Am I alone at pondering the recent spate of claims to some form of 'national' status for various groups around Europe? The United Kingdom is being, it appears, torn asunder by the Scottish nationalist, Welsh nationalists and there are even division between the North East and the rest. Now we have the Catalonians, the original agents of unification of Spain and the conquest of the Muslim Caliphate in the rest of Spain, wanting to break away. Germany has long had an uneasy relationship with Bavaria and if one heads into the Balkan states you encounter some really strong 'nationalist' sentiments.
Head into the former Eastern Bloc countries and it gets stronger. There former Czechoslovakia has become two states divided by the Dnieper River - even the capital is split between the two. The Ukraine has a problem, since during the Soviet years, there was massive immigration from Russia, so now you find ethnic Russians dominating the political scene and the 'native' Ukrainians feel their voice is being stifled. Travel around that whole area and you find this is repeated in a number of places. The Baltic is no exception, you even have to take into account the former East and West Prussia, no longer part of Germany, now largely part of Poland and Lithuania - but with a small wedge which includes the former Königsberg (renamed Kaliningrad) - now part of Russia.
It sometimes seems that peoples, nations and national identities are being torn asunder by the propaganda and the political ambitions of a small and very vociferous (and sometimes violent) group in each country. The carrot is always held out that they need to have control of their own affairs, their own wealth and to shake off the 'oppression' of whoever the greater national government is.
I suspect that it is, in part, driven by frustration among voters who don't live in the 'Big Capital' or who watch the political classes enrich themselves while excluding or ignoring everyone outside of the 'capital' wherever it is. That is certainly true of parts of the UK, where the political elite and the civil servants all seem to live in London and many seem to think that London is the whole of the UK. The attitude is, 'if its right for London, it's right for everywhere.' One often has the impression that the denizens of Westminster and Whitehall think the world ends at the M25, or, if it does continue beyond there, it either doesn't matter or it has all the same facilities and amenities that London has. I recall being told by a Whitehall visitor that I should make more use of public transport to get to and from work. She was completely unable to grasp the fact that even using trains this would still take between one and two hours if all the trains connected and there were no delays anywhere.
Her solution? 'Just sell your house there then and move closer to your employment.' It is that sort of mindset that fails to recognise the real difficulties faced by those who don't enjoy the generous end of the pay scales that causes real anger - and probably feeds the desire to break away from the control of twits like that. The reason I lived where I did was that I couldn't afford the inflated prices nearer my employer!
The danger, however, is that viable economies can easily become non-viable, the 'resources' may prove uneconomical or, may not be as rich or as large as was promised. It is said we get the governments we deserve, and to an extent this is true. Quite often we are taken in by the soft words, the buzz-phrases and the razzmatazz - and fail to see the fact it is all a false facade.
The second, and perhaps larger danger with rampant nationalism, is that it breeds strife between those 'not of my nation' and those that are. It must, surely, be ironic that it arises now, in a time of Multi-Culturalism, when we are told all these 'boundaries' have been torn down. It is also, as one commentator remarked recently, something that always arises at a time of financial hardship - perhaps because there is always the allure of "we can do it better if only ..."
I suspect that these 'nationalist' ambitions are an inbred part of human nature, a desire to belong to an exclusive club or group, a desire to be able to identify strongly with one particular group, be it through language, culture, religion or geography. Personally I find it rather saddening that people can be inflamed into such a narrow vision so easily.
5 years ago