Professor Trevor Davies says the rise of nationalism, in the context of Scottish independence and now the EU referendum, is a threat to decent government and honest politics.
Another year. Another referendum. Then, it was Indy. Now, it’s Brexit. So once again we’ll be assailed with fanciful economics, grass-is-greener politics and straw-man enemies beyond our borders. Above we’ll be treated to another surge in nationalism.
And nationalism is seriously bad for us.
Writing this in Scotland I know that not all nationalists are SNP supporters and not all SNP supporters are nationalists. But nationalism is what drives the SNP, as it does UKIP (and many Tories) over Europe.
I need to be clear. Patriotism and nationalism are not the same thing. Indeed, if we follow George Orwell writing way back in 1945, they are opposites. Patriots identify with a place and a people which they value and want to nurture and protect, simply because it’s theirs and they believe it good.
Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. We see that desire in those in the EU debate who want to ‘bring back powers to the British people’. And we see it in the SNP who consistently argue for more powers to ‘come back’ to Scotland and, in their case, not just some powers, but every power.
But it’s more than just power. It’s about prestige too – about not wanting to be ‘dictated to’, by Brussels or Westminster, even though there’s no evidence of any dictator. Look through the social media or the noisier newspapers and the thoughts of nationalists constantly turn, as Orwell noted seventy years ago, on “victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations”. A win by a Scots sports star in the British team is a ‘victory for Scotland’. Criticise the SNP for a policy failing by their government and you are ‘talking Scotland down’. When the desire for prestige is so strong, criticism seems close to humiliation, and so becomes an attack on the whole idea of the nation not on that single policy.
And that’s really bad for us, because when policy is so infected with considerations of prestige, then debate, discussion, and so improvement, becomes impossible. And if we can’t debate and improve that’s truly bad for us. Nationalism is not just unpatriotic, it’s anti-patriotic.
For nationalists, the welfare of the place and the people isn’t paramount. The nation is. The nation, its powers and prestige, is what matters. And in the minds of nationalists that’s because the Scots are somehow special. Or the British are somehow special. They truly believe the rules that apply to the rest of the world somehow won’t apply here once we’re ‘free’.
Even when the facts are overwhelmingly against them, nationalists stick to their position. Their hunger for powers and prestige is tempered only by self-deception. Orwell says it better than I can:
“Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also – since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself – unshakeably certain of being right.”
That’s bad for us, especially when a party espousing those views is in government, because it leads at the very least to foolishness and cronyism. Only a nationalist government would spend money on changing the name of a major institution from the National Gallery of Scotland to the Scottish National Gallery. Only a nationalist government – strengthened by their belief that distinctiveness of language enhances national prestige and feeling – would introduce, at great cost, invented Gaelic station names in places where that language has never been spoken.
Foolishness we see daily. Cronyism and small incidents of petty corruption we are now familiar with as well. Because if nationalists are unshakeably ‘right’ then others must be wrong. And if nationalists are ‘right’ how can their behaviour be anything other than right too, especially when in pursuit of ‘the cause’? So we see talented people of other persuasions excluded from public appointments; we see a pressure to conform, both monetary and political, applied to those reliant on government patronage; we see the kind of minor corruption where small amounts of public money are given to organisations just because they are run or supported by other nationalists; and wrongdoings by other nationalists either condoned or unreported.
The unshakeable conviction of being right and the desire for powers and prestige above all else prevents consideration of any half-way house. It is all or nothing at all. The UK has the full power of a nation state and yet sharing that sovereignty with other European nations is seen by UK nationalists to remove all power to progress; we must leave and regain our independence if we are to be whole, free and powerful again.
It is the same in Scotland. Being provided with what was agreed and signed for by the SNP in the Smith Commission provokes cries of ‘betrayal’ because it falls short of the ultimate aim of independence. Falling short subverts prestige and so must be rejected. So we see the painful reluctance of the SNP government to use the full powers that make the Scottish Parliament one of the strongest devolved legislatures in the world. Like Oliver Twist they simply stand and ask for more – a habit which deprives the people of progress.
The nationalist need to identify with a single ‘nation’ appears to confer on them no other duty than that of advancing what they see as its interests. Actions or ideas therefore come to be seen as good or bad, not on their merits, but simply by their origin. Thus the power to see resemblances between similar circumstances is lost to them. The SNP, believing Scotland deprived, restricted and dictated to by the UK, nevertheless enthusiastically desires to share power with European nations other than England and Wales. And UKIP steadfastly defends the merits of the multi-nation state which is the UK but refuses the very idea of a looser union with other Europeans nations.
Nationalism is a predominant force in our times, just as it was in the middle of the last century. The reasons for its re-emergence are real enough – the experience of seeing power and wealth being appropriated by the self-serving actions of a tiny corporate and governmental elite, destroying our common welfare. Its prescription of separation, however, can only deny to us the collective actions which are the sole effective means to overcome that destruction.
38 thoughts on “Why nationalism is bad for you”
“about not wanting to be ‘dictated to’, by Brussels or Westminster, even though there’s no evidence of any dictator.”
Point out where the SNP have said this?
thoughts of nationalists constantly turn, as Orwell noted seventy years ago, on “victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations”
Wow! You know the thoughts of every nationalist? How did you come by this super power…..I’ve never been that arrogant to claim knowledge of another’s thoughts.
For nationalists, the welfare of the place and the people isn’t paramount.
Really? So, when the SNP fight to protect the most vulnerable, move to protect industry and jobs, attempt to push up earnign’s of the lowest paid and protect from Labour supported cuts to welfare and proposed tax hikes – they are not looking after welfare?
Labour did such a good job with ATOS
Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty
Is this what passes for rational argument now? Sweeping generalisms?
Only a nationalist government…. would introduce, at great cost, invented Gaelic station names in places where that language has never been spoken.
Who legislated for Gaelic signage again?
Cronyism and small incidents of petty corruption we are now familiar with as well.
unsubstantiated accusation….care to be specific? Monklands Mafia? North Lanarkshire Labour group anyone?
So we see talented people of other persuasions excluded from public appointments;
Who – care to back that up with truth?
we see the kind of minor corruption where small amounts of public money are given to organisations
Specifically? or do we just get to blow air now and hope it sticks
Weak ranting doesn’t pass for decent argument
Yup. British Nationalists “right”. Everyone else wrong.
” British jobs for British workers”.
“Cronyism and petty corruption”—-a Labour trademark in Scotland.
Gaelic placenames——started with Labour, I think.
This is pointless and stupid. For every perceived wrong in the closed mind of Davies, anybody could point out to him all the exact same things which carry the name of Britain uñder Labour or the Tories.
The ” Englishing” of Scotland?——- One Jack Mc Connel. Etc etc
“Professor Trevor Davies says the rise of nationalism, in the context of Scottish independence and now the EU referendum, is a threat to decent government and honest politics.”
Professor Trevor Davies describes illegal warmongering, welfare cuts, austerity, privatisation of needy public services, a second unelected chamber of patronage and privilege, covering up paedophilia as “decent Government and honest politics.”
“Another year. Another referendum. Then, it was Indy. Now, it’s Brexit. So once again we’ll be assailed with fanciful economics, grass-is-greener politics and straw-man enemies beyond our borders. Above we’ll be treated to another surge in nationalism.”
And yet it was the No campaign who coined their own efforts “Project Fear”.
“And nationalism is seriously bad for us.”
Says what is clearly another rabid British Nationalist.
“Writing this in Scotland I know that not all nationalists are SNP supporters and not all SNP supporters are nationalists. But nationalism is what drives the SNP, as it does UKIP (and many Tories) over Europe.”
Absolute bullshit. Scotland is already a Nation. We all of us are already Nationalists. Anybody who believes in their own National identify is a Nationalist. What drives the SNP and its support is the need for self determination and self rule as opposed to Westminster rule. That’s not Nationalism that’s common sense.
“I need to be clear. Patriotism and nationalism are not the same thing. Indeed, if we follow George Orwell writing way back in 1945, they are opposites. Patriots identify with a place and a people which they value and want to nurture and protect, simply because it’s theirs and they believe it good.”
You said you needed to be clear and yet you describe patriotism as Nationalism while telling us they are opposites. Nationalism is simply a recognition and acknowledgement of your own National identity.
How on earth can it be defined as anything else? You see your own National identity as British I see mine as Scottish. Both legitimate and both Nationalist.
“Only a nationalist government would spend money on changing the name of a major institution from the National Gallery of Scotland to the Scottish National Gallery.”
So how would you describe somebody who objects to anything being called Scottish in Scotland?
“Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power.”
How can that be true when you call those who oppose the power of Westminster Nationalists? Seems pro unionism is inseparable from Haver and contradiction.
And at this point I couldn’t stomach reading anymore.
This is a prime example of fanaticism. This is pure Brit Nat Unionist extremist fringe cultism. Every word projection of itself.
I sincerely hope people like this decide to move South after we gain our Independence because I wouldn’t want them getting together and turning the situation into another Northern Ireland.
“Being provided with what was agreed and signed for by the SNP in the Smith Commission…”
Is the dastardly diluted “soup” in the final hash of the Smith Commission put on the table by the Unionist cooks what you ,professor,are referring to in your menu of rationalised rote?
In reference to the Smith Commission debacle the people of Scotland have indeed been abused like Oliver Twist.
By a bunch of fagin mendacious scoundrels,sir.
Honest politics !!! How about a honest article, this is just pish.
“Another year. Another referendum. Then, it was Indy. Now, it’s Brexit. So once again we’ll be assailed with fanciful economics, grass-is-greener politics and straw-man enemies beyond our borders. Above we’ll be treated to another surge in nationalism”.
Professor Trevor Davies thinks nationalism is ‘seriously’ bad for us but it appears he also has a problem with democracy. Referendum are not to the professors pleasure. I wonder why that is? Is it because he thinks the masses are too stupid to make such weighty decisions? No it cant be that, the professor is a man of the people. Is it then that democracy is alright when it was a safe choice at a general election between two conservative, British colonial, foreign interventionist Westminster parties, but not alright when it comes to big referendum votes on sovereignty and the constitution? Or is it that the professors dislike of real democracy at work is that during the time of the Scottish referendum and this next referendum he has had to watch the party he has been a member of for many years and which has worked tirelessly for him, disappear off the face of the political map both here in Scotland and now throughout the whole of the UK. Is it that his unwitting dislike of referendum is due to the fact he sub consciously associates the end of The Labour Party with all this bloody democracy?
Such a disappointing article. Even the airy-fairy distinction between nationalism and patriotism doesn’t work.
I honestly think this was just one big shit stir. Nobody in their right minds would genuinely think the way the dear Prof is articulating.
This is the kind of article you would piece together from the minds of several mentally disabled patients under treatment.
“Even when the facts are overwhelmingly against them, nationalists stick to their position. Their hunger for powers and prestige is tempered only by self-deception. ”
could just as easily have been read on wings over Scotland as….
Even when the facts are overwhelmingly against them, the nationilst’s detractors stick to their position. Their hunger to regain power and lost prestige is not even tempered by their full awareness of their own self-deception.
Nationalism Bad…..Nationalism Bad.?
Attitudes can be Bad and Attitudes can be Good. It’s Human nature. Atitudes looked through nationalism can equally be Good or Bad, just like Attitudes looked through the prism of religion, race and science, even political system..
I think that lots of people who do not have the Professor’s education will be looking at this and thinking that it is maybe being a little too specific for its own good. Perhaps He should consider why Mr Corbyn’s ‘internationailism ‘ is being so easily monstered….Tacit support for one aspect of one issue is being globalized across a wide spectrum, just like this rather globalized Nationalism he discusses. The three biggest threats in the world today are Putin in Ukraine, ISIS and Syria. Putin is political expediency, ISIS is religion and Syria is regime. There isn’t an ounce of nationalism in any of it. The only nationalism seems to be the liberal type.
Another day another Donkey Hee Haw Hee Haw project fear part 2 has started when another failed Scottish Labour section Red Tory unionist stooge ex Edinburgh councillor Trevor Davies is wheeled out purporting to be a some sort of academic with the title honorary professor as if this Mickey Mouse title means anything it’s not worth the paper it was scrawled on, no if my learned
professor was to say that he was awarded his title of professor from the Scottish Labour section Institute of Project Fear part 2 now maybe that would be something. The SNP and Nationalists want to stay in the EU so even when this is the case the whinging wannabe professor cannot help himself form going into default mode of Scottish Labour section Red Tory unionist stooge mode of SNP BAD BAD BAD well done brain box every time you go into project fear mode you just guaranteed a the Scottish Labour section a severe pasting at the Scottish elections well done keep up the good work.
Just back from casualty at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. I read this article at 3 pm,collapsed in hysterical laughter at the inanity and banality of it, and had to be taken to hospital to be sedated.
And a cry of PISH rang out.
Deary deary me.
For future reference there’s no need to sign off your comments with your name.
Is that the best you have?
Weak, really weak
“Weak, really weak”
Your bang on there I think you will find that El Capitano starts the morning off with a Red Tory unionist stooge breakfast that is an extra large frothy cuppuccino and croissant with lashings of marmalade straight out of the exquisite made in England porcelain jar whilst sitting at the breakfast table in his union jack dressing gown with the radio blaring out in the background Land of Hope and Glory, at that point he jumps up to attention and it dawns on him that he is still wearing his Tommy Cooper Fez as quick as a flash he whips it off his Kernel just like that so as not to show any disrespect at the unionist national anthem, its a shame that El Capitano is so weak really weak what’s up with porridge with salt in it or a couple of square sausage sarnies ever since the Muisli Muncher Jez from head office came on the scene the Scottish Labour section Red Tories have got weaker and weaker although at the Scottish elections the folks of Scotland will give them punishment not nourishment.
If only there was a Scottish version of Tony Benn.
Somebody that nails the constitutional question with say Federalism and injects some socialist politics back into our story.
I can but dream.
“If only there was a Scottish version of Tony Benn”
If that was the case your dream would be a nightmare this silver spoon in his gob aristocrat had the privilege to pick any path he choose to unlike many of us ordinary folk who have had to go out and bend the knee and scrimp and scrape to get our corn to put bread on the table and anyway he was at the end of the day in line with all the other Labour Party Red Tory unionist stooges against an Independent Scotland see the link below.
In what way is Federalism better than self determination at Nation State level?
It is the only realistic option left on the table for a start. Unfortunately it is unlikely the UK Government will ever grant us another independence referendum.
If they do, it will be when they think they have a good chance of a big victory.
The best hope Scotland has is gaining as much devolution as is possible.
It may be realistic in the outer reaches of Planet Drew but here on Earth National self determination is the constitution of choice. You can tell by the amount of Nation States there are and by how passionately they guard their National borders and identities. Its so powerful that even those who believe in the Union of the UK of GB believe in it as a Nation State not a Federation of anything.
Really moronically stupid in trying to pretend you believe in Federalism when all you want is Devolution and retained authority over Scotland at Westminster.
Translation: My nationalism good. Your nationalism bad.
You’re miserable attempt to try to squelch a democratic movement and paint now over half the country as rabid nationalists is ridiculous and inane.
This is the power of the people. It is democracy.
The corrupt union is over.
And by the way, what the hell is wrong with Scotland having all the powers it deserves?
Scotland is different. Accept that fact.
It will be independent one day, just like all the other countries that managed to make it without the empire sustaining them. One can’t help but wonder how Canada has never made it!
The Labour Party is dead in Scotland. The people have rejected you.
Deal with it.
Damned dictation. *your and *ever
Wait a minute here !!! Is Trevor not a real professor ?
Well hit me fanny with a kipper and call me one of the big girls , that is a total surprise. Who would believe that Trevor could be so deceiving.
For clarity, the editor of this site decides how authors are described, not the authors themselves. It was an editorial choice to give him his (correct) title of Professor.
So admin/Duncan is Trevor’s title of being ” Professor ” honoury or career earned, please enlighten us.
This so called Professor Trevor Davies is a joke I just seen Eddie Murphy as the Nutty Professor and he is the real deal unlike the Scottish Labour section Red Tory stooge wannabe professor Give me the Nutty Professor any day of the week.
A professor you say, shame he doesn’t know the difference between a country wanting to run its own political affairs and nationalism, back to school for you mate oh and stop listening to Hotherdonkey, he really is a total arse.
Hi Hugh, thanks for your comment. Not sure why you’d want it to be anonymous. Perhaps it’s so you can call people names without being held responsible for it?
I’m on board with your comments re name calling Duncan, bit strange that you would call the fella Hugh though.
Please tell me you’ve not used his registration/sign-up details to identify him.
Commenting doesn’t require registration or sign-up. As I suspect you well know, brand new username anonymous person who just happened to drop by.
Are you as suspicious in real life Duncan?
It was a genuine question.
As to my status, am I not welcome? Do I need to pop in and visit at home before my perspective has any validity?
I just found it curious that you used a name other than the posters screen-name. My initial thought was that the individuals real name ‘Brian’ was in the email address he supplied (required before you can comment) but I assumed you would know that using it would be a DPA breach, so that couldn’t be it.
Just curious where the insight came from, that’s all.
No idea who “Brian” is. No idea who you are. Struggling to care.
I apologise for the slip, I meant ‘Hugh’, I thought that would have been apparent.
Doesn’t answer the question as to why you called him Hugh though.
Wait a minute, how did you know his name was Brian? Did you look at his login detailzzzzz….
The good professor could have saved time and just said SNP Bad
This is desperately thin gruel, even by the admittedly low standards of Labour Hame. One of the earlier BTL comments had it right, this is simply a long winded way of saying “my nationalism is good, your nationalism is bad”. As has been noted widely online today (from Jan Eichhorn’s piece in LSE blogs from May 2015) the evidence seems to show that the rise of the SNP vote, and in support for independence, is actually coterminous with a REDUCTION in nationalist feeling or self identification.
The inability of the Professor and the increasingly moribund party he supports to distinguish the differences between civic nationalism and that espoused by movements like UKIP is interesting, but hardly new. It is however electorally disastrous when twinned with an inability to see that the success of the SNP and pro-independence movement is not rooted in tub-thumping old style nationalism or identity, but quite simply on a preference for what they see as a competent government which better represents their interests. Carping from the sidelines and repeatedly telling Scottisah voters they are delusional cultists being manipulated by a sinister regressive nationalist movement bent only on power for its own sake is a breathtakingly facile strategy.
As Eichhorn notes, with particular reference to Scottish Labour:
“If commentators want to understand why the SNP is successful, they need to make a greater effort at properly understanding how public attitudes are formed in Scotland. Suggesting that it is down to sentiment is lazy at best, but actually misrepresenting the majority of Scottish voters. For political parties trying to challenge the SNP, first and foremost Scottish Labour, a similar message applies: to have a chance of engaging them successfully, they need to stop focusing mostly on high-level questions about different types of nationality. Instead they need to challenge the SNP on concrete policy debates around issues that affect people’s lives and which voters in Scotland are much more likely to base their votes on than identity-driven arguments.”
There seems to be very little evidence of Dugdale or her team having any real understanding of the bases of the SNPs success. It’s not nationalism, it’s issues. It’s not grievance, it’s simmering anger at the failings of unionism. It’s not power for power’s sake, it’s a desire to effect change.
It appears that to the good Professor, pace Napoleon the pig’s view of equality, all nationalism is equally bad, but Scottish nationalism is the worst. Small wonder Labour in Scotland are heading for electoral oblivion; they have all the self awareness, and half the charm, of the pigs from Animal Farm.
It’s an interesting read but I’m not sure it will interest the 99.9% of voters who aren’t sociology or politics students.
It’s no coincidence that Labour achieved their best election results ever in the 1990s and 2000s when they focused less on ideology and more on being a competent, credible party of power.
A lurch back to obsessing about the work of Marx, Webber and Engels, fine writers that they were, would be a mistake in my book.
This Scottish nationalist would like to thank the Professor for taking the time to ‘Labour-splain’ all the things I didn’t know about myself!
This particular comment is worryingly inaccurate however:
“Only a nationalist government – strengthened by their belief that distinctiveness of language enhances national prestige and feeling – would introduce, at great cost, invented Gaelic station names in places where that language has never been spoken.”
Bilingual railway station names were introduced by Transport Scotland as a direct result of the Gaelic Language Act 2005, which obviously was a piece of Labour/Liberal legislation. This Act itself was motivated by the UK (New Labourite) government’s decision in March 2001 to ratify the Council of Europe’s European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, which defined Gaelic and Scots as languages in need of protection and revitalisation.
Let’s lay two other Unionist myths to rest while we are at it. Bilingual railway station signs do not involve ‘great cost’, being part of an ongoing Scotrail rebranding process that would be replacing the old signs anyway (even the stations with no Gaelic name have new signs, if you look carefully). And it’s not clear to me that there are any signs in parts of Scotland where Gaelic has never been spoken. Unless he means “places where Gaelic has never been the only language spoken”.
The rest of it is just semantics. For me, the word ‘nationalist’ has positive connotations and ‘patriotic’ has negative ones. The Professor thinks the opposite. Let’s agree to disagree.
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