Ethno-nationalism: A Hindrance to Modern Globalization

As the sun dipped beneath the horizon to draw December 19, 2016 to a close, millions of cheery lights in all shades of red, green, and yellow flickered to life, showering Berlin in a warm glow. Men, women, and children merrily walked the streets by Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, unaware that by 8:02 PM, 12 people would lay dead and another 56 would be injured in a truck attack which ISIL claimed responsibility for. The recent ‘2016 Berlin Attack’ is but one of the many terrorist attacks carried out in Europe in recent years, and like its predecessors, the attack has had consequences far greater than widowing spouses and orphaning children.

 For starters, because of the increased acts of terror, rampant xenophobia towards any and all who aren’t a pale-skinned blue-eyed European is on the rise, and the hate specifically targets the dark-skinned Middle Eastern Arab—the face of the attacks. Europe is slowly becoming a closed community where the outsider is judged and shunned, and only those that look European are given an admittance ticket. From this widespread xenophobia comes an ethnocentric form of nationalism that protects the majority at the cost of the minority, where nationality is determined by one’s race and ethnicity.

Previously, the nationalism that Europe favored was civic nationalism where one derives nationality from citizenship. Borders and allegiance determines one’s nationality, not skin color or culture. Built upon the principles of freedom and equality, civic nationalism can be quite positive. It is civic nationalism that allows for men and women of a multitude of races to show unwavering support for their national teams during the World Cup or the Olympics. In a sense, even the banter that the Swedes and the Danes exchange on a daily basis could be considered nationalism. In fact, the only two kinds of civic nationalism that are widely looked down upon by the world is American and Israeli nationalism.

But the often racist ethno-nationalism that some nations in Europe are moving towards completely defies the civic nationalism of past years, for in the eyes of many Europeans—and even some governments—no longer does mere citizenship guarantee a person’s place in the general European community.

Historically, ethno-nationalism doesn’t have a spotless track record. Just take a look at the holocaust, perhaps the most gruesome demonstrator of the drawbacks of ethno-nationalism, where 6 million Jewish civilians systematically murdered by Hitler and the Nazis with motivations that stemmed partially from ethno-nationalism, and specifically the belief of the superiority of the ‘Aryan’ race. Since then, the world has not made a blunder as destructive as World War II partly because of globalization efforts pioneered by the victors of the war. The United Nations was established in 1945 to ensure world peace. Nations began to consolidate and form long lasting alliances in the forms of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The world was promoting globalization at the cost of nationalism, at least nationalism in its extreme and destructive forms, and many agreed that this would likely ensure world peace.

But with the recent rise in xenophobia and ethno-nationalism, that dream of a united world is in severe jeopardy. In 2016, we saw the controversial ‘Brexit’ where the United Kingdom opted to withdraw from the European Union, a force that had tied Europe together for much of the latter 20th century. Championed by the UK Independence Party (UKIP), a radical right party that put major emphasis on Euroscepticism and nationalism, Brexit was favored by many who feared Muslims and called for severe limitations to immigration.

The hard-line extreme right National Front party of France has rejuvenated and is now more powerful than ever. Its president, Marine Le Pen, who had earlier announced that she will run for President in 2017 and had subsequently been dismissed by critics, is now believed to have a fighting chance. She had also recently promised a ‘Frexit’ where France would follow the UK’s footsteps and leave the EU.

In Cyprus, the National People’s Front (ELAM), a right-wing party that promotes Greek nationalism, has held numerous marches against Turkish Cypriots and immigrants and has called for a zero-tolerance immigration policy. ELAM has been criticized repeatedly for promoting racism and yet has won seats in the island nation’s parliament.

The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) gained momentum in 2016, with many in support of its right-wing policies. Albeit the loss at the 2016 presidential election, FPÖ’s presidential candidate Norbert Hofer lost by only a narrow margin, gaining 46.2% of the votes.

The resurgence of such right-wing nationalist parties that call for stricter immigration laws and are clearly anti-Muslim mirrors the increasing trend of xenophobia in Europe. These parties promise Europe a safe haven from terrorism and security against the terrorizing Muslims. In a sense, what these parties promise isn’t a lie. A strict anti-immigration policy focused on repelling Muslim immigrants and Syrian refugees could possibly decrease the number of terrorist attacks in Europe in the short term. But the cost of such protection would be the abandonment of thousands of refugees to war and famine. Still, if European lives can be saved from the sacrifice, then such an action could possibly be justified.

The larger point of contention, however, is that ethno-nationalism would spell the death of globalization in the long run. The world today places a firm emphasis on the interconnectedness of the multitude of nations in the world. International relations take as important a role as domestic laws and issues. The general populace has begun to open their eyes and look towards the plights of other countries, contemplating how to help. Now, with the advent of social media, members of different nations, races, and cultures, can interact in unimaginable speeds with just a click of a button. Surviving in this globalized world requires as much interactions with neighboring nations as possible for we are all in this world together. 

For any one nation to operate on its own agenda would mean suicide. A testament to this is North Korea, a standalone dictatorship that refuses to cooperate with the rest of the world. Though they boast a theoretically impressive nuclear arsenal, its people are starving and its technologies are outdated. Cuba, a nation that had steadily weakened after the collapse of its most important ally in 1991, has steadily stagnated for the past quarter century. It recently welcomed the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the U.S. with open arms in the hopes that real development can begin to take shape.

But ethno-nationalism stands in the way of globalization, and with it, progress. Whilst what the world needs is a certain degree of trust and cooperation among nations, ethno-nationalism is instead divisive. By promoting a policy of seclusion and closed borders, nations that adopt ethno-nationalism would likely put their own country’s agendas over those of other nations more so than they do currently. Even today with fairly cooperative governments, nations tend to pursue their personal agendas—the situation would worsen with ethno-nationalism in play. As such, Europe’s increased emphasis on ethno-nationalism is a step backwards from globalization and world peace, and instead promotes separation and segregation.

What the world would be heading towards by adopting ethno-nationalism as one of its core principles, then, is a myriad of divisive nations that refuse to cooperate with each other. That can only spell disaster.

As such, Europe has to abandon ethno-nationalism and steer back onto the path of international cooperation for the world to survive. Especially since Europe and the EU is a major player in international politics, economy, and security, the division of the ‘supercontinent’ would reshape the world into something far more unpleasant than it is currently. It is clear, then, that addressing the issue of terrorism in Europe with ethno-nationalism would be rather unwise.

Europe should instead look to pursue other policies or security measures that could decrease terrorism other than flat out banning an entire race. That straightforward answer of removing an entire ‘problem population’ would only bring about string of larger and more devastating issues whose impact would not be limited to just Europe.

Only in a perfect world can absolute security and absolute cooperation be present—for now, Europe must choose the lesser of two evils. 

Justin Chang

Seoul International School

High School

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