By: Glen Paul Hammond
The culture of a nation is a multi-layered thing; it is like a many-sided diamond, or a delicate ecosystem with many working parts. Each and every culture has its own particular laws, customs, and social norms. These are parts of what make them distinct from one another and the basis of what is celebrated in their diversity. Nationalism too is a part of this equation, one of the facets of that many-sided diamond; it is, as Andrew Coyne puts it, a means through which individuals can identify themselves as “all members of the same nation.” Nationalism is a unifier that makes democratic self-government possible. At its worst, nationalism is an agent of division, yet, at its best, it is the necessary ingredient that allows for an espousal of diversity in the multicultural projects of liberal democracy.
One of the problems with the term nationalism, however, is that it means different things to different people. This highlights the need to preface any conversation on the topic with a working definition: A quick look at any dictionary will outline its essential features as “loyalty and devotion to a nation….a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.” For many, this is distinguished from the strong feelings associated with patriotism, by an implication of an attitude of superiority. It is, perhaps, in this final implication that the current debate between nationalism and globalism is rooted.
The push for globalism with its post-modern sensibilities rebukes any national viewpoint which allows one culture to view itself as being superior to another. Yet, the globalist viewpoint, itself, can be viewed as a manifestation of what the Hungarian prime-minister, Viktor Orban, calls a new kind of imperialism, one that ironically asserts that a conglomeration of post-nation states, held together by a centralized appointed body, is superior to a partnership made up of diverse and sovereign nations. The globalist, Angela Merkel admitted to as much in reference to such issues as the United Nations agreement on migration, when she said, “In this day, nation states must today—should today, I say—be ready to give up sovereignty” (Nellist). The fact that these sovereign nations are led by governments answerable to the people does not figure into the globalist equation of democracy and is instead discounted as a form of nationalism they dub as populist in nature. Much like nationalism, populism, is also a term that demands definition: One modern dictionary states that a populist is 1. “A member of a political party claiming to represent the common people” and 2. “A believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people.”