Cum nu am mai scris de ceva zile, voi umbla la rezerva strategică. (Aiurea, vreau să-mi popularizez mărgica). Am trimis la antiwar.com un comentariu la un articol, comentariu care probabil nu va apărea (e cam mare faţă de cele pe care le publică şi e greu de editat şi, în definitiv, poate că nu le place). E în engleză, dar poate voi relua şi dezvolta (s-o vedem şi pe asta!) unele idei de acolo în limba noastră.
Articolul care m-a enervat (cam aşa funcţionez, la enervare devin productiv): A familiar enemy – by Alan Bock
Mr. Bock tried too hard to oppose nationalism to patriotism and didn’t succeed. Mainly because such an endeavour simply can’t succeed if you don’t compare (or oppose) comparable (or opposable) things. He fails to notice, right from the beginning, the Orwell’s fallacy. The way Orwell defines them there, patriotism would be a benign state of mind which automatically transfers its positive qualities to politics while nationalism would be an ideology derived from „the desire for power”. This erroneous approach is later developed into what culminates with the identification – in Mr. Bock’s view – of imperialism as the ‘natural’ nationalism’s offspring.
The ‘stretching’ of the argument has even deeper roots, mainly the modern twisting of the language. English language has a word for what Mr. Bock (and he’s by no way the only one) places upon nationalism, the word is chauvinism. Chauvinism represents an exaggeration either of an attitude or an ideology. (While nationalism can represent both a doctrine and an attitude, I haven’t yet heard of a ‘patriotist’ doctrine.)
There is a difference implied or observable between nationalism and patriotism, but it refers to the way one sees himself with respect to the nation it belongs to. If the ethnic element is very strong, nationalism and patriotism practically describe the same attitude. When ethnicity is diverse some prefer to avoid the use of the word nationalism, cautious not to offend minorities’ sensibilities. Nevertheless, a nation like the American nation (to whom US citizens officially pledge allegiance, by the way, so I suppose it isn’t too bold from my part to assume Americans are a nation) is one nation, has one territory, exclusive citizenship and one culture. One may call himself patriot and avoid the use of nationalist, but fact is he places in high regard the nation (which encompasses his ethnicity, his cultural roots and the land he considers himself ‘at home’) he belongs to. The nation doesn’t automatically include the form of government or the ruling ideology.
Which brings us to the ideological aspect. There were and are empires that stem from a nation. But no empire promotes a nationalist ideology. It is a form of universalistic utopia that provides the substance for the ideology of empires. You can’t go on ‘crusades’ plainly for your nation, you need to ‘sell’ to the others, to your own too, some ‘higher’ purpose. Not even the ‘war on terror’ can be sold as a purely defensive, „nationalistic” – in Mr. Bock’s view, but „patriotic”could very well apply as exemplified with the passage from Orwell – enterprise. It doesn’t matter if some nation is the conqueror and several other nations are the conquests, the aggression can be disguised only briefly behind the mask of legitimate defense (be it preemptive or not). Iraq has suffered a ‘regime change’ for the sake of ‘democracy’, a „noble” purpose bursting with ideological concepts. Or misconceptions.
The nazis didn’t hold the German nation in respect. Their elitist utopia of a master race envisioned an un-natural eugenics selection system to be applied to all, including their own people, for the „promise” of achieving superhuman status (a presumed flawless individual who would generate a flawless society). All imperial ideologies set an unattainable but alluring goal, especially when attempting for global dominance. The nazi cynical approach couldn’t appeal to many as was the communist utopia trying to or is trying, nowadays, the pan-global democratization utopia, but even the nazis „justified” their empire building with something beyond the immediate reach, beyond the nation and with a ‘guaranteed’ beneficial outcome.
On the other hand, the orwellian concept of doublespeak and the accompanying distortion of the thinking process is more present than ever, quite a mark for our times. As a side note, Orwell himself embarked on the propaganda warfare for the sake of his nation – ‘Talking to India’ – and under a misguided ideological impulse (he thought he could follow his own agenda on the British Empire’s money), so no one is immune.
The boundary between nationalism and chauvinism or, if you prefer, between a non-aggressive ideology and imperial ideology may somehow vary with the times (and propaganda can and tries to influence perceptions), but identifying this border line and restraining from crossing it rely entirely on each one’s degree of civilization.
And if a majority of individuals in a nation can be duped indefinitely, well, too bad for all of us.