TED Conversations

Levi LCL

Director-General , The Universal Party


This conversation is closed.

Is Nationalism a 21st Century Ethic - Isn't Nationalism more like Racism or Sexism than Patriotism?

Everywhere you look there are stories, articles, and studies showing a growing trend of 'global minded' citizens all around the world. We hear talk of the 'international community' in everyday articles about wars, embargos and conflict as well as arts and culture. Most know that our modern economy is highly interdependent and have come to terms with the realization that what happens in another country affects their domestic policy and the ordinary lives of their citizens. Why then is nationalism so common, among an already global world where everyday life is dictated more by what occurs in foreign countries than the people around you. From clothes, to food, to music and movies, to automobiles and gas can we afford to be nationalist any longer?

It seems that nationalism is very much like racism or sexism when your on the receiving end of the hostility and brutality it creates. People despising you just for existing or being born somewhere, something you cannot change, and even though we may be able to change our nationality (those of us who are wealthy enough) we must pick one, and any choice carries with it a long host of problems. In a global world shouldn't there be more space for global citizens, for people who don't want to listen to politicians rally against foreigners to scapegoat their policies and problems, or commit to other xenophobic tendencies.

The idea that one can be a nationalist and fair and balanced to other nations and peoples is very much based on the outdated and unjust idea of "separate but equal'. Which as we all know from history and everyday life never occurs and is merely a sweet way of asking to keep things the same, often said by those from the wealthiest and most privileged backgrounds in their respective nations.

To commit to a nation is to prioritize one country, one people, over 190 others, which means no matter who you are or where you are, you automatically care less about the majority of humanity. There is another way, right?


Closing Statement from Levi LCL

Thanks everyone for participating in a lively debate on nationalism, and the rise of supranationalism in the 21st century as a practical solution and identity to the global social problems we face.

Due to the breadth of replies, I suggest those who are still interested in arguing this case continue, and join 'The Universal Party' on Facebook - A platform of universal values aimed at creating a global political movement that rallies supranationalism and applies it to the world stage.

We are the first truly global generation and the 21st century belongs to us. Thus lets continue this debate.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Oct 1 2012: A big over-simplification going on here.... Nationalism may be political movement based on self-determination for those who live in a particular area who feel that they will prosper if they make their own decisions rather than be part of a larger unit in which their voice cannot be adequately heard. It can be the product of a struggle against racial, political or cultural oppression.
    There is a tendency to assume that our own nationalism is not really nationalism at all, whereas that of others - particularly if it represents a threat to the system or cultural dispensation to which we are accustomed - is intrinsically bad. Most people think that the nationalism that led to independence for India or the United States was right and proper, likewise the efforts by Eastern European countries to liberate themselves from Soviet imperialism in more recent years. Even if the degree of oppression or discrimination or marginalisation is small..does a community not have a right - perhaps even a duty - to achieve self-determination? In a 'family' of political units, the 'children' surely have a right to grow up and leave home?
    • thumb
      Oct 2 2012: I agree this is an over-simplification also.

      Nationalism is not a movement based on self-determination. That is the least of its function, most of American and Eastern European history does not occur within the short moments of their independence, but in the running of the country. Was Bosnia engaging in self-determination when they engaged in ethnic cleansing (as this was publicly stated), was America engaged in self-determination in Vietnam, Korea, the bombing of Japan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Cold War, Cuba and countless South American coups? History doesn't end with the declaration of independence, it continues and those justifications for its existence become increasingly twisted.

      Self-determination was the justification of the Nazi Party in sparking World War 2, (before they went on about Jews), that German speaking peoples of the Rhine and other countries were repressed and mistreated and needed to be liberated and brought under a strong independent Germany, that cast off the economic, political, and military restrictions and hardships put on them by Europe and the United States. To challenge foreign powers, and lead their own destiny, and people liked it. But as we know German people under one nation wasn't the end of it.

      We shouldn't forget about the negative aspects of history, because they don't suit our political beliefs. That's the point of learning history in the first place, to make better judgements. Nations states and self-determination aren't the ideas expressed by European scholars in fancy libraries, they have become dirty with blood, war, and genocide, and cannot be assumed to be merely positive social forces.

      A better alternative is to realize the need for self-determination, a working fair government that doesn't marginalize a people, and further realize this does not come from separation from government but a new style of governance and concept of citizenship. Making your own country doesn't guarantee better governance, as South Sudan now know
      • Oct 2 2012: However, when a union of two partners does not work well for one or other - or both for that matter - then dissolving that conjunction is not necessarily a bad thing. Norway has not suffered because it is no longer part of Denmark and Denmark has not suffered because it no longer owns Norway. Equally, a union may be beneficial at some point but not permanently. Through most of the 19th century the union between England and Scotland was almost entirely good for both parties, but in the latter half of the 20th century it had become terribly disadvantageous to Scotland. Whether it has become benefiicial in the early 21st century is open to debate, but that is rather the point - there should be a proper debate.
        We certainly should not ignore material simply because it does not suit what we want to believe, but unfortunately that is exactly what people do. We all remember the 1945 Atlee government for the NHS, we don't remember it for the calamitous disaster it inflicted on the economy or it's cack-handed approach to Indian independence which still causes unnecessary misery today. In fact, if the Labour party had not abandoned their long-held commitment to proper Scottish home rule (dating back to Keir Hardie) there probably would not be an independence referendum happening in 2014.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.