Tuesday, June 08, 2010

How to deal with nationalism while not becoming a nationalist yourself...some incomplete thoughts

One thing that's been a constant in my thought over the past three years or so, maybe more, is that simply looking at politics as consisting of a base and a superstructure, or even an economic base and a sort of mediated superstructure with various variants of hegemony and semi-autonomy for different parts is insufficient without looking at factors that are labeled 'culture'. By culture I mean the things that bind a group of people in their sense of belonging and that help prevent alienation. I don't see culture in and of itself, i.e. it's specific contents, as being important, see that what often happens is that groups of people undergo alienation due to capitalism or to historical events, that shatters their more atmospheric sense of belonging, and then create nationalistic movements based on an imagined picture of that culture that are then used to impose far right government on people. The challenge, or how to deal with nationalism without becoming a nationalist yourself, is how to counter that alienation, while working on ways of transforming the economic base and other features of society, so that instead of going towards fascism or neo-fascism, or towards some general nationalistic far right doctrine people stay relatively integrated into the world. I think that to achieve this some sort of focus on culture that takes the term away from a historical context, denoting some sort of deep rooted thing, and towards a more civic and up-to-date context is necessary. Alienation from cultural dislocation provoked by capitalism can hopefully be countered by people creating cultural forms that promote personal self-realization as opposed to conformity and living through a conformist ideal. I don't think that the solution is to just try to substitute a culture with left wing values or what have you for one of right wing values because the same underlying problems continue, namely the problem of relying on something that's in the end disempowering rather than empowering to give solidity to society.

*on edit: this sort of substitution of Left for Right was satirized in a comic about Nazis and Communism that ran before World War II, I can't even begin to say where, that featured a drawing of a huge statue of a worker in front of a large building with a swastika on it, and then in the next frame featured a drawing of the same heroic worker in front of a large building with a hammer and sickle on it and the worker holding a hammer. It's a similar oppressive cultural idea.

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