Advanced Essay #3: Nationalism and Militarism: The Real Enemies

The focus of my paper is the connection between nationalism and militarism, and the resulting adverse consequences on a macro level and micro level. The goal was to show how nationalism breeds xenophobia, and militarism has shaped a society that encourages violence. The ultimate point was that the intertwined nature of these concepts contribute to the preservation of an unjust social hierarchy through the continuation of systematic violence. I am proud of the way I integrated the quotes I chose to include, as well as the way that my paper uses my intro paragraph as an outline, following the points in the order they were first presented. I feel that this is important to note.

Essay: Nationalism and Militarism: The Real Enemies

The intertwined nature of militarism and nationalism within the United States produces violence, and results in adverse consequences within the nation and across the world. Nationalism operates on the basis of believing oneself to be a part of a superior group, and viewing other nations as inferior enemies. From this stems the nationalist desire to demonstrate and maintain dominance over the group perceived as the enemy, generally through violent actions. This same prejudice permeates society, in how people see and react to each other. When individuals view each other as a threat, violence is the result. This violence links back to militarism, and reinforces a dangerous cycle resulting in countless unnecessary deaths.

Nationalism, or the belief that one’s nation is inherently superior to all other nations, encourages the idea of an enemy. According to Emma Goldman, a writer and anarchist political activist of the early 1900s, “Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.” (1908). A militarist nation operates on the belief that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. In the case of nationalism, the people of the nation believe that they represent the ‘good guy’, and therefore must have the right to a gun. Naturally, the view of oneself as the “good guy” cannot exist without viewing another party as the “bad guy”. A militarist nation views nations that are fundamentally different from it as a threat; these nations are portrayed as the “bad guy”. Nationalism condemns differences of culture, values, beliefs, and other practices or ways of existence. This is founded on xenophobia, which is deeply ingrained in society.

The structure of a nation is mirrored by the society within it. This applies to core values, as well as the ways of dealing with a perceived threat to these values. Just as the military prepares for a non-present war, individuals prepare for a non-present threat. A militarist nation is one that anticipates war, even in the midst of peace. If conflict is not present, a militarist nation will use this as an opportunity to prepare for any potential future conflicts. This is done in the name of protection, yet ultimately achieves the opposite effect. “The contention that a standing army and navy is the best security of peace is about as logical as the claim that the most peaceful citizen is he who goes about heavily armed. The experience of every-day life fully proves that the armed individual is invariably anxious to try his strength.” (Goldman, 1908). Just as a nation perceives other nations as the source of this theoretical threat, individual people view other people as a threat. This is the basis of prejudice, and the resulting violence.

This nation stockpiles weapons in case of a need to protect itself. On a smaller scale, each person acts as a nation. Some see the right to bear arms as vital to the protection of oneself and one’s rights. The people of this nation have grown accustomed to constantly having an enemy they must triumph over. Because militarism is the default, people are inclined to create an enemy when no threat is present. As noted by Robert Elias, an author and a professor at the University of San Francisco, “Americans have been preoccupied, perhaps uniquely, with the problem of our ‘enemies’.” (April 19, 1993). Quite often, the people framed as the enemies are those who pose a threat to the social hierarchy of the nation. “Dissidents are not alone among our domestic enemies. We often perceive other threats, especially to our economic well-being, such as from other races, ethnicities, religions, classes, or genders.” (Elias, April 19, 1993). The majority gains privilege from oppressing the minority, as this oppression works to maintain the social hierarchy that advantages the majority, especially those at the top. As a whole, the privileged majority has a superiority complex, believing themselves to be the “good guys”, treating groups of people that are the minority as the “bad guys”, thus using this as justification to oppress them. The primary perpetrators of this are white people, and the victims of this tend to be people of color.

Because the US stockpiles weapons, and there is a president who threatens to use them, other nations react. North Korea is activity testing nuclear weapons. If this works on a macro level, it also has an effect on a micro level. Heavily armed individuals, such as people in law enforcement, are always prepared to use their weapons. Because of the right to bear arms, there are more guns in this country than there are people. It is not always possible to tell who has a gun and who does not. This makes police feel threatened. They act on their prejudices, believing people of color to be the enemy, using this as justification for horrific acts of violence.

In conclusion, the United States suffers from the combined effects of militarism and nationalism. Nationalism creates the nation’s superiority complex, which breeds xenophobia. Militarism has shaped a society in which violence is seen as a viable solution. These concepts and the resulting actions on a macro level are mirrored on a micro level by the people of the nation, and can be seen in the way individuals interact with each other. The result is the preservation of an unjust social hierarchy through the continuation of systematic violence. Ultimately, the intertwined nature of militarism and nationalism within the United States produces violence, and results in adverse consequences within the nation and across the world.

Works Cited:

Goldman, Emma. & Paul Avrich Collection (Library of Congress).  (1908). Patriotism : a menace to liberty. New York : Mother Earth Publishing Association

Turpin, Jennifer E & Kurtz, Lester R (1997). The Web of violence : from interpersonal to global. University of Illinois Press, Urbana