You know what a globalist is? A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what, we can’t have that. You know, they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist. And I say, ‘Really, we’re not supposed to use that word?’ You know what I am? I’m a nationalist. Use that word.
– Donald Trump
I call myself a nationalist, but my nationalism is as broad as the universe. It includes in its sweep all the nations of the earth. My nationalism includes the well-being of the whole world. I do not want my India to rise on the ashes of other nations. I do not want India to exploit a single human being. I want India to be strong in order that she can infect the other nations also with her strength. Not so with a single nation in Europe today; they do not give strength to the others.
– Mahatma Gandhi, Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda
Most countries in the world today have the privilege of nationalism. That is, by their mere existence as independent, sovereign nations whose governments and territories are coterminous, they practise nationalism every day. They don’t call it nationalism, of course: they just call it normal. A country running its own affairs isn’t an “ism.” It’s just what countries do.
Donald Trump is abusing that privilege, because the United States is already a nation: the USA gets the government the USA votes for; the USA commands every facet of its national and international policies, every resource, every inch of soil; the people of the USA have full control over their own nation’s destiny, whether they realise it or not. Invoking nationalism in opposition to globalism – as if the globe and the nation are not interlinked by virtue of each other’s very existence, let alone the notion that the globe and the nation can both do well at the same time – is signalling to those who prefer to use nationalism over other words. Trump’s USA is, like the nations of Europe in Gandhi’s time, a nation that does not give its strength to others.
Those who would compare the nationalism of independent nations to that of ones which are not independent are equally complicit in this privilege. This is the privilege of nationalisms – the irony that you can denounce nationalism while practising it every day of your life.
The highest ranking politician of a country referring to themselves as a nationalist means very different things depending on whether their country is independent or not. Nationalism in non-independent countries has a bad name in large part because of nationalism in independent countries – usually, because the already-independent nation has a vested interest in preventing a piece of their country depriving them of people, resources, and territory. Hence the “all nationalism is the same” nonsense. Who could seriously argue that the nationalist movements of Gandhi, Garibaldi, Connolly, Kenyatta, Kossuth, Mandela, and Mazzini are remotely comparable to the nationalisms of Antonescu, Franco, Mussolini, Pinochet, Kai-Shek, Malan, and Milošević?
Or Nicola Sturgeon & Jacob Rees-Mogg, apparently.
Yet plenty do – because it’s easy to be against nationalism when you have a nation.