How To Be A Liberal by Ian Dunt: Today

The following is an extract from How To Be A Liberal by Ian Dunt. 


Nationalism is marching across the world.

Nowhere is immune to its advance. Everywhere must come to terms with the threat it poses.

In the last few years, nationalism has become the driving force behind the Republican party in the United States, the Conservative party in Great Britain, the Bharatiya Janata party in India, Likud in Israel, the Alliance for Brazil in Brazil and PDP–Laban in the Philippines. It conquered Hungary under Fidesz and Poland under Law and Justice. It dominated political debate in Italy through the Lega, Austria through the Freedom Party, Bulgaria through Attack and Estonia through the EKRE.

Sometimes it loses a battle. Sometimes it wins. In some countries, it takes over the government in its entirety. In others, it acts as a junior partner in a coalition. Often it does not even need power. It simply dictates the political narrative from opposition.

Wherever nationalism establishes a position, it transmits its narrative, which consists of six lies, or a combination of them.

The first lie is that you do not exist as an individual. Nationalism claims that society is composed of two groups, who are in a perpetual conflict with one another: the people and the elite.

In reality, neither of these groups exist. There is no such thing as the people. Individuals do not compose a homogeneous mass. They do not speak with one voice. They have different values, interests and eccentricities. They are not singular, but plural. The elite is also a fiction. There is no one centre of power, not in politics, economics, culture or anywhere else. The world is composed
of distinct clusters of power, which sometimes flow together and sometimes apart. 

The notion of the people versus the elite sounds like a challenge to power, but that is a misdirection. In fact, it consolidates power. It does this by creating a moral through-line, a fairy story, by which the nationalists can claim unchallengeable legitimacy on the basis of those they claim to represent. In their eyes, only the votes of the people who agree with them count as democracy. The rest of the population is ignored.

This process warps and diminishes what it is possible for humanity to be. Nationalism pretends that we have only one identity, that we cannot be more than one thing at once. It makes us uniform and categorised, a part of the mass: an undifferentiated component of the whole.


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