Despite efforts to find its meaning for the collective populations of North America, “nationalism” remains undefined throughout an article for The Canadian Press.
This is the sort of incondite journalism we can probably expect from government-subsidized (or soon-to-be subsidized) media. Not only does the author of the piece not challenge any of the obfuscating terms used by a politician, he perversely claims to draw a “clear implication” from them.
The article opens with this paragraph:
On a historic Remembrance Day, a century after the end of the First World War, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a Paris crowd that decaying trust in public institutions will lead citizens to look for easy answers “in populism, in nationalism, in closing borders, in shutting down trade, in xenophobia.” [Emphasis added.]
No one thought to ask why the “decaying trust in public institutions?” Perhaps it was self-evident. After all, the current “Paris crowds” in their “yellow vests” seem to have irredeemably lost trust in “public institutions.”
However, using undefined terms such as “populism,” “nationalism,” and “xenophobia” demands an explanation. A proper definition names the essentials of the concept to which the word refers. Ultimately, the referents must be something in reality.
Since it is the focus of the article let’s leave aside the other meaningless terms and examine “nationalism.” Most of the attempts at a definition include a reference to “identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests.” [I don’t like this because it switches context between the collective and the individual.] Even if you were to accept this however, how could you accept the inclusion of the thoroughly nonessential qualifier that usually appears in such “definitions: “. . . especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations?”
Can you see what the use of this term does? It equates opposites. Just because one “identifies” positively with his “nation” implies therefore that he is somehow working negatively toward the “detriment” of other “nations.” Politicians particularly seem to make use of such ambiguous terminology. That way they cannot be held accountable to any particular principle. I don’t think that’s a good thing.
What would be good is for the media to be honing in on the clarity of news stories it covers. This is what speaking truth to political power is all about. Instead we get stories that are just as meaningless as the confusing statements made by the aforementioned politicians. It’s leaving you to that “like, you kind of sort of know what I mean” interpretation in place of an explication.
Take the article in question. Jordan Press, in the second paragraph leaps to the following:
The implication was clear: if nations turn in on themselves and treat outsiders as threats, we might again find ourselves in a bloody conflict with fronts all over the world.
“Bloody conflict?” Maybe that’s what Mr. Trudeau meant. Who knows? No one asked him. But that’s the risk in using meaningless terms: misunderstanding, and worse; not being able to think clearly about real “implications” because the essential information and meaning is missing.
The rest of the article goes on to explore the “meaning” of “nationalism” for Canadians following the results of a specious poll it ultimately suggests may not be representative.
One particular bit of nonsense comes from Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research Associates who is quoted regarding Canadians’ view of “nationalism” and/or the source of “national identity:”
“In Canada, national identity has been created through a dialogue between citizens and the state and the public institutions – medicare, the Mounties, Parliament Hill. It isn’t as much steeped in history or common race and identity, which probably inoculates it from some of the more disturbing expressions of nationalism.”
I’m unable to imagine a “dialogue” I have ever had with either the “state” or a “public institution” nor do I think it possible. But that’s just the introduction to the entire quote from Mr. Graves which is complete nonsense. Does anyone think that socialized medicine, a national police force and a parliamentary system “inoculated” the individuals of the Weimar Republic from “some of the more disturbing expressions of nationalism?”
Finally, there was an encouraging note in this story. On the day after his November 11 remarks, the article notes Mr. Trudeau was asked how he defined “nationalism.” Congratulations to the questioner for that initiative. This is how the prime minister responded:
“In Canada, we’ve demonstrated many times that identities are complimentary,” he said. “I’m an extremely proud Quebecer, I’m an extremely proud Canadian and like most Canadians, they don’t see a contradiction in that.”
I can see a number of contradictions in that statement. What I don’t see is a definition.