Liberalism and nationalism |

BREAKTHROUGH – Elfren S. Cruz – The Filipina Star

September 4, 2022 | 00:00

Democracy and liberalism seem to be going through a perilous period in the world today. When I speak of liberalism, I am referring to the tolerance of differences in beliefs and religions; respect for individual rights, in particular human rights; and the rule of law as the basis for resolving disputes.

According to Freedom House, an organization funded by the United States since 1941, which conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights. “…political rights and civil liberties around the world have fallen every year for the past sixteen years.” The rise of autocracies such as China and Russia and the erosion of freedoms in countries such as Hungary and Turkey have grown stronger around the world. Even strongholds of liberal democracies like India and the United States have experienced a similar decline. The United States was once seen as the leader of freedom and human rights in the world. But of late, the political triumph of Trump and Trumpism has shown that even the most traditional liberal states are not immune to the rise of fascism or what Biden calls “semi-fascism.”

In the various states, which have seen the rise of illiberalism or non-liberalism, there has been a corresponding increase in the call for nationalism by its political leaders. It is clear that many autocratic leaders and opponents of liberalism have used the rhetoric of nationalism as a tool to advance their own views. For example, when a government deprives its people of human rights and liberal countries denounce this abuse of power, so-called nationalist spokespersons characterize this denunciation by foreign countries as interference in the internal affairs of a nation.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has also been accused of interference when it seeks to hold hearings into human rights abuses.

Liberalism has been accused of being a global conspiracy by Western countries to advance their so-called “imperialist ambitions”. But liberalism continues to exist for centuries because of its ability to manage the diversity of viewpoints and political thought in pluralistic societies. It requires society to have shared values ​​such as tolerance of differing viewpoints, the need for compromise and deliberation to exist and flourish. The problem is that liberalization does not foster strong emotional bonds similar to those of nationalism. Freedom of the press, for example, is a difficult concept to grasp, unlike sacrificing lives to defend one’s country against foreign intervention.

Proponents of liberalism often struggle to present a positive view of their ideas and its impact on people’s daily lives. While intellectuals and the educated class may find the concept of freedom of speech and assembly to have strong emotional appeal for the ordinary citizen, it may be a luxury that has no real effect on their daily lives.

Consider the definition of human rights in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights… Everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms set out in this Statement, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or any other situation “.

These concepts are difficult to grasp by people who are primarily engaged in day-to-day survival and whose lives often depend on the whims of mainstream politicians and members of the elite.

According to the famous political writer Francis Fukuyama: “Nationalists complain that liberalism has dissolved the bonds of national community and replaced them with a global cosmopolitanism that cares as much for the inhabitants of distant lands as for its fellow citizens. Nineteenth-century nationalists based national identity on biology and believed that national communities were rooted in common ancestry.

Those who defend the ideas of liberalism often forget the emotional power of nationalism. Autocrats and populist leaders have learned to use this powerful ideology of nationalism to advance their own agenda. Again, Fukuyama says that “…the core conservative critique of liberalism—that liberal societies provide no solid moral core around which community can be built—is true enough. This is indeed a characteristic of liberalism.

There was a time when communities had common moral beliefs based on religion. But modern societies today are more religiously diverse. Even the Christian religions have diversified. The idea of ​​restoring a shared moral tradition defined by religious beliefs is very difficult in modern society. When this happens, it usually leads to the rise of extremism like Muslim terrorists in the Middle East, Hindu nationalists in India, and right-wing Christian terrorists in the United States and Western Europe.

Liberals often poke fun at populists who use nationalism as an electoral weapon. Liberal intellectuals regard this as foul language. For example, Trump’s nationalist message, “Make America Great Again” is seen as overly simplistic and chauvinistic. The effect is that liberals have allowed Trump to monopolize the message of nationalism. Xi Jinping and Putin are other examples of autocratic leaders who used nationalism to overcome the message of liberalism and human rights and the use of force to preserve internal order and protection against “enemies”. external or foreign. Human rights and other liberal rights are meaningless if they cannot be enforced by a state or accepted by the people as a whole. Liberal leaders must find ways to identify liberal rights with nationalism and its role in improving the quality of life for ordinary people.

Failure to do so will allow autocrats and populists to continue winning the war for the hearts and minds of the people.

* * *

Write Things’ September deals via Zoom:

September 17: “Writing in Challenging Times,” for adults with award-winning novelist Glenn Diaz, 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 24: Meeting of young writers with host Sofi Bernedo, 2-3 p.m.

Contact [email protected]. 0945.2273216

E-mail: [email protected]


About Author

Comments are closed.