteen years of teaching at Hunter I was to repeat this semantic falsehood many times. I did not see the truth that people are not born “right” or “left” nor can they become “right” or “left” unless educated on the basis of a philosophy which is as carefully organized and as all-inclusive as communism.

I was among the first of a new kind of teacher who was to come in great numbers to the city colleges. The mark of the decade was on us. We were sophisticated, intellectually snobbish, but usually fetishly “democratic” with the students. It is true that we understood them better than did many of the older teachers; our sympathy with them was a part of ourselves.

Since 1932 the Communist Party had publicized itself as the leading opponent of fascism. It had used the emotional appeal of anti-fascism to bring many people to the acceptance of communism, by posing communism and fascism as alternatives. Its propaganda machine ground out an endless stream of words, pictures, and cartoons. It played on intellectual, humanitarian, racial, and religious sensibilities until it succeeded to an amazing degree in conditioning America to recoil at the word fascist even when people did not know its meaning.

Today I marvel that the world communist movement was able to beat the drums against Germany and never once betray what the inner group knew well: that some of the same forces which gave Hitler his start had also started Lenin and his staff of revolutionists from Switzerland to St. Petersburg to begin the revolution which was to result in the Soviet totalitarian state.

There was not a hint that despite the propaganda of hate unleashed against Germany and Italy, communist representatives were meeting behind the scenes to do business with Italian and German fascists to whom they sold materiel and oil. There was not a hint that Soviet brass was meeting with German brass to redraw the map of Europe. There was no betrayal of these facts until one day they met openly to sign a contract for a new map of Europe — a treaty made by Molotov and Von Ribbentrop.
-Bella Dodd, School of Darkness

Ymarsakar said...

Essentially, if nationalism is a socialist and communist prop, then it is good. But nationalism such as increasing the national military, is bad, because it leads to fascism.

Of course, in reality, fascism and communism are two sides of the same coin. But they don't teach Leftists that. Cannon fodder aren't told the real truth. They just get used up. That's what they are for.