Nationalism has not failed humanity

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Aminah Suhail Qureshi

Anti-nationalists want us to imagine such a world in which humans have no identity and classification system. But wait a moment! Was this society not present when humans were denizens of caves? Or when man laid the foundations of a new institution known as family? If such a society was present at that time and that, too, an ideal one then why did Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau adjudge the aforementioned society as barbaric with a substandard form of humanity? Why has man always searched for a true identity either in the form of a linguistic or as an ethnic group? It is very unfortunate that instead of giving rational answers to all these whys, a faction is holding nationalism responsible for all impairments caused to mankind.
If this is the case then man’s ability to speak and write, his dialectical thinking, his logical approach, religion and the West’s reaction to religion in the form of enlightenment, enlightenment’s reaction giving rise to modernism, modernism’s opposition emerging as post-modernism, the West’s idea of capitalism, Marx’s communism, vernacular culture and international hegemonised culture, all have failed humanity because all these ideas had flaws and resulted in failings. Is the presence of loopholes in an idea the only parameter to judge whether the concept and its practice has failed humanity or not? In order to prove something a failure we must first prove the destruction of its universal need, both principally and practically. But even today, in this intermingled global culture, nationalism stands to be the need of this world, both principally and practically, which is, in turn, a glaring vindication of the statement that nationalism has not failed humanity.
Today, the biggest conflict in the name of nationalism exists in the Middle East. However, we must turn the brown and crispy pages of our historical accounts in order to realise that it is not nationalism that is to be blamed for the prevalent commotion and havoc. Abolition of the Ottomon Sultanate and its partitioning resulted in the formation of the Republic of Turkey and the modern Arab world. All the conflicts in the region give a hint of sectarianism being the driving force, but if examined closely then nihilism and mobocracy are found to be the causative agents. Let it be Iraqi-Kurdish conflict or Saudi-Yemeni War, these revolutions were not kindled in the name of identities or differences; it was the lawlessness that led to injustice, resulting in social unrest.
The inter-communal conflict in Mandatory Palestine turning into the Arab-Israeli War is the classic example of how anarchy has been disguised as nationalism to trigger instability and killings in the region. It is not nationalism that has involved Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to repel Houthi aggression; this intervention has been masked as to influence the outcome of the Yemeni civil war while that in Syria was given the name of a proxy war. A successful example in the name of federation and co-existence of different identities is the United Arab Emirates, each emirate being ruled by an absolute monarch. All the emirates have victoriously retained their nationalist identities, yet existing together with a single label. If nationalism did not harm their co-existence then how is it responsible for causing turmoil in the rest of the region?
What is nationalism? The term is generally used to describe the attitude that the members of a nation have when they care about their national identity. It should not be mistaken as the actions taken by stakeholders of a state when seeking to achieve or sustain power. We must distinguish nations from states; whereas a nation often consists of an ethnic or cultural community, a state is a political entity with a high degree of sovereignty. While many states are nations in some sense, there are many nations that are not fully sovereign states.
The anti-nationalists often come up with highly stereotypical and shallow arguments such as because nationalism has been the cause of wars in several regions of the world the concept should be annulled.
In point of fact, they fail to understand that the anarchic events are to be linked with state-focused patriotism and not nationalism. They fail to understand that this was not the face that launched a thousand ships, and burnt the topless towers of Ilium.
Those against nationalism must understand that it is the lack of nationalism that has made the whole of Africa a host for parasitic western multinational companies. But instead they want us to think of a universal society with no separate identities for different ethnic social groups. It is impossible to formulate one because the idea of nationalism lies deep in instinctive human psychology thus making it a necessity. They actually have problems with injustice that results from state’s anarchy. They need to understand that it is the lack of nationalism that has failed humanity, not its prevalence.