Awarded Essays

Maria Miler

My name is Maria Miler, I am 17 years old. I attend the second grade of high school with a humanistic profile. I am interested in politics, sociology and international relations. I like reading articles in foreign press. This is the way I also learn English. In my free time I mostly listen to classical music.

Karol Miarka Secondary School with bilingual classes is the oldest school in Żory, a small town in the Silesia region. It is a school with enrooted traditions, focusing on high level of education, best teaching standards and developing students’ passions and creativity. The school has been granted with many certificates, among others: The 2016 Silver School Certificate, Talents Discoverer School, Silesian School of Quality, European Language Label, The School of Dialogue, Community-Minded School and many others.

Awarded Essay

Topic: Discuss nationalism in your country both as a threat and as a potentially positive phenomenon. For more details see Essay Competition.

Nationalism is on the rise. Various studies show that nationalistic views and political parties appealing to them are gaining ground all over the world – including Poland. But when the word “nationalism” is appearing more and more often on the front pages of newspapers, we should take a moment and look what the word “nationalism” actually means. The Oxford Dictionary[1] defines noun “nationalism” as “identification with one’s own nation and support of its interests, especially to the exclusion of interests of other nations” but also as “advocacy of political independence of particular nation or people”. These two definitions clearly show the two-fold nature of nationalism – it’s upsides and downsides. Nationalism is a term that came into being in the late 18th century and became popular in the 19th century. Thanks to nationalism many countries were created, but it is also one of the main causes of both World Wars and many genocides. Knowing that it is no surprise that the rise of nationalism generates a lot of fear. However, supporters of this movement see it as the only way to ‘chain’ people together. That two-fold meaning of the word “nationalism” can be seen in my country – Poland. Polish nationalism was born at the end of 19th century. Its main purpose was to oppose annexationists and result in gaining independence. It has succeeded. But nowadays nationalism is associated with xenophobia, fascism and hatred towards national, ethnic and religious minorities. As usual nothing is black and white. This is why I want to explore the problem of nationalism in Poland, taking into consideration both its positive and negative aspects.

Looking at history it is hard to overlook positive impact of nationalism. In fact many countries owe their existence to nationalism. This includes Poland as well as most countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Creation of a new sovereign country is impossible without gathering people around one idea – that they are all connected, that they are all of the same nation and that they should put the good of the nation above self-interests. But nationalism is not limited to creation of a country – it is also meant to preserve it. That is why nationalism promotes national culture and cherishes national symbols like flags, anthems, languages, national heroes and national myths. Nationalism plays important role in political and social life. It defines relations between the state, the citizen and the outside world. Nationalists also seek to resolve the situation of anomie condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals. Nationalism also strives to protect national identity against external threats that want to destroy it. Many of those positive aspects of nationalism can be seen in Poland. A recent survey shows that 97% of Polish people feel the pride of their origin.[2] I believe that various nationalistic groups have contributed to this result. They promote feeling of national pride through organising many patriotic marches on national holidays (for example on the Independence Day), as well as promotion of national heroes. They are even present at re-enactment groups’ events! All that makes Polish people believe that because of all those beautiful traditions we have bright future ahead of us. It makes us believe that if our country used to be great, it still is and that it will be great in the future too.

Having said all of that it is impossible to look past the dreadful things that nationalism brings with itself. First of all, nationalism leads to xenophobia. Nationalists believe in superiority of their own nation and that borders of states and nation should coincide. Thus anyone of other nationality living within the borders of another is regarded as someone worse and a potential threat, enemy that wants to destroy culture and customs of one’s nation. The more outsiders come in the greater the hatred towards them becomes. This is why the most common slogan of nationalists in Poland is ”Poland for Poles”. But this creates a sort of paranoia. A foreigner who stays in Poland to learn something about its culture, or the one who has been living here for many years are all treated as enemies. Previously mentioned sense of hatred and animosity is even bigger toward states or nations that were in conflict with each other in the past. For that reason nationalists in Poland have great distrust towards Germany and Russia and also open hatred towards Ukraine and Ukrainian people. For this reason, nationalists hate multiculturalism at any form, as well as organisations or political parties promoting it. This is why nationalists hate European Union, left-wing parties and mainstream media. They believe that the reason for their very existence is to destroy national culture. Some even go as far as to accuse big corporations or Jews, for reasons no better than conspiracy theories. Nationalists also tend to be quite ignorant. They usually limit their national identity to only few events in the history of the nation- or at least that is happening in Poland. At the same time they refuse to take responsibility for crimes they committed against other nations. That makes them look quite hypocritical. Nationalist also do not seem to have any particular vision of the future of the country. They rather cling to its history.

All things considered, I believe that nationalism cannot be judged as either entirely good or bad. Nationalism has many levels. I do not believe that anyone considers the right to self-determination of a nation as something bad. But hardly anyone is going to accept aggression towards other people based purely on their nationality. In my opinion, nationalism gains popularity nowadays because nations feel in danger. Whether it is a justified feeling or not is another topic, but many political parties have taken advantage of that fear. This is why I believe that nationalist demands (those not too radical) should be taken into consideration by political elite before it is too late and nationalism is fully implemented with its advantages and disadvantages.

[1] Source: Oxford Dictionaries
[2] Source: CBOS

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