Many on the right stay on guard with vigilance against the snares of socialism, communism, anarchism, and leftism in general. What is often unfortunately offered as an alternative, however, to the misfortune of right, is Nationalism. Nationalism is defined in Wikipedia thus: ” Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the ‘modernist’ image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity.” I can think of no better description, particularly the one on modernism.
So whither nationalism? Why be concerned about it? There are actually several reasons.
Consider the race of the spirit. Nationalism effectively pretends the underlying unity of people are material, in a common area of origin, language, and ethnicity, and that this necessitates their union in a common state. For most of Europe’s history, therefore, the make-up of the states of Europe belied this, most especially in the Empire. The Holy Roman Empire consisted of several states, even several hundred, all divided according to custom, jurisdiction of princes and the Church, and Imperial vassalage. Whether or not the people spoke the same language, were of the same ethnicity, or had a common tribe was a matter of indifference. The Roman Empire which preceded was little different. Certainly, there was common tongue (German in the Empire, Latin for Rome), common customs and in some cases like France even common ethnicity, but the underlying unity of nations was spiritual. This unity was reflected in common ideals, such as the common Faith, and it was what defined a state. Therefore, that several hundred ethnicities were not “self-determining” because they held allegiance to a common Crown and Church does not mean they lost their identity. Ethnic identity was merely secondary to a spiritual one. One identified with Christ and Rome before one identified with Swabia or Prussia. In the Roman empire, all the various nations under Rome shared its Romanity, the Latin tongue, and one Emperor, a superior unity based on their common allegiance to the ideal of Eternal City. These Peoples were no less of Gaul or Lusitania, it just meant there was a higher temporal unity above national division. Therefore, we are not attempting to belittle race, ethnicity, homeland, or language, but simply trying to recall that the state is not merely meant, as the Enlightenment would have it, to strictly represent the people who live in it, but rather represents ultimate ideals, embodied in the Crown and in the law, for all people within it’s governance.
Nationalism denies all this. To the nationalist, all is secondary to the material unity of one ethnicity under a single state, which claims the “right” to rule all those in its ethnic group. Nazi Germany claimed this power, exemplified in the taking of the Sudetenland and Austria to unite the “Greater Germany.” Hitler, in turn, was merely perpetuating a movement which began in the revolutions of 1848 and ended in the unification of Germany in 1871. This unity preceded the rise of centralizing power in the hands of Bismark, the Kulturkampf against the Church, and finally the demise of royalty and the Imperial idea from Germany with the destruction of World War I. Nationalism was also found in the ridiculous titles claimed by Napoleon and Louis Phillipe to being the “Emperor of the French” and “King of the French.” Instead of being “King of France,” which meant the bearer of the Crown reigned over all the lands that comprised French sovereignty, inherited by blood and found in land, the title “King of the French,” indicates that the validity of monarch’s rule was in his being a manifestation of the French people, and that qualities of royal blood and land were of secondary importance. It is also indicated that the role of the monarch was conditional. So long as he was king “of the people,” he was legitimate. This denies the legitimacy of blood and spirit, and the primacy of lawful and just supremacy over royal lands, and therefore such royalty became dependent on popular approval, and not their in-born right to reign and right of inheritance. In such a system the monarch loses his place as being one fore-chosen by God, ruling by anointing and just inheritance, but rather become replaceable at any time by anyone else the people believe suitable to fulfill, as Louis Phillipe did when he replaced King Charles X. The Crown therefore loses its permanent nature, becoming thus debased of perennial value. No surprise then that Louis Phillipe himself later lost the throne, when the “people” were ready for something new. Thus we have seen the irrational nationalist assertions that the Greek Royal Family, being primarily Danish, and Maximilian of Mexico, being Austrian, cannot truly claim the thrones of these countries because they are “foreigners” who do not represent “the people.” They prefer, rather, monarchs who reign in Eva Peron-like fashion as one of their own. This is a revolt against hierarchy cloaked in royal robes. The fact that the Greek Royals are of Danish blood is irrelevant to the question of whether are not they are true royalty. If they are, then all lands are their home, and all legitimacy resides in their blood by virtue of their aristocracy, not ethnicity. A merchant is as much a merchant in Italy as in Spain. The same is for royalty.
Nationalism has stemmed from revolutionary fervour against Tradition from the beginning. Nationalism pervaded the French Revolution, and the revolutions of 1848. Italy was united by destroying longstanding independent and separate nations to unite all “Italians” under its banner. This was a people who in 1865 could not speak from county to county due to wide-spread dialects, had separate cultures, ate different foods, and had different climates. The Italian monarchs, who committed no injustice save being “foreign,” were overthrown and replaced capriciously with the Savoys. The Pope himself lost his over 1,000 years old Papal States, or Stati della Chiesa. What purpose did this serve? What did Italians at that time really share besides a peninsula?
Finally we see nationalism in all it’s glory here in the good ole’ US of A. The idea of American exceptionalism, borne as it was from Manifest Destiny, insisted America was nation unlike other nations, a nation blessed by a Puritanical compact with God (Mayflower), a “shining city upon a hill,” as Scripture, and Ronald Reagan, put it. The US acts as an opposition to Empire, who, instead of embodying the spirit, Tradition, and hierarchy of the Empire, instead embodies consumer materialism, liberalism, and democracy, a sort of counter-Empire. This idea perpetuates in the secular spirituality that pervades American civic religion, where God is routinely ordered and not asked to bless America. Whereas in the past nations asked to do God’s will, Americans often assume it does, and feel that America is immune to the law of the universe, and that no harm will ever come to it. This is nationalism in its purest form, where the nation no longer judges itself by impartial standards, but becomes itself the standard of action, sowing the downfalls in this century of France, Germany, Italy and others. Blinded by the obsession for national glory and clouded by pride, nations bury themselves in the wish to make their nation into something other what it is, an obscured attempt to become the new Rome. Britain, Italy, and Russia all failed in the regard, with US soon added to the list of failed would-be Romes, false empires built, as the Scriptures state, on a foundation of sand. (St. Matthew 7:24-27)
People of the spirit would be better served by heeding the criticism of Rudyard Kipling by G.K. Chesterton: “The great gap in his mind is what may be roughly called the lack of patriotism–that is to say, he lacks altogether the faculty of attaching himself to any cause or community finally and tragically; for all finality must be tragic. He admires England, but he does not love her; for we admire things with reasons, but love them without reasons. He admires England because she is strong, not because she is English.” A true patriot loves his nation because it is his, the land of his birth, and not because it “represents” his people, furthers his material interests, or can efficiently destroy other people. A people firmly rooted in the rock of their own soil shall never be lost, and never will they miss the glimmer of the lost façade empire. Be not misguided by nationalism, but rather seek the eternal, and set it as the ideal for your nation, as the West once did.