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Is nationalism necessary ‘a side effect of coronavirus’?

Published on March 24, 2020 here : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/nationalism-necessary-side-effect-coronavirus-martins-de-nobrega/

Few thoughts after reading the article entitled ‘Nationalism is a side effect of coronavirus’ from Mr. Gideon RACHMAN on the Financial Times.

Mr. Gideon RACHMAN revisits with accuracy some part of the history of the western world since the cold war through the lens of boundaries, as well as the new rise of nation-states and nationalism as ‘a side effect of coronavirus’ (Gideon RACHMAN).

In international public law, boundaries are fascinating and intrinsically link to the identity-based cultures and to deep-rooted conflicts.  

What I have found fascinating is that boundaries are as objective as subjective.

Boundaries affect individuals, communities, nations, regions and even the planet when were defined the boundaries within air and with Space. Everything seems absolute and infinite, yet limited within its own boundaries within something boundless.

Boundaries can be geographic between communities, states and regions. Boundaries can also be invisible between individuals whether materialized by quantic energetic fields, our own tolerance to promiscuity, our values and beliefs. When the culture of a group becomes only defined by one of its characteristics to the point that instead of being an indicator of the limits of their cultural boundary, it becomes the mere and only characteristics of their identity, without which the group and each individual feel threatened in their mere existence, fundamentalism grows.

In nation-states, boundaries are what define a territory on which a state has the monopoly of the ’legitimate physical violence’ according to Max WEBER and exercises its sovereignty to protect both the nation’s fundamental interests and the common interest.

Deciding to join a community of political, economic and cultural common interests, like the European Union, does not prevent nor does it erase the uniqueness of each culture. In Europe, nation-states have never disappeared despite the construction of the European Union. This is why it has always been difficult to push forward federalism. In the United States, there is One Nation and 50 states. In Europe, we are Europeans, we have an intricate history, we have a single market and a European Union, but we have remained nation-states. And therefore, it is naturally that ‘in times of emergency people fall back on the nation-state — which has financial, organisational and emotional strengths’ (Gideon RACHMAN). Instinctively, we are looking for certainty and safety in institutions and symbols we know and entrust.

With the Coronavirus crisis, the various contexts and a non-unified European health policy, (European) solidarity will surely be tested and possibly push to its limits. The Corona virus crisis can also lead us toward a renewed Europe and a renewed public sector – stronger, strategically led and even more innovative.

States have to strategically reposition themselves by avoiding strategic dependencies (food, medicines, batteries of phones…), reinforcing their positioning as providers of strong public services with increased budgets – though with the depression and economic crisis that might follow it would be difficult but not impossible – continue to invest into innovation and AI for good…

By failing to have strong states and strong public services, we have laid the ground for nationalists to play with our fears and our instinctive need for protection and stability, as citizens.

The Coronavirus crisis is an opportunity to reinvest in the public services, diversify our centres of production, be less dependent on strategic goods (food, medicines, energy…) and re-incentivize national industries while being more committed in regional and international political organizations.

Transcending national interests for something common to all nation-states – PEACE – was also the reason for the creation of the United Nations. It is not a time to ever reduce contributions to such organization nor to oppose fundamental nation interests with global interests. It is time to find a sustainable balance, be more realistic and be more ambitious for mankind.

It is time to find the 21st century leadership that will unify nations and value people in their uniqueness. It does not have to be without profits. We need money to have an ambitious vision for the general interest.

Virginie MARTINS de NOBREGA

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