Recently, in my blog post 'Retractions and Reassessments' (the fruit of a very great deal of thought), a post in which I reassessed many of my previously stated views, I had this comment to make on nationalism:
Then again, there is my many blog posts about globalization and cultural nationalism.
declared war on globalization and the cultural homogenization I
perceived in the world. But, seen from the view of Eternity-- which is
really the only view worth taking-- what difference does this make?
purpose in this world is to get to Heaven and to take as many people
with us as we can. Our political, cultural and social goals should flow
from that. "Martha, Martha, you are worried about so many things, but so
few are needed-- indeed, only one." (Luke 10:41-42.)
I'm not suggesting we should all become utterly otherworldly, or cease
to take pleasure in our national heritages, or cease to preserve them--
or to preserve other secular institutions that we cherish. But the
salient point is how much of an effort, how much focus this demands. If
it takes up an extraordinary amount of our time and effort, I think it
has become an idol-- and, indeed, I think cultural nationalism (and even
more political nationalism) has very often become an idol. I admit that it has been an idol to me.
I must admit that, even more recently, I have been feeling that this was an over-reaction.
Here is the thing; I can't really help being an Irish nationalist. Indeed, I am not only an Irish nationalist but an English nationalist, a French nationalist, an American nationalist, etc. etc.
The word 'home', I believe, is the most powerful word in the English language.
In our time, we are seeing a quite amazing sea-change in world politics, where national populations are reasserting the importance of national sovereignty, national identity, traditions, roots, and so forth, in the face of political, media and entertainment elites who tell them that a world without borders, indeed the dissolution of any kind of fixed identity, is the ideal-- and who have told them this for decades, even generations. I am amazed this is happening-- although I often hoped there would be such a reaction, I tended to assume it would be decades in the future (or even longer), if ever.
I can't hide the fact that I am entirely in sympathy with this 'populism'-- indeed, that few public events (if any) gave me more joy than Brexit, whatever its short-term implications might be.
I think this sympathy is rooted so deeply in my soul that I couldn't eradicate it if I wanted to. I think it goes right back to my childhood of loving legends, fantasies and science-fiction stories where the heroes travel from island to island, or planet to planet, or kingdom to kingdom, each one with its own government, culture, society and customs. I dread a global village with every fibre of my being.
Are there dangers in this reaction? I'm sure there are. Tribalism can be explosive. I'm certainly not aligning myself with every populist party that is rearing its head-- although, if I was English, I have little doubt I would vote UKIP.
How does this tally with my stated view in that blog post, that our Faith is 'the one thing is needful'? I still believe that. Indeed, if ever my Irish nationalism is in conflict with my Catholicism, my Catholicism will always take priority. The spiritual brotherhood (and sisterhood) of the human race is far more important than our national and ethnic differences.
Furthermore, my Irish nationalism is inescapably Catholic, rather than secular or non-sectarian.
Having said that my Catholicism takes priority, I should add that I don't necessarily defer to the Irish bishops, or even to Church spokesmen in general, when they speak on matters of politics, society or economics in a way that is neither binding nor rooted in Catholic tradition and Catholic doctrine.
Here is a good article about the tendency of the contemporary Catholic Church to back supranational institutions, and the desirability of rethinking this approach. (The tedious and arbitrary wrangling over the terms 'nationalism' and 'patriotism' can be ignored. I don't know any nationalist who claims that his nation is superior to others or deserves absolute loyalty.)
Have I reached my 'final destination' when it comes to this subject? Maybe not. Maybe I will continue to oscillate on this matter until the day I die. But I'm pretty sure that, at heart, I will always be an Irish nationalist.
Heaven is our home-- but perhaps we need an image of that home on earth.
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