Saturday, December 16, 2017

Nattionalism (Before I Wake Up Dead, Pt. 5)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) -- the Stickies -- to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

[Blogaramians: Blogarama renders the links in my columns useless. Please click on View original (above) to solve the problem/access lotsa columns.]

Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse (right shoulder) and back scratcher 
Iggy -- Designated Sticky
Dana -- Designated gentlereader (left shoulder)

"A good nationalism has to depend on a principle of the common people, on myths of a struggling commonality. " -Andrew O'Hagan

Dear (eventual) Stickies & Great-Grandstickies,

Let's review.

This is part five of a series of columns about what I what I would want to make sure I've told you if I knew that my deletion from meatspace was imminent. The first barely introduced the concept after beginning with some shameless self-promotion of my -- NEW and IMPROVED! -- website.

Parts two and three were about finding meaning and happiness in life and I've noticed they kinda/sorta bleed into each other. That's OK, that's how it works in real life. This finding meaning/happiness/contentment/etceterament shtuff is probably the primary theme you'll find threading through all my letters/columns.

Parts two and three are a combination of distilled shtuff from previous columns combined with a not so secret ingredient -- things I've thought about/learned about/heard about/etceterabout -- since they were originally published. There's another lesson I'd have you learn, inspired by the previous sentence. "Pay attention and you'll learn something new and interesting every day" -me. "Pay attention and speak carefully." -Jordan B. Peterson

Part four was about the effect of the ubiquitous internet on a culture already in distress. It was also supposed to introduce my version of (soft) nationalism but I didn't get that far as once I got going on my Global/Local Paradox theory... well, you know how I get.

Now I'm going to explain what I mean by (soft) nationalism and segue into politics. The Republic is currently saturated with politics and the rain shows no sign of slowing anytime soon. Here's hoping that by the time my great-grandstickies read this we've become obsessed with something else.

Mars would be cool. Man Personkind needs geographic frontiers to nurture heroes and provide clean slates (tablet computers reset to factory defaults?) and geographic cures for the damaged/stumbled/fallen.

Soft Nationalism (and a major digression, right out of the gate...)

I don't know where I first heard the phrase soft nationalism but I knew immediately what it meant to me. More on that in just a sec'. Permit me to dispose of the digression first.

Before I started this letter I went a-googling to discover what others mean when they use this phrase. As I suspected, there's no generally accepted definition. I only bring this up because of a well written, soundly reasoned article I found that was written by someone who is clearly smarter than I.

The bad news is that I was about 3/4s of the way through the article when a rhetorical rattlesnake jumped out from behind a rock and tried to bite me.

Long story short, up until that point the author was talking about various versions of nationalism without staking out a firm position. Suddenly he revealed he was a hardcore nationalist, a Nazi in fact (though he never used that word), and then started beating up on the Jews. I didn't finish.

I did scroll back to the beginning and discovered he was part of some organization that advocates for this, that, and the other for "white Europeans." Yikes! I...

[There's a point here, somewhere, right?]

Yes, Dana, in fact...

Ooooh! thanks, Marie-Louise, that feels great, ahhh...

[Marie-Louise has no time for bigots in general or Nazis in particular. She knows where I'm going and is applying a motivational back scratch as opposed to a back scratch reward. Iggy, who is studying the Nazis in school just now, is actually interested in what I'm on about for a change and following closely.]

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the point. The point, my Dear Stickies is a straightforward riff on my pay attention and you'll learn something new and interesting everyday maxim. You've got to pay close attention to avoid someone slipping something by you. What would I have you learn, Dorothies? Intelligence/sophistication/education/etceteration are often used by evil eejits as camouflage.

And now, finally, King Crank's take on nationalism.

Soft Nationalism

Soft nationalism, as defined by me, is the middle ground betwixt Hard nationalism and no (everyone gets a participation trophy) nationalism. However, discovering and maintaining the golden mean in this, or any other matter, can be complicated. Just ask Goldilocks.  

Wikipedia has an excellent article about nationalism that does a good job of explaining that there are myriad forms of it practiced in myriad ways. A couple of sentences that caught my eye are "Nationalism therefore seeks to preserve the nation's culture. It also involves a sense of pride in the nation's achievements, and is closely linked to the concept of patriotism." Quite, but the devil lives in a comfortable condo in the details. 

Rather than provide a firm definition of King Crank's Soft Nationalism, at least just yet, permit me to beat up on Hard and No nationalism first.

Hard Nationalism

Ethnic cleansing, tribalism taken to its logical extreme, comes immediately to mind.  

We're all tribal to one degree or another, even those that claim they're not. It's a survival/evolutionary phenomenon. The group is much stronger and much more likely to survive and much more likely to replicate than the individual. Millions of years of evolving and clawing our way to the top of the food chain has literally wired this into our brains. 

[If you subscribe to creationism, God did it. The bottom line is the same. Taking out a wooly mammoth or the infidels one valley over takes teamwork.

However, like any good tool, it all depends on how you use it. You can use a hammer to rebuild homes damaged or destroyed by one of this year's hurricanes or indulge your inner serial killer and make it your go-to weapon of choice. 

[Construction worker by day, killer by night -- The Hammerer! A Netflix original series.]

Hard nationalism is when one group of kids on the playground gets together and decides to shun/restrict/enslave/kill all the kids that don't belong to their group. Which verb they embrace makes all the difference. There's a lot of variabilities possible betwixt shun and kill.

It comes about from some variation/combination of multiple forces such as perceived threats/resentments/revenge/domination/etceteration.

Regardless, the big-honkin' fly in the ointment is that hard nationalism is like being sentenced to spending your life in seventh grade in a same-sex boarding school. There's us, there's them. Tolerance is for losers.

No Nationalism

No nationalism is, "It's like, all relative, man." All cultures/religions/political systems/morality/lifestyles/economic systems are equally valid. Who are we to judge? And borders? borders are just imaginary lines.  

.Who are we to judge? We are the citizens of the nation states of the planet Earth. Once we're grups we look about us and decide if we're proud of our particular nation-state. What it was, what it is, and what it may become. 

"Nationalism therefore seeks to preserve the nation's culture. It also involves a sense of pride in the nation's achievements, and is closely linked to the concept of patriotism."

Those of us who are lucky enough to live in the relative handful of nations where the government serves at our pleasure can judge out loud without the fear that a Xi Dada, Dear Leader or a -- the Pooteen -- type will disappear us.

This is the aspect of my culture, the American culture, that is most worthy of preserving, the right to bitch and moan. 

But since I grasp that I have to share the playground and since I was properly socialized when I was a young, self-centered primate I understand that all the other high functioning chimps have the right to bitch and moan. I understand that we have to compromise on a set of rules if the game is going to be any fun. Or even if there is going to be a game. 

America's culture, secret of success, and endless threat is that it's a culture of multiple cultures. Multiple cultures and no shortage of wild-eyed individualists in competition brings out the best, and worst, in us. 

Cultural friction can spark new ideas or start fires. We've done amazing things. We've done, and do, terrible things to each other. 

But having been blessed with plenty of room, lots of natural resources, and relative freedom (lots more for some than others, historically speaking) we've somehow managed to build the country that many, if not most, of the lean and hungry and brutalized of the world would sacrifice a body part of lesser importance for a chance to live in. To get their shot. To get fat.

That's my preferred form of nationalism, of American nationalism. 

I believe free trade, lots of carefully vetted immigrants, and competitive capitalism works the best for the most. 

I believe that crony capitalism -- abetted by The Gummit, epitomized by a 70,000 + page tax code, written and maintained by a parliament of whores who are hosting a party for the entire country (and you, my Dear Stickies, are going to get stuck with the bill) -- is what works best for the fewest.

[I know, gentlereaders, that the (alleged) tax reform that's about to pass, will in the short-term boost the economy. As for the long-term -- it will increase the debt, increase spending, grow the tax code and expires in ten years. Can kicking has become as American as apple pie.]  

I also believe in borders and a strong military for the same reason I believe in doors that lock and my local police department. I believe I am a garrulous geezer and politics will have to wait till next week. Poppa loves you. 

 Have an OK day.

[P.S. Gentlereaders, for 25¢ a week, no, seriously, for 25¢ a week you can become a Patron of this weekly column and help to prevent an old crank from running the streets at night in search of cheap thrills and ill-gotten gains.

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©2017 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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