Nationalism – is it good or bad?

This is a post in response to some discussions I had about my previous post about the controversial De La Rey by Bok van Blerk.

One of my friends suggested that the word nationalism had such negative connotations that it is offensive. I must admit I was quite taken aback by this view.

Lets first clarify nationalism. According to Wikipedia, nationalism is an ideology that holds that a nation is the fundamental unit for human social life, and takes precedence over other social and political principles. Of course with such a controversial issue this might also be questioned, but lets agree on this as a starting point.

To me nationalism is a positive thing. I do admit that nationalism is a very powerful feeling/ideal and this scares a lot of people. Almost like a tool that can end up in the wrong hands. But religion, for instance, is no different. Capitalism or communism or even technology can also be exploited to do evil.

Many people immediately associate Nationalism with Nazism. Whilst Hitler exploited Germany’s nationalist fervour after the 1st World War to build his fascist state, he could also have used those nationalistic feelings to build a flourishing and socially responsible nation.

If it wasn’t for nationalism we (the Afrikaners), Indians and Pakistanis would all be speaking English right now; the Scots wouldn’t have their delightful accent and the French would have been speaking German. The list goes on and on.

In South Africa I believe that nationalism actually encourages reconciliation between races. If Bryan Habana scores a try I am just as happy as when Fourie du Preez does. I don’t see black and white – I see a South-African sticking it to the Aussies.

That doesn’t mean I want to declare war against Australia. Far from it; in the UK we had just about as many Aussie/Kiwi friends as Saffers. What it does mean is that I’m proud to be an Afrikaner and I recognise and respect our heritage. Exactly in the same way that I’d expect a Scot/Aussie/Russian/Yank/Indian or Zulu to.

Mainstream Germany & Austria are in total denial about their nationalism. Privately they are as nationalistic as ever, but they have draconian laws (that go 100% against the principles of freedom of speech) that prohibit them from expressing their views. I think this denial is not healthy. Obviously there are exceptions, but as a rule their joie de vivre is sadly lacking.

When the Scots, Irish and Welsh sing their glorious anthems at Murrayfield, Landsdowne Road & The Millennium Stadium visiting spectators are inevitably moved. It truly is something to behold; ask anyone who has been there. It is nationalism as it is meant to be: not pathetic and small minded but rousing and inspiring.

For a well researched & balanced view check out the Nationalism Wiki.

11 thoughts on “Nationalism – is it good or bad?

Add yours

  1. I am one of those Afrikaners who got the lump in the throat after listening and watching the Delarey music video, and it had me thinking about what the Afrikaner was, and is today.

    I am very curious to learn about other cultures and nations. I love traveling, and would say that the Asian culture probably ranks at the top of my list of cultures I find interesting and very fascinating. It does not mean I want to be Asian, but I have a very deep appreciation for their culture.

    I think the Afrikaner has a culture heritage which in my opinion suffer from two black eyes. The first is the inferiority complex slap on the Boer by the English as a post Anglo-Boer war label, and the second the apartheid years. I think to an extend, the Afrikaner Boer have the same problem as the Germans and Austrians in dealing with being a proud Afrikaner, but not being labeled as a far right wing nutcase looking for a Volkstaat. Most South Afrikaners probably see it as Bok sees it, ôJy moet saam met Æn Zoeloe, Xhosa en Engelsman om Æn tafel kan sit en weet wie j² is.ö This does not indicate any superiority on any level, but rather an acknowledgment of differences and respect for those differences.

    Excellent post Attie. Very well put.

  2. As an Australian (yes the dirty kind that you Saffas love) I agree with what Adam says. People are way to sensitive about this anyway.

  3. I believe Afrikaners are embracing their culture and heritage for the first time in a long time and the popularity of “De la Rey” just proves this. I’m another sucker that got a lump in my throat when I saw it for the first time. However, nationalism is probably not the key message in the De la Rey video because it highlights the historical conflict between the English and Boers. In todayÆs times both groups are contributing to South African society. Could it rather be a description of idealism? I got a lump in my throat because it reminds me of people that fought for a cause against enormous odds. And guess what, despite defeat, weÆre still around!!!

  4. Attie, as my earlier chance comment on nationalism lead to the above post, I will address the issue myself shortly – just a matter of finding the time…

    For now I want to abuse your space and direct a comment at Abbie…

    Abbie, I’ve enjoyed the slightly different angle in you comments on Attie’s last two posts. I then checked your profile on blogger. I was ready to ‘get comfortable with Abbie’ but alas found an empty shell. I note that you’ve only registered on Blogger quite recently – which explains your ‘sparsely furnished’ blog. However, judging by your above mentioned comments I suspect your blog may offer a few interesting angles on various issues. Go for it! I’m looking forward to it.

    (Will Attie allow this abuse or not?)

  5. Anon, goeie punt. Dis omdat ek Engelse Suid-Afrikaners en Engelse het wat ook my blog lees. Maar dit is ‘n goeie punt.

  6. Wat van n’ Engelse Suid-Afrikaner wat in Afrikaans skryf?

    I just wanted to add that I enjoyed the song the first time I heard it.I too suffered from the preverbial lump in the throat for the simple reason that the song highlights great achievements by a truelly great South African.

    We are a country filled with more history than appartheid, there are more stories to tell than those of South Africans oppresing each other.

    I’m glad to see the pride people have taken in this song; long may it continue.

  7. Never mind ‘n knop in my keel, ek het sommer openlik gesit en tjank. Dit is ‘n pragtige song wat met jou praat en dit is wonderlik om te sien dat iets die Afrikaners weer bymekaar bring. Dit het my skoon homesick gemaak.
    Dit maak my weereens trots om suid-Afrikaans te wees en al sit ek hier in Engeland, ek sal altyd ‘n boer (of boerin?) wees…

  8. Howzit Attie

    Ja nice article, I certainly agree with your perspective on nationalism and that there’s nothing wrong with it. I def feel as a white English South African that at times it’s something we do not have enough of, us orphans of an empire.

    Thing is where does nationalism stop and nonsense start – a good example being
    Is this site nationalistic or confrontational?

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