The Death of Nationalism

Preface: This article stems from an political discussion I was having with four buddies via email while on my brief sojourn to the States. It was never intended to be published on my website, but upon further review I believe that it adequately introduces one of my most passionate and controversial beliefs: the death of nationalism. If you disagree with the content, that’s cool, I won’t take it personally. After all, an opinion is like a butt: everyone has one, and most stink.

Of Rights, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Let me accentuate the beauty of this discussion: we are four (now five) people capable of arguing the goods and bads of American government is evidence that our individual freedoms of speech and the press are still preserved. Furthermore, the fact that we possess the knowledge with which to discuss such arguments is proof that, at some level, our educations— which I suspect for most of us were funded through tax-payer dollars— were effective. I do not think America is the greatest country in the world, but nor I do not believe any other nation can lay claim to that title, for it is a qualitative matter subject to each individual’s pursuit of happiness.

That said, I dutifully acknowledge the privilege to have been afforded the rights and liberties protected by the American Constitution. I humbly respect the millennia of human struggles that precipitated the creation of this living document that has, incredibly, facilitated non-violent regime change for nearly 150 years. During this time, our individual rights and liberties have been perverted, corrupted, and manipulated— but rarely outright alienated. For this, I am thankful.

What, then, are our rights and liberties? Who defines them, and through whom do they receive their legitimacy? Who is responsible for their preservation? The people? The government? God? Our previous discussion of natural versus civil rights brings up some interesting points regarding the misconceptions of our human privileges as defined by American society.

The Bigger Picture

Living outside the States for the last few years, I have formed a different perspective than most Americans regarding rights, liberty, and the role of government. Honduras is the second poorest country in Central America, plagued by decades of foreign resource exploitation, internal corruption, extreme income discrepancies, political unrest, and myopic civic planning. The population suffers from the highest AIDS rate outside of Africa. The upper-middle class earns four hundred times that of the poorest.

The area where I live— the Caribbean island of Roatan off the north coast of the Honduran mainland— is amidst exceptional socioeconomic problems. The challenges facing Roatan are unique not only to the country but to the history of the developing world: the merger of at least three distinct cultures— each with their own social norms, traditions, class systems, and economic inequalities— on a small, resource-scarce island. The argument of equality at birth and/or death is moot in a society where inequality is the de facto norm. The pursuit of happiness cannot be an innate right when socioeconomic advancement is circumstantially rendered impossible except through extreme (and oftentimes illicit) actions.

In the limited context of American politics, the arguments concerning rights/liberties presented from both sides in our discussion have valid points. In the grander scheme of international politics, they fall apart. Personally, I believe that there are no natural rights but those that you claim and defend for yourself.

As Americans, we would like to believe that everyone in the world innately retains certain rights, yet as Americans we rarely craft international policies that enforce such views. Consider one of my friends: 32 years of age, successful businessman, educated, religious, good-looking, well-spoken, compassionate and responsible. The kind of person who (to momentarily adopt Sarah Palin’s political vernacular, though I cringe to do so) is a “real American.” Only there’s a problem: he was born and raised on Roatan. Though he had an American girlfriend for a time, he was incapable of seeing her in her home country due to the impenetrable visa process required of Hondurans to visit the States. Meanwhile, I am free to come and go as I please for ninety days at a time (and beyond, provided I bribe the right person), reap the benefits of living in a lower-cost environment, and inject my previously States-based assets into a region already rife with the disproportionate allocation of wealth. In short, I can thrive as an illegal immigrant down there while my buddy cannot legally immigrate up here.

I am neither glorifying nor condemning my actions. I am simply seizing my rights, enforcing my liberties, and creating my own pursuit of happiness. I see none of these are natural or civil— they just simply mine, and defend them I shall. But what then of my friend who, due to the unavoidable circumstances surrounding where his parents happened to fornicate, is denied to chance to seize, enforce, or create such opportunities in our country? While Americans bitch and bicker over what rights and liberties are Constitutionally afforded, we routinely deny such rights and liberties to our international counterparts— or worse, as is the case with Iraq, we flagrantly violate democratic values under the guise of extending democracy to the world.

The Death of Nationalism

I hold the controversial view that, in order for mankind to peacefully advance through the 21st century, we must abandon our notion of nationalism. My friend is denied access to his individual liberty because he has been branded a Honduran by his birthright. I cannot visit certain regions of the world because of international conflicts prior to my conception.

Nationalism is legalized discrimination at its highest form: just as no human can naturally affect the race, gender, hair color, iris shade, eye shape, height, girth or skin complexion with which one is genetically assigned, nor can any human affect the geographical location in which one is born.

While my desire for the death of nationalism runs counter to my typical Libertarian leanings, I believe that it is actually more in spirit with the actual Libertarian ideal than the conservative misconstructions offered up by “strong border” advocates— after all, if we believe in that individual liberty is of the highest value, then who are we to deny it to any man? Our xenophobic borders, encapsulated by both mental and physical fences, represent our wish to remove undesirables from society. Admittedly, there exist men and women possessing blackened hearts. The world is contaminated by a population subset that, whether by choice, circumstance, nature or nurture, will always be a burden on society, parasitically wreaking ruin upon the rest though inaction, predation, and violence. These people, however, cannot be discerned along national boundaries; to do so is discriminatory and myopically isolationist, and undermines our collective ability to pluck our parasites without perturbing the rest of the international body. Excluding people from their individual pursuit of happiness in the name of national defense is discrimination.

Republicans despise the death of nationalism: after all, how can America function when illegal leeches are permitted to absorb valuable resources, especially taxpayer dollars, from a country’s economy? Yet they ignore the incongruity between opposing a foreign individual seizing his chance at liberty (“but they took our jobs!”) and a multinational conglomerate absorbing resources from a less-developed nation, burning countless acres of Honduran land after the banana crops have ravished the soil (“but we gave them jobs!”). The death of nationalism cripples the military-industrial complex that has commandeered America since the 1940s, yet it frees up resources designated for nationalistic expansion and protection to be reinvested into the welfare of the community. Naturally, this requires a massive reduction of America’s 700-plus international military bases; we must sacrifice short-term national security for long-term international stability. Implementing American policies through threat of force discriminately deprives people of their individual liberties.

Democrats have the most to fear from the death of nationalism. Despite currently trumpeting their support for international organizations, an end to nationalism also heralds the end of their aspirations for big government, at least in its present incarnation. American’s current policy of nationalized taxation is a tool of legalized discrimination. Forced financial reallocation perverts the role of the local community, isolating people who might otherwise cooperate by investing their faith in a faceless government rather than the faces of their neighbors. The absorption of the local community into big government festers xenophobia; our resentment of taxation internally divides us along class lines. The Democratic dreams of socioeconomic parity cannot be achieved through the divisiveness of nationalistic big government. A lifetime of debt owed to the government due to birthplace is a discriminatory assault against the pursuit of happiness.

In closing, consider what nationalism has achieved for mankind in the last century: two devastating world wars, followed by a half-century of Cold War; the devastation of less-developed countries in the name of Capitalism, Communism, Democracy, etc; the misallocation of natural resources resulting in looming environmental catastrophes; an international arms race wherein certain nations self-ordained as “responsible” can wield a nuclear arsenal while others are denied their chance to develop their nuclear equivalent of the US Second Amendment; a ridiculous system of international debt where the total sum of money owed exceeds the actual financial worth of the world.

Nationalism has resulted in an insane game of chicken. It’s time for the game to end. But someone has to swerve first.

Any volunteers?

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