Nationalism’s Pros and Cons

Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

Nationalism is talked about a lot in the media, especially with its recent uprising. Unfortunately, nationalism isn’t as black and white as people tend to paint it to be — there are bad parts to nationalism, and there are good parts to nationalism, and knowing the difference is key to running a country optimally.

This is part two of my “Election Trilogy”. You can view the first part here. These posts were written in June 2020. If democracy fell apart since then, whoops! But I’d like to think these are evergreen.

I’ll start with why nationalism is bad, because chances are you’re more familiar with that side. At the heart of every dictatorship — Nazi Germany, the USSR, North Korea, etc. etc. — there is nationalism. It makes sense. You aren’t going to go too far on a platform of killing eight million Jews if people don’t have an insane belief in the state. Because of this, nationalism has often been used to radicalize, brainwashing large swaths of the populace to do the dictator’s/party’s bidding (a fun side note: the way dictatorships are run are shockingly similar to that of cults, the only difference is that dictatorships have some processes that allow it to more easily scale). 

However, just because nationalism is a tool used for evil, doesn’t mean it is an evil tool in itself. Nationalism, when used properly, can also be used for unifiers.

If you read my last post, you already know what I mean by unifiers. The United States (ironically) is one of the best examples of using nationalism for good, emphasizing the diversity of the population yet having them rally around specific ideas such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s hard to become a dictatorship when one of your national identities is freedom of speech!

Of course, examples like the United States are much rarer. Why is that? Well, for starters, individuals have selfish tendencies. If individuals have selfish tendencies, the individual wants people to do what the individual wants them to do. If the individual wants people to do what the individual  wants them to do, they’ll start a dictatorship. And if they start a dictatorship, they’ll use nationalism. Pretty much the same as If You Give A Mouse A Cookie logic. On the other hand, there’s not a lot of reason to use nationalism if you don’t care what people do. So nationalism is simply used in dictatorships more.

So, if you wanted to go about using Nationalism, what would you do? Well first, you need anchors, or icons, to establish the guidelines of what the nation actually is. In terms of the United States, some anchors include things such as the Statue of Liberty, the Constitution, and Freedom of Speech. Notice that only one of these was an abstract anchor — the first two are real, tangible items that a person can see. Typically tangible anchors are better than intangible anchors as it reduces the friction of getting people to understand what exactly the anchors are. 

Next, you need to assimilate, or get people cognizant of the anchors. All people wishing to be citizens of the United States must take a citizenship test that quizzes them on these exact anchors. At the same time, natural-born citizens are required to take U.S. History and Government classes to keep them knowledgeable of the anchors. These forms of education and testing are what keep the nationalism alive. 

So, that all just about sums up nationalism. In our final part of this timely trilogy, we’ll be talking about how to win an election. See you then!

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