Nationalism in its ethnic, civic and cultural incarnations is back in style. The left-vs-right arguments that dominated the industrial era are increasingly meaningless; what remains is where we live, whom we live with and how we feel about that. In this section, we look at nationalism’s different and intersecting incarnations.
Algerian columnist Kamel Daoud is fed up with his country, which offers “three choices: the mosque, drugs or suicide.” He celebrates the flight of Algerian youth to Europe, paying people-smugglers for orange life vests that provide a counterpoint to the yellow vests of French protesters. For Daoud, even though secular Algerians just forced their autocratic government to resign (the first peaceful regime change in the Maghreb since neighbouring Tunisia launched the Arab Spring in 2011), it’s France’s dream of liberté, egalité, fraternité that inspires; the nationalist narratives of other countries can be more compelling than anything your own country can offer. Canadians understand this.
Click to read The Future is Orange by Kamel Daoud.
There can be purely domestic battles over national identity, as Inroads managing editor Bob Chodos discovers in exploring the controversy created by the federal Liberals’ short-lived imposition of a values test on organizations applying for youth jobs grants. The backlash against an enforced commitment to values such as reproductive choice gave Canadian social conservatives a rare political win, while showing the limits of state-directed progressivism.
Click to read Defining Canadian Values, One Summer Job at a Time by Bob Chodos.
Jeffrey Oberman, Inroads’ media commentator, writes that our government-protected cultural industry cannot compete with digital streaming networks that host programs made in Denmark or Delhi, filmed in Brazil or Botswana. Want to see a postnational world where meritocracy reigns? Here it is. The dearth of streamed Canadian productions (if not Canadian actors, crews and locations), combined with Canadians rapidly disconnecting from broadcast TV, shows that the age of Cancon has come to an end. Unless you’re a fan of earnest dramas featuring Mounties, this feels like progress.
Click to read Canadian Cultural Nationalism: A Casualty of Netflix by Jeffrey Oberman.
That’s a sentiment Gareth Morley would embrace. The Inroads editorial board member argues that liberalism must separate nation and state just as it fought to separate church and state. He sees civic nationalism, the idea that a country can have an identity based on values independent of ethnicity, as a dangerous contradiction that accepts the structure of the group-based nationalism it should be working to replace. He embraces a liberal intersectionalism inspired by George-Étienne Cartier: a multicultural compromise where a web of social and other ties allow us to move beyond the state as a focal point for our identity.
Click to read Is it Time to Separate Nation and State? by Gareth Morley.
Inroads co-publisher John Richards reviews John Judis’s The Nationalist Revival, which argues that nationalist uprisings are a rejection of globalization triggered by the hubris of the usual bugbears of the American left: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. They are simultaneously to blame for embracing China – driving down Western wages – and for alienating Russia. This is not an argument about nationalism, but the usual efforts by the Western New Left – now the Old Left, as Richards points out – to blame the world’s ills on American, or more broadly Western, imperialism. This continued obsession has made a coherent progressive nationalism difficult to achieve.
Click to read Cosmopolitan Errors, Nationalist Response by John Richards.
In Le Devoir columnist Christian Rioux’s “Gilets Jaunes: Under the Radar,” the protests that have rocked the Macron government in France are examined through the lens of the lived experience of the protesters. The Yellow Vests are not reacting against – or as part of – any coherent ideology. They destroyed traffic photoradar machines not as a comment on global trends, but because they don’t like their government making them pay more for gas and fining them for speeding. Rioux casts the Yellow Vests as 21st-century machine-breakers, resentful of their bosses’ Bose headphones just as the many have always resented the few.
Click to read Gilets Jaunes: Under the radar by Christian Rioux.
What emerges from these articles is division within and between nation-states. What is unarguable is that the nation-state exists, and creates a ready-made focal point for discord. In an age where technology and other new forces are further levers to create dissent, new nationalisms are likely to rise, and divide.