Author: Ian Morgan
Read Time: 5-7 minutes, 886 words
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'In Defence of...' is a series of articles that attempt to make an argument for issues that may on the surface appear indefensible, abhorrent, outlandish, or downright stupid.
I think that we can all agree that on the face of it, Nationalism is one of the most ridiculous concepts to which anyone could adhere. There is estimated to be around a one in 400 trillion chance that you are born at all: that is the statistic that you should fixate over - not the fact that you happened to be spat into the world on one side of an imaginary line, rather than the other. Nationalists believe themselves to be superior based on this clusterfuck of biological, natural, economical and historical chance. When in fact, it was just that; blind chance. That is the only reason they find themselves in the country they seem to believe has some form of superiority to any other. This twist of fate, the reason they deem inferior anyone who has the gall to have been born elsewhere.
I lived in Germany for a year. Through many conversations I learned that until the World Cup of 2006, being proud to be German, or of Germany itself, was exclusively the domain of the far right. The average person generally had a millstone of shame that they carried around on their backs, based on historical events of which none of them had any control. During this time abroad, I became more proud of my own country, happy to liberally extol superlatives to anyone who would listen. While ignoring the obvious irony of the fact I had made the conscious decision to move away from it. I think there is something about being away from your fellow country-people, and from your culture, that brings out pride in your heritage.
This time away, and the shift in my personality got me thinking about whether there were any positives in Nationalism, when it is not used as a banner under which hatred and fear of other nationalities are sheltered. The answer, surprisingly, is yes. There are positives, and many of them. For example, without a certain degree of Nationalism it could be argued that many of our greatest art works would never have been created. Poems and novels left unwritten. Masterful songs that would never have been recorded, let alone sold. Not to mention, many not so good songs (don't pretend for a second that you don't know every word to Loch Lomond by RunRig). This extends to every country in the world. An artists' surroundings and cultures are huge influences on their work. Nationalism pours out from even the most liberal artists and writers, for it is impossible to fully shed from your national identity.
Local communities also benefit from the people within them having a streak of Nationalism flowing through their blood. Without pride in keeping their towns, cities and by extension country clean, tidy and beautiful, areas can easily slip into decline. Especially given the lack of money that local councils have in their budget. Endeavours such as 'YourTown In Bloom' and 'YourTown Fair' rely on the natural pride we feel in where we come from in order to continue to thrive.
Sports, of course, are probably the most obvious activity where Nationalism plays a huge role. Football, Rugby, Olympics, Tennis, Motor Racing and many others deliberately pit nationalities against each other for box office returns. Matches and events are sold on bitter feuds and "old enemies". This perhaps is the most obvious example of where Nationalism can go horribly wrong. We have all seen knuckle dragging morons fighting it out with other nationalities during sporting events. These people are thankfully the minority, and hopefully a dying breed. Mindless idiots apart, there are few more striking sights than two rival groups of fans, all wearing the colours of their respective countries standing side by side watching their heroes battle it out. Enjoying each other's songs, chants and mannerisms. Sport would definitely lack something if this was all taken away. Even the most stoic of Scots can get carried away when the Tartan Army start singing, 'Flower of Scotland' and this is exactly the same for the opposition fans as their anthem is blasted out pre-game.
Nationalism at its jingoistic worst is an isolating and backwards looking mentality that is predominantly the domain of the stupid, the misguided or of someone who wishes to control and exploit these people. However, as I hope the above has pointed out, there can be a beauty in national pride, in feeling passionate about the positives of your country. In raving about how wonderful your fellow country people are, or by talking up any other aspects of your particular country. Be it beautiful beaches, wonderful skylines, dense forests, high mountains or anything else. We shouldn't feel shame in shouting about these things and encouraging anyone, and everyone from other countries to come and see for themselves. Welcome them, show them around, make sure that they get to see all of the wonderful parts of your culture and your country and hope that you can learn all about theirs. The world is a big, beautiful place and people everywhere are inherently good and welcoming. Go out and explore it all. We must also encourage others from within our own communities to take pride in the country, as we rely on them to ensure that the place stays just as magical for years to come.
Ian Morgan is on Twitter: @IanMorganFBC