Whether it’s the Brits voting for the Brexit, the Americans electing Donald Trump as president, or Marine Le Pen gaining momentum in France, the populist tides of nationalism are causing massive shifts in political power throughout the world. It’s not just these select cases either where populism has taken root. The reality is that anti-establishment populism through the medium of nationalism is igniting within pockets of society all over the world.
Unlike any time in known history, the world has access to an incredible amount of data due to the dawn of the Internet, which as a result has catapulted society into the Age of Information. With these new understandings of truth, third world countries are growing increasingly intent on ousting corrupt dictators who take massive foreign bribes in exchange for the sell off of their resources and the control of their democracy. Similarly, western societies are also coming around to some truths of their own, which has them equally intent on cutting off the outsourcing of their wealth, as well as eliminating the infiltration of their cultures.
While the anti-establishment movements of third world countries and first world nations seem ideologically incompatible with each other, the truth is that most of these populist movements are actually founded upon the same principal stance of being anti-globalism and pro-nationalism. The populist left loves fighting the neo-conservatives of the world, while the populist right loves fighting the neo-liberals of the world, yet what many are starting to realize is that neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism are one in the same, and very much a part of the same overall agenda of globalism.
Globalism is the idea of opening up borders in order to bring the entire world together under one economic and political umbrella, with the presumption that peace can be achieved through the creation of a single system of international law, which has the ability to trump the national laws of sovereign countries. On the contrary, nationalism is the idea of protecting the sovereignty of individual countries in order to preserve the current culture, laws, and economy of such society. It’s clear that right now these two ideologies are in direct conflict with one another within the political systems of many nations, as the people push for national sovereignty and the elites push for globalism.
The truth is that both have their positive and negative attributes that should be taken into account. When people fall too deeply into either ideology, they often blind themselves to the real nuances of the objective picture. By understanding the pro’s and con’s of both, people can transcend the polarized nature of such a black and white debate, which then allows them to locate the truth without the fear of being trapped in an ideological box.
On the surface, globalism sounds like a great idea, especially when it’s described as a world where trade flows freely across borders and a place where conflicts are resolved diplomatically through international institutions. In fact, one could argue that the origins of globalism, such as the League of Nations, were set up with the right intentions of preventing nuclear wars and integrating policies that make international trade more efficient. Who wouldn’t want a more peaceful and interconnected world?
The general idea of globalism does have some positive aspects to it, such as preventing large-scale world/nuclear wars, increasing the flow of people, goods, and information across borders, and even facilitating greater diversity within the cultures of different nations. These are all very progressive traits that most reasonable and loving people would approve of. The question however, is whether or not these trends are a result of the current political agenda behind globalism or if they are a natural phenomenon that was going to happen regardless as societies evolved?
While elites might articulate their righteous intentions behind globalism, the sobering reality is that the form it’s taken has only further enhanced the wealth and power of the world’s aristocracy (the 1% of the 1%) at the expense of an overwhelming majority of people across the world. The proof is in the numbers, such as the most recent Oxfam International report which states that just 8 people control as much wealth as the bottom 50% of the world’s population. No society can skew that far apart without rampant corruption within its ranks.
The foundational reason for this incredible explosion in wealth inequality are corrupt policies being implemented in the name of globalism. The agenda behind globalism is expansion of power, and it’s primarily achieved through two ideologies, neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism.
Neo-Conservatism is all about bringing political regimes into line with the international order through the use of military intervention, while neo-liberalism brings countries’ economies into line with the international order by passing trade deals that open up their markets to vulture privatization by foreign firms. In essence, an international network of elite interests (such as Bilderberg) has used globalism as a tool to bring every country into its sphere of influence, either through military intervention or economic intervention, in order to acquire control over its core assets. Once in place, these policies steal the wealth of the middle class and redirect it into the pockets of those in positions of international power.
Another major problem with globalism is the rise and forced acceptance of hyper multi-culturalism within nations. Because of open door policies and the relaxation of immigration laws, established cultures all around the world are being infiltrated by a variety of new cultures that are being allowed in or brought in by the government. For example, in many countries across Europe there has been a massive influx of Muslim immigrants into their cities and towns, which unsurprisingly has caused clashes due to cultural differences.
Many on the left argue that western countries have a humanitarian obligation to take in these immigrants who have lost everything due to neo-conservative policies of foreign military intervention. This is an honorable stance that in many ways is true. The people of developed nations, or rather the governments of those nations, certainly bear the burden of responsibility for nations that have been destroyed through their imperialist endeavors. However, what many on the left overlook is that allowing a massive influx of immigrants into one’s own country can destabilize it, whether it’s economically through social welfare programs, or politically through massive cultural differences. One could even make the case that people within government are implementing forced immigration policies as weapons to satisfy political agendas.
On the flip side, many on the right want to slow down the rise of multi-culturalism in order to preserve the already established cultures within its borders. Again, this is an honorable stance, as neo-liberal policies have hindered the ability of local citizens to acquire good paying jobs and keep control of their governments. However, the right regularly overlooks the fact that military intervention has often led to forced immigration by many of these people, who would have otherwise been content with staying in their own country had it remained intact. Both sides have legitimate gripes, but unless they can see the other side, the two will keep fighting each other instead of uniting around the common enemy.
Finally, some of the other problems associated with globalism are that it brain drains developing nations and it brings about secret wars. When third world countries are held back from developing due to globalist policies, its brightest people often emigrate from their home country to a developed nation in search of a higher standard of living. This has two unintended consequences: it robs developing countries of their ability to build from within, through the loss of its brightest citizens, and it creates extra competition in developed societies, which already are at their limits in terms of access to good paying work.
The other problem is that developing nations become the grounds for secret proxy wars of larger nations; such as the current situation in Syria where the US and Russia are fighting a proxy war against each other. While war is hardly ever a good thing, it’s arguably more righteous to wage these battles out in the open and on the land of the participants than to have covert wars in foreign lands intended to deceive the public.
So while globalism clearly seems to be failing, the question is whether or not nationalism is a credible replacement?
Some people, especially in the anarchist communities, will say that nations are nothing more than imaginary lines on a map and completely arbitrary when it comes to forming effective social systems. There is some logic there, in that free association without the need for strict rules would be ideal in a perfect world. However, the dynamics of forming societies often requires some type of structure when it comes to identifying the laws of the land and forming the boundaries of its jurisdiction. Though some people may not want to accept this social construct, the reality is that collectives of people naturally come together into social systems, and then go on to establish some type of rule structure or boundaries, of which its citizens all agree to follow and preserve.
In fact, boundaries are everywhere in the world. For example, abiding by the non-aggression principal, which is an ethical stance at the heart of Anarchism and Libertarianism that forbids initiating force against other people who have caused you no harm, is really an embodiment of respecting the individual boundaries of another human being. This principal has a spiritual synonym in the famous “Golden Rule,” which states that “people should treat others the way they want to be treated.”
This concept of boundaries can also be extended to collectives of people and the area in which they occupy. For example, a collective of people such as a town shouldn’t be able to initiate force and take over control of another town just because they feel like it. Similar to how a person wouldn’t let just anyone touch them, or how a family wouldn’t let just anyone walk into their home, collectives of people, whether that be cities, states or nations, don’t necessarily want to let just anyone come into their territory and take over their culture. This protectionism principal when it comes to the country is at the root of the growing populism movement for nationalism.
It should be noted that people need to be careful not to fall too deep into the ideology of nationalism or the leaders behind it, primarily because it can lead to blind patriotism, isolationist/racist sentiments, or simply missing out on the natural diversification of cultures over time. Change can be good for society; so those systems that close themselves off from others can miss out on the opportunity to grow. Nationalism without honest introspection can give the green light to immoral policies for the egotistical gain of a corrupt few that take control of a nation.
Despite some of the shortcomings that sprout from nationalism, there are still many positives that need to be brought to light. First and foremost is that a return to nationalism can be a positive shift away from globalism by re-establishing national sovereignty in countries all over the world, so that they are free to democratically determine their own destiny. This alone is important enough for people to strongly consider nationalism over globalism. When people are free to mold their communities the best way they see fit, the chance for peace always increases, as opposed to having one entity that controls many different cultures. Nationalism doesn’t have to end in the fight for freedom and democracy; it could simply be the first step in furthering the idea of decentralizing power in society.
When the people are in control of the land in which they live, they typically aim to safeguard its boundaries as a way of preserving the culture already in place and protecting its land from external infiltration. This is a natural tribal instinct that all humans possess, whether or not one wishes to acknowledge it. Just look at New York and how it naturally splits up into different sections, such as Chinatown, Little Italy, and Spanish Harlem among many others. Instead of opening up the borders so that all types of new cultures can come in and build new systems on top of the already established ones, the more logical idea could be a return to nationalism, where nations respect the boundaries of other nations.
Some may scoff at this notion, as being discriminatory towards other cultures or behind the times, but that is an overly simplistic way of seeing the problem. The truth is that having boundaries doesn’t mean that people can’t cross them. For example, once someone knows another person well enough, they let their guard down and allow that person past their normal boundaries, especially in the case of intimate relationships. In the same way, it’s a no brainer to assume that countries will continue to freely trade with each other, welcome tourism within their borders, and even cultivate programs for permanent immigration into their countries.
While some societies may enjoy open borders and love the diversification of their culture, others may want to close their border off a bit, so as to preserve the community they already have. Neither is more just or moral than the other. It’s simply a matter of preference for each community, which is totally ok. Someone isn’t a bigot just because they prefer to first focus on their country’s national interests; just like someone isn’t a misguided social justice warrior simply because they prefer hyper multiculturalism. Some cultures just don’t mesh well together, while other cultures thrive because of rich diversity.
So with this new understanding in terms of the current form of globalism and rising tides of nationalism, what route should the world take from here?
The best approach for society moving forward seems to be a system wherein people can preserve the established order within their cultures, and one that respects boundaries, whether that be personal, city, state, or even national. However, at the same time, it is equally important that all systems leave the wiggle room necessary to allow for some type of natural fluidity in culture and established boundaries. Societies change, and sometimes, even boundaries need to be redrawn. This follows the natural rhythm of growth and change through the mechanism of evolution.
It’s clear that society is going through an evolution, wherein it’s realized that globalism in its present form is not the answer best suited to society’s needs. While nationalism might not be the final frontier for the current tide of populism, it seems that it may be the first step in ridding the world of the disease called globalism. Maybe once the world returns to national sovereignty, it will then further decentralize power within each nation’s border. It’s hard to say what the ideal size for a social system would be, but it does seem that one international system of politics and law is far too standardized to meet the diverse needs of the planet. Plus, it delegates far too much power to a very small group of individuals, which can be incredibly dangerous. Why do you think Frodo destroyed the ring?
Once societies start respecting current boundaries and the differing systems of law that exist, people naturally start to feel more comfortable with one another despite the differences, which then leads to a lowering of boundaries overall. Simply put, the world cannot let go of boundaries until trust is built up over time through the respecting of current boundaries; just like with human interaction on a personal level. The world is simply not ready to abolish the nation-state just yet, but returning sovereignty to nations is a great first step to creating a truly free world.
As always, question the motives of any leader at the helm of one of these anti-establishment movements, and call them out if they represent wolves in sheep’s clothing. It is also important to realize that the sentiment of “anti-establishment” and its reasoning for returning to nationalism is authentic and very real. Mankind might be wise to ride this wave of change, in the hopes that it can catapult humanity forward in its quest for further decentralization of power and the restoration of true democracy.