Patriotism, Nationhood and Globalisation

Patriotism is a love of everything to do with our native land: its history, its traditions, its language, its natural features. It is a love which extends also to the works of our compatriots and the fruits of their genius.— Pope John Paul II, Memory and Identity (2005)

These are unusual sentiments for a public figure to express in much of the West today. Perhaps only a Polish patriot, and one who was born just two years after the re-emergence of the Polish nation in 1918 from the long unwelcome grip of its near neighbours, could understand why nationhood still matters. The terrors and brutality twentieth-century Europe unleashed upon itself—and unavoidably upon others—have, as a direct result, given rise to a European psychosis, particularly evidenced in the European Union where the “death of nationalism” has become bound into its liturgy. A fear of war has contaminated the European view of itself, its place in a new world order and what it must seek to become. Though seeming to cling to its often difficult history, it is reconstructing itself, though, in the words of Melanie Phillips, “the EU is [an] artificial construct, the imagined community that falsely claims for itself the … appurtenances of a nation … which concentrates power in Brussels while reducing nations to the status of provinces”. It has distanced itself from the values which identify a politically active, democratic, liberal, corruption-free and secular polity. The EU leadership has other imperatives.

Seeking scapegoats for Europe’s war-ravaged past, the EU has seized upon nationalism. Such a view is entirely at odds with those modern states which still find strength and energy in the values of nationhood; the USA, Japan and India for example. Nationalism and militarism have sometimes been chained together, though it can quickly be seen that nationalism can operate well without being a vessel for militarism, just as militarism can work without the full benefits of nationalism; but that with an uncertain stability.