Nationalism isn’t just wrong, it’s Absurd

I don’t want what Donald’s smoking…

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A world where nations are not defined by their geographical borders. Rivers are bodies of running water rather than mystical devices of political separation; landmarks do not signify where “our stuff” ends and “your stuff” begins. People can cross such and such mountain or sea without their change in location entailing political offense. People are not stigmatized for being born in a particular place, but are welcomed as participants in said place’s culture. Now pause for a second. What is the difference between the world you are imagining and our actual one?

The difference has nothing to do with what is actually there in the world. We are the ones that have made up borders and everything they connote; we are the ones who protect ourselves from the horrors of the far away by drawing little lines on our maps. We need to understand and be aware of this fact.


A source of Nausea

We’ve all been there. A moment of silent vulnerability in which we ask ourselves why we do anything, why we exist, why anything exists. Jean-Paul Sartre turns this type of thought into a book, Nausea, which describes a protagonist who permanently feels ill in the same way one feels ill after having just that extra bite of Christmas pudding, or just that extra Sambuca shot.

Why? Because he feels that the world is gratuitous, or unnecessarily supplementary, in the same way as that extra food or drink was gratuitous. In the same way that the world exists, it could very well just not: its existence is therefore absurd. Now think back to the border-less world. Do borders not have a degree of this gratuity, though we now accept them as brute facts? Borders have economic, political and other functions which may be beneficiary in many ways; as such they are necessary. There is a clarity to knowing that France is not England which is not just comforting but somehow essential to social integrity and life in general. It is not the existence of borders which is the problem, but rather our primitively irrational, pseudo-instinctual projection of certain connotations onto geographical locations.

How do you not feel ill, Donald?

In the same way that people just go along with the fact the world exists, without really questioning it, they actually voted for the incumbent president, a man with absolutely no understanding of anything relating to “gratuity”. While this may be the reason he does not feel ill like Sartre’s protagonist, his actions are the metaphorical spawn of a mind-set spreading like a disease.

We should not question what the person enacting certain morally revolting executive orders, but rather the idea driving his actions: nationalism. Nationalism as a prejudicial and protectionist ideal is making the world sick; Trump just exemplifies this mentality. On the one hand, there is an aspect to “looking after one’s own” which is understandable. As beings of limited attention, we naturally have social preferences, which entail political preferences. On the other hand, it is bizarre and absurd to be irreflectively fixated on a nation as the object of this preferences. What even is a nation? A group of people sharing language, culture, ideals? Fine.

But admitting to this definition makes any Muslims that in any way share any of these components of a “nation” part of America’s nation, and therefore Trump’s own. If this is not the definition, and we instead mean by “nation” a certain geographical area, such as that of the USA, having boundaries we have made up more or less arbitrarily, then our rationality can be truly said to have left us as a species, and we ought to be permanently nauseous. Nationalism’s problem is conflating geographical location with generalised attributive prejudices.

Trump said that those living in certain Muslim countries are “bad people”. I say that, not only is this wrong, but it is primitive in its absurdity, as it shows a total lack of thought beyond the feelings he has towards people from a general area. While these thoughts can, tragically, be inevitable due to the way social identity works, lack of awareness is not inevitable. Let’s not just march against Trump, let’s talk about and march against nationalism.