Comment: The Nation – A Dark Object of Desire – Exit
We often hear that nationalism is in fact perfectly fine. Because, for example, what’s wrong with loving your people? Well, the problem is, nationalism is not loved for your people, and these are the people who suffer the most and pay the highest price for nationalist politics.
Why am I saying this? The language of nationalism exclusively uses big words: Identity, History, Tradition, Language, Scripture, Symbolsâ¦. He does not come down from these heights. He does not see contaminated rivers, polluted air, the sick and the poor, the unemployed, landfills, paralyzed forests, dilapidated hospitals, uneducated youthâ¦ In other words, he does not see people . In fact, he is not bothered by “real people” or leaning at that level.
Enchanted by big words, nationalism draws imaginary borders and draws its red lines, writes votive thoughts, sacrifices the future to the glorious past. For nationalists, the nation is in front of and above the people and the more nationalist interests imagined are more important than the interests of the citizens. Why do I say more nationalist interests? Well, precisely because nationalism never reconciles with existing borders, it always sees them much further away, where they once were, where they should be. Anywhere, but not where they are now. That’s why nationalism isn’t interested in what’s right here, that’s why it can’t even see it, its sights are on the future, its goals are somewhere far away.
Therefore, the nationalist vision of the nation is ahead and above, but also against its people. You don’t need a strong economy and a high standard of living, freedom of the press, strong institutions, an independent judiciary, an autonomous university, critical intellectuals or opposition to achieve nationalist goals. All of the above is seen as an obstacle, a threat to dreaming and happiness. This is why nationalism sees the opposition as a betrayal, the free press as a malicious threat, the division of power as a weakness, institutions and laws as a problem, critical intellectuals as “auto-chauvinists”, whatever that means. To achieve its goals, nationalism needs the exact opposite – a strong leader, obedient people, total control, and a constant readiness to stand up for something and take something too. And that is why, in the end, nationalist interests clash with the interests of the people: the state is against society.
An even more serious problem is the state of consciousness that emerges from nationalism. Because identity is constructed from the image, there is no idea of ââthe self without the idea of ââthe Other, who is supposed to be completely different from us. It is easier for the Other to be a neighboring nation or, better yet, a national minority. They are there, we know them well and they are certainly guilty of something. In order for American nationalists to be more beautiful, taller, older and more beautiful, the Others must be worse, smaller, younger and uglier than us. Hence the feeling of superiority among the nationalists. And as soon as we are superior, we have greater rights. And when we have greater rights, it’s time to take them away from others. And so, in a triple jump, we come to the psychological basis of the conflict. There is also a constant feeling that the Other is constantly threatening us, that he is the source of all our misfortunes, and we are in constant paranoia. ‘Well if only they or they did not exist ââ¦ This is why crime is the last stage of nationalism, it necessarily follows, as its final realization. And that is why nationalism is not right at all, nationalism eats its children.
Dr Dubravka Stojanovic is a historian, full professor at the School of History, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade.
Published with permission from Vicinity Online Portal. Vicinity is an open platform, accessible to all those in the region, or in the Western Balkans, whose voice needs to be amplified and who are eager to express their critical point of view, their new ideas and their views on the news. Vicinity is a joint initiative of the European Fund for the Balkans and the European Fund for Serbia.