Friday 22 September 2017

World is still under the shadow of nationalism

The power of nationalism can still trump democracy and reason, and threatens turmoil in the year ahead, writes Dan O'Brien

Right-wing demonstrators draped in Spanish flags take part in a march in Madrid
Right-wing demonstrators draped in Spanish flags take part in a march in Madrid
Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien

DURING the year that is about to begin, the centenary of the start of the war that ended a century of peace in Europe will be marked. The First World War was the decisive turning point in modern European and world history. Understanding why it happened is important not only in explaining the past, but in understanding the world today. That is because nationalism, which played the central role in causing that war, remains alive and well in our times.

Nationalism still exerts huge influence on this island, on Europe and on every other region of the world. It threatens to start wars and break countries apart. All too often, it is more powerful than democracy and reason. Stephen Walt, an American scholar of international affairs, has described it as "the most powerful force in the world today".

Let's start at home to see how powerful it is. Among the most common characteristics of nationalism are an easy resort to victimhood, an overdeveloped sense of grievance and a readiness to blame others for "all our ills".

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