Which of the following best describes your political values?
1) I support whatever is good for myself and my loved ones.
2) I support whatever is good for my country and identity group.
3) I support whatever is right, or closer to the universal truth.
People can develop strong views about their identity and world politics based on what their ancestors have experienced, and this is magnified if nationalism and cultural pride come into play. I have seen this many times through my interactions with friends of diverse backgrounds over the years.
There are two Chinese friends of mine whose friendships I especially cherish. This is largely due to the fact that we all see Western political values such as freedom and democracy favorably, unlike most others from China. However, there is one topic I avoid talking about with them: Japan. One friend told me someone his grandparents knew died in a Japanese massacre in 1937, and the other friend’s grandpa served in the military during the war. Today, they both hold strong hatred toward the historic Japanese Empire, as well as some modern-day right-wing Japanese politicians.
As an aside, I also once talked to a Jewish guy whose ancestors died during the Holocaust, so he really dislikes the Germans. He tried to make comparisons to their Japanese counterparts as he thought I would feel the same way toward them.
If you know me personally, you know that I am not a nationalist to any extent. Though I do not defend the crimes committed by the Japanese, I do not see the point of continuing to hate them either. History is history. As long as we’ve learned the lesson, we should move on to realize goals that embrace the universal good rather than call for revenge in the name of nationalism. I shall elaborate on the “universal good” again in the end, so bear with me.
I have a very good Indian friend who was born and raised in the States. He lives a very religious Indian life– he prays daily, is strictly vegan, and is proud of his heritage. I admit that I don’t have the expertise to discuss in depth the British colonial history in India, but we once had a pretty heated discussion when I claimed that “it seems to me the modern Indian people unnecessarily hate the British. Many of them even celebrated the Queen’s death, which is messed up.”
I believe British colonialism has had an overall positive effect on the history of the world. Of course, they have committed crimes, but without them, there would be no Industrial Revolution, modern political thoughts and structures, or globalization. The United States would not be the way it is, nor would Australia and South Africa– thanks to the British influence. On a personal note, as I am Chinese, while I think it is unacceptable that the British imported opium into China, devastating the people’s health, it was a blessing that they acquired coastal cities such as Hong Kong and Shanghai. With international trade and mature political structures established by the colonists, Shanghai became a prospering city that tolerated every ideology. Similarly, Hong Kong remained the most economically and socially free city in Asia until, according to the Human Rights Foundation, the Chinese destroyed it. These colonies also gave Christian missionaries an opportunity to further improve people’s lives in various ways– this itself is worth another article to explain.
Nationalism exists in the United States too, and, generally, it is seen as a facet on the political right, but I see some modern-day left-wing ideologies, such as support for reparations and Pride, as forms of nationalism. According to Pew Research Center, many left-wing black and indigenous people dislike white people in general: they recount personal stories of what their ancestors had gone through, and call for either reparations or reclaiming their land. Many white people have developed guilt as a result. While I don’t deny those historical wrongdoings, these people fail to account for the amount of progress America has made over the years, nor do they realize they couldn’t make those claims without their rights to free speech, which is protected more in America than anywhere else in the world. Not to mention, according to World Population Review, America is already the most diverse country in the world.
Recall the question I asked in the beginning, and now ask yourself a follow-up. If there is a group that you hate for what they had done historically, how would you have handled the situation if you were in your “enemy’s” shoes? More importantly, what are the criteria for your decision? Is it based on nationalism or racial identity again, merely from an opposing perspective, or rather according to what is universally right or wrong?
My answer to the first question is number three. I care about the truth way more than my own interests on a micro level. I believe that universal truths and moral values are things that all religions and philosophies around the world can fundamentally agree on, and that is why we have international laws. As for the follow-up, you don’t hate your “enemies” because of what racial or national identity you are, as that is not wise; you call them out because they committed wrongdoings, as I believe a universally applicable moral standard exists.
As I defend colonialism, I recognize the positive sides of Western colonial history as I mentioned earlier. Also, humankind only makes true progress if we all see things from the macro level and abide by those common-sense values, instead of keeping those ancestral obsessions and hate that many of us have.