Nationalism and Self-Pity

Over at The Spectator, Douglas Murray considers the case for Scottish independence:

I have listened carefully to the Nationalists. And I have heard them endlessly say things like ‘The Scots need to get their pride back’. And I still cannot quite believe that they have carried so many people along with them. Not just because it’s so such an undignified, ahistorical and self-pitying claim, but because mere aromas like this are so insubstantial compared to the risk of losing our country and breaking up one of the most successful unions in history.

I have two things to say to this. First, nationalism, unlike plain old patriotism, always boils down to a kind of toxic self-pity. Moreover, like all forms of identity politics, self-pity and self-worship are two sides of the same tarnished coin. And since there really is no limiting principle when it comes to self-pity—i.e., you can always find a way to blame other people for your problems—nationalism as a political program is doomed to fail. If the Scots do declare independence, they will run into all sorts of problems, and don’t you have any doubt about it that those problems will be blamed on the English, or the “legacy of English colonialism” or some such third-worldish nonsense. One notices that the SNP is sounding very much like the PLO these days.

Second, some people might be asking themselves: how come the radical Left, which claims to despise nationalism, is so supportive of Scottish nationalism and separatism but not, say, UKIP-style nationalism or American southern secessionism? There is an easy answer to this, but it’s worth stating just as a refresher on how “progressivism” works. The radical Left is willing to support anything that is seen as rejecting the history of the West.


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