Nationalism is a curious word.
The full definition given the online version of Merriam-Webster Dictionary denotes nationalism as “loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.” I say curious because of the duality that exists in its underlying meaning. On one hand, the fact that nationalism describes “loyalty and devotion” has positive connotations to it. How can being loyal and devoted to your own country can be bad? Well, it’s not bad per se. But the second part of the definition, to me, negates whatever all the good things implied by this word. Exalting one’s own nation – its culture and interest – over that of others is only begging for discord and conflict. Having studied for seven years in an international school that propagates tolerance and equality for difference beliefs and backgrounds, this is particularly offensive for me. And to take an extreme example of nationalism done wrong: the Third Reich, anyone?
Another reason why I find “nationalism” to be so strange is that a lot of people equate it to the sense of unity or solidarity that exists between the people living in one social unit called a country. My high school English teacher would be horrified about the imprecision of language and meaning. The love for one’s own country does not beget unity or solidarity. In fact, it is the other way around. It is the social bonds, as is articulated by the speaker on nationalism a few weeks ago, that beget one people’s love for their own country. Furthermore, it is important to note that these bonds would have to extend further than just our immediate community as it seems to be among Filipinos. Our love for family and friends, one of the best Filipino traits, when too much can also be a failing because it would often lead people to place the interests of their immediate relations over that of the rest of their countrymen. Ahem. Napoles. Ahem. In this regard, if we could do as the Japanese have done back in post-WWII when they endured wage-less jobs instead of going abroad, or the Koreans who gave up family heirlooms and jewelry to provide funds for the government, we would go even further than we have today.
As an Iskolar ng Bayan, I am expected to be nationalistic. I am not, or at least not the way the online version of Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it. I love my country and I am proud to be Filipino not because we as a people are better than Thais, Czechs or Ethiopians. I love my country and I am proud to be Filipino because of all the great things we have achieved, all the obstacles we have overcome, and all the causes we continue to fight for.
– M.T.A.V. Fernandez
“nationalism.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam Webster, 2011. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.