In the UK, it was Brexit. In the US it is the Orange Fascist. In Africa, including Nigeria, Senegal and other countries, it doesn’t have a name, but it’s the same disease.
Worldwide people are becoming violently nationalist. They are closing themselves in from the rest of the world, and in fact from anything considered different or abnormal, or threatening. The Brexit (Britain + Exit, as I have learned) decision came as a result of decades of globalisation leaving the working class unemployable, abandoned and alone in their homes (From: The Long Read). OF in the United States turned out to be a strikingly similar phenomenon. People suffering from the not so slow and very steady onslaught of outsourcing that closed the factories and mines that were the sole source of income in their towns, chose a lunatic to lead the country because at least he seemed to understand their anger and frustration (From: Cracked).
Across the Atlantic, Africa has been suffering the same symptoms, but perhaps because we Westerners think that our race and society are the default, we haven’t noticed. Over the last ten or so years, African countries across the continent have been waging war on the homosexuals in their lands. It’s not that homosexuality is new, indeed it has been a part of indigenous people’s ritual and mysticism since before history had records. It seems to be that in recent years African countries have been exhibiting symptoms of nationalism, claiming that homosexuality is a Western import designed to destroy their identities as Africans. Many countries, including Nigeria, have criminalized homosexual expression (From: Chikaduah Blog).
Nationalism, it seems, is a disease that is afflicting more and more countries worldwide. Its symptoms are misplaced anger, violence, suppression of sexuality, a hatred of the West, or the “outsiders”, militancy, and draconian control of daily life. It seems that nationalism arises where people feel economically threatened by unseen forces. When we feel threatened, we turn hostile. A natural response that may have served us well many tens of thousands of years ago, this hostile reflex is maladaptive today as our greatest predators are not the roaming lions but in fact our fellow man.
Ever since I was a child I always wanted to know why? what causing that to be the way it is? Today I look at this rising tide of global nationalism and I say, why is it that so many countries exhibit such striking social upheavals, and all so close together in time? Of course it’s not the first time that nationalism has resulted in calamity as Germany and Cambodia have demonstrated in the not-so-distant past with terrible consequence; Perhaps the reasons there is a flare up today are not unrelated? I believe, though I have no research or hard facts to use as proof, that the social upheavals we are experiencing are the manifestation of a deep existential fear that has become the norm of our daily lives as more and more specialisation, digitisation, automation, outsourcing and anonymity pervade every aspect of our lives. We as human beings need to feel as if we are connected to others in a meaningful way, and we need a spirituality that connects us to something greater. The unstoppable onslaught of globalisation has eroded that part of our existence so subtly and yet so thoroughly, that we don’t even understand why we are so dissatisfied.
When I look at the world around me, I see well meaning people with solid work ethics and a honest desire to serve their communities and families and make a meaningful contribution to the world. In the global economy the way we have built it, these people are not valued any more than their ability, on an hourly, minutely, or even secondly basis, to produce a marketable product. Great hulking intangible entities called corporations decide the value of these people based on formulas, and when the numbers don’t add up, they are discarded like depreciated machinery. Of course, if work can be found, then material pleasures abound, so we are supposed to be satisfied with our share of the bargain. Increasingly, however, I find that people look at their houses, their cars, their designer clothes and accessories, their multitude of electronic gadgets and they cannot understand why they feel so empty. With nowhere to point the finger, and no hope to cure the emptiness that results from having no real connection to anything beyond one’s self, people turn to the easiest target they can find to release their anger and frustration. It’s not out of malice, but out of despair that we become so cruel.
I think that we can cure this dis-ease of nationalism. If we view it as the natural and predictable backlash to globalisation and rampant capitalism, and if we understand that its primary path of destruction is through the erosion of meaning and connection in people’s lives, then we have a formula for a cure. I believe that what we need to do is recreate an environment where cooperation, understanding and love can once again flourish. In order to do this, we must break down the barriers that prevent people from building meaningful relationships with each other. A simple concrete solution would be to undo the concrete sprawl and the automobile infrastructure that puts every citizen in a metal (and increasingly plastic) box and hurtles them through space, isolated and protected from contact with any one else. Instead, create cities and towns where people want to be, including public spaces and public transport and bike and pedestrian friendly infrastructure. We could also focus on reconnecting people with the sources of their livelihood. Local economies enable people to know the names and even the faces of those who provide them with their food, clothes and other services. Localisation is also much more stable and sustainable than globalisation for a variety of reasons.
When it was just the Holocaust, or just the Khmer Rouge, it was easy for us to say that a few bad apples had spoiled the harvest, but today we are seeing the same behaviors manifesting the world wide. I can only conclude that we are all the same people reacting to the same threats, even if they are only perceived subconsciously. Many people, in fact most people, still subscribe to the Story of the continuous March of Progress which tells us that our world is now, and has always been, steadily rising from the squalor to which we were born, on a path to our own engineered salvation. But once, not so long ago, we lived in a world where the default was to be loved not just by your parents, but by your entire society, to be well fed and free from both external deadlines and authoritative coercion, to spend our days in leisure and play, with full confidence that tomorrow the world would bestow upon us yet another great bounty worthy of a feast. I believe that we can once again inhabit this world. I don’t presume to say that it will be easy to find or reconstruct, but I see rays of hope shining through the despair. We are one people, and increasingly we will be harder pressed to recognized the truth of that, and I believe that in the end Truth will prevail.