Against Nationalism

Why Do I Oppose Nationalism? 

Many of the arguments I make are economic, or practical, or based on the fact that the case being made for Scottish independence is inaccurate, dishonest or weak. However, I have a more fundamental opposition to Nationalism as a philosophy. 

Nationalism, the belief in the superiority of one’s own nation and the desire to protect and promote its interests and culture, has been a pervasive force throughout history. However, in recent years, the rise of nationalist movements and politicians – from Scottish Nationalists to Brexit, to Putin to Trump, has often sparked fear and loathing among many people worldwide. While it may seem like a natural and even necessary aspect of human nature, Nationalism is a dangerous and destructive ideology that undermines the progress of societies and the well-being of individuals.

Inherently Divisive

One of the main problems I have with Nationalism is that it is inherently divisive. Nationalists basically view their own nation as superior to others, leading them to think of themselves as superior to others – and this leads to a sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy towards those seen as outsiders. The result? Discrimination, violence, hate and even war, as seen throughout history. The foundation of Nationalism is a mentality of ‘us versus them’. That can only lead to conflict: whether that’s between nations or within a country between different groups of people who identify as belonging to different nationalities or ethnicities.

Misguided History 

Nationalism is often based on a narrow and misguided view of history. Nationalists tend to glorify their own nation’s past while ignoring or even denying the mistakes and atrocities that have been committed. They often call back to an idealised, sometimes rural past. This leads to a distorted and unrealistic view of one’s own nation. It can prevent people from acknowledging and learning from their past mistakes. Perhaps the most pertinent example is how Scottish nationalists are attempting to reframe Scotland as a colony of the British empire rather than a driving force behind the British empire. One in three colonial governors were Scottish. Glasgow was a slave port ( for the imported goods of the slave trade), turning it from a village into the rich second city of the empire. 

It can also create a false sense of unity and national identity, which politicians can use to manipulate and control their citizens. We see this social engineering is done through attempts to create a culturally separate language in Scotland. Gaelic is promoted in areas it was never spoken. Local dialects only as broad or diverse as Yorkshire or Geordie are called a different language. ‘Synthetic Scots’ a language invented by Scottish Nationalists in the 1930s to ‘sound more Scottish is taught as historical. 

Nationalism is a tool of political power. 

Additionally, Nationalism can be used as a tool by those in power to justify oppressive and discriminatory policies. Nationalists often view their own nation as a monolithic entity, and this can lead to a lack of recognition of the diversity and individuality within a country. Those who do not fit the idealised image of what it means to be a member of the national group can be marginalised and oppressed. 

That can be a government minister promising to ‘kick the last Tory out of Scotland‘  when there are a quarter of a million Scottish conservative voters. It can be organisations like Settler watch threatening to forcibly repatriate English settlers. In other cases outside Scotland, this can be particularly harmful to marginalised communities, such as ethnic or religious minorities, who are often targeted by nationalist movements. Thankfully we’ve not seen much of that. Yet. 

Lack of cooperation 

Nationalism can have negative consequences for international relations. Nationalists often view their own nation as superior. They believe that their interests should precede other nations’ interests. This can lead to conflicts and tensions between countries, as seen throughout history. It can also hinder cooperation and collaboration on global issues, such as climate change and pandemics, which require the cooperation and collaboration of all nations to address effectively.

We saw this first hand in Scotland during the pandemic: Nicola Sturgeon was adversarial in Cobra meetings and looked to turn situations into media wins rather than practical policy. Turning a public health message written for clarity “hands-face-space” into F.A.C.T.S. – a mnemonic I doubt you can remember what it stands for without looking it up? Or colloquialisms like ‘keep the heid’. Apparently only done to be different or to show ‘folksy man of the people posturing’.

Restricting Culture 

Nationalism promotes a narrow and exclusive view of culture and identity. Nationalists view their culture as superior and seek to protect it from outside influences. This can lead to a lack of cultural exchange and diversity, which can stifle creativity and progress. It can also create a lack of empathy and understanding towards those with different cultural backgrounds, leading to conflicts and misunderstandings.

But – What about Civic Nationalism? 

Benevolent Civic nationalism is a myth. It may be a different flavour from pure ethnic Nationalism, but it is a flawed proposition. The idea, for example, is that there is some shared and agreed ‘Scottish’ or ‘British’ set of values, and whosoever adheres to them is a true Scot or Brit. 

  • First – there is not that sort of homogeneity. Look at how Scots voted in the past two referendums. How did the civic Scot vote on these critical constitutional issues? It doesn’t matter how you voted – most Scots disagreed with you. 
  • Second – if there is some plurality or majority view – where does that leave dissenters? Where does that leave minority communities – as second-class citizens who are ‘not really Scottish” – that’s a literal ‘no true Scotsman logical fallacy. 
  • Third – if we did come up with a set of views on civic matters that were broadly acceptable to a supermajority of Scots – what would be uniquely ‘Scottish’ about them? We are not that different from our family over the border – or in many cases, over any border. To have a set of values so wide that most people agree will not happen within a specific geographical region to the exclusion of others,it defeats the very concept of nation. 

What’s the Alternative? 

Nationalism essentially defines people by invisible, interim, imaginary lines on maps. 

I apply that just as much to Brexit and British Nationalism as to Scottish. You can’t fight Nationalism with more Nationalism. There is a better way – Cosmopolitanism. A more inclusive and global perspective can lead to greater understanding and cooperation between nations and cultures. By recognising and valuing the diversity and individuality within and between countries, regions, unions, or federations, we can create a more harmonious and peaceful world. This approach also promotes cultural exchange and mutual learning, which can lead to more significant innovation and progress.

Global Citizenship

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and interdependent, global citizenship and cosmopolitanism have gained prominence. Global citizenship refers to an individual’s sense of responsibility and commitment to the global community and its challenges. In contrast, cosmopolitanism refers to the belief in all human beings’ inherent value and dignity, regardless of national or cultural differences.

Global citizenship and cosmopolitanism are essential for several reasons. First and foremost, they promote a sense of unity and solidarity among all people. By recognising the common humanity that we all share, global citizens and cosmopolitans can work together to address the world’s challenges, such as poverty, inequality, and climate change.

“When someone asks where you are from, do not say ‘this place’ or ‘that city state’ – say instead you are a citizen of the world” ( Kosmo-politan) Diogenes of Sinope

Global citizenship and cosmopolitanism promote cultural exchange and understanding. As global citizens, we can learn from and appreciate the rich diversity of cultures and traditions around the world. This can help to break down barriers and stereotypes and foster a sense of respect and empathy for others.

In addition, global citizenship and cosmopolitanism can also bring economic benefits. As global citizens, we can take advantage of globalisation’s opportunities, such as access to new markets and innovations. This can lead to increased trade and investment, which can help to create jobs and improve living standards.

Of course, global citizenship and cosmopolitanism also come with their own set of challenges. For example, there may be tension between national and global interests, and some people may feel that their national identity is being threatened. However, by working together and finding common ground, global citizens and cosmopolitans can overcome these challenges and build a better, more inclusive world.

In fact, with 8 billion people on a planet that, with our current technology, can only sustainably support 1.8 billion, I’d go so far as to say it will be literally impossible for us to solve global problems while we have competing nation-states being circumvented by untouchable multinationals. 

Think Global, Resist Local. 

Nationalism is a dangerous and destructive ideology that undermines the progress and well-being of societies and individuals. It is inherently divisive and leads to discrimination, violence, and war. It is based on a narrow and misguided view of history and can be used by those in power to justify oppressive policies. It also hindles international cooperation and promotes a narrow and exclusive view of culture and identity. Commit today not to be a nationalist: of whatever brand or flag. 

Instead, embrace a more inclusive and global perspective that recognises and values the diversity and individuality within and between people. 


Published by Bingo Demagogue

Twitter - @BingoDemagogue

2 thoughts on “Against Nationalism

  1. You are absolutely right. Nationalism is the great threat to human progress and even survival because it undermines the sound political decision-making we need and supports the corrupt and incompetent.

    Even if nationalists do not claim their nation is superior they greatly exaggerate national differences, making practical cooperation much more difficult and dismantling the legal structures which support that cooperation. Since most of our pressing problems are international in nature they make solving them impossible.

    The success of Scottish nationalism hinges on a single word “independence” which suggests that one nation can completely control its own destiny. In fact there is no completely independent country in the world and the legal independence nationalists seek is often a barrier to the practical control and progress that people want. In the next few years we in Scotland could do the world a favour by helping to burst the nationalist myth.


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