Quote of the Year

December 23, 2006 at 3:33 am | Posted in America, American politics, Iran, Military, Muslim, Thoughts, War | Leave a comment

“‘Nationalism’ is the pathology of modern developmental history, as inescapable as ‘neurosis’ in the individual, with much the same essential ambiguity attaching to it, a similar built-in capacity for descent into dementia, rooted in the dilemmas of helplessness thrust upon most of the world (the equivalent of infantilism for societies) and largely incurable.”

by Tom Nairn, The Break-up of Britain, pg. 359.

Why do I call this the quote of the year? I really actually mean the quote of the past six years. I believe America has turned ultra-nationalistic in recent times. Take Virgil Goode’s letter to his constituents, in which he shows that it is his belief that Muslims do not represent American culture. His view of his nation does not include the Muslim. Nothing could be more infantile and wrong. But, nationalism being what it is, it can hardly be pinned down to one definition or another. As Benedict Anderson defines it in his work, Imagined Communities, “the nation: it is an imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.” (pg. 6)

I might add that nationalism is not just about who we are, but perhaps more importantly as who we are NOT. This difference between the imagined communities is the key to the destructive aspect of nationalism. Can an American who strongly believe in his community “America” identify in any way with, say, the community imagined by Iranians? and vice versa. Nationalists often, also, turn on their own if they aren’t ideologically pure. They paint tainted members of the imagined community as traitors to the cause, anti-community (e.g. anti-American, or “blame America first”).

Can our country get away from nationalism? Tom Nairn thinks it is “incurable,” and from the continual glorifying of the individual or group who fights to the death for the cause of the community…well, that doesn’t help. As Anderson continues:

Finally, it is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately, it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willing to die for such limited imaginings.

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