Friday, December 16, 2005

Nationalism is the new religion

The destructive potential of modern nationalism should not surprise us. Traditional religion hardly played a role in the unprecedented violence of the 20th century, which was largely caused by secular ideologies - Nazism and Communism. Secular nationalism has been known to impose intellectual conformity and suppress dissent even in advanced democratic societies. [...]

The quote is from Pankaj Mishra's op-ed in today's NYTimes. The immediate provocation is the trial of Orhan Parmuk in Turkey for having said in an interview that "that 'a million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds' were killed in Turkey after World War I." He first identifies the culprit: secular nationalism, and goes on to mention several other countries where it has gone berserk:

In all these countries [India, China and Russia], a growing middle class turned a blind eye to, or even actively supported, the suppression of ethnic minorities in the name of national unity. In democratic India, up to 70,000 people have died in Kashmir in a violent insurgency that the Indian news media have yet to honestly reckon with. In Russian Chechnya, civilians and journalists have been as much victims as Islamic rebels. And such is the power of Chinese nationalism that even most dissident intellectuals in the West feel that Tibet and Xinjiang are part of their motherland.