The popular belief nowadays is that ‘nationalism’ is on the rise, not just in India, but around the world. It must be noted, however, that every other ‘ism’ is also growing – sub-nationalism, tribalism, regionalism, communalism and so on. It might also just be a perception among those who obtain their input from the echo-chambers of social media, or an ideologically imposed world-view. Leaders who put the interests of their countries first are being described as ‘ultra-nationalists’ or even fascists. This is despite the fact that democratically elected leaders cannot logically declare that they are placing the interests of others above those of the voters that voted them to power.
The argument against blindly seeking advantages for “one’s own” is that it should be beneficial in the long run, which is not possible if the policy is not universally so. History is replete with examples of nations looking for short-term gains and paying a heavy price in the future. One would have thought that in the 21st century, when technologically the world has already become a global village, and every kind of bad political experiment has been tried out, humanity would have come up with a universally acceptable arrangement for the benefit of all. It should be possible to chart out a future plan for the planet, as one does for one’s country, or region. Agencies like the United Nations have existed for so long and played an important part in bringing the world together, but are now facing a crisis of legitimacy and authority. The current Ukraine-Russia conflict is an example of this.
Many would attribute the disorientation among the world’s elite to the power shift that seems to be taking place from the West to the East. The world order, which has been built upon American dominance, is falling apart. Liberal democracy seems incapable of dealing with extreme ideologies that are no longer represented by nation-states, which can be put down, but by non-state actors that have a presence everywhere. The internet allows ideological indoctrination of the vulnerable across borders. The frightened leaderships believe they can stop them by bolstering the physical borders.
This has also led to disregard for what would otherwise be termed as the real problems – climate change, pollution, deaths from conflicts, malnutrition and starvation, economic decline, etc. Many people believe that isolation is the best policy to survive the coming global disaster. Those who worry about the planet and its people are considered vulnerable and misguided. Then there are those who believe this world isn’t even real, and the after-life is – one needs only await the apocalypse! How are these differing positions going to be negotiated? And if we can’t, where are we heading?