Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Ethnic nationalism's around to stay

Ethnic nationalism is playing a role in human affairs as much now as ever. Check out this intriguing — if long — essay from Foreign Affairs.

Americans generally belittle the role of ethnic nationalism in politics. But in fact, it corresponds to some enduring propensities of the human spirit, it is galvanized by modernization, and in one form or another, it will drive global politics for generations to come. Once ethnic nationalism has captured the imagination of groups in a multiethnic society, ethnic disaggregation or partition is often the least bad answer.

The author seems to be saying that once a country or region has reached a high point of ethnic nationalism, there is no turning back. We've seen this in the Balkans; and are we now witnessing the rise of full-fledged ethnonationalism in Iraq? Many times ethnic cleansing is fueled by ethnic nationalism — think of the Ottoman Empire's attacks on Armenians or the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany. Also discussed is how immigration plays a role and the state of ethnic nationalism in historically-troubled Europe.

Personally, I'd rather we judge each other on our controllable human traits instead of our involuntary ethnic status. Were it not for ethnic nationalism, the world would be much better off today. That's not to say I deny its advantages, such as, in some cases, state stability and the forming of a common bond between peoples. Most nation-states formed with one dominant ethnic group and identify themselves as such. But, as with any form of nationalism, the people of a country can easily be exploited, leading to violence. Isn't ethnic nationalism, in a way, just an evolution of racial tribalism?

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