Psychology Of A Nationalist
The idea of a nation is new to humans. It’s not wired in our psyche independently. Although the large community or large tribe mentality roots back to around five thousand years; the sole nation idea is new to us. From family to tribe, tribe to community, and community to the nation, the idea of living in a large community has been constantly changing with us. But the idea of a nation where people live in a certain marked territory with the feeling of belonging under the same strict law dates back its origin to early-modern Europe and since has been evolving till date.
Territories keep changing and laws keep revising itself. With the concept of a nation there comes the strong emotion of nationalism. This emotion binds people of the nation to find the oneness among themselves. And it wouldn’t be wrong to say nationalism affects a nation and vice versa at an individual and community level.
When people identify themselves as a part of nationality they carry strong attitudes and beliefs about their fellow people, who share the same attachment to their nation passionately. This common feeling often leads them to justify a cruel act done against people of another nationality.
As a human we are constantly seeking to develop and the best way to measure it is by comparing. To validate ourselves we tend to dominate others. And nationality helps us to do that. This us-versus-them mentality has its negative effects on a political and historical standpoint, but it also has its effect on an individual’s psychology.
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From a social-psychological perspective, nationalist sentiment is thought to stem from two main points: attachment and identity. We emotionally invest ourselves on things that are told to be ours. These things might vary from a religious figure to historical achievements. And when two nations argue for the same thing there arises a conflict.
Geographically rich lands of Kashmir can be taken as one such example. China, India and Pakistan have been betting for the authority of Kashmir for decades which has increased the tension not only between those three nuclear nations but in the entire South Asia region. This tension not only has affected the governments but also to people residing in those areas.
The idea of nationalism has been taught to us since our early stages. Children identify their nation before they can identify the basic needs of life. A child might be able to sing their national anthem before they can remember the multiplication table. This leads the child to emotionally get attached to a group of people connected by what is called a nationality.
When children undergo a socialization process that moves from the egocentric to the sociocentric, as they build attachments to groups to fulfill their basic human needs, the idea of a nation plays a vital role.
They are taught about the rich history of their nation and told to have compassion for their fellow countrymen. This has a dual effect on children’s psychology. They might later on in their adult life have strong feelings towards nationality and do works that will enhance the standard of their living and of their nation whereas if they felt threatened about their collective or individual identity they might also get involved in heinous acts with the feeling of revenge.
Nation gives individuals a sense of security, a feeling of belonging, and prestige. Psychologists like Freud and Maslow agree that the need to belong is a fundamental human motivation and nationalism fulfills that need and helps people to construct their identity. An individual’s identity and mentality is highly dependent on his group’s identity and it’s status.
We can take an example of die hard fans of a football. Their whole lifestyle revolves around their team so much so that their sense of identity is connected with how the team performs. When their team is on a winning streak, the fans behave as one of the most motivated and energetic groups. Whereas when the team starts to lose, the same people turn into hooligans and create riots and violence.
But affiliating to a group not only has negative effects, for some it works as a motivational factor to thrive more. An individual player or an olympics team might take their nationality as a driving force to train hard and perform well for their country. Their strong will to win will also be backed by their countrymen who travel thousands of miles to support.
Some psychologists believe that countries with small territory and weak military power have a strong sense of nationalism because they feel threatened by their superior neighbouring countries. When a person feels constant threat in his/her group they tend to have low self esteem and show extreme behaviours.
The rise of extremists in the Middle east after the gulf war and oil war can be seen as an example of it. Afghanistan was considered one of the most prosperous nations on the planet while their people were recognised as friendliest people. But after the US invasion the table shifted and now Afghanistan is home to more than a hand countable number of terrorist organisations. The constant threats and feelings of insecurity at a national level led people to change their behaviour at individual level. Once a group renowned for poets and philosophers now are tagged as extremist.
The idea of nation and feeling of strong nationality has also helped in development in both individual and community level. It has provided large scale opportunities which a small community would have never imagined. Taverns could not have been transformed into 5 star hotels, arena fights could not have been marketed as sports and torrent migration could not have been named as tourism. Many argue that nationalism was born during the industrial revolution but we cannot ignore the fact we as a human have always wanted to live in a community.
It gives us identity and security. It gives a homeless person an identity and sense of belonging. It gives people a sense of connection. Although there will always be a question we can ask ourselves, if everything today is globalized and has a global impact, is running the system through the nation still the best framework for an individual or even a community to thrive?