Lessons from Armistice 100: Shun nationalism, work for global cooperation

From global warming to international trade, from jobs being lost to automation to the arms race, there are issues that demand transnational collaboration.

 |  3-minute read |   17-11-2018
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As world leaders gathered in France over the weekend to commemorate the 100th year of the armistice that ended World War I, the discourse was dominated by US President Donald Trump’s last-minute cancellation of a visit to a war cemetery.

The media largely focussed on contemporary political equations and French President Emmanuel Macron’s caution against rising nationalism that is becoming a threat to the world went undebated. It should have been an occasion for us to mull over why the far right is rising across the world, with leaders who advocate an extreme form of nationalism, sometimes bordering on xenophobia.

emmanuel-macron-690_111618030225.jpgFrench President Emmanuel Macron’s caution against rising nationalism is worth taking note of. (Source: Reuters)

Nationalism is placing the country’s interests over those of the others and that was one of the causes of the First World War — in which the seeds of World War II were sown. In an atmosphere of whipped up emotions, where there is barely any space for rational dialogue, those opposing nationalism are branded ‘anti-nationals’ and called traitors.

In a globalised and interconnected world, one has to keep the larger public good in mind. While nationalism appeals to populist and authoritarian regimes, it cannot solve the problems we face in the world today. And there are problems galore — even if they are not a part of our political discourse. From global warming to international trade, from jobs being lost to automation to the arms race, there are issues that demand transnational collaboration.

Our problems are global, our polity national and our identities regional. If we cannot find a way to address this dissonance, our problems will persist and fuel further hatred. In the absence of a global polity that can respond to the modern-day problems, populist and authoritarian regimes are on the rise across the world. And much like the past, freedoms are being attacked and free press is being maligned. For instance, the right wing in India often refers to the press as ‘presstitutes’ and in Germany anti-immigrant protesters chanted the Nazi slogan — Lugenpresse — meaning lying press. The similarities and the pattern in the rise of the extreme-right wing across the world are increasingly becoming more apparent.

One of the cardinal ways of attaining a global perspective and creating a global identity is educating people.

trump-690_111618030247.jpgRussian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with US President Donald Trump as he arrives at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. (Source: Reuters)

Sadly, we do not have an education system that makes us aware of these problems and how we can tackle them. Much of our education is designed to cater to the needs of the job markets rather than to enlighten citizenry.

Education, like the media, is used as a tool to propagate nationalism. It is driven by competition, rather than teaching children to cooperate. For as long as we continue to propagate competition, we will not be able to arrive at a consensus to solve problems that deserve immediate attention of humankind. An education system that promotes cooperation is the key to attaining international cooperation.

The 100 years of the armistice should have been an occasion for us to introspect and fight against forces that divide humanity. International cooperation and peace must not remain hazy ideals in our minds but should become our state policies. A world sans wars is not an unachievable ideal, but in the mutual interests of all of humanity. The horrors of war must be explained to common people on such occasions.

Emmanuel Macron’s appeal to the world leaders to reject nationalism must be taken more seriously by common citizens too.

Of course, the world will not change overnight. Peace will not permeate across the many battlefields in the world. But for that to happen, common people must first believe in the idea of peace and cooperation and make genuine efforts to propagate them.

While rejecting nationalism may not be a popular choice, especially because of the stigma attached to it, it is essential for our secure collective future. In an era where dual citizenships are gaining traction, it is important to recall the words of Rabindranath Tagore — I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.

Also read: World War I: No one remembers the Indian soldiers


Rakesh Kotti Rakesh Kotti @rakeshkotti

Rakesh Kotti is an educator, aspiring writer and amateur drummer.

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