Throughout history, people have been attached to their native soil, to the traditions and to established territorial authorities. But it was not until the end of the 18th century that nationalism began to be a recognized sentiment molding the life and one of the great, if not the greatest, single determining factors of modern history. Along with its dynamic vitality and all-pervading character, nationalism was seen as binding factor in the society of which American and French revolutions may be regarded as its first powerful manifestations. After penetrating to the countries of Latin America it spread in the early 19th century to central Europe further toward the middle of the century, to Eastern and Southeastern Europe. At the beginning of the 20th century nationalism flowered in the ancient lands of Asia and Africa.
The need for nationalism arises in an ethno- national community in which people share cultural proximity to each other in terms of language or traditions or intrinsic values. This feeling of nationalism also strengthens with the desire to flourish wherein identity and moral understanding further guarantees a feeling of patriotism in the heart of its citizens. History stands testament to the fact that nationhood is the paramount feeling of identification, which makes or breaks a nation. This is something that nations such as USA, Japan, Israel and China personify as an apt example in their unique ways.
The Chinese civilizations lay the ground for the culture that is followed unto date in China. Highly influenced by Confucianism and Taoism, it developed into an evolved society that believed in its traditional roots of martial arts, classical Chinese language, spiritualism and fortune-telling that the Zhou Dynasty left it with many years ago.
Despite the conflicts between the Song dynasty Neo Confucians and the classical Confucian philosophers, the nation continued to stick to its roots and that, has carried it forward to become a powerful one. The development of China brings to fore that conflicts are a part of the development but sticking to the roots of culture will further lead to empowerment.
The power to sustain a nation, which comes from a civilization, is a theory that can be applied to a number of countries however USA nowhere near fits into this category. USA, despite having no historic civilization or ethnic origin per se, has managed to sustain its identity because of the sheer patriotism that the migrants ignited themselves with to make their new-found home a superpower. The credit goes to the USA government, which institutionalized a civic nationalism based on legal and rational concepts of citizenship, common language and cultural traditions. The founders of USA founded the country upon classical liberal individualist principles rather than ethnic nationalist principles. Today, USA is a nation defined by a creed and sense of mission that tends to equate its interests with those of humanity, which in turn forms their global posture standing alone as the only superpower in the world.
An excerpt from the Constitution of the USA. courtesy http://www.kuyperian.com
As far as Israel is concerned, it is a nation that is built on the basis of exclusion as the Jews exterminated from all parts of the world ethnically united to form the World Zionist Organization in the 11th century. Prolonged suffering of discrimination and exclusion united the Jews against the world in a religiously discrepant area of the Middle East in the land of Israel surrounded by Islamic States. Despite the propaganda to be finished by the Arab states, Israel believed in its identity even more and worked hard to build a nation from scratch on their ethnic unity and fought back and came out victorious each time. The country now stands as one of the most refined nation globally having the top 10 strongest militaries in the world.
Japan was able to unite itself by its imperialist agenda by instilling patriotism in people despite having a shaky civilization. The end of the civilization after numerous conflicts wherein the Edo period that lasted from 1603 AD to 1868 AD saw the rise of Japan’s isolationist policy. Fear of a European invasion led Japan to seclude itself from traders and missionaries for over the next 02 centuries. After that, in the Meiji period, nationalist ideology which consisted of a blend of native and imported political philosophies, developed. The Meiji government promoted national unity and patriotism, in defense against colonization by Western powers, and to attain equality with the ‘Great Powers’. It evolved through the Taishō and Shōwa periods to justify an increasingly totalitarian government and overseas expansionism, which were the foundation of the political and ideological actions of the Japanese in the years leading up to World War II. Now, Japan stands as the leading nation in scientific and technological research despite its small size and a peace-loving attitude despite losing out on 02 whole centuries of economic development. Japan sets a global example for “the land of the rising sun.”
These variants of identity – continuity of a civilization, ideology of nationhood, ethnic nationalism and military power are 04 forms of nationalism that have led to great powers that peck the world order today. Regret lies in the fact that India which has the beginnings from the oldest Vedic civilization which predates to over 5000 years has lost its grounds of unity and is a fragmented society today, with little sense of nationhood and identity. In our quest for a united India, having a glorious past and an enthralling civilization is a boon that our country possesses wherein we don’t have to undergo the struggle of finding a nexus of unity. However, we have failed to preserve our culture and the task to restore is much bigger than what maintaining it would have been. We need to accept the need for nationhood and a sense of identity that binds us all and as Indians be aware about the power of unity as a nation. We are on a journey to realize this and when we awaken, our nation will rise. The change would be a matter of time before we are on top of the world order and our examples would be given in times to come as a nation who stands tall, united.