The Nueva School
Student - Highschool
Imagine only having an allegiance to your family. Imagine a world without political entities. Imagine the violence, the crime and the absolute disregard for human life. Would you enjoy breathing the air of that world?
My answer is no. Community could possibly be the most important hallmark of humanity. Not only does community give a sense of being, but a sense belonging. This very sense of belonging is something that is incredibly and innately powerful. This great power encases the root of the importance of nationalism. Nationalism allows a connection to something greater. This is precisely why nationalism is so valuable in our lives.
That value of nationalism is essential to the growth and definition of humankind. The ability to interact and feel safe because there are common rules governing interaction is a foundation for the development of technologies and ideologies. Complex subjective realities would not be possible without an underlying sense of connection, which a nation creates.
To the contrary people will say, “But Noah, nationalism causes divisions in countries that are not homogenous”. Yes, but the true power in nationalism is that new nations can be created. For example, America has its own set of nationalistic principles. These principles supersede (for the most part) the ethnic ties between people. This set of principles is an example of how a collective can have a sense of nationalism without being part of the same ethnic group. This understanding alone revolutionizes the way we perceive nationalism. Benedict Anderson, defines nationalism as “an imagined community” and Ernest Gellner defines nationalism as “category of persons that…recog[nizes] each other as fellows of a kind”. The simple definition that emerges for me of nationalism is “a set of ideologies that lay a groundwork for interactions between people”. Nationalism can’t be anything but good.
My ability to communicate with you right now is only possible because of a common framework of communication. That framework allows me to share my ideas and to think. That framework is only possible because of an underlying understanding between you, and me. No wonder then that nationalism is so powerful, it is the thing that promotes social function and development. A foundation that is so necessary, but sometimes forgotten.
To continue with the thought of common ground work, I am sitting here and typing because of a string of events dating back before recorded time. Darwin says that I am simply a product of random mutations that worked. Some of those mutations I share with you, but that pales in comparison to the fundamental understandings I might share with you. I understand that I am accelerating towards the center of the earth at 9.8 m/s and understand that C-A-R means a machine on four wheels that moves.
To reaffirm this core foundation let’s zoom into the present. In the world around you, right now nationalism is promoting the exchange of goods. The idea that a shared trust exists because people around you follow the same rule book, incentivizes trade beyond a simple cost-benefit analysis. Small business has a better chance if they are confident that their customers will interact with them. Being able to market to a target demographic that is comfortable is a bonus and benefit for any company. Nationalism promotes exchange of manufactured goods by extraordinary margins as well. The ability to perceive one's community as elevated extends to the products of that community. If the community is elevated, would the products of the community not be elevated also? This also engineers a basic understanding of trust in commerce. The unspoken rules guiding trade allow for a fluid economy that is constantly growing.
Nationalism and economy collided beautifully in Brexit, the vote showed the world how much the British people value a sense of closed community. Whether economically it made sense (it didn’t) or geopolitically it made sense (it didn’t) emotions won the day. The emotions that bordered on xenophobia, are able to be traced down to a root cause. A cause that places pride and value in a circle of like people. Throughout history, this struggle of isolation and inclusion has been at the forefront of identity. What we can understand from the “Leave” vote is that living in a community with others like you is comfortable. But, the people of the United Kingdom are diverse thinkers, innovators and explorers. They love to think as much as I do (a lot) and they voted to leave one of the most powerful financial and political blocs in the world. Nobody thought it would happen. It did. We have to ask ourselves, did the choice to leave, hinder anything. I do not think it did. As an eternal cynical optimist, I believe that leaving the European Union pushed the world forward in a unique way. The “stubborn” nationalism of the British people caused a wave of self-examination. Politicians rushing to affirm or negate the choice. It caused an emergence of thought diversity.
I am a believer in the diversity of human thought. For me sometimes being pushed out of my comfort zone helps me to grow to my best. I am the son of two immigrants and I am constantly being exposed to the cultures of my heritage (Korean, Angolan and Haitian). Out of that arises a different kind of nationalism. The type of nationalism I outlined in earlier paragraphs. Yet I innately trust people that look like me and behave like me. It is instinctual. That feeling has helped me to grow. A growth not possible in a world without community.
In order to grow the fullest Andrew Carnegie said, “Aim for the highest”. Everyday I aim to be part of a peace that allows harmony between peoples, not simply people. The golden singular state of dystopian novels is not elevated in my mind. Exclusivity paired with inclusivity, the ultimate balance. A world where being different and the same are not mutually exclusive. A world of ideas and thoughts. Of dancing, song, joy and happiness.
By saying that nationalism is a hindrance, you disown your heritage. Nationalism is the foundation of our world. It is something we unconsciously rely upon in every aspect of our life. In your mind I hope to some degree I have cemented those facts. Every single passage of a second, serves to further solidify my point. We are each beautiful in our own right yet together we shine bright like the light of fireflies.