Awarded Essays

Paweł Zmarzły

I’ve always had diversified areas of interest. While my chosen career path is to become a programmer, I am keen to discuss social and historical issues. I try to expose myself to arguments from all of the political spectrum.

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.

Societies, economies, defence and public opinion in the face of rising nationalism

The 2001 World Trade Center attack, 2004 Madrid train bombings, 2005 and 2007 terrorist attacks in London – these events greatly contributed to stopping contemporary cosmopolitan tendencies and started the long process of nationalism rising from the ashes, only to become a phenomenon impossible to ignore in the recent years. With people being more aware of there being no real friendship in international relations than ever in this century, with the world getting more and more divided, and with the media and the politicians using the concept of nations to create the division between ‘us’ and ‘them’, it is high time to explain the benefits and threats related to this returning phenomenon.

Nationalism depends heavily on the concept of nation, which meaning can vary. During Romanticism, it was not uncommon to perceive a nation as a tiny fraction of a population, slowly growing, consisting of those socially active, representing and spreading certain values, while preserving traditions, religion and language. Such groups had mostly positive impact on the whole society and there is nothing to complain about them except for them calling for mercantilist economic policies. Those policies can be proper in some situations, but, generally speaking, were depreciated by the idea of the economy being a non-zero-sum game, which means for example helping other countries acquire wealth can result in our one getting a greater return than when using predatory practices. This happens because in the case of enrichment of foreign countries we can expect their populations to turn into consumer base of our industry, that will at the same time utilise the technical progress created by those foreign states.

Nowadays, the definition of a nation includes much larger part of a society, yet it does not pay that much attention to the lifestyle, but rather to one’s language, upbringing, ethnic features and opinions on certain topics. This results in some people being forever excluded from a nation in the minds of certain groups. Given how a nation is usually equivalent to a majority of a country population, it ends up in the mass pressuring the minority to acknowledge their presumed inferiority and to change or to retreat from social and political activism.

The inclusion of the majority of a population into a nation is a good phenomenon from a perspective of a country and its government. The idea of one nation per country gives meaning to the existence of countries and a reason to maintain the status quo. Marek Migalski in his book ‘Naród urojony’[1] (‘The Nation Delusion’, named after ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins) gives examples of methods of creating and maintaining a sense of group identity. Those include subjective History programs of study, creating or worshiping national heroes, investing in national sports scene and more. Interestingly, not only most of those actions could be seen in the USA in the last century; some were practised on the state level. Indeed, citizens of the USA have developed a surprisingly strong sense of identity, especially for a population largely created by immigrants from all around the world. This sense of membership is often said to be one of the main reasons why the USA would be one of the hardest countries to conquer and probably the hardest for a foreign army to stay in, as a large part of the population would never cooperate with the invader. Since the 2015 elections, this integrity has been weakened, but that is a complex problem I am not going to describe here, as it is not that much related to the topic of this essay.

Perhaps the biggest threat coming from nationalism is the birth to fascism. In a worldview based on nations, it is not uncommon to compare those two concepts. In fact, it is beneficial to the nation integrity to emphasize the strength and the superiority over other nations in certain areas in which the nation excels. But once this is taken to an extreme level, sense of overall superiority is born, and the need to express and utilise that superiority follows.

In terms of economy, nationalism can be a good thing, helping to establish mercantilist policies, when necessary. It is a good sign to see Asian markets preferring to develop their own technology over importing American one, as it not only helps the independence of Asian countries but also creates a world-scale competition, benefiting everyone. Large sums of money that would be otherwise transferred to the USA tech giants would probably not be well spent.

In the end, nationalism can be a positive phenomenon, when one keeps in mind the rights of other people, both inside and outside one’s country. Speaking of Poland, the country I live in, I am worried about this being often overlooked. Manipulative exclusion from ‘being Polish’ and spreading misconceptions about other nations can be disastrous. As always, it is the ignorance, which is the biggest bliss and the heaviest sin that will make all the difference.

[1] Marek Migalski, Naród urojony, (Łódź: Fundacja Liberté!, 2017)

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