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JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: THE DANGEROUS IRRATIONALITY OF NATIONALISM – ESPECIALLY THE EXTREME FUNDAMENTALIST RELIGIOUS FORMS OF IT WE FIND IN THE “PATRIOTISM” OF AMERICA AND ISRAEL   1 comment

John Chuckman

EXPANSION OF A COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE BY ANATOLY KARLIN IN RUSSIA INSIDER

 

“Russia Must Style Itself After Israel, Adopt Unapologetic Nationalism

“Good for the geese, good for the gander”

 

What an absurd article.

The idea that a state is for the people of a specific ethnic or linguistic origin comes from the 19th century, a time marked by the emergence of many modern European states, as, for instance, modern Italy or Germany. At that time, various linguistic and ethnic groups broke away from having been part of large, long-standing empires such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Before the 19th century, it wasn’t ordinary at all to think in terms of nation states. In great empires, a variety of languages being spoken was entirely normal. And just look at what happened when this new ideology of nationalism really took hold. It would bring a long series of major wars to Europe, such as the Franco-Prussian War.

And in the next century, as nationalism got a really fierce hold on things, it brought us two world wars, which together killed about 70 million people and caused suffering and destruction on an almost unimaginable scale.

The 19th century was also the time of the early Zionist writing, arising from precisely the same influences. Zionist advocates wanted to be separate from entities such as the Russian Empire or Imperial Germany. But Jews as a whole were mostly successful in Europe, and Zionism never became a big and influential force until the truly fierce nationalism of a state like Germany produced catastrophe.

When the Zionist dream did finally become reality, it produced yet another unhappy record of the abuse and oppression of others.

Nationalism, at least in its fiery original version, is an obsolete faith which generated many terrible results. In the United States, nationalism has always come wrapped in a cloak called Patriotism, giving it intense emotional force, and what has it produced? A new empire with a long series of wars and constant abuse of tens of millions.

Yes, interestingly, the United States is called a nation of immigrants, but that is somewhat deceptive. The early United States was quite homogeneous in its British make-up with sprinklings of other Northern European people. There were, of course, large numbers of Blacks and Native people, but they were not citizens and were consigned to a status less than fully human.

The overwhelmingly British-origin early Americans, having broken away from the world’s great power, Britain, with its own strong national identity, were left quite unsure of themselves in terms of national identity. The fact comes through strongly in writing and recorded attitudes up into the 19th century. Patriotism filled the void to give some national identity, although, as we shall see in the following brief and interesting digression, “impose” might be a more suitable word than “give.”

You could call American Patriotism a form of nationalism but with a heavy added burden of religious belief about America’s birth and loyalty to its founding principles. Very heady stuff. In this, it much resembles Zionism. After all, any sense of American nationalism in the early days was mostly lingering British colonial nationalism. You saw that in everything from the practice of still burning effigies of Guy Fawkes each November, which went on for many decades, to the singing of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” (“God Save the King” with new words).

As few contemporary Americans realize, the American Revolution was a minority affair. It has been estimated that the colonies were about one-third Patriots, one-third Loyalists, and one-third indifferent. The large Black and Native populations, of course, had no say in the matter.

The Revolution was driven by the French, with huge amounts of monetary aid and military assistance, always trying to get back at their great rival, the British, after their loss in the world’s first world war, the Seven Years War (aka, the French and Indian War). Without the immense French help, the American Revolution – actually more of a revolt by the local elites against Britain’s ruling elites – almost certainly would have fizzled out. Indeed, it nearly did more than once.

So, in its first days as a separate state, the United States had a population of which only a small minority were Patriots, and stern measures were taken. The Loyalists were abused beyond belief. Their property was stolen, great numbers were deported, a number were killed, and they suffered ugly abuse with homes being burnt down and beatings. The example was sufficient for the indifferent portion of the population.

Right from the start, it was felt there was need for a new kind of nationalism – that is, something other than the natural and lingering British colonial nationalism – to be imposed, and Patriotism served the purpose. We’ve seen many times in history when an intensely motivated minority manages to impose its will on the rest of a population and give the whole the coloration and sense of its fervor. That, precisely, was the origin of Patriotism in America, a force that went on to countless conflicts and cruelties in the future.

Even Patriotism experienced its own breakdown and conflict and war with the American Civil War, a war in which each side saw itself as true Patriots. The Confederacy regarded itself as a truer version of what the Founders wanted, but the North, beginning to feel its new “industrial oats” with the growth of industry and large rail networks, disagreed. It was a war only incidentally about slavery, although later national myths tried shaping it in those terms.

States’ Rights were at its heart, just as they had played a big role in the Post-revolutionary days as a new country tried to form its rules and practices, Thomas Jefferson having been a fanatical proponent of them, and, as Governor of Virginia, he was almost ready to secede from the country over certain matters he believed encroached on States’ Rights long before Jefferson Davis was ever heard of.

And for a lawyer like Lincoln, who did a lot of lucrative work for the Illinois Central Railroad, the excessive limits of States’ Rights worked against the expansion and trade and flow of things in the new railroad and industrial empire emerging in the country.

I only offer this digression about America to dispel the idea of a nation of immigrants coming to the kind of intense nationalism we see in the United States. It really didn’t start as a true nation of immigrants, and from its birth as a separate country, the dominate group worked to impose an ideology that hadn’t been there for most.

That effort was reinforced by the outcome of the Civil War, so that the idea that there could be more than one kind of Patriot was crushed. And with the huge and rapid build-up of the military during that desperate war, the victors were left with an industrial capacity and armaments which well suited them to become an international force. And they quickly did so.

Into the 19th Century, America’s dominant establishment began its long march of imperialism, and it has never stopped. It was not so very different in nature from the many (unsuccessful) efforts of Germany from the Franco-Prussian War to WW II, but America’s efforts were all against weaker, more dispersed, and even backward enemies, and they were extremely successful.

It is just a fact of human nature that success like that breeds a lot of arrogance and the drive for still more success. America got up a national head of steam which continues to this day. So, we have a great international empire, and indeed a new drive recently towards complete global dominance. Even though much of what supports that empire violates the principles of the Founders, as in the ongoing existence of a huge standing military or the intrusion into every citizen’s privacy by a vast security/police apparatus.

America had the Indian Wars, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, the overthrow of Hawaii plus many, many other warlike efforts. Any migrants who came to America along the way – as, for instance, great numbers, millions, did near the turn of the last century – were given to understand they had better quickly adopt the dominant view, and they very much did.

There never was much tolerance in America for newcomers with views departing from the Patriot narrative. Later, this would be wrapped in friendlier terms as America’s being “a melting pot.”

Coming from some of the places the new waves of immigrants did – places dense with population and with the great aristocratic estates holding much of the land so that there was limited opportunity ever to own land or a home – they were only too happy to do so for the most part. Although there definitely were immigrants from time to time who took a different view. Their fates would resemble those of the early Loyalists.

So, we have a “nation of immigrants” that behaves with the same intensity and aggression we’ve come to expect from more traditional nationalism, as that of 19th century Germany. By the way, this brief review of history very much explains why the United States is such a violent society at home, with high violent crime rates, high rates of police violence against citizens, and a huge and brutal prison system, by far the biggest on earth. Constant wars, slavery, and conquest – all seasoned with intolerance for any but the accepted Patriotic narrative – have shaped it powerfully.

The state of violence in America actually well suits the country’s purposes, even now at work trying to subject the entire globe to its dominance. It is handy to have a population of young men who are hardened to violence and embrace guns, and so they do. Even if they have no other ability or training, there is opportunity at good wages to do what they do, and even to be praised for it, in the military.

Just look at the countries of Europe today, and you will see that all the big ones do not embrace this notion of narrow nationalism, and for good reasons. They each have affection for their place and culture, and that’s just natural, but it is tempered by the experience of world war and imperialism, and the knowledge of certain other realities. Realities such as the well-known fact that advanced states simply do not replace their own population as a result of an inexorable phenomenon called Demographic Transition. If an advanced state wants to maintain its population level for economic and other reasons, it can only do so through immigration.

Taking Israel as an example to be copied is very strange. Here is the most difficult and troublesome state on the planet, one causing constant wars and crises, and it is to be embraced as a good example of nationalism? Literally, since its inception, there has been almost a constant state of war against one or another neighbor, all accompanied by other violent programs involving thousands of assassinations (a recent book cites more than 2,700) and dirty tricks and decades-long oppression and brutality against millions living under its rule.

And why is that? Because they do not share the same religious/ethnic identity and must be excluded from Israel’s sense of nationalism. Hence violence and war and hatreds follow automatically, and they continue seventy years later.

In the recent Neocon Wars, America’s years-long rampage through the Middle East, the United States has been enlisted to do much additional dirty work for Israel, effectively creating a vast cordon sanitaire around the country.

It really doesn’t appear any human lessons were learned from the savageries of extreme German nationalism. Israel’s behavior represents a miniature replica of the same impulses. One should keep in mind, too, that the Holocaust was really concerned with a dominant group of Germans trying to destroy another group of Germans for their unacceptable differences, the Askenazi Jews whose language, Yiddish, is a dialect of German and many of whose cultural practices, right down to many of the foods they eat, also are German. The word “Ashkenazi” means German.

The Holocaust had nothing to do with the Middle East, but that is where its terrible aftereffects have most been felt. It had nothing to do with Arabs or Palestinians, but they are people who have paid a terrible price. And the United States, which might in the 1930s have done immensely more to prevent it ever happening, is the main force helping to inflict all these unjust consequences.

It was in the United States that boatloads of Jews Hitler tried sending away well before the Holocaust were turned away. And it was in the United States that we had many influential men like Henry Ford, whom Hitler greatly admired, and many great businessmen who almost tripped over themselves assisting and doing business with the Reich, including bankers who helped with its financing, and publishers like Time Magazine, who happily made Hitler its Man of the Year for 1938.

Despite the Holocaust having had nothing to do with the Middle East, the memory of the Holocaust has tirelessly been used to fire up Israeli nationalism. Today, for example, Israeli public-school students are regularly sent on learning trips to Auschwitz. There is an inevitable emotional blurring, I believe, between events three-quarters of a century ago in another continent and realities in the Middle East today.

The American connection for Israel, apart from a source of vast amounts of subsidies, is the America busy trying to impose its views on the entire globe. The America which has so supported Israel not out of any great concern for what happened in Germany but out of the strategic view of it as useful in its global imperial march, as a kind of colony in the Mideast. The two countries share many interests, but there is nothing positive or admirable about these shared interests. They are the interests of imperialists.

The re-creation of Israel has proved a very costly matter with one major result being that millions live in what appears to be perpetual abuse and oppression, and we have a small state about as arrogant and aggressive as any we’ve seen. And most Jews do not live in Israel, neither are they likely ever to do so, because they are well-integrated and successful in a great many countries, from Canada and the United States to Germany and France and, yes, even Iran.

Most of these places are places of far better economic opportunity than Israel. Lower taxes. Lower costs. Higher incomes. More opportunities. Greater choices. These limits pretty well affect only ordinary citizens because Israel’s elites generally maintain dual citizenships in places like the United States, something giving them many options others do not have. When you think about that, it is a strange fact for people associated with an intense nationalism.

Israel offers also the disadvantages of a society which functions as a huge military camp, a kind of military-security state more pervasive than anything experienced in these other places. And it is a place of immense and continuing hostilities, always in the air. The hostilities towards Arabs and those returned. The hostilities of the Ultra-Orthodox and hyper-aggressive “settlers” vis-à-vis many other Jews. The sense of living in a place, much as in the Old South, where millions are kept without rights and against their wills. And they are kept that way by your sons and daughters with obligatory service in a military whose main dispiriting job is suppressing millions of residents.

If you create new wars and new oppression and new abuse, as Israel has, you have created nothing good. And the idea of Israel as a refuge for all Jews should some terrible event ever occur has always been completely unrealistic, a re-assuring fantasy used to help cover Israel’s many dark acts.

The Holocaust was an attack of German people upon a religious minority of their own people. It had no connection with the Middle East. Nor is it ever likely to be repeated, representing as it did a unique set of historical circumstances. Indeed, the truth is history does not repeat itself. Heraclitus told us you can never step into the same river twice, and it remains a profound observation.

The likely truth is that the Palestinians are as close as we have to descendants of the Hebrews, and just look what has happened to them with the “nationalists” from Europe and North America acting out of myths about themselves.

Loving your country is just fine, but the kind of “nationalism” we see in Israel or in the United States is really another form of religion, a fanatical and violent one with just as little rationality or substance as any strange cult.

Such is the irrationality of much of human thought and behavior that religious zealots like the patriots of America or those of Israel are praised as somehow being worthy. They’re not.

Posted July 25, 2018 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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