The World Cup, the left, and nationalism

The World Cup has proven to be a great challenge to the political left, especially in Europe.  Normally, the left loves to put down any unique cultural expression of pride in its quest for pure, unadulterated internationalism.  It tries to delegitimize those who do not agree by labeling them "tribal," implying that they are as out of touch with the times as cave-dwellers.  And yet, more and more, leftists on the internet are expressing their national pride by rooting for their home teams.

So what actually drives the pride they take in a national victory?  Whether or not the left wants to admit it, we humans are destined by our human nature to take pride in our identities.  More than anything else, our national cultures are, perhaps, the overwhelming majority of our identities.  We see the world through the lenses of cultures: we think in languages determined by culture, our values our determined by our cultures, and our expectations for life and even our expectations for death are determined by our cultures.  So the leftist demand that we drop our unique cultures and our pride in them to adopt a hypothetically utopian international agenda goes against human nature by attacking not just our nationalities, but our identities.

Folks on the left tend to think it is competition between individual cultures that leads to war and that only replacing disparate minority cultures with a worldwide majority culture of the left will lead to worldwide peace.  They are wrong.  It is not peace that we will receive should their plan be followed, but the systematic ethnic cleansing of anyone who resists the new majority culture that will be forced upon all, a culture that will, apparently, include a lot of socialism and a lot of Islam, two ideologies that are not known for their tolerance of dissent or respect for democracy.

A single worldwide polity will not stop wars between those who have different ideologies (our new tribes) and those who are simply predators, hungry for power and willing to kill for it, and their prey.  Sadly, those traits are also parts of human nature.  So there will be no utopia.  History will not come to an end.  Thus, our job is not to make the world perfect.  Our job is to answer this question: if we can't make our world perfect, can we at least make it better?  To the extent that nationalism drives cultures and their leaders to improve the quality of life for their people, nationalism can be a positive force.

It is not nationalism that causes wars, but extremism.  Perhaps those on the left who cannot understand the difference between nationalism and extremism cannot understand because they are themselves extremists.  But the better part of wisdom requires that people find a balance between their nationalism and their universalism.  Nationalism is not the enemy.  Extremism, both ideological and religious, is.

Pete Cohon is a retired attorney living in Tel Aviv, Israel.

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