As the recent violence in Spain has demonstrated, nationalism continues its rise in the international political realm.
On Oct. 1, Catalonia, a semi-autonomous region in northeastern Spain, held a referendum in which 90% of the participating constituents voted to secede from Spain. The region promptly erupted into violence; thousands of Spanish national police cracked down on polling areas and about 844 people were injured. While Spain’s prime minister deemed the referendum illegitimate, Catalonia’s government defended the vote. Catalonian nationalists believe the region is a separate nation with its own history, language, culture, government, and people.
The inherent dangers of nationalism lie in its imaginary makeup. It’s no big surprise that nationalism often transforms into racism and xenophobia. But there’s a whole other dark side to nationalism or “patriotism”: when citizens of a state lay down their life or give up their rights for a flag, the waves of nationalism often transform into a malicious flood.
The nationalist movement in Catalonia resembles Brexit, the exit of Britain from the European Union, and movements in other countries to leave the EU as well. This trend sparked in 2016: nationalist and populist leaders emerged around the world, ranging from nations as different as the affluent United States and poverty-stricken Philippines. President Donald Trump and President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines have their differences, but their victories reflect current global trends. Following 25 years of post-Cold War globalization and strengthened international cohesion, evident in Paris Accord and cooperation of the EU, displaced workers around the globe have given power to populist leaders in response to the loss of domestic jobs due to globalization. As a result of this trend, international cooperation is deteriorating, and world trade has actually started to slow down without a major recession for the first time since 1945.
Particularly in Europe, ultra-nationalist right-wing parties, including the UK Independence Party, French National Front, and Alternative for Germany, all gained considerable victories and increased their shares of their respective parliaments in recent elections. Utilizing nativist, anti-Islamic, and Eurosceptic platforms, these parties have given rise to demagogues and are increasing global instability.
This dangerous trend is rising at the worst possible time. Around the world, countries raise tariffs and refuse immigrants or refugees, and seem to be on the verge of war. Russia is pressuring Eastern European and Middle East nations, organizing mass military exercises and threatening the hegemony of NATO and other defensive alliances. Syria is in an ongoing civil war; Qatar and several Arab countries have cut off diplomatic relations; North Korea and the United States trade insults and flex their military might.
Alarming issues at hand that need an international, multilateral response won’t be tackled if nationalism continues on its current track; the figurative breaking of borders and international cooperation and trust is a must. When President Trump pulls the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord and countries like Germany and France threaten to leave the European Union, it’s clear a global crisis is taking place.