Loving your country and having a strong national identity are basic sentiments that are commonly found around the world. But what many individuals may not be aware of, is that these attitudes are in fact far from innocent and can even become dangerous. And here are some reasons why:
1- It creates an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality.
With the birth of the nation, new borders were created. Although national identity is useful in uniting citizens from different backgrounds under one common banner, it also excludes those on the other side of the border.
2- It’s a tool for mass manipulation
The interesting thing about national identity or patriotism, is that when governments squabble between themselves, we all then feel like we’re personally part of the argument. A problem between greedy and corrupt politicians is transformed into a ‘conflict between nations’. And seeing as we’re all part of this nation and partake in its national identity, we all get drawn into these scuffles. After all, normal people are the ones who get sent out to die in wars and not the politicians who start them. But because regular people feel involved and attached as a result of their national identity, many are willing to support wars or any other politically aggressive behavior. Before the creation of the nation, people were not as interested in what the central government had to say or do and so were not the willing followers we are today.
3- Nationalism is the bread and butter of the power hungry
‘Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige.’ George Orwell
‘Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self deception’. George Orwell
When you hear the phrases ‘power hunger’ and ‘self deception’ you know something wrong is going on…
4- National identity has made us blind
Many years ago, the World Cup coincided with one of my middle school years. My class was extremely excited about the event, and during one of my maths lessons, the girls were all pouring their hearts out in support of England. Someone asked which team I was supporting and so I mentioned that it was Italy. Many girls were shocked at this, including my teacher; and they all reprimanded me and told me that it was a very ungrateful thing to not support the country that has taken me in. I replied innocently that I’m originally from Saudi Arabia and not supporting them either. Football is a game and I was simply choosing the team that I thought had potential. And frankly, England wasn’t nearly as good. I didn’t understand why my choices had to be dictated by the fact that England happens to be ‘my country’. For me, this was extremely irrelevant because I was never brought up with a strong national identity. I’m of course very proud to be a Londoner and appreciate the life that has been given to me, but would never support England or Saudi on any level, simply because they are ‘my countries’. This is a form of blind allegiance that is unacceptable and dangerous, especially in world filled with despotic regimes. Allegiance and support should always be based on merit.
5- It’s taking us back to the stone-ages
National identity becomes an extremely problematic idea with the growing globalization of the world. Many individuals hold dual citizenships/ethnicities and live outside their home countries. For these individuals, having one clear national identity can be very difficult. Living between two countries was a very challenging experience for me growing up. I felt like my identity was split and was always envious of those who could identify themselves clearly with one national identity. It was only later on in my life that I decided that I would no longer search for this identity. We are living in world where borders and labels are becoming more and more irrelevant.
6- Nationalism is a heartbreaker
Loving your country is all well and good when your country loves you back. But in reality, many governments discriminate against, torture and murder their own people. Even the most ‘democratic’ regimes make selfish decisions that don’t take in the well-being of their own citizens. Patriotism can be one sided love story unfortunately…
And so the best way to avoid this situation is by giving love and support only when it is earned by a government. Which for some regimes may mean never…