Humanity now constitutes a single civilization, sharing the same goals and common challenges and problems. However, why some groups of people still turn towards nationalistic isolation? Does a return to nationalism offer real solutions to the global modern problems that face our world? Or is it just a temporary escape plan that may doom human kind to disaster?
Nationalism as an ideology is modern. Throughout history, people lived in small groups who shared the same interests and challenges. Then they went to trouble of construction national collectives because they confronted bigger challenges that could not be solved by any single small group or tribe.
In order to convince someone to be loyal to his nation and its millions inhabitants, the national parties and movements had to create a a system in which he must be a part to survive this system includes the constitution, education, propaganda and flag waving, as well as national systems of security, health and welfare.
Indeed, there is nothing wrong in loving my nation and being loyal towards its members. It inspires me to care about others and make sacrifices on their behalf. The problem starts the believing that my nation is supreme, and I have no significant obligations to the rest of the world. This kinds of belief becomes a fertile ground for violent conflicts.
We will talk about three global problems that prove that we need another kind of nationalism, a global nationalism, where we should all feel responsible for each other and put hand in hand to face our common fears and challenges.
The nuclear challenge
After Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings in the end of the second world war, nuclear weapons became humans most destructive weapons ever invented, and nuclear war became humankind’s common nightmare.
Since 1945, surprisingly most borders have been redrawn without naked aggression, and few countries have used war as a political tool.
In 2018, despite wars in some hot spots around the world like Yemen and Syria, fewer people died from human violence than from car accidents, from diabetes, or from suicide. This may well have been the greatest political and moral achievement of our times.
Constructing an international regime that prevented a nuclear war and guaranteed a global peace was no easy; but we are so used to this achievement, that we take it for granted. This is partly why politicians should not allow themselves to play with fire.
The survival of human civilization depends on privileging the prevention of nuclear war over national interests.
The ecological challenge
Homosapiens have existed for hundreds of thousands of years, and have survived numerous ice ages and warm spells. However, during a period of ten thousand years when agriculture, cities and complex societies merged-known as the Holocene- Earth’s climate has been relatively stable. Any deviation from Holocene standards will present human civilization with big challenges they never encountered before.
Humans are destroying the global ecology on multiple levels. We are exploiting more and more resources out of the environment due to the big demographic and economic growth, while pumping back into it huge quantities of poisonous waste, resulting in the change of the composition of the soil, the water and the atmosphere.
If we continue with our present course, in the coming years humankind will face a new existential threat: ecological collapse. There is a scientific consensus that human activities, in particular the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, are causing the earth’s climate to change at a frightening rate.
Unlike the nuclear war issue, Global warming is a vague and long-term menace. Hence, even if the long-term environmental considerations, which are based on data provided by scientific research and statistics, nationalists might be tempted to put immediate national interests over the short term sacrifices to save the climate and reassure themselves that they can worry about the environment later, or just leave it to people elsewhere. Since there is no national answer to the problem of global warming, some nationalist politicians went too far and prefer to believe the problem does not exist.
Our best scientific estimates indicate that unless we dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses in the next twenty years, average global temperatures will increase by more than 2°C, resulting in rising oceans, expanding deserts, disappearing ice caps and more frequent extreme weather events such as hurricanes and typhoons. These changes in turn will disrupt agricultural production, inundate cities, make much of the world uninhabitable, and send hundreds of millions of refugees in search of new homes.
The technological challenge
The third existential threat for humanity is the technological disruption. The merger of InfoTech and biotech opens the door to many issues ranging from digital dictatorships to the creation of a global irrelevent class.
Is there any nationalist answer to this menace?
Of course not! There is no nationalist answer, simply because the threat is global. It doesn’t affect only some countries, Since research and development are not the monopoly of any one country. For example if a country like Germany forbids genetically engineering human embryos, this doesn’t prevent another country like Japan from doing so. And if the resulting developments confer on Japan some interesting scientific or military advantage, Germany will be tempted to break its own ban. This is because we live in a world where every country will follow a high risk, high gain path if a single country did the same. In other words, nobody can afford to remain behind. In order to avoid such a race to the bottom, humankind will probably need some kind of global identity and loyalty.
People with extreme nationalism running in their veins should ask themselves whether their country by itself, without a robust system of international cooperation, can protect the world – or even itself – from one of these three problems that create a huge challenge for the human existence.