Today is “July the 4th”, or “Independence Day” in the United States, celebrating their independence from Britain in 1776, when they established themselves as a totally separate country and “Nation”.
A couple of days ago here in Canada we celebrated something quite similar, “Canada Day” which also involved Britain historically, back in 1867, when we became an official “Federation”. Unlike the United States, however, we remained a part of Britain, but were officially recognized as being a separate “Dominion” of theirs, and then in 1947 as a separate “Nation”. That was reason enough for us to celebrate, but the reason why the American’s make such a huge celebration out of their Independence compared to ours is because they severed their ties with the British in one dramatic fell swoop back in 1776, whereas Canada didn’t reach the same level of independence from Britain until 1982!
Both holidays celebrate the concept of “Nationalism”, and that’s what I want to talk about.
Nationalism is a political term, which basically means devotion to one’s country. Dictionaries define it more precisely, emphasizing that it most often means excessive devotion, loyalty or patriotism to one’s country, where citizens see and pride themselves on being unique and separate from other nations or all nations entirely, and will valiantly defend their right to be so (independent).
So now we have a whole world full of countries, full of people who celebrate and pride themselves on being part of a separate and unique nation!? Each country is cleanly divided from other countries, physically with borders and intellectually with political ideas, and various social customs. So, that makes you and me different than Americans, Americans different from Brazilians, Brazilians different from Iranian’s, Iranian’s different from Iraqis’ (yes, they are quite different), Iraqis’ different from Saudi Arabians, Saudi Arabians different from Germans, Germans different from Britains and so on and so on and so on.
Is this not a whole lot of division? And what does division and Nationalism cause between people—no, between human beings? Division creates strife, disagreement (my country is better than your country etc., etc), discord and even war. Is this division—nationalism and all that goes along with it, something truly good? Does it help to create unity between human beings? Does it foster humanities most valued character-quality: love? Should we celebrate something that separates and divides us—you from me if you live in another country—that divides us even to the point of killing one another in the name of this precious thing called “Nationalism”? I think NOT, but, I welcome your opinion.
I discuss some ideas related to this in my essay’s, “On Belief” and “On Opinion”.