Nationalism expresses longing for civic friendship, not "hatred"
You truly hit the nail on the head with this one, there is so much wisdom packed into this piece. The idea that one can be a "World Citizen," traveling about and feeling equally at home wherever they land strikes me as completely false. There is so much tied to your early years, from the foods you eat to the cadence of people's voices, that gives comfort and solidity in our otherwise fraught existence. To put it more simply, how could I ever be friends with someone who didn't watch The Simpsons?
To coin a phase, the United States did not (no country in fact) succeed because of its "diversity." We succeed in spite of it. A miracle among nations. Will it continue?
Merely noting that believers are more wholesome than us cannot make us believe. In that sense, the death of god and the death of the nation (Benedict’s *imagined* communities) cannot be repealed, at least for the professional class. And even this is just the tip of the iceberg. We cannot even seek a “reembedding” because of aesthetic and ideological commitments to the individual self, who must be given complete freedom of maneuver. In other words, we’re “elementary particles” condemned to atomism. No one likes this state of affairs. But no one is at liberty to break with it. Note that this is a class ideology of the professional class. The working class and the suburban and provincial middle classes are less ideologically constrained. Anyway, really enjoy your work, Matt. Thought I’d weigh in here because you seem to be missing the rigidity of the ideological matrix.
Excellent thoughts to chew on, Matt. Thanks for going deep.
You brilliantly quote Rose: “Our loyalties to a nation, culture, or people… are essential aspects of every human life....and to be ashamed for what they are right to need, is to tempt political catastrophe.”
A “free society,” and an “open society,” are different in crucial ways. The former has boundaries, the latter does not. The way to achieve a completely open society, which protects words and dilutes meaning, would be to coerce those cherish free speech into accepting a society they do not want because supporters of the open society would need to silence those opposed their deeper agenda.
Put another way, premised on absolute freedom, the open society leans toward tyranny. A free society, on the other hand, encourages liberty within reasonable limits, thus allowing for the protection of its most basic and cherished values and freedoms.
I spent around 35 years abroad and read Anderson's gem, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, while living in Hanoi.
“On his coronation in 1802, Gia-long wished to call his realm ‘Nam Viêt’ and sent envoys to gain Peking’s assent. The Manchu Son of Heaven, however, insisted that it be ‘Viêt Nam.’ The reason for this inversion is as follows: ‘Viêt Nam’ (or in Chinese Yüeh-nan) means, roughly, ‘to the south of Viêt (Yüeh),’ a realm conquered by the Han seventeen centuries earlier and reputed to cover today’s Chinese provinces of Kwangtung and Kwangsi, as well as the Red River valley...The Chinese clung to the offensive T’ang word “Annam” . . . The Vietnamese court, on the other hand, privately invented another name for its kingdom in 1838–39 and did not bother to inform the Chinese. Its new name, Dai Nam, the “Great South” or “Imperial South,” appeared with regularity on court documents and official historical compilations....This new name is interesting in two respects. First, it contains no ‘Viet’-namese element. Second, its territorial reference seems purely relational – ‘south’ (of the Middle Kingdom).4 That today’s Vietnamese proudly defend a Viêt Nam scornfully invented by a nineteenth-century Manchu dynast reminds us of Renan’s dictum that nations must have ‘oublié bien des choses,’ but also, paradoxically, of the imaginative power of nationalism.”
Off to a rolling start, Matthew! I wonder what you thought of A World After Liberalism, and whether you read Charles Haywood's review of it in IM1776. Also, "owned space", an interesting concept ;)
It feels risky asking a trite question with a serious intent, but I will risk it anyway. When you say "The South Bay feels somewhere half way between a real place and a Taco Bell along the interstate." Do you mean the old Taco Bell where you order food from a human being, or do you mean the new one where you use a touch screen that eliminates all human interaction and does not allow any meaningful way to customize your order?