Reposted from August 2018. I was going to write something new, but liked this well enough. It seems valuable for Memorial Day.
I have previously expressed the opinion that it was not nationalism that created WWII, but it was nationalism that won it. The German attitude was more properly described as a tribalism or racialism, though they called it nationalism. Jews, Slavs, or Roma who lived within the German nation were not considered part of Das Volk, but ethnic Germans who lived over the borders were considered part of the larger family. Some nations, of Scandinavian, Frankish, or Anglo-Saxon descent were considered people to be ruled if they would not cooperate, but not exterminated. Hungarian and Romanian "nationalist" figures such as Antonescu were likewise protectors only of ethnic Romanians, not all within the borders. (This is unsurprising in Europe up until that time, because borders moved frequently, but language and ethnic heritage remained primary. It's just wrong to call it nationalism.)
In contrast, while the Allies had a lot of international cooperation, they ran largely on nationalist sentiment. Not only the Americans, who, as a mixed people had no choice except nationalism, but as the war progressed, the Soviet Union hunkered down into its constituent parts and Stalin made his appeals on behalf of Mother Russia, not the New Soviet Man. My thought has been that while nationalism has dangers and can be a false god, internationalism is a worse one. It might in theory be a better thing, and if we ever do become better humans I will change my vote. At the moment, however, I consider it an overreach. When we pretend to be better than we are we are in enormous danger, and those who are loyal to international enterprises smuggle in some much more primitive prejudices. They do not transcend nationalism, as they imagine, but replace it with something that aims higher but strikes lower.
That is an observation of the group mentality, not the individual. I am fully prepared to accept that there are many people who do transcend nationalism on an individual basis. As Steve Sailer has pointed out, however, in the traditional concentric circles of loyalty humankind tends to use, they more often skip over ring rather than include. There is more virtue to be signaled in loving those far away rather than neighbors. How much more noble to love illegal aliens at the expense of poor citizens!
I will have to revise my WWII picture however. It still applies to Germans. Yet my reading of Japanese history recently convinces me that nationalism was indeed their motive. They did not find Koreans, Taiwanese, or Chinese racially inferior, but culturally so. Their attitude toward those in Vietnam, the Philippines, and the Pacific Islands was more tinged with a racialism.
I'm not sure how I incorporate this into the overall picture, but I have to start by wounding my old model. Any of you who have knowledge about Japanese and other Asian cultural and racial attitudes, please weigh in.
Cross-posted at Chicago Boyz
What have you been reading lately about Japanese history?
Up until maybe the 60’s, nation was a near synonym for race. That was the plain, well-understood meaning when I was an undergraduate in the 60’s. The identification of nation with citizen of a state is a more recent meaning, and a significant change. In the 30’s and 40’s, the US was almost 90% White, and American nationalism was the national identity of the Whites. Blacks by and large have never accepted the legitimacy of White America and have never been part of the American nation.
Japanese definitely did and do consider Koreans and Chinese inferior, culturally if not genetically. Not sure about genetically. I did live there 15 years and married a Japanese, so I know a bit about the place.
Any of you who have knowledge about Japanese and other Asian cultural and racial attitudes, please weigh in.
My observations are based on university students from the PRC. VERY ethnocentric- hang out with Chinese, very rarely with other nationalities. This is especially so when compared with other foreign students- who have a wide variety of nationalities among their friends. Gweilo- foreign devil. But at the same time, a hometown classmate had a Chinese mother- Nationalist refugee on Taiwan who was the translator for the Navy officer she married- so not completely ethnocentric.
BTW, PRC Chinese DO NOT like blacks. No PC attitudes there at all.
Japanese are very group oriented. While they may be polite to a foreigner- gaijin- who has learned Japanese language and customs, that foreigner will always be considered an outsider.
"They do not transcend nationalism, as they imagine, but replace it with something that aims higher but strikes lower"
This is well said, and applicable to many. Just as there is a "God shaped space" in people's hearts, there seems to be a "tribe shaped space". The nation state was a reasonable way to organize folk who speak different languages.
Now that I mention it, with thinking about how English is the "Lingua Franca" of the world, it strikes me that the vast majority of international globalists speak English, and perhaps a majority of them have English as their second language.
As I mentioned in comments to the 2018 post...As an example of nationalism compared to racism: In the Kaiser’s Germany, Anne Frank’s father served in the Army and received a field promotion to officer status. In the Third Reich, he was thrown into a concentration camp.
Excesses of nationalism *can* be very destructive, as the catastrophe of WWI indicates, but racism is worse.
There is a new book out which you might find interesting. Here is a link
https://www.amazon.com/Stalins-War-New-History-World/dp/1541672798 I haven't read it but I've read a few commentaries which suggest it sheds a lot of light on what was really going on.
C S Lewis (clearly the patron saint on this blog) observed somewhere that it is possible to be *below* some common emotion as well as being *above* it. I think many people who think they are Above nationalism/patriotism are actually below it.
Sean McMeekin is the author stevo references--always worthwhile when it comes to Russia. He argues that WWII historiography is too Hitler-centric. Even an admirer of John Lukacs like myself can appreciate that observation.
Students from the PRC know very well that they are being watched by the CCP--of course they're going to be discreet about contacts with their hosts and the even more inferior students from not-China.
sykes.1: Up until maybe the 60’s, nation was a near synonym for race.
Ethnicity. Nor is nationalism, under this use of the term, the same as the state. The Soviet Union was a state, but not a nation. Jews were a nation but not a state for most of the last two millennia.
It's important to understand nationalism as an important organizing principle, embodying the right of a people to self-determination.
The problem is that very few geographical areas are ethnically homogeneous. Even countries often thought of as ethnic nationalities, such as France and Spain, are amalgams of cultures melded over centuries.
Just finished the audio version of They Thought They Were Free by Milton Mayer in 1956. Highly recommend. It was fascinating to hear actual party members views and rationalization of the events that transpired and their actions.
Bookstore summary: “...They Thought They Were Free is an eloquent and provocative examination of the development of fascism in Germany. Mayer’s book is a study of ten Germans and their lives from 1933-45, based on interviews he conducted after the war when he lived in Germany. ... His discussions with them of Nazism, the rise of the Reich, and mass complicity with evil became the backbone of this book, an indictment of the ordinary German that is all the more powerful for its refusal to let the rest of us pretend that our moment, our society, our country are fundamentally immune...”
@ stevo - that looks intriguing, and entirely possible. Josef was much smarter than Adolf, and smarter than us at least some of the time.
I think there are literally millions of military veterans who would disagree that blacks have never been part of the American nation.
@ Erick - an important anchor in this discussion that is now being lost. Add in police and fire.
That exclusion of B/blacks from the American nation bothered me too. It's no revisionism to state that they've been here from the start, and doing the parts allowed to them.
Nations are made, not born, and most of them have been made by means and methods that violate almost every principle of modern bien-pensantisme, even if the aims were laudable.
As to the Two Great Bloodland Ogres, Hitler remained a twisted idealist from first to last--- Kershaw's bio, Rigg's Hitler's Jewish Soldiers and Weber's Hitler's First War provide
perspective on the idealism and the obsessions.
Stalin OTOH remained the cold calculator, who delighted in mistreating even his friends.
You know, in 2014 I attended a week-long conference in Jerusalem on the subject of nationalism and whether it was a good thing in the American and/or Israeli contexts. Bill Kristol was one of the speakers, and he staunchly defended the idea of American nationalism at that time. That was two years before Trump, though.
@Erick -- I said the same thing at my place to that line of inquiry. Anybody who's been to war is likely to know black Americans he would trust with his life, and has.
Made. I would even say "built." There is an idea, among those who have grown up in nice places, that this all just happens naturally and only when bad people screw them up do things go wrong. It is unfortunately almost universal among progressives, but there are plenty of conservatives and libertarians who think so, too. If they would just leave us alone we'd do fine. In its extreme, it is the foundation for paranoia, that it is only the evil few who are ruining it for everyone else.
If only it were remotely true. Societies are built out of lots of people who are only nice some of the time.
...If only it were remotely true. Societies are built out of lots of people who are only nice some of the time....
Brings to mind Mandeville's 'The Fable of the Bees'. Excellent book, one of the foundations of British economic thought. I have to believe Adam Smith read it.
Assistant Village Idiot: It is unfortunately almost universal among progressives
Not sure that is supportable, however, we can say that progressives generally believe that if you reform the institutions, it can lead to positive changes in human behavior.
Tom Bridgeland: Societies are built out of lots of people who are only nice some of the time....
Societies are built out of lots of people who are only mean some of the time....
While nationalism has its drawbacks and can be a false god, I believe that internationalism is a worse option. It may, in theory, be a better thing, and I will amend my vote if we ever do become better beings. However, I believe it is an overreach at this time. We are in grave danger when we claim to be better than we are, and people who are committed to international corporations smuggle in some much more primitive attitudes.
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