Anger and Loss in the New World

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind – A Einstein

I have been a bit disconcerted by planetary events of late. What to make of this nationalism sweeping the planet. It creeps me out. I value and cherish the open and free societies created since the mid 20th century – respect for all creeds and cultures. But we have a new vibe on our wonderful blue planet and it has a sinister feel about it.

I wouldn’t normally write on political matters. I don’t have much respect for politicians – politics is a bargain between beggars. But we do our best with our flawed democratic system that I believe fundamentally works. This article is my attempt to clarify for myself what is going on.

I respect the “civic” kind of nationalism that unites a country  or a group around common values – people side with their country at the olympics, or celebrate their culture at a gathering. Civic nationalism is inclusive, conciliatory and forward looking – a uniting force appearing to universal values, such a freedom and equality. Contrast that with the resurgent “ethnic” nationalism that is sweeping the planet. It is exclusive, aggressive and angry. It subjugates, divides and seeks to control others through fear and intimidation drawing on race and history to set a nation apart. Ethnic nationalism led to war in the first part of the 20th century – dark times indeed.

Remember that you can’t change people by arguing with them about their beliefs. You can only change your own beliefs and through that see the change in them.


Politicians are manipulating nationalism right across the globe. In America it’s obvious. Russia has Putin who “shuns cosmopolitan liberal values for a distinctly Russian mix of Slavic tradition and Orthodox Christianity” (the Economist). In Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan favours strident Islamic nationalism. France has the National Front making strong gains with it’s leader tipped to be in strong contention for president next year. In fact there is a resurgent nationalism right across Europe – note Hungary, Austria and Germany. Governing India is the BJP party which has ties to radical ethnic nationalist Hindu groups that preach chauvinism and intolerance.

China is having trouble controlling it’s own increasingly vengeful and angry nationalism. The Economist writes “From the 1990’s onwards school children have received a daily dose of ‘patriotic’ education setting out the mission to erase a century of humiliating occupation. And to count as properly Chinese you have to practice to belong to the Han people: every one else is  a second-class citizen”.

Lets look at America more closely. The new political populism reeks of ethnic nationalism. For all it’s faults America has been a beacon of inspiration for progressive, forward thinking societies. For the past 60 years America has staved off a dog-eat-dog world by promoting universal values. The first president I really knew of was Reagan. I can’t say I liked him much but he did cultivate optimism and dreamed of a country that “is not turned inward, but outward – toward others”, describing America as a shining “city on the hill”. It was not an angry stance like we have today (or at least will have in 2017). And it is this rising anger that is the key emotion driving the new nationalism.

It saddens me greatly to see this going on but I can only conclude that it’s a natural course of events. People are angry because they feel disenfranchised by seemingly increasingly corrupt politics. Anger is useful if you want to get things done. It feels good to release energy, get it out in the open. We can all benefit from a bit of pent up energy release. But group anger that is directed in a nationalistic fervour poisons our humanity and will impoverish those people who are most vulnerable – often the very people who are shouting the loudest.

I am sure we can all relate to how people are feeling. Many feel a sense of loss and the reaction to loss is varied, but a primary emotion is anger. Loss of a comfortable rhythm, an opportunity, of self-confidence. Loss of a job, good health, a particular lifestyle. Loss of community and belonging. Loss of a belief system that is being challenged by people who are different.

What can one do? On a more practical level you can become as independent of the machinations of government and bureaucracy as you can. Don’t sit around waiting for them to fix things. It doesn’t matter who is in power – unless you are part of the establishment you will almost invariably get bent over and shafted.

one-worldImportantly on a more spiritual level we can embrace all of humanity in our hearts. Sounds corny but it’s an ongoing practice for me that is at times challenging. We must step aside and observe our feelings when we find ourselves judging others because we are angry with our lot in life. Also when listening to a loony politician or someone making excuses for racist, misogynistic behaviour, we must not react with contempt or derision but understand why. They themselves are in pain or are stoking the flames of anger and cynically manipulating others experiencing pain of loss.

Remember that you can’t change people by arguing with them about their beliefs. You can only change your own beliefs and through that see the change in them.

Good luck and may the Living Spirit walk with you.
James Wild

Explore James Wild products at Quiet Earth


Categories: Culture

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2 replies

  1. Thank you for this, James! I value input from people in other countries, especially as I realize my go-to news source (BBC) is not covering the trouble in North Dakota very well. I feel that education is failing in the U.S. Home schooling may just perpetrate bigotry. Too many Americans are incapable of critical thinking, unable to discern propaganda. Educated people can mention homosexuals without having a sermon crammed down their throats as I did last night at a lovely dinner. I still wish I had shoved his plate in his face! The election was difficult. No way to write in Bernie. So Trump it is. We have to get behind him now and PAY ATTENTION, sign petitions, fuss! People who eat junk and don’t exercise or meditate don’t think very clearly. I want to read a book called “White Trash” to better understand the poor whites in the U.S., my own people, just what has happened here. I only know that we once had a dream of equality, that every little kid might grow up to be great. As poor parents hold 2 or 3 jobs just to live, their money buys less. Their frustration must be huge. Alternative news sources are showing us that we’ve been cheated, hood-winked, served poison — all in the name of greed. I am retired and do what I can. There is so much ego out there! I often think of Stuart Wilde’s image (my version) of one of my mom’s big steel mixing bowls and all the stupid little people scrambling up the sides and falling back, showing off their plastic fingernails and boy toys. I often escape to designing or planning something nice, especially with Christmas coming up. I can’t send money to ND, altho I’m Cherokee. I’m knitting wool yarn for socks which they asked for. All we can do is work with what we have, plan, clean, prioritize, write, make things, teach our skills [“it’s” means “it is” and “the cat licked its paws”], make tea and go to bed. God bless!

    • Thanks Mimi. I have read about the water situation in ND. I like what you say. Working with what we have I can relate to very much…and knitting the socks – love that also. Keep it up.

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