‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’- every one of us would have appreciated this noble ideal conceived during the French Revolution. But have we ever wondered about yet another subtle concept, which also took root during this period and caused radical changes in world history – Nationalism?
A nation is nothing but an extended kinship. Collective consciousness or a sense of ‘we’ is the fulcrum behind this sublime sense of nationalism.
As the name and fame of Napoleon Bonaparte (the child of the French Revolution) spread across Europe, the seeds of nationalism were sowed across Western Europe, which in turn led to the unification of two superpowers- Italy and Germany. Soon after, nationalism nurtured Germany to become a society-centered welfare state with an aggressive foreign policy governed by the ‘Iron Chancellor’, Bismarck. This aggressive radical German nationalism led to the First World War.
The defeat of Germany in WW1 and the rise of mercantile England fostered a mutant variety of nationalism in Germany. It was a combination of hatred filled utopian socialism and fanciful capitalism called ‘Nazism’. Inspired by Mussolini’s Fascism, Nazism was a totalitarian movement led by Adolf Hitler. Fascist Nazism led to World War 2 and the rest is history.
Today, liberal democratic nations like India and America are aspiring to nurture a positive ‘Civic Nationalism’, which is inclusive by nature. Unlike the previous manifestations of nationalism, civic nationalism is not determined by language or culture, but by political and liberal principles. It hopes to build a welfare state guided by republican values of equality, freedom, brotherhood, tolerance and acceptance.