Nationalism Version 2.0 is Congruent with Globalization

Second Prize, Graduate Student/Teacher Category, Essay Contest 2016

December 31, 2016

Dr. Muktar A. Gadanya is a public health physician with an interest in global health, ethics and multidisciplinary researches. He is a lecturer in community medicine at Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria. He graduated from the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria (FMCPH), University of London/London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (MSc), and Bayero University (MBBS). He is a recipient of the Presidential National Honour of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) and won the Higher Education Academy Essay Competition (United Kingdom 2010), and JD Soleye's prize and Adetokubo Lucas' prize for the best Public Health Dissertation and Best Final Fellowship result respectively (Nigeria 2011).

ESSAY TOPIC: Is nationalism an asset or hindrance in today's globalized world?

"We stand nakedly in front of a very serious pandemic ….. [scientists and countries should] sacrifice their own vanity conflicts…..do we have a willingness of the best scientists in the world to work together so that all areas will be able to benefit from their cooperation?"
--Dr. Halfdan Mahler, 3rd Director General of the World Health Organization, leading it from 1973 to 1988.

If we look at nationalism only from the definition of A.D. Smith as countries having different "character, history and destiny" then it is premised entirely on a wrong footage, because on the common planetary space ship, earth, if we do not work together "we shall (all) perish in its flames," according to globally acclaimed words of John F. Kennedy. Kennedy added, in a different forum, that "World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man loves his neighbor, it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance." Globalization, according to UNDP Human Development Report (1999) is the "shrinking space, shrinking time and disappearing borders" leading to more interaction between all sections of the world, and ensuring a better trajectory for our shared destiny.

I work in the field of inter-disciplinary research, with adaption of tools and best practices from arts to science and vice versa. In a voice vote or Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) some disingenuous fellows are likely going to rely on the loudness and pitch of their voices to attempt to rig the perceived voice acceptance of a proposition. Many of my researches rely on FGDs to determine reasons and undertones of medical decisions by members of community. I was introduced to an acoustic analyzer that not only rely on the l oudness of voice and its pitch, but objectively analyze the variety of voices to determine if the voice vote or the acclaim at an FGDs are actually from varied individuals, not a from a few trying to rig by shouting louder and longer. Little did I know this would find substantial sociological and political application, and pave way for better understanding of many phenomena. When I took the device to the cultural segment of an international conference which had participants from 28 countries, I wasn't looking for any special finding. I later did synchronous analysis of verbatim transcription of the cultural event proceedings and the readings of the acoustic analyzer, from which I had a surprising finding that mention of my country is the "greenest," "spends more percentage of GDP on foreign aid" and "is the most innovative" had the loudest acclaim for the varied voices. Statements like "we have the largest army" and "best foreign trade balance" scored the lowest on the acoustic analyzer.

This led me to the theorize, together with researchers in political science, that citizens of another country view positively and identify with the achievement of other countries, when such achievements and excellence are of potential benefits to them, their countries and the global community. We called this nationalism version 2.0, which is where national goals and achievements are congruent with global goals and achievements. If you make bigger spending on foreign aids, that either benefits my country (which may be the recipient) or make my country's foreign aid spending unnecessary, or synergize with our spending to achieve better result. It is not every time a country out-performs my country that I lose; but it is also not every time another country outperforms my country that I don't panic and make irrational decision. If my neighbors start an arm race, I lose in terms of appearing relatively weaker and then needing to incur huge opportunity cost by diverting resources meant for, say healthcare, into an arm race. This may eventually balance military strength and return me to my old power parity with my neighbors. In this circumstance we all lose, which may be to a varying degree, but usually a loss for both sides.

A 10-year old looking at a map, asked why the national boundaries are often not straight; and it is the same observation I had on my first international trip, at the age of 15 years, while crossing international borders by road: there was often no instant sharp demarcation between two countries in term of social or physical features; and at the next international football match, I had lower nationalistic fervor in my support for my national team, which before always led me to end with a hoarse voice after a match.

In a globalized setting we look at each other's problem from a fresher perspective, and we all stand to gain. A migrant entrepreneur in a new country often has more to lose by failing, and many successful corporations contributing to national and global economy and harmony have been the work of migrants and foreigners bringing new perspectives and uncommon determination and energy, for the mutual benefits of the two countries.

Reading about all the historical wars and conflicts, many have argued that many of the wars were only "nationalistic" in name, but principally tailored for the leader's glory, "position in history" and whims. A number of models about what trajectory humanity would have assumed had it been those wars were not persecuted has shown that they have delayed the progress of humanity by several centuries. If all the energy expended and in the ancient and more recent conquests were channeled into tackling shared humanity problems, we would have been less miserable and more efficient as a race.

There is a version of nationalism that is congruent with the global good (nationalism 2.0), and there is a version it that is inimical to global progress and cohesion, which I here call Incongruent nationalism. The former opens a more rational perspective on how we can address and minimize the latter, as it makes it clearer that we can work for mutual benefits, and engage in conflict at a substantial cost to both sides, and with the risk of debasement of our common humanity. This will make us more hesitant to emphasize the incongruence.

If nationalism is rooted in the interest and welfare of fellow citizens, it can easily be converted to globalization; but often it is rooted in the need to lead and dominate. A candidate for a national election in my country was campaigning using his favors to his countrymen while leading a regional body. A local sage said: "all and good! But how can we have confidence now that you will not favor the people from your state, thereafter your hometown, family and eventually yourself alone?". George Orwell shared the same view in his article "Notes on Nationalism" when he said "nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige……."

Incongruent nationalism prevents countries from taking advantage of globalization: imagine every family still stuck to making their homemade breads using the recipe by their great-grandmothers: breads will be costlier, take more time to make, and many may not develop taste for bread baked outside their homes! If an alien should come to ask, why do all families waste every good evening time simply for their morning breads, an uncritical "home nationalist" will thump his chest and say "can't we see our houses are self-sufficient regarding bread?"

Nationalism may not always be congruent with globalization, but if we pursue nationalism that is congruent with globalization (nationalism 2.0), it becomes a global win-win. Human preparations are only cognizant of life challenges only up to our current stage, and are yet not all encompassing of current problems. And this takes me back to the opening quotation by Dr. Halfdan Mahler: we need immediate global co-operation to address current globalization of epidemics, among several other challenges. The recent experiences with Ebola and Zika shows that our problems are best (and can only be) addressed as a global community. And nature still hurls at us newer and more avid challenges: diseases, climatic catastrophes and blazing asteroids. If we continue to incur substantial costs on globally inefficient nationalistic projects, we cannot be prepared for eventualities, and will at the time of our shared and assured global desperation be all caught most unprepared.

Human destiny and progress, therefore, appears to be hinged on nationalism that is congruent with globalization, and on which we all have a role to play, for our shared destiny, and for posterity.

Dedication: This essay is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Halfdan Theodor Mahler, former World Health Organization Director General from 1973 to 1988, who championed and pioneered many global strategies that have led to successes against smallpox, tuberculosis and HIV. Dr. Mahler died about two weeks ago at the age of 93 years.

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