Nationalism and the Rise of the new 5th Column?

National Identity and Nationalism are often confused, however one is benign and a source of great comfort to individuals and groups of people the other is a danger to humankind and representative democracy itself. So, how to differentiate between the two?
National Identity is how one defines oneself in terms of culture, customs, language and commonality with others from a similar group. It is often associated with the historical growth of national borders but does not have to be so defined as in the example of Kurds, Sikhs and Roma Gypsies and other similar indigenous peoples who cross national borders and frontiers.
Nationalism on the other hand is a pernicious permission given to those who define themselves often using national identity to not just define “Other” but also to define “Other” as inferior.
Nationalism cultivates fear and loathing of “Other” as a menace to national identity, when of course national identity can never be in jeopardy, solely because of the fact that it resides in us as individuals, so therefore how can someone else remove it from us. It is intrinsic and therefore immoveable and has been cultivated over generations of shared values.

Historically, nationalism has fuelled the 5th columns of destruction and war between groups, often based on those restrictive national borders but certain conditions have to be met in order for this nationalism to grow sufficiently to such a crescendo that it gains enough momentum for the fear and loathing that it creates to be a movement strong enough to attack “Other”.
Unfortunately we are seeing the rise of those circumstances now across Europe and particularly in our own U.K.
Is it any coincidence that Greece then Spain and more latterly Cyprus blame Germany for the failings that they are currently experiencing? Is that not an expression of “Other”? I am jumping ahead of myself though. National surplus creates opportunities for all including incoming “Others” and as no society is perfect, those in need benefit from this with little outcry from the majority, who finance the support of the needy minority from taxation and philanthropy.
Extrapolate forward to the current conditions of austerity and all of a sudden the xenophobic minority seizes their opportunity to make “Other” the bogeyman and unparalleled threat to the fabric of our society. Britishness becomes a watchword for us and Non- Britishness a definition of “Other”, any other will do, so we see this not being driven along racial lines but by all irrespective of their heritage who define themselves as British. This was highlighted recently in “The Big Question” a TV discussion programme where an Asian man (UKIP) and a Jewish woman who claim to represent our Britishness were arguing against the immigration of Bulgarian Gypsies swamping our shores when Bulgaria and Romania enter the European Union. The language is inevitably one of threats to our borders, education, housing and employment from “Other”.
It is absolutely right that a balanced, factual discussion by the politicians in any representative democracy is undertaken to ensure the safety and prosperity of us all. This includes all national issues including immigration, but the skewing of that into “Other” merely feeds the Right, creating leverage for the rise of a 5th column whose only ideals are to use representative democracy, which is so sacred to all of us to fuel xenophobia, fear and loathing.
UKIP is one such party, the acceptable face of a metamorphasised BNP, EDL etc, the new 5th column in our midst which wishes to destroy the values of our country of acceptance, understanding and curiosity of “Other” and instead one which lulls us all with their persuasive rhetoric of the dangers to our Britishness (that tends to be how they define it) from “Other”.
Do not be lulled. Vote in every single election possible, national, local, parish, whatever election opportunity you can to say No to this vitriol of hate.
Otherwise the rise of this xenophobic Right will drive our ordinarily centre parties such as Labour and Tory and Lib Dem to appease, as they are already starting to do and move inexorably to the Right supporting a minority view of “Other”
The average voter turnout has consistently been falling in all elections since full enfranchisement at the turn of the century. This will be the death knell of representative democracy and in turn could be catastrophic for us all.

The Life and Death of Democracy- John Keane 2009 p562-9
Allport’s Scale of Prejudice and Discrimination -Gordon Allport 1954

Eastleigh- The fall out

So as usual the political commentators are now adding their hue and cry to the recent Eastleigh bye election result and if you believe all the comments, they either rationalise down into “a momentous shift in UK politics ” or ” nothing more than a mid term election blip as  result of a protest vote”.

So what is the truth?

It seems to me there are three key factors involved here which are all significant in their own way.

The global economic backdrop.

The coalition policies.

Political trust.

The global economic backdrop is one over which most politicians have little or no influence. Whether it is Cameron huffing and puffing around Europe insisting on demonstrating his power and influence over our European neighbours to his home electorate or Clegg insisting that his lies and deceit were not meant and now his hands are tied in order to hold on to office or Miliband continuing to avoid apologising for the economic policies of his party in office, it seems to me that we are not all in this together nationally or internationally and as usual when people find themselves in difficulty the natural tendency is to look after one’s own. We see this in current economic policy, at home and abroad, which is demonstrably widening the gap between rich and poor and is becoming progressively more and more socially divisive. 

The coalition policies are clearly not working for certain sections of society and this is causing political alienation of large tracts of our society. They intuitively know that if one is economically hidebound then the opportunities for education which can lift one from the deprivation they are experiencing is less and less available. That if they become ill or seriously sick then the opportunities for treatment and recovery in a reasonable time are also limited. They also realise that the safety net of society is being withdrawn across the board as cuts bite so deep that across Maslow’s hierarchy of needs people are more likely to go hungry and  right down to less likely to have their rubbish collected as often,  and ” The Big Society” actually means you are responsible for your own welfare and if you cannot manage then the philanthropic will take up the slack through charitable giving but the state has less and less responsiblity in looking after those of our society in need. This at the same time as witnessing the continued growth and accumulation of wealth by the rich and their siblings generation after generation through privileged education, unpaid internships and the network of wealth which excludes people even though they are both  intelligent and creative.

These, plus the scandals of impropriety, lack of ethics and downright corruption at the top of our public and business world has caused people to have no trust at all in our societal elite. The pigs are in the trough because that feeds their self interest and because they can. The danger which I believe was demonstrated in Eastleigh is that this creates a “political trust vacuum”  and we have seen throughout history this will inevitably be filled with either right or left wing rhetoric as witnessed by the grinning face of the xenophobic and right wing UKIP leader Farage. He is right when he says ” people are listening to what his party has to say”. People are concerned about immigration and the perceived broad link to the economy and their increasing deprivation through the strain on public services and jobs. He is right when he says ” We have a broad spectrum of people who are voting UKIP”,  because they are frightened and because he is playing into that fear.

The answer for the politicians is to lead. Leadership is most importantly about “Authenticity” and “Consistency”. Simply telling the truth however difficult it is for people to hear, being sincere and not just defending the party and oneself when questioned, creating a relationship with the electorate which is personal and real, bracketing egocentricity and ethnocentricity and appealing genuinely to all members of our society whatever their background. I believe if our leaders lead in a genuine and sincere way, even though the public may not like the message they will respect the messenger and may even vote for them again. We are simply crying out for authentic and consistent leadership if only our business and political leaders would realise this their job would be so much easier.