Friday, 4 June 2010

Blood and Soil in the "Free World".

"The nationalist does not only not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them." - George Orwell

There has been a lot of "noise" recently, over the last couple of years, regarding "Britishness" and the "anti-English sentiment". Just as in the US the accusation of "anti-Americanism" is often hurled around at critics of the government. In Britain the discourse that has utilised the phrases "Britishness" and "anti-English", as well as the debate over what it means to be British, was stimulated by 'New Labour' as it became increasingly authoritarian. The debate seems to have first began when Jack Straw pushed for flag waving regardless of a regulation preventing the government from doing so, except for 18 days of the year. Not to mention the mad scramble for a national day of pride that was the British equivalent to the July 4th celebrations in the US. The question of what is "Britishness" is often asked, and when you think of "Americanism" it is equally difficult to decide what that actually means. But really this question is irrelevant, as is the concept of "Britishness".

Now the labels appear to have been hijacked by the xenophobic likes of the EDL and the BNP, who use it to vilify opposition as "anti-English". Though this is nothing unique to our concepts, the concept of "Americanism" is commonly used as a tool of vilification to stamp out dissent. This is so because the idea of "Americanism" is to conjure up a utopian image of a harmonious and unified society - devoid of domestic tensions relating to class, gender and sexuality - that is only threatened by external forces like immigrants. Concepts like "Americanism" and "Britishness" only have counterparts in totalitarian states like the USSR where "anti-Sovietism" was used for crushing dissent. The purpose of terms like "Americanism" is to justify the use of terms like "anti-American", "anti-English" and "un-Australian" against critics. It's an effective method, as the mud-slingers cannot lose as the focus turns to whether or not the accused is hateful of the country and away from the real issues that plague society.

Frankly, it is typically extreme right-wing movements and groups that latch onto these labels and use them to vilify the opposition as in some way "hateful". Terms such as "anti-English", "Anglophobia" and "anti-British" are often used interchangeably with terms like "anti-white". In doing so, the aim is usually to place criticism of England, Britain or of white people in to the realm of racial hatred. This is indicative of the warped nature of nationalism, that equates society and identity with the nation-state, turning attacks on the state into attacks against the society and the identity of the people. When the difference between "anti-white" racism and anti-Semitism is that Jews have been oppressed and persecuted for centuries, whereas it was  mostly white men who were largely responsible for the pogroms and the death camps. Similarly, labelling criticism of the British government as "anti-British" is equally inappropriate given the centuries of British hegemony that was only diminished in the 20th Century.

The aim of those applying such tools of vilification is to guide the rage of the embittered and disenfranchised against targets cherry-picked for purely political reasons. Those who equate society and identity with the nation-state typically attempt to drive this rage against asylum seekers, illegal immigrants and ethnic minorities in general. As the tendency of nationalists towards racism take human beings and turn them into some variant of undesirable "foreigner", which they regard as a source of rot in our society. But this vilification is arguably indicative of authoritarian tendencies that still linger in the West. The fact that these labels are typically used to crush dissent in totalitarian states like the Soviet Union reflects this. It's deeply ironic that such methods are now common to the so-called "Free World", where criticism of US government policy can be shot down as "anti-American". Since the US government does not represent most Americans the concept of "anti-Americanism" appears incredibly absurd.

As Orwell once pointed out, nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. The nationalist is obsessed with the superiority of the nation, along with the people, culture and traditions of that nation. Thus, nothing less than the blind support of all state policy - which they themselves approve of - is good enough for nationalists. Whereas, the patriot is devoted to their country and way of life but has no intention to impose this way of life on others. Patriotism is defensive while nationalism is aggressive. Patriotism is devoid of tendencies towards self-deception in the face of their country's flaws and the crimes of the state, as it is the country which is the subject of devotion. Nationalists are blind to the flaws of the state, they have to believe in it's superiority and perfection, this is why critics have to be vilified as "liars" and "racists" as they are the greatest threat to the delusions of a jingoist. As military might and racial purity are fallacious theories which are easily proven incorrect, the nationalist needs vilification to defend views so utterly indefensible in any intellectual capacity.

Significant Links:
Notes on Nationalism - George Orwell
Americanism - Noam Chomsky 
Make Mine Freedom
BBC on Britishness

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