Jews refer to themselves a M.O.T., member of the tribe. Of course the Bible speaks of the twelve tribes of Israel quite a lot. There are tribes in Arabia, Africa and this morning I read about the Rise of the Hans, the "dominant cohesive ethnic group in the world." Then I read the above-mentioned quote in a new book, The Post-American World, by Fareed Zakaria. His book brings up interesting points mostly about the rise of emerging markets and other powers such as Brazil, China and India that aren't necessarily choosing to go the "western" route nor are they choosing to be "rogue states." They are forging a middle path.
Yet the talk about nationalism intrigued me. As you know I've been reading about the Orthodox Church. One problem the author mentioned is how when the Church was dispersed into other lands - say into the USA - many of the groups wanted to keep their own languages for the services. Greeks in America would ask for a priest from Greece and the services would be in Greek, a welcome tie to the home country. The same with Russians and Serbians and others. All of this just today and without my looking for related topics: a very nationalistic impression of Orthodoxy abroad, an article on the Hans of China that I just happened to come across when reading another article and then this rise of nationalism talk from Zakaria's book! What are the odds?
|Nationalism carving up the world|
So what do you think of nationalism? Is it simply patriotism such as we often believe should be the default mode of any true-blooded American who hasn't fallen off the deep end into being one of those haters? Is it disguised racism or bigotry; what with all that thinking that your race/tribe/culture is better than all the rest? Is it just a genuine healthy pride in the things that set your group apart from others? Your contribution to the world as a whole? Is there a healthy balance so that we don't get to Nazi extremes of thinking the best people must look a certain way and come from a "superior" bloodline?
Zakaria continues with, "Nationalism has always perplexed Americans. When the United States involves itself abroad, it always believes that it is genuinely trying to help other countries better themselves. From the Philippines and Haiti to Vietnam and Iraq, the natives' reaction to U.S. efforts has taken Americans by surprise. Americans take justified pride in their own country -- we call it patriotism -- and yet are genuinely startled when other people are proud and possessive of theirs." (pg. 33)
So do you think of nationalism (or patriotism in America's case) as a "backward ideology" that should be exiting the world as the world gets more "flat" and global? Or is it, as Zakaria suggests, understandable as formerly poor countries want their time in the spotlight?
From a spiritual point of view, do you believe nationalism (or tribalism) is a positive thing showcasing the goodness of the variety of people God created? Or is it negative because it erects walls and divides people according to physical or cultural traits when we should be trying to bring people together? I recall when I was reading about Islam last year, Muhammad set out to create a new tribe - the ummah - which would welcome people from all backgrounds, all races, all cultures.
Christianity also speaks of its universality and most Christians are proponents of making the Scripture available in the variety of languages of the world. One of my favorite biblical passages about heaven speaks of people from all tribes, all nations, all tongues gathered around God's throne praising Him together!
Is nationalism/tribalism divisive and something that needs to be erased so that we can come together as equals? Or is there a place for nationalism?
How can we balance these things? Can we have both unity and nationalism? Individually can we be both nationalistic and unifying in our outlook? If so, how? What are your thoughts?