Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Rise of Nationalism ...

Am I alone at pondering the recent spate of claims to some form of 'national' status for various groups around Europe? The United Kingdom is being, it appears, torn asunder by the Scottish nationalist, Welsh nationalists and there are even division between the North East and the rest. Now we have the Catalonians, the original agents of unification of Spain and the conquest of the Muslim Caliphate in the rest of Spain, wanting to break away. Germany has long had an uneasy relationship with Bavaria and if one heads into the Balkan states you encounter some really strong 'nationalist' sentiments.

Head into the former Eastern Bloc countries and it gets stronger. There former Czechoslovakia has become two states divided by the Dnieper River - even the capital is split between the two. The Ukraine has a problem, since during the Soviet years, there was massive immigration from Russia, so now you find ethnic Russians dominating the political scene and the 'native' Ukrainians feel their voice is being stifled. Travel around that whole area and you find this is repeated in a number of places. The Baltic is no exception, you even have to take into account the former East and West Prussia, no longer part of Germany, now largely part of Poland and Lithuania - but with a small wedge which includes the former Königsberg (renamed Kaliningrad) - now part of Russia.

It sometimes seems that peoples, nations and national identities are being torn asunder by the propaganda and the political ambitions of a small and very vociferous (and sometimes violent) group in each country. The carrot is always held out that they need to have control of their own affairs, their own wealth and to shake off the 'oppression' of whoever the greater national government is.

I suspect that it is, in part, driven by frustration among voters who don't live in the 'Big Capital' or who watch the political classes enrich themselves while excluding or ignoring everyone outside of the 'capital' wherever it is. That is certainly true of parts of the UK, where the political elite and the civil servants all seem to live in London and many seem to think that London is the whole of the UK. The attitude is, 'if its right for London, it's right for everywhere.' One often has the impression that the denizens of Westminster and Whitehall think the world ends at the M25, or, if it does continue beyond there, it either doesn't matter or it has all the same facilities and amenities that London has. I recall being told by a Whitehall visitor that I should make more use of public transport to get to and from work. She was completely unable to grasp the fact that even using trains this would still take between one and two hours if all the trains connected and there were no delays anywhere.

Her solution? 'Just sell your house there then and move closer to your employment.' It is that sort of mindset that fails to recognise the real difficulties faced by those who don't enjoy the generous end of the pay scales that causes real anger - and probably feeds the desire to break away from the control of twits like that. The reason I lived where I did was that I couldn't afford the inflated prices nearer my employer!

The danger, however, is that viable economies can easily become non-viable, the 'resources' may prove uneconomical or, may not be as rich or as large as was promised. It is said we get the governments we deserve, and to an extent this is true. Quite often we are taken in by the soft words, the buzz-phrases and the razzmatazz - and fail to see the fact it is all a false facade.

The second, and perhaps larger danger with rampant nationalism, is that it breeds strife between those 'not of my nation' and those that are. It must, surely, be ironic that it arises now, in a time of Multi-Culturalism, when we are told all these 'boundaries' have been torn down. It is also, as one commentator remarked recently, something that always arises at a time of financial hardship - perhaps because there is always the allure of "we can do it better if only ..."

I suspect that these 'nationalist' ambitions are an inbred part of human nature, a desire to belong to an exclusive club or group, a desire to be able to identify strongly with one particular group, be it through language, culture, religion or geography. Personally I find it rather saddening that people can be inflamed into such a narrow vision so easily.


  1. Firstly, may I say that “multiculturalism”, certainly in the UK is the worst word to become trendy since “unisex”, both translate literally into the exact opposite of their original aim. In the UK, we do not want multiple cultures, we want one, currently British, culture that is populated as it ever was by those who come to our shores as well as those who were born here or have lived here for many generations. If you wish to find a “Native Britain” then I suggest you look for some Welsh hermit near the shores of Cardigan Bay, but if you find one without Danish, Norse, Germanic, Roman, Irish, Pictish or other immigrant genes then I, for one, would be surprised.

    There is a Cultural difference between Scotland and England, that is why the Scots have long thought of themselves as a “Nation State” and are quite capable of existing as such as part of the EU. They have their legal system, education system and religion, all distinctly differing from the English equivalent, but why, and why now, is independence such a hot potato in Scotland? Well, I refer the honourable reader to the answer given by my friend some moments ago... “if its right for London, it's right for everywhere.” (sic... it's missing an apostrophe, contractions aren't graceful... don't use them!) However, twenty five years ago, I warned the residents of Aberdeen, Gordon, Banff and Buchan that exchanging remote rule from Westminster for remote rule from Hollyrood probably wouldn't do them much good. I met Alex Salmond several times when he was still regarded more as a local politician than a future Scottish leader, he was a committed man and made many changes in the politics of his area, certainly my work with the building controls and licensing departments in Banff & Buchan District were much, much more straightforward, honest and inclusive than the same in Gordon District, or even worse, Aberdeen City. But why break Britain?

    Perhaps the answer to that is in the way that English lawyers have turned almost every paragraph of every EU directive for the past thirty years into nooses for honest traders and employers and bottomless money-pits for themselves. Perhaps part of it is that London regards Scotland largely as a troublesome northern county. Perhaps a lot of it is that Scotland has retained that cultural independence and the population continues to display it in every aspect of their lives every day.

    What language is spoken on the street in Kaliningrad? Polish?, German?... or Russian? I think many if not most will have several languages, a rare thing in the UK, but what is spoken on the streets? Do the Sudeten Czechs speak Czech or German? Most Scots still have a better use of English in the written form than most English, however on the streets of their cities, the language may be English, but it is totally different from the English spoken in the North of England, the Midlands and utterly alien to the “eshtr'y Inglish” drawl affected by so many in the London area. It has its dialect words for certain, but the grammar and syntax is far more exact than most of modern England, although the Lancastrians often use a very accurate “thee, thy, thou” form and in deepest Gloucestershire and Somerset, anyone over the age of 60, therefore completing their education before “the sixties” will consistently give a gender to traditionally gender neutral objects. Scotland is legally, educationally, financially and language differentiated from England, but England tends to feel sore if the Scots mention this.

    Perhaps it is time to decentralise the EU more widely. Germany, as I understand it, is governed much more by the States than by Fr Merkel. Perhaps the day of the great nations formed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is over. Of course, Britain may have already taken that step if the Rt Hon. Boxer “two-jags” Prescott had tried a little honey rather than vinegar. Luckily, there is always a politician stupid enough to attract the blame.

  2. Oh yes, by all means, just move so you're closer to work. Forget that such a move might not be good for your family. Forget your home may be one that's been in the family for centuries. Public transportation is the only way! Organic! Vegan! Green green green!

    And while the nanny patrol is making all our decisions for us, perhaps they can also figure out where all the money for us to do these things is going to come from. I doubt it'll be from their pockets.

    Perhaps they can also get the United Nations to help. The UN manages everything so very, very well.

    (You really need emoticons so I can reveal the depths of my sarcasm)