06 December 2011

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . .
The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

-- George Orwell, quoted in this provocative article


X said...

Orwell was a great man but not a particularly good man. Like most Brits of his era he had a large blind spot in seeing the British Empire for what it was, an empire, built, like all empires, on myth and brutality for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. It was not a Nation state and Tories were not nationalist, they were imperialist pretending to be nationalist. Sound familiar?
Nations are an organic entity created and maintained for the common good of a cohesive people. Nationalist tend not to condone torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination and war in general for the simple reasons that they don't like it when these things are done to them and it is not beneficial to the common good. They tend to mind their own business. Nations are merely an extrapolation of the family unit onto the body politic.
Empires, on the other hand, are voracious, insatiable appetites that roam the world seeking the ruin of souls with great profit to the few and great misery to the many. They make your business their business. Sound familiar?

Anonymous said...

I love this quote - thanks for sharing!

Americans, however, are not ready for universal moral law. E.g. we are supporting most Arab Spring uprisings in the middle east - unless it is the Palestinians or Saudi Arabians, and those two for different reasons. We invaded Iraq to 'stop the oppression,' yet watched from the sidelines the horrific genocide in Rwanda and Darfur (because they don't sit on oil.) We decry the death penalty that Iran, Afghanistan and Belarus inflict on their citizens, but turn our eyes to institutional capital punishment here.

The United Nations was instituted in hopes that as humans, we could set up common law (similar to Aristotle's, but not the same) that would be applicable to all nations. (Which is why some politicians want to abolish it or at least pull the US out of it - because "they" don't see the world the exact same way we do.)

Thanks again for posting this - a great read for all heading into the election cycle!

Pope JPII fan