By Kirk Classic | United States
There comes a time in every man’s life where he must come to define himself and make his way in the world, or risk being left behind and embittered. Often times I meet young men with little ambition, save for wealth, which is often concluded as the best alternative to defining the self. I then ask, “Do you want to be a man?” When the young man inevitably answers yes, I ask “What is a man?” Shrugs, a loss of eye contact, maybe even an awkward smile answer me. The one thing that never does is an answer.
How can boys hope to be something so ill-defined? Perhaps more concerning is the question of why it has a lost meaning? Unfortunately for so many young men today, their masculinity, interests and race is being attacked, making their struggle towards self-actualization an even steeper climb that it ought to be. It is during these times of startling uncertainly that the allure of nationalism looms the brightest.
In geography, a nation is a group with common descent, history, culture, or language in a territory. The word can overlap with a state, which is a group with common government and sovereignty, but it does not have to. Nationalism is when individuals drawn to the group identity of a common people seek to accrue power and advocate for said people, on the premise of superiority.
All too often, quite unfortunately, young men fall in love with the comfort of taking pride in their own heritage. Many times, the group is a supplement for the unremarkable achievements or lack of resolution of the individual who wishes to be unjustifiably fulfilled by a people long gone. How can you feel pride for the achievements of men you have never met, are loosely related to, and have no personal investment in? If you’ve ever called into question the paradoxical nature of race based reparations, this follows closely to that flawed mentality.
The nationalist, more or less, perceives the world like so. ‘The greatest architect known to man was a part of my tribe. He was the greatest architect because he was intelligent. Now, the architect’s achievements are an attribute. Therefore, as a descendant, I share these attributes. Thus, I feel pride.’
Pride is “a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” More simply put, pride is a feeling of satisfaction regarding an object of investment. Just as others feel a surrogate shame for the actions of people long dead, the nationalist feels pride for those whom he had no investment in.
Joseph Sobran noted in his 2001 column “Patriotism or Nationalism?” that, “In the same way, many Americans admire America for being strong, not for being American. For them, America has to be “the greatest country on earth” in order to be worthy of their devotion. If it were only the 2nd-greatest, or the 19th-greatest, or, heaven forbid, “a 3rd-rate power,” it would be virtually worthless.”
He then continues to state, “This is nationalism, not patriotism. Patriotism is like family love. You love your family just for being your family, not for being “the greatest family on earth” (whatever that might mean) or for being “better” than other families. You don’t feel threatened when other people love their families the same way. On the contrary, you respect their love, and you take comfort in knowing they respect yours. You don’t feel your family is enhanced by feuding with other families.”
As George Orwell astutely observed, “[there is a] habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But secondly – and this is much more important – I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.”
Steven Pinker, a cognitive psychologist and linguist, argues that by closing a dialogue and shunning dissenting thought, people will be more heavily drawn to opinions out of the ordinary that they seldom hear being represented truthfully. This creates an effect where the most alluring ideas are the most radical, because the radicals are hardest to silence.
If nationalism is created by the allure of a group identity, then it stands to reason that they do their part in destroying our individualist culture. There is danger in the path forward. The world works in equilibrium. Individuality and group identity are paramount forces. A lack of proper balance of the two can spell disaster.
Intellectual honesty is a war on two fronts. On one hand one must do battle with oneself. On the other hand, one must do battle with everything outside. It is a maddening process that has left greater men addled beyond belief. But, in the face of inevitable pockets of untruth, what is the alternative? Death in a society is sign of life, and though we know society will fall, in each of us is the fire that says “not today.” And as that fire roars and claims our flesh as fuel, let that fuel be so rich that it keeps warm those who will succeed us for generations.
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