Imagine There’s No Countries . . .

Considering the Possibility and Practice of Global Citizenship

The problem of the day is not nationalism, but a rather profound and obvious lack of that sentiment.

Posted by rfrankl on April 19, 2009

It is so funny how the west has always moves too fast for the rest of the world to the point where we become disconnected with the realities of everywhere else. This is class is designed to question the value of patriotism in light of the great wars that have been fought in the twentieth over that stubborn and often dangerous  idea, and the natural curiosity of people in a society where there is so much easy access to information, almost mind numbing access. Yet we treat patriotism as though it still has its furious obstinacy over the mind of men in the west. The nations of Europe have given up much of their sovereignty. There has been some resistance from England and from some other nations, but for the most part it has been welcomed and the outcries of patriotic sentiment seem to be only an iridescence from a dying flame. In the United States, although more patriotic in a way than Europe there still is a growing feeling that we are not exceptional and nothing special. There are some vociferous claims of patriotic assertiveness in the South and Midwest, but it is generally reactionary, obscurantist, and contrived. There is really nothing like that calm pride of the early generations of Americans, that Jefferson, Lincoln, and Wilson exhibited. Even that tiger of a sometimes imperious nationalism: TR, was a man who knew the cultures of the world. He had been taken on tours of Europe by his Norseman father, to Paris, the Neapolitan countries, Germany, and the Middle East, although he did refer to the Jordan as merely a creek compared to an American river, but nonetheless he knew his other peoples. He even lived for a year with a German family in Dresden. The same goes for Jefferson who lived in France from 1784 to 1789. TJ toured the Salons and indulged in the best wines and lived the culture. The ignoramus assertive patriots today would probably look down on that openness. Any of those great statesmen would most certainly not get elected today. While you have very assertive and aggressive patriots on one side, you have a good majority of people who feel that we need to get off this patriot stuff, in fact most people who are wealthy and city minded and educated believe this. And so this group of people feels that the problem is that rather vociferous group of supposed nationalists, but when we look down the microscope at ourselves we see that that is dying out and looked down upon more and more but also, if we look out our telescopes at the world beyond, it is as if we are ourselves in this class exhibiting a sort of provincialism and ignorance in not seeing that the problem is not too much national identity but not enough of it. The problem of our time is not nationalism like the last century but something more complex and backward.

Despite anybody’s qualms about the way national identity can manifest itself it works on a higher level than ethnic or sectarian identity, which is superficial. We all know the convulsions of violence that have erupted in the Balkans between the Serbs, Bosniacs, and Croats, and between Catholic, Orthodox, with them both massacring the Muslims, or even the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which was fueled by Christian and Muslim disparateness, or the conflict in Rwanda between Hutus and Tutsis, or the more religious, rather than ethnic conflict in Darfur, between a the Arab-Muslim Janjaweed militia and Christian and Pagan peoples, with the former being supported by the Islamic government. The place right on the minds of most Americans, Afghanistan, seems so unsolvable because of the ethnic, sectarian differences, not to mention the animosities between urban and rural, armed and not-armed, and whether you are connected with the transportation and drug mafias or not. Even in the conflicts that can look nationalistic, particularly in the Middle East, they are not that at all but religious with nationalistic sentiment grafted on. You could go down the list: Sunni Pakistan and Shia Iran in the 1990’s, Sunni Saudi Arabia and what was a Shia dominated Iraq in the 1990’s, Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, Kurds and Turks in Turkey, Kurds up against Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq, a strong Uzbeck minority in Turkmenistan, Jews and Muslims, Palestinains and Jews and Arabs, and you could go on and on. The problem is exactly that the patriotism that we take for granted, one in which it is not your origins, color of skin, dialect, or anything else that is outside, that makes you a part of the community but rather your values. If you take the catechism of our founding documents and except them and bow your head to be baptized in the spirit of rationalism and tolerance and cool-headedness, then your accepted.

Our time should be spent on trying to get people to stop talking about the problem of patriotism being total blind devotion to one’s country, but what is more pertinent to the problems of the day, when it is only a tool or appendage of ethnic and sectarian identity. It should not be a case of only Pashtuns being considered citizens of Afghanistan or Sunnis being citizens of Suadi Arabia. If you look at the action of Suadi Arabia in the late 1980’s and 1990’s it has supported through charities, bunyads, the royal family, intelligence agencies, and political lobbies Wahhabism in Afghanistan and the CAR’s. They used the rationale that if they are Wahhabi, a Suadi import, then they will support the nation of Suadi Arabia. They confused very potent religious ideas with political and national parties. And what has happened is known too all. Their Wahhabi proxies, most notably Osama Bin Laden, have turned on Riyadh. Bin Laden’s group and others, that were formerly financed by Suadia Arabia have now criticized the westernized elite family and indeed attacked with violence Suadi Arabia itself, their former protector. Patriotism in the American rational, open, relaxed, but warm form, needs to be promoted not only by conversation and engaging culturally in the new barrier free world but by promoting diplomatically compromises between these peoples in those countries by our government and most importantly by example, where we do not go too far out into the world of ice reason stoicism latent in certain kinds of cosmopolitanism, but stay true to what has worked, and will work for the rest of the world if we go back to it.


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