Ethical implications of nationalism in a modern society #essaycontest2016.

Author: Olivera Z. Mijuskovic, PhM, M.Sc.

Full member “International Association of Greek Philosophy – University of Athens”, Editor-in-Chief of Journal “Philosophical Views”, Member of the Editorial Board and Associate Editor of the Journal “Socrates”, President of the “World Philosophy Network”, Executive Director for Philosophy (and in the field of bioethics) Institute CESTUDEC of Como, Italy, Member of the “UNESCO World Heritage Center”

A few years ago I wrote a scientific article about the patriotism for the official portal for poilitical theory and philosophy for the Institute CESTUDEC of Como in Italy of which I`m a long-time member. In my work I first looked at the difference between patriotism and nationalism:[1]

Idea of ​​patriotism was known even in ancient times, and has had a very significant role in defense policy on the one part, and in discrimination against the barbarians, who were deprived of all rights that`re enjoy in the rest of the community, on the other part. The level of commitment to the nation is changing throw the historical tradition. Somewhere it comes as the patriotism in the classical sense, which is reflected in the willingness to sacrifice for the interests of country. In new century, (especially in the last two), nationalism plays a decisive role in the creation of modern political commonwealth or better to say state.

Nationalism and patriotism as they played, and still play, have advanced role when it`s connected to the actual liberation movements directed against the oppressive power. The distinction between patriotism and nationalism exists because of the existence of ethnically homogeneous nation-states in which the notion of nationalism and patriotism is quite simillar, while the clearest differences we could see in the multinational countries such as Canada or the United States. Here`s about the love for the state in Canada and The United States. On the other  example - Italian who lives in Italy then can be and Italian patriot and Italian nationalist.

However, we shouldn`t equate a country and nation. Also, we must distinguish patriotism from nationalism based on the love that someone feels for some country or nation. Let`s define it on this way - if someone love and care for his own country and that love has reasonable level than we talk about patriotism, but if someone have uncontrolled emotions and the absence of critical thinking  than we talk about a nationalism. This approach leads to double standards "us / them", which isn`t good and it`s very dangerous.

Bertrand Russell said: “Unrestricted nationalism is, in the long run, incompatibile with world  peace”.  

Any kind of divisions  lead to conflicts and tensions. We can speak about a patriot who loves his patria, his country, he identifies with it and shows concern for her welfare and the welfare of his own country. A nationalist loves his natio, his nation, he identifies with his own nation, showing special concern for her welfare and the welfare of each of fellow countrymen. Basically, this doesn`t have to be bad terms but they`re very dangerous. So we need to talk about the ethical aspects of these concepts.

Any exaggeration in the glorification of own state, or the nation is the vulgar type of patriotism or nationalism. Joy over the success of own country or nation in sports, science and other areas is the ethical type of patriotism or nationalism. The ethical type of patriotism and nationalism implies and a critical focus on the bad side of own state.

Modern society is faced with great challenges and crises. The threat to the world peace is our everyday life. Unity and better understanding of all peoples as well as dialogue between different cultures are a guarantee of stability and prosperity. History has taught us that at the time of the greatest economic depression of the early 20th century it flourished most brutal political movements. Hunger and poverty are often a smokescreen for the pernicious politics and philosophy. Patriotism and nationalism in this sense are a weapon that`s used to achieve the objectives of the lethal. Let us look at the example of Germany. Her greatest patriot was Willy Brandt. He sincerely apologized to victims of madness. He has reconciled the world. He`s an example of ethical patriotism. What would happen if he did not exist?

The concept of the United Nations and the European Union, is  the concept of peace and stability. It`s known occasion on which the all nations are united – that reason is world peace. In modern history or better to say nowadays raises concerns because of results of the referendum in the UK (“Brexit”). The point at which this is happening is very specific - refugee and economic crisis. It must be  done  everything to be open to people of different cultures and for the vital need of each of them must be carried. Bad things often bring and good things. The richness of culture is the wealth of the planet.

The elections in the United States brought many reactions. The global world is concerned because the political campaign omitted patterns of political culture as it existed after the end of World War II till nowadays.  It` unacceptable divided people by nationality, race, gender or any other preference. Actually political show and obviosly a lack of political culture  or expirience are dangerous because political practice after the election is something else entirely. The world superpowers are examples for  small countries in transition that are mostly had bad experiences in the past, some with wars and the escalation of nationalism and chauvinism, some with poverty, austerity, etc. In such conditions, increasing extremism it`s not good and each introversion of small coutries is actually an own goal.

Ethics nationalism or better patriotism can be as good as some sort of enthusiasm for prosperity. If the people of the Balkans highlight the achievements of Nikola Tesla this will be an incentive for young people to get involved in science. It can also be refer to the United States. People can work on a shared scientific projects. They have a common idol. Also in the same way we can talk about Aristotle, Plato or Socrates any many others great examples.

Good examples connect people. Hatred and primitivism create discord and it`s always a threat.


[1] Mijuskovic, O, 2012, Patriotism as an ethical problem, Institute CESTUDEC, Como, Italy (1-8)

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