A Defense of the Nation
The most coherent political idea ever conceived is the insane notion that individuals residing in either geographic or cultural proximity to one another should have conferred upon them the immutable right to advance their political objectives and pragmatic concerns without the interference from another not of that region or culture. In as much as it is coherent, it is also ancient. In the Biblical tradition, after G-d had created the heavens and earth and set them about their merry affairs, the Nation of Israel was established out of, and freed from, the nation of Egypt. Indeed, the biblical account of political reality does not bother with the idea that the nation can be regarded as anathema to either freedom or true religious experience as it is today; rather, the text practically demands national existence. It allows that nations can both oppress and free in the same manner that men themselves can be righteous or found wanting.
The biblical text demands the existence of a nation to the extent that a religious life is one that happens within the confines of both communal ritual and communal service. Personal reflection and prayer, the religious experience of the individual, functions as a means of conveyance, a conduit, for G-d’s ultimate authority over the subjective and the objective, the individual and the communal. In the biblical account, individual religious responsibility is inseparable from the people and community around it. Such is the reason that the prophets of Israel warned the nation of impending disaster, rather than retreating into the hills in monastic fits.
And it was by nations that G-d punished the Israelites. He did not send heavenly fire to destroy and raze the entire nation of Israel when it collectively sinned, like Thor’s hammer in such pagan fables. He sent the Babylonians who carried them off to a foreign land and set them on the edge of river upon which their tears for their nation were shed, mixing with the torrent and discarded to the sea of time. He tore Israel as a nation and uprooted her from her ancestral and sacred lands. He removed Israel from the land but not the Israelite from the earth. And so the nation could reconstitute itself when it finally rediscovered its essence, in and of itself a “nation of priests.”
The Israelite weeping by the rivers of Babylon to us moderns and sophisticates is such pitiful and retrograde sentimentality. The modern man weeps more for himself when tragedy strikes his friend than for his friend, and so the idea of having an emotional and existential connection to a nation, or even belonging to a nation, is ever more alien. But the nation is a generalization of the sovereignty of the individual, and modern man has no trouble proclaiming his sanctity, a circumstance putting the feelings of modern man in transparent contradiction with what is true and had secured his sanctity. The plain motif that G-d created man in his image and is thereby endowed with certain responsibilities is expanded to that of the nation of Israel within the biblical text.
The conceptual borders of a nation are at that limit at which the subject discovers his uniqueness. And so the Britt realizes his Britishness most oppressively when in the company of a Frenchman, or American, or Zulu. Relationships are generally established between national identities by similarities in culture. A distinction between culture and nationality having been established, the American, the Britt and the Frenchmen, no matter how thick the barrier of language, will always feel a fraternal connection when contrasted in the company of the Zulu. If the four were to meet a visitor from some distant planet, the American, the Britt, and the Zulu will at once become closer friends; the Frenchman, though, always a character of considerable conceit, may be more happy regarding himself as a companion of the intellectually superior alien.
Modernity, the positivists proclaims, has bridged chasms between cultures that two millennium ago were not even conceived as possibilities; in this proximity, the argument continues, nationalism is obsolete if not dangerous. And yet the Briton still does not understand the Frenchmen. The liberal demand that the Briton must understand the Frenchmen, whereas respect used to suffice, is frustrated by the complete inability for the two to do so, and so any bridges built are burned in the process. Where respect used to have to be earned, creating a man of manners and reason, understanding is forced. Under this force, many bridges have been built only to crumble or be burned, leaving the chasm still deep, now littered with twisted wreckage, and ever widening. Modernity, more and more, has failed to make a global man but has him at the edges of his chasm screaming, rather than walking, towards the other. As an example, watching the slow collapse of the E.U is chillingly redolent of the slow demise of the Imperial alliances and the popular anger that culminated in the first world war. It is perhaps the most ironic of conditions that the nationalist in England, so stripped of his sovereignty under that horrendous blue starred banner, vociferously supports the nationality of the Italians and the Spanish. If one falls, they understand, they all fall.
Sovereignty is an inverted pyramid, with the individual at the capstone, the family constitutes the next layers, the immediate group of families, the city, the nation, and then the world. And so rights should be, and have been, accorded those structures in relation to the immediacy of their sovereignty. The individual is the most immediate, both subjectively and objectively, sovereign structure in G-d’s creation and so the individual is conferred the maximum number of rights in opposition to other individuals, the family is conferred rights in opposition to the village, the village in opposition to the city, the city in opposition to the nation, and the nation in opposition to the world.
This is a tricky act of balance, of course, but that is no reason to abandon it. The nation may oppress the individual, or the individual may willingly submit his energy to the nation. Or the nation, as in the case of national democracies, may exist to recognize and secure his rights. While the top tier of an individual nation may be stripped from the pyramid the individual may still retain his rights. But if all the bricks representing all the nations and their administrative frontiers are stripped from their plaster, the frictional forces balancing the pyramid begin to slip. The world community or global man, with no home of his own, technocratic and urbane, cosmopolitan, will impose upon the world policies that are not universally accepted or practical, making life for a man in the far and remote regions of the world a dreary and limited one controlled by those in Brussels or New York. And if all national barriers are demolished, there is no opposing political or legal force left for the man in New Zealand from being told how many sheep he is permitted to raise by the man in the UN headquarters. Or, more horribly, there is no counterbalance to global tyranny. There is, as the founders of the United States knew, no federal restraint by the existence of autonomous states acting in opposite force. Thus, the oppressed man, once having martial and legal equipment to battle the nation if necessary, is now forced to battle the world. And the range of his guns are wholly inadequate.
“Nationalism” today is a dirty word if not a perpetually disdained dirty idea. Recent historical events in Europe, specifically in Germany, have given considerable empirical ammunition with which to fire global salvos at the fortresses of national identity. The nationalistic fervor which animated the Nazis in their scorched earth campaign across Europe a half century ago is believed to be all the necessary evidence of the evils of Nationalism. Rarely does anyone question this assumption. Often, anti nationalist are the very ones, who, with split tongues, if not minds, denounce globalization. They are seen throwing firebombs at WTO gatherings and then, without even a moments hesitation or thought, protesting Jewish sovereignty in Israel, a very national, anti-global, cause.
The inability to question this assumption derives from a nearly total ignorance about what National Socialism actually was and, when understood, a myopia of analysis. The horrors of Nazi Germany are certainly a disgusting enough spectacle to occupy the vision of political scientists to the forsaking of a grander, more general, view of the great European struggle in the first half of the last century. This is where problems in conclusions begin.
National socialism was an absolute claim, a universal claim, that the Aryan race was superior to that of all other races and therefore they, being Aryan, had a right to rule. It applied everywhere to everyone. It was a particular strain of thought that had its origins in Darwinian theory, together with a neo-pagan aesthetic. It was not the Nationalism of the Kaiser but more akin to the Imperialism of Caesar. And as such it expanded proportionate to the ability of its military. Indeed, the Roman legion informed the SS, and Norse gods their metaphysics. It was both modern and ancient.
For nearly a decade the Nations of Europe sought to appease the rousing Nazi beast. The powers that be ceded the Sudetenland to Hitler, Austria succumbed without a bullet fired, and Poland crumbled as Stalin agreed with Hitler on how to eat up the rest of eastern Europe.
Soon, the Luftwaffe was strafing British soldiers as they scrambled to embark at Dunkirk; France had fallen; Belgium was destroyed under the tread of Panzer divisions. All that stood was Britain. And it was in Britain that Nationalism shone.
If this long island story of ours is to end at last,” Prime Minister Churchill instructed his cabinet, “let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.” This was said when a considerable number of British soldiers already lay choking in their own blood, a red river draining from each neck or chest cavity, or skull, etching a scarlet canal into the beach and into the Channel, the beach at Dunkirk was foamed with blood and littered with organs and body parts. Twenty millimeter rounds from the 109s had taken their toll. The sky above was a toxic mix of burning oil and smoke from structure fires, which emitted a beautiful but solemn hue at dusk, the last rays of sun battling the markings of mans brutality.
And yet it was an entirely true statement. If Hitler’s armies had succeeded, Churchill would have been executed, and much of his war cabinet. President Roosevelt had already asked Churchill not to make a soft peace with Hitler, if he were to make a peace at all, and to send the British fleet to Canada. Churchill was resolute.
It should give anyone pause that the national sentiments of the British people were enlisted to battle the “unbroken might of Hitler’s army,” a particular case in which the only hope for a Europe free of Nazi tyranny arose not from a hatred of Nazism but of a love for country. It should further quiet those globalist voices when considering a the French resistance, or a Norwegian one, or, in the case of the Serbs, a resistance to Hitler’s puppet regime in Belgrade that forced him to postpone operation Barbarossa and invade the Balkans. These were all anti-imperial nationalist revolts against an imperial advance, something which can only occur when a Serb loves Serbia, a Briton loves Britain and a Frenchmen loves France. If not for such urges, Nazism would still be here with us today.
Even the Soviets, when their “international workers revolutionary” empire was invaded, had to rely on the sentiments of the Russian people identifying as Russians. Stalin discovered that a peasant from the Urals was not disposed to fight for communism, nor against Nazism, but instead, and only, for his Russian Motherland, and so Soviet calls to arms were interspersed with rich nationalist rhetoric.
As these historical facts display, Nationalism is a pragmatic means by which international power is checked. There is no other system that has yet been as effective. A global centralized government will do nothing to free men but instead remove him from his identity and strip him of his ability to defend himself and his rights. This very thing happened to the Jews in Europe, where they had no state or space from which they could mount a defense, and so were very methodically picked from the cities of the the Reich like so many clovers.
The Jews, however, have arisen again. They have their own state, Torah culture is flourishing in Israel, and they have an army which defends them from the Internationalists in the Pan-Islamic movement. While the rest of the world has moved towards internationalism, the Jews have very rightly and very deliberately moved towards their own national destiny and self determination.
The Greeks tamely surrendered to Rome, the Jews did not. What of Israel today? What of Greece? Israel is ascendant, Greece is a non-entity, maybe even a non-country, merely a protectorate of the E.U. Churchill summed it up succinctly in the rebuke he gave to Lord Halifax, a sniveling advocate of surrendering to Hitler, “nations which went down fighting rose again, but those which surrendered tamely were finished.” We should forever remember these words as if they were given by providence. Because they are so prescient, perhaps they were.