Globalism vs Nationalism?

Not necessarily. We each define these terms as we see fit, but in my worldview they can be complimentary concepts rather than conflicting ones. I am a Latvian nationalist by conviction and profession but I see it in terms of protecting and preserving a culture, language, and traditions in the historical territory where it all came about. I live in a period of human history where the nation state is a still popular form of social organization among the 7 billion or so who share this planet, so taking pride in my nation’s small place on this earth tends to comes naturally.

But there are countless others on this planet who enjoy a different place, culture and perception of the world. We are many nations out there and all have an equal claim to pride of place. In my eyes, we are equal and different. That’s what makes life so interesting. Oddly enough I find myself appreciating my own nation more when I begin to appreciate the same – yet different – qualities in other countries. The more I travel, see, hear, and feel the diversity of human society, the more I enjoy my inherited bond and innate loyalty to my country. None of us are “better” than the others, but we are different and that’s a big plus. I may prefer one genre of music over others, but that doesn’t diminish the pleasure I get from the symphony of sounds the rest of the world has to offer.

So while I am a Latvian, I’m fascinated by what’s happening in the rest of the world. Each culture is unique and intriguing on its own, yet culture takes on a whole new dimension when these different cultures begin to interact, blend, and produce something totally new. Call it global culture. It’s a mixed mash of influences and inclinations that undergo spontaneous chemical reactions to create art and understanding of a very different nature. I see it as a bonus culture, one we can add to all the other national ones, including our own, for our mutual enjoyment. I may love single malts, but savor a masterful blend with equal intensity.

Like Aberlour and Chivas Regal, nationalism and globalism can coexist. I enjoy them both. As long as it’s a nationalism of pride and not superiority. And as long as that which is global doesn’t threaten or diminish that which we cherish as national.

Politically, national interests can be furthered by mastering the machinations of the cultural, technical, and social globalization happening all around us. It’s individual nations that make up the multinational organizations we participate in. It’s up to them to shape these organizations to serve their shared as well as national interests. Like joining any club, we try to further and enhance our individual interests by working together with others. Latvia has a much better chance of being Latvian by joining the European Union and working with Germans, Italians, Swedes, Dutch, and Luxembourgians who share our respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and cultural identity. When countries that once fought each other start working together, they all have a much better chance of surviving and thriving. On their own, and together.

It all comes down to balance. Thanks to modern technology, the gravitational pull of globalization is inescapable. Even as we cling to our national identities, we are drawn to the currents, trends, and pressures of everything global. It affects our food, music, literature, film, sports, fashion and philosophy. Our daily national consciousness is endlessly invaded by international things. There’s no reason we can’t embrace both. My knowledge of English and French doesn’t diminish my fondness for Latvian. My enjoyment of lasagne, tacos, sushi, and kimchee detracts nothing from the rustic taste of Latvian rye bread.

I reject nationalism and globalism as ideologies. To me, they are natural phenomena that need to be understood and managed. They are not doctrines to be used as tools to further some particular set of values. But as long as values differ, and some are compelled to impose theirs on others, people will use whatever’s at hand to further their cause. Today, both nationalism and globalism are defined, exploited, and imposed in a wide variety of ways, and as always, for some it leads to conflict and contention. Sadly, when that happens, all sides lose.

We may want to fly, but gravity pulls us down. It’s pointless to curse it. Better that we learn how to use it to help us stand up, move about, and get to wherever we want to go. Eventually, while working with others, we can get off the ground much higher than we ever expected. Globalism, like gravity, is not a threat. It’s just a force we need to work with. Do it right and it can take us anywhere.

Ojars Eriks Kalnins

June 15, 2018