Back in February, tramping through knee-deep snow, a friend said something which surprised me.
Nationalism is a force of destruction.
No, I argued. Nationalism is a force for unity and joy.
Love, loyalty and celebration.
Admittedly, I was only thinking of the streets of Cardiff outside the Millennium Stadium after Wales had just won. The joy, the laughter, the hugs and happiness at what our tiny, brave, beautiful country just achieved. “Way-els, Way-els, Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi…”
Wales won last night.
Normally I’d be waving flags and cheering and gently teasing all my non-Welsh friends. But yesterday, displays of nationalism left a very bad taste.
You may not have heard about the UK referendum. Perhaps you’ve got a few problems in your own backyard and couldn’t give a toss how the British government’s petty in-fighting gambled with the future of the country and lost.
There’s a stupid six-letter word to describe this, but made-up, fallacious, simplistic, emotion-over-logic, reductionist bullshit is what got us thus far so I refuse to use it.
Let’s leave aside the likely break-up of the (dis)United Kingdom, campaign promises which were nothing more than empty slogans, the collapse of both leading governmental parties, international economic consequences, the impact on the EU’s geo-political security and the immediate uncertainty around who is responsible for clearing up this pile of political vomit.
The fact is the damage is done.
The British public is polarised, enraged, divided and shocked by its own behaviour. Much like the Scottish independence referendum, the hate and vitriol stirred up did not disappear after the decision.
The fury at ‘the other side’ continues with ever more extremist and personal attacks, retreating into its own media outlets and sticking its fingers into its ears as to anything which puts a balanced view.
Political parties practise self-defense/immolation while the electorate, whichever way they may have voted, says…
Oh Holy Shit.
At the heart of this is nationalism.
A deluded belief: absolutely fine on our own, thanks very much, never needed anyone’s help before, you need us more than we need you, our superiority complex has never let us down yet.
Nationalism is not a force solely of destruction or unity. It can be both. But it is certainly emotional and heartfelt, which can be used for positive, inclusive, joyous means or the exact opposite.
Much as I am grieving over Britain’s colossal political cock-up, I still have faith in (most of) its people. Our language, our culture, our cuisine, our infrastructure, our openness and our economy depend on the ability to absorb and embrace the rest of the world.
Britain is not the sum of its politicians.
It’s the sum of its people.
And we are so much better than this.
So, anyone got a plan?
Thanks to JD Lewis for all these beautiful images. Check out more of her work here.