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Defining Nationalism | David Jackson's Biz Defining Nationalism

56b03b11christene Eric Christen is a multi-faceted Award-winning British and American Designer, Artist, Inventor and Author who has lived in the UK, the USA, Japan, the Greek Islands and SE Asia. He has had his own Design Business for 6 years in San Francisco and has lectured to MA Design students on topics from as practical as Materials and Technical Drawing to academic such as Critical and Creative Thinking. Click Here for Profile Information

Every nation I have visited or lived in, whether rich or poor, large or small, shares the dangerous virus of nationalism. It is a kind of mass human immaturity with both minor and major consequences. Wherever I have been, from Japan to Cyprus, it is just a question of time before someone will try to explain to me why their country or people are somehow superior to, not only my country or people, but also the rest of the world.

One of the most annoying aspects of nationalism (and there are many) is the fact that the most hardened nationalists are people who have usually not even visited another country or have only taken a quick holiday abroad. In short, their blind and naïve views are informed by the media, their parents and peers, film and if they belong to that more refined minority of readers – books! To summarize, their conviction of superiority is a gross presumption based on narrow-minded conditioning.

Nationalism manifests itself in varying degrees of hostility. On one hand there are those who will not hesitate to kill for one’s country, right or wrong, as if this is somehow totally different from say, killing the entire family next door in cold blood! These zealous beasts are the first to be exploited by ruthless dictators.

On the other hand there is a kind of gentler nationalism by association – based on the military and financial power and quite often the scientific achievements of a nation in recent or indeed ancient times. The fact that almost all invention or so called progress, whether good or bad, is the product of rare individuals who have as much in common with the common man as say, Saturn’s rings, seems irrelevant. The consensus is that since a nation somehow produced a few brilliant people recently or even 2000 years ago as did, for example, the Greeks, then everyone in that nation is brilliant too!

In the case of the British the common Englishman is clearly superior to others because England apparently won the second world war, had a large empire a hundred years before, English scientists invented the train, radar, the radio, television, most sports and so on – and who can compete with British humour or has produced a musical group that can compare to the Beatles? The fact that Britain instigated slavery or that the British Empire stole half the worlds national treasures and committed atrocities around the world in the name of nationalistic glory or more recently sold arms to homicidal dictators such as general Pol Pot of Cambodia, does not seem to matter. Thus nationalism is also quite discriminating – it selects the facts that establish it while ignoring some ugly truths!

In the case of the Cypriots and the Russians similar stories can be told. The Cypriots, all 300,000 of them, are the best because it was a Cypriot engineer in the UK who created the mini-car back in the 1960s and today a large budget airline in the UK (easy jet) is owned by a Cypriot and lets face it – Cyprus has the most sunshine of any country in Europe! Not only this, but Cypriots have a proud Greek heritage and are therefore great philosophers and artists and it is just a question of time before they rule the world! As you can plainly see, nationalism is one of the many forms of ignorant self-deception.

In the case of the Russians, though I haven’t been to Russia and my report is based on what my Russian friends have said and the little knowledge I have gained from reading, the picture is more or less the same. Russia is a superior country because of scientific and military achievements, because it is a huge country and its 19th and early 20th century writers have established themselves as world class and who can compete with the Bolshoi Ballet? There is little mention of the Hitler-like atrocities perpetrated against its own peoples by Stalin and Trotsky or the huge crime wave and universal corruption that has practically paralyzed the entrepreneurial business climate there.

Denial is an essential part of nationalistic thinking. “We do no wrong or our mistakes are excusable,” is a common prejudice. But ultimately, where does this deep-seated need to be superior come from? Why do people need to feel superior to others? One theory is that we are all basically insecure due to our short life spans and therefore need to be acknowledged, so we demand attention, affection, love and so on. This attention makes us feel special – it raises our self-esteem and for a short while we are under the delusion that we may well live forever – that we are important – we are something of value. Not just another struggling life form on a huge planet spinning through nowhere!

Another theory is that we are afraid to be left behind so we strive to make our mark, to leave a legacy before we die. We wish to be remembered! To do this one must be better than most, highly competitive and extremely bold. One may as well exclaim, “Look, am I not superior? Will you not remember me or indeed bestow gifts upon me?” This is all very well, but the lesser the talent the greater the aggression and often a trail of destruction follows.

Religion, ethnicity and more recently sport, have fanatical aspects akin to nationalism: “I was born in a Christian or Muslim country and therefore I am a Christian or a Muslim and, of course, my religion is the best, the truest and the wisest of all!” However, that is another subject.

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