Nationalism, once declared an obsolete force, especially after World War II and the establishment of the European Union, has obviously returned with renewed vigour. Frequently, new nationalisms have emerged, tied to religious and ethnic beliefs. It seems to be the case that, in spite of an ever more unified and globalised world, more borders and walls emerge, defining nation states and protecting them from the dangers both alleged and real.
It is important to note that the idea of the nation also encompasses inclusiveness and solidarity; simultaneously, belonging to a nation is frequently defined through ethnic and even racist categories. A magic wand called ‘identity’ has been created in this complex struggle of belonging. This ‘identity’ is never static and defined once and for all; identity and identities are dynamic, fluid and fragmented; they can always be renegotiated, according to socio-political and situational contexts as well as to more global social change and ideologically informed categories.
The ‘real’ people are defined not by having obtained citizenship to a specific country (jus soli), but having been born to parents who already belonged to the respective country, that is, by nativist principles or jus sanguinis. A cultural or even linguistic ‘belonging’ is attached to this ‘real’ identity in order to give the argument a push. Such opinions are not held only by the far-right; they are endorsed more and more strongly by mainstream parties who, out of fear of losing votes, accommodate such right-wing populist views.
The continuous fear-mongering related to debates about security and the protection of ‘our social welfare’, the ground has shifted. But how such a drastic shift in accommodative character of the politics has come to the fore?
- First, the right-wing populist parties focus on a homogenous community, which is defined arbitrarily and along nativist criteria, thus endorsing a nativist body politic.
- Second, and related to the former, right-wing populist parties stress a ‘homeland’ which has to be protected against dangerous outsiders. A social construction is endowed upon the nativists – the homeland or ‘We’ are threatened by ‘Them’.
- Protecting the homeland implies belief in a common narrative of the past, where ‘We’ were either heroes or victims of evil. In this way, revisionist histories are constructed, blending all past woes into success stories or the stories of treachery and betrayal by others.
- ‘They’ are different and are conspiring against ‘Us’. Conspiracies are part and parcel of the discursive construction of fear and of right-wing populist rhetoric. Such conspiracies draw on traditional anti-elitist tropes – traitors of the homeland.
- Right-wing populist agenda also includes endorsing traditional, conservative values and morals and the importance of maintaining the status quo.
- To materialise the words into reality, a saviour, a charismatic leader who oscillates between the roles of Robin Hood and ‘strict father’ is necessitated. Such charismatic leaders necessarily require a hierarchically organised party and authoritarian structures in order to install law and order to protect the native occident against the treacherous orient.
How the right-wing populist parties organise themselves on such lines? Rather, how the grounds are allowed to be prepared?
Application of post-modernist deconstruction theory on ‘liberalism’ implies a focus on elite structures, who have been sitting in the ivory towers, far away from ground reality, thus, failing to insinuate the model of ‘acceptance’ (and not just ‘tolerance’) in the society. A subtle denial of divisions in society has been evidenced too. This ‘structure of denial’ relies on default construction of ‘negative answers’ which are antithetical to the liberal norms. A prolonged stay at the elite rooms by the powerful actors exercising intellectual superiority on an imagined crowd has brought the downfall of the society. How?
- Exclusionary practices occur in situations of differential power.
- The powerful actors need not possess a conscious goal or intention; indeed, they may deny that any discrimination/exclusion has occurred.
- The powerful actors consider their own actions ‘reasonable’ and ‘natural’.
- The actions that lead to exclusion are usually conducted through ‘coded’ language; overt exclusionary language is rarely to be observed.
When educated people understate their beliefs of ideological value of tolerance, the explicit promulgation of exclusionary politics conflict with the generally accepted values of liberalism. It is difficult to keep a tap on such exclusionist potential of the society, because the very terms ‘discrimination’, ‘exclusion’ or ‘prejudice’ carry a range of negative connotations. Thus, few would admit in public or when interviewed to agreeing with the exclusion of or prejudice or discrimination against minority groups. This is why opinion polls and interviews are inherently doomed to fail as investigations into racist belief systems. Usually, people deny these beliefs and try to present themselves in a positive light as they are aware that such opinions are taboo or might even be associated with extremist-right wing political affiliations.
The ‘We’ and ‘Them’ debate is fostered through the ethno-nationalist form of populism which frequently employs strategies of appealing to, or presupposing, national sameness, unity and cohesion. The ‘fallacy of sameness’ imagines the ‘own’ nation as a culturally homogenous community. The ‘fallacy of argumentum ad baculum’ refers to the alleged dangers that threaten this so-called national homogeneity. This strategy resorts the ‘fallacy of difference’ emphasizes the clear distinction and distinctiveness from other nations or ethnic minorities in order to draw a rigid dividing line. In this way, all persons considered members of allegedly different nations or minorities are automatically excluded. Such exclusionary measures and exclusionary rhetoric are also legitimised via security measures. The terrorist attacks in the US, Europe and other parts of the developed world in the recent aftermath of the emergence of Islamic terrorism have had global consequences and continue to have an enormous impact on Europe and all European nation states, most specifically linking immigration restrictions to security measures instead of Human Rights Conventions or other social and economic considerations and policies. ISIS has become a persuasive vehicle to create or strengthen a European identity, against the danger of ‘invading masses’ or so-called ‘uncivilized barbarians’. It is presupposed, that mainly potential terrorists were emigrating from unspecified non-European countries to Europe, to live and hide there as ‘sleepers’, who would then carry out suicide attacks in future.
‘Border politics’ are part of national identity politics and are now increasingly defined by the national language, ethnicity and culture, transcending the political borders of the nation state. Instead of cosmopolitanism, post-nationalism, a European citizenship and the common European language policies which promote multilingualism, we seem to be witnessing a reinventing of traditional, parochial, closed nation states.
Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron during a speech on immigration (2011) said – “People who are unable to speak English as those living here or not really wanting or even willing to integrate, have created a kind of discomfort and disjointedness in some neighbourhoods.” David Cameron’s statement in 2011 might not have a direct link with the conservative discourses to politics and non-state xenophobic acts such as ‘Operation Vaken’ in 2013 (London) to displace illegal migrants. But the hands of the clock are in favour of right-wing political discourse as it has managed to proliferate the seeds of exclusion and ‘fallacy of sameness’ along with illuminating the ‘We’ versus ‘Them’ debate. The world is falling for the ‘Right’. Are you?