>Ernest Renan on Nationalism

>(REPOST FROM Monday, March 27, 2006)

This quote from Robert Higgs’ article at Liberty magazine(http://libertyunbound.com/archive/2006_04/higgs-war.html):
“French philosopher Ernest Renan aptly characterized a nation as ‘a group of people united by a mistaken view about the past and a hatred of their neighbors.'”

I think his idea that nations comprise people that have a “mistaken view about the past” is more often the case than “hatred of their neighbors”. More often nationialism erects bizarre ideas of history, putting itself at the epicenter of the past, than it espouses hatred of its neighbors. “I love the people of my nation more than I hate the people of yours.”

Nationalism is not bad per se, being more an idea of a home for a group of people that share common characteristics and beliefs; often, if not mostly, this incorporates race, but also peculiar philosophical outlooks, such as the Church of Satan for instance, if it were to ever wish to obtain a parcel of land for itself. When nationalism becomes tied up with the idea of the state, especially a state that already exists, you can bet trouble is at hand. And that is why the U.S. is so dangerous. Without the ability to enforce a monopoly on violence and extract tax money, all this xenophobic, violent red state hysteria wouldn’t amount to shit.

If my Church of Satan example rubs you the wrong way, I’ll take my “extreme pluralism” even further: Aryan Nation. But Nation of Islam or the independent nation of Berkeleyan as well (after 9/11 and the Patriot Act, the city seriously considered a move to secede). If a potential nation shares my liberal views and wishes to secede from a super-state such as the U.S., more power to them. I wish them the best. But likewise, if a potential nation that has views utterly abhorrent to me, such as the Brotherhood of Aryans, wishes to secede, let them. Let them stew and rot in their porta-potty of a principality. They will find themselves increasingly irrelevant as they grow poorer due to their inability to accept liberalism, cooperation and the extended order of the peaceful division of labor. But more importantly their values, expressed through their elected officials, will no longer have the ability to make the rest of us miserable. (Recently a fellow Myspacer criticized the idea of secession because without the federal government, Texas, California and Arizona would be free to erect barriers to Mexican immgration; but it’s federal involvement in the first place – wealth redistribution to rural border guards – that keeps boder patrol, and their MinuteMen sycophants, in operation.)

To get back to Renan, his quote needs to be seen in the context of the time in which he lived. And really, it pretty accurately describes the nation-state of America quite well.

Currently reading : The Law of the Somalis: A Stable Foundation for Economic Development in the Horn of Africa By Michael van Notten Release date: By 27 November, 2005


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