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Not Out of Nationalist Woods Yet

David Adams • Irish Times, 1 April 2005

John Hume, extolling the virtues of the European Union, once declared us to be living in "a post-nationalist age".

If only it were true. His remark encapsulated a most laudable political ideal, but unfortunately as a declaration of fact it was, and remains, way short of the mark.

Nowadays, we do indeed live in a Europe where differences between nations are not settled on muddy fields in France or Belgium or in skies over Germany or Britain, but, thankfully, across tables in Brussels and Strasbourg. Admittedly then, if viewed strictly as work-in-progress and in the context of it being less than 60 years since the final curtain fell on the last great conflict in Europe, the EU can only be adjudged, thus far, to have been very successful.

But many differences remain and, almost invariably, they are rooted in conflicting national self-interests, leaving potential still for the whole project to tear itself apart.

Another danger lies in the opposite direction.

The EU project may prove so "successful" that we finish up building some kind of supra-national European state which, in a fit of European nationalistic fervour and muscle-flexing, might lead us down the road of directly and continually challenging the national interests of that other great congress of states, the US.

But that is a danger of the future.

A more immediate problem lies in the fact that, while nationalism on a macro level poses little or no immediate threat to the prevailing peace between nation states in Europe, at a micro level and to varying degrees it continues to pollute the body politic and cause disharmony within those states.

Economic migrants and political refugees who have flocked to the EU from, in particular, eastern Europe, Africa and former Soviet Union republics, have quickly discovered that, beneath the high rhetoric, at ground level narrow nationalism is still alive and, sometimes quite literally, kicking. Even workers taking advantage of freedom of movement between member states frequently find little in the way of welcome from their fellow EU citizens.

Speaking in 1922, that little reprobate, Benito Mussolini, described perfectly the fantasy that so often drives this micro-nationalism: "We have created our myth. The myth is a faith, it is a passion. It is not necessary that it be a reality. Our myth is the Nation, our myth is the greatness of the Nation. And to this myth, to this grandeur, that we wish to translate into a complete reality, we subordinate all the rest."

Adherence to this utopian dream of what the nation is, or should be, and efforts to "translate [ that] into a complete reality" most commonly manifest themselves as intolerance of anything, or anyone, deemed not to fit in with imaginary national characteristics.

And that covers an awful lot of people.

Top of the list will always be the "foreigner" and particularly the one who doesn't have the "right" colour or hasn't quite mastered the language. Next come the enemies within: those who don't worship the right God (or do, but worship Him in the wrong way), don't vote for the right party, don't have the right sexuality, ask the wrong questions and don't buy into the myth, and on and on it goes. Though it masquerades as such, nationalism is not patriotism or love of country and culture: it isn't love of any kind.

It is the opposite: it is a hatred that seeks to eradicate difference and attack those that don't conform to its delusions.

Coming closer to home, neither, I might add, is it Irish republicanism: nationalism might, at times, have the language of genuine republicanism, but never the ideals. Granted, Irish republicanism and nationalism did find common cause, for a time, in the notion of national self-determination for Ireland.

But the Belfast Agreement, in establishing the concept of co-determination, solved the problems inherent in trying to apply to Ireland a model originally tailored for places where, irrespective of whatever else they disagreed upon, the people were at least of one mind in wanting national self-governance.

Irish republicanism no longer has any reason to hitch its wagon to the nationalist creed, for the people have spoken. In Northern Ireland, we live in a world of competing nationalisms with, in truth, most adherents being harmless enough souls. (That neither Britain nor Ireland ever was, or is ever likely to be, anything like the utopian singularity dreamt of and pursued by the more extreme disciples, matters not a whit to them.) But the ideology is far from harmless.

It is, by definition, exclusive, fragmenting and divisive. It abhors difference and non-

conformity, encourages intolerance and always seeks to dominate.

Europe has for centuries been periodically torn apart by one or another nationalism seeking to assert itself, and is nowadays more diverse than could ever have been imagined, yet we are still saddled with this dangerous, self-worshipping ideology.

John Hume may have been consciously trying to give a lead when claiming "a post-nationalist age", or maybe it was just wishful thinking. It doesn't really matter. The important thing is that we keep striving for it.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

6 April 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Criminality and Public Relations
Eamon Sweeney

Truth Better than Spin
Mick Hall

The Central Issue is Justice
Catherine McCartney

Not Out of Nationalist Woods Yet
David Adams

South Down Election Play
John Coulter

Are We on the Verge of a New Political Ice Age?
Anthony McIntyre

28 March 2005

The Writing's Off the Wall!
Catherine McGlinchey

Ireland: Republican Movement faces disintegration
Paul Mallon

The IRA is Morphing into the 'Rafia'
Anthony McIntyre

Truth and Justice!
Sheila Holden

Greet the Lion to Kill the Cat
Àine Fox

Concerned Republican
N. Corey

Six Against the Rock
Anthony McIntyre

Our Patriot Dead Are Turning in their Graves
Margaret Quinn

Easter Oration 2005
32 CSM

Easter Statement from the Leadership of the Republican Movement 2005

RSF Vice President Calls On Provisionals To Disband
Des Dalton, RSF

Easter Statement from the Leadership of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement
Andy Gallagher, IRSP

Easter Statement from the Irish National Liberation Army Prisoners of War

Caribbean Sinn Fein Easter Message
Jimmy Sands



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