Friday, November 23, 2012

Our Discussion on Nationalism-- Young Ireland Replies

Having patiently waited for me to finish rabitting on, Young Ireland has kindly responded to the set of questions I put to him at the end of my last post. This is as a part of our ongoing friendly discussion about nationalism (in general) and Irish nationalism (in particular), previous instalments of which you can find here, here, and here.

His responses (and I agree with a lot of what he writes) give me a lot to think about. I will be back soon with my own thoughts. For ease of reference, I have put my questions before Young Ireland's answers.

My Question: My first is something of a rhetorical question. I can't imagine you answering "no", but I will put it anyway. Would you be grieved at the prospect of the various nations, their languages, customs, cuisines, art-forms etc. being replaced by one world-wide culture with a common language, political system, legal system, sport, and so forth?

Young Ireland's Answer: To be honest, my feelings on this are mixed. On one hand, I do think that diversity is a good thing and that people should not be coerced into adopting a particular culture. On the other, if there is no interest in a particular culture or (secular) tradition, I think it is best to let it die out gracefully. Forcing it upon people, I think is a sure way to make certain that it is not revived in the future.

My Question: In a less drastic vein [to the previous question], are you perturbed at the idea of different national cultures becoming less distinctive-- do you find anything to regret in cultural globalization?

Young Ireland's Answer: Not really. I think that globalisation is generally a good thing, but not without its flaws. Nevertheless, in the last 20 years, as the Western world has become more interconnected, it has also become more stable and peaceful. I would recommend that your readers look up this link about the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention, which states that two countries will not go to war if McDonald's has a presence in both countries.

My Question: If you do prefer the continuance of different national cultures, do you think this is a goal that we should consciously pursue (for instance, by trying to protect national traditions, sports, languages, and so forth) or should we simply let history take its course?

Young Ireland's Answer: In these matters, I think the best course of action will be to let history take its course. Cultures will only survive if there is a genuine will on behalf of its proponents for it to survive.

My Question: You object to compulsory Irish in the Irish education system (and you may be right). Would you draw a distinction between efforts to preserve and strengthen national cultures that are voluntary, and those that are imposed by law?

Young Ireland's Answer: I would. I believe that promotion of any culture is best left to private organisations. There is a risk that if the State gets involved, especially regarding the use of coercion, it will be morphed into something jingoistic that will end up generating resentment, apathy and possibly the death of the culture being promoted.

My Question: How important do you think this whole subject is, in the grand scheme of things?

Young Ireland's Answer: Finally, I think that it is important, because most Catholics in Ireland are nationalists of varying hues and I think it is important that an objective discussion on this needs to take place to see if we are going wrong somewhere. I think it is possible to be patriotic and not be a nationalist. I would define patriotism as obeying just laws, taking an active part in community life for the sake of the common good, et cetera. . I don't think it should be confused with nationalism, which especially in the Irish context, often demands assent for immoral acts like 1916, and the belief that your particular country is infallible. Also, Mel Cormican of the Brandsma Review group on Facebook made a good point when he said:

"On the relationship between the Church and nationalism, the two are incompatible. Patriotism is a virtue, but nationalism the narrow love of country to the point of hating foreigners is condemned in the strongest terms when he sets up the Samaritan up as the good guy in a story about loving your neighbour. I have always considered it a deep wrong that Catholic schools have given such a biased, nationalist angle on history, which undermined its expressed support for the Church's social teaching. This contributed to the extremism that gave terrorists succour for decades when they should have been roundly condemned."

I am in no way saying that you agree with the views outlined by Mel, however, many nationalists, especially Catholic nationalists, do.

I look forward to your response.

To be continued....

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