Nationalism and Patriotism
Written by Alfonso Elizondo
At the celebration of the Centennial of the First Great World War in Paris on November 13, two political visions of Europe that have existed for the last two hundred years confronted each other: nationalism and patriotism. Macron, the current president of France, who has no political party or ideology, said that ‘patriotism is exactly the opposite of nationalism and that nationalism is its betrayal’.
Meanwhile, Trump listened to Macron’s speech at the Arc de Triomphe and declared to journalists there that it did not coincide with his political vision of ‘America First’ and that Macron was a madman. Most of the hundred European leaders present were aware of Churchill’s phrase: ‘Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it’.
100 years ago European politicians thought that the stability of Europe was guaranteed after more than 40 years of peace on that continent. However, suddenly came the catastrophe of a war that was supposed to end all wars, creating the first episode of the current conflicts in Europe and giving rise to a contradiction between nationalism and patriotism: while patriotism defends the culture, language and history of a nation, nationalism believes that its nation is superior to others.
Supremacist nationalism is now installed in the White House with Trump and his entourage of paid die-hard supporters, just as in Putin’s Russia and Xi Jinping’s China. What is happening now in the Europe that abandoned wars is that exclusionary nationalisms and xenophobic populisms have forced their way into European parliaments and are creating an unprecedented system of confrontation and intransigence.
In addition to the fact that anti-Semitism is deeply rooted in such populisms, contempt for foreigners is spreading, merciless fighting against the thousands of migrants who have no papers or roof, dying people coming from the sea, arriving on the beaches in drifting boats to face walls, fences and borders built by the feeling of superiority that nationalism engenders.
Isaiah Berlin notes that this is a kind of pathological extremism that can lead to terrible horrors, although the main idea may be to preserve an inclusive Europe where a wide variety of peoples, cultures, beliefs, customs and traditions can coexist, without anyone appearing superior or inferior, but proudly different.
For his part, Johann Herder, the father of German Romanticism introduced the idea of nations arising from nationalism, historicism and the spirit of the people, and he was one of the leaders of the fight against classicism, rationalism and the scientific method that have accompanied the progress of nations. Herder says that as words acquire new meanings it is important to maintain rationality over emotions, since what happened in the past can occur again. In fact, the fragility and disintegration of the European Union caused by recent nationalism are a great danger to maintaining social peace and respect among human beings.
Addendum: Nationalism and Patriotism are now concepts that contradict each other, although they lived together at one time, and about two hundred years ago enabled the formation of the modern world in the West.