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When it comes to defining nationalism, two concepts are involved. The first one can be viewed in terms of patriotism, and the second one in terms of national interest.
Starting off with patriotism, it refers to an individual who obeys the laws that have been laid out by the government. When a person follows the laws of a country, it signifies their love for the country. The laws are set out to smooth interaction between people and to ease the chasm between the government and its people.
Secondly, a nationalist is a person who is ready to defend their country at whatever cost. This involves a national volunteering to join arm forces to defend their country against outside force(s) who is threatening their existence or their sovereignty. The individual is willing to sacrifice their life for the good of the country. This elucidates why many countries fought for independence. They didn’t want to be ruled by an outside force because they believed in themselves and their countries.
Thirdly, a nationalist is an individual who participates in various national activities. One of the major national participation activities is voting during the General Election Day. It is the right of every individual to vote for his/her preferred candidate, and it's an honorable thing to do as it displays the individual wants the best for their country. Lack of participation in national activities is a sign of a lack of loyalty or patriotism to the individual's country.
Fourthly, a nationalist is a person who is proud of their country. It doesn't mean that they appreciate the corruption that is rampant in the country particularly in governmental institutions. The fact they were born in the country or became a citizen is what matters even though there are aspects of the country that they loathe.
Lastly, a nationalist is a person who triumphs when their country wins an international competition. It shows the spirit of patriotism which is linked to a person who is proud of their country. If the country participated in rugby tournament and it won, they will feel very happy for their country having won an international sports competition. This displays the love the person has for their country.
It is noble to be patriotic to one’s country. Nonetheless, there comes a time when loyalty trespasses its true intention. Consider the incident when the USA dropped atomic missile bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Back then Japan was a threat to America. It was established if soldiers were sent to their enemy's territory, more than 50,000 soldiers would die there. The easiest solution was the use of atomic bombs. When the two regions were hit by the bombs, it led to Japan surrendering. It was a victorious day in America. Nevertheless, the effects of dropping the uranium missile bombs left behind a disastrous outcome. While Americans were celebrating, thousands of people in the two regions hit by the atomic bombs (est. 200,000) had died and many more were missing. Furthermore, acute radiation arose in these two regions which affected the health of the locals.
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Looking on the other hand of the coin, when it comes to national interests it refers to citizens setting aside their individual interests and supporting the national interests.
Every person has his/her own interests. However, for the government to fulfill its mandate, the citizens need to set aside their interests which will not align with the national ones. In some instances, some of the individual’s interests may be incorporated in the national interests. Nonetheless, not every individual’s interests will be respected. This indicates a citizen needs to sacrifice, if not all, some of their interests.
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A partisan is a person who accepts to follow the interests of their country. This brings both the positive and negative side of national interest, for instance, first, the nation is a capitalist and second, the majority wins. Therefore, citizens have to follow the laws that have been enacted by the parliament even if it goes against what they want or desire. In this case, should citizens follow the laws they feel it oppresses them or isn’t justifiably right? For instance, the Members of Parliament are the lawmakers. Citizens will not be involved in deciding whether the laws will be in favor of or against them unless they participate in a referendum. Additionally, when a controversial law is passed in parliament, it is a result of the majority of members of parliament who passed the law into existence.
A partisan is a person who accepts to follow the interests of their country. When the government wants to invade another country and rule it, as was the case during the colonial era, the individual might support the decision of the government thus bringing the other negative side of nationalism. A nationalistic nation in most cases is a democratic country. Democracy is an important element in any nation. However, in a nation where the majority of the votes always win is disadvantageous. For instance, if the majority of members of parliament vote for a bill to be passed however controversial it is, it will go against the individuals’ interest. If a nation wants to invade and colonize another nation and the motion is passed in the parliament but fewer members of parliament and individual citizens are against the idea; can we truly say nationalism is positive even if it is not in favor of the general public?
To sum up, despite a person’s devotion to their country and their support of their country's national interests, at times these two concepts can be carried overboard. An example was shown in terms of patriotism and the other on national interest. This paints a negative picture particularly in the case of a capitalist country. If the majority wins, then it implies the minorities are neglected or ignored.
It is the rich and those holding powerful positions in the government who have a say. What they say is final. As such, nationalism does not benefit the citizens of a country to a large extent. It oppresses them. The beneficiaries are those who are rich and those who hold powerful positions in the government. In itself, nationalism can be positive if the interests of the minority and every individual is taken into consideration, and people would be patriotic to what is humanly right. When it arrives at such a point then can we rightly say the people are true nationalists, and the true meaning of nationalism achieved.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Alianess Benny Njuguna