Nationalism is sophisticated tribalism. The same ingredients are always present amongst two foes: Pride, tradition, attitude of superiority, patriotism, national security, military buildup, defensiveness, armed borders, enemies real and imagined. One nation’s particular mix of these ingredients will be different from another’s.
People would like to believe that there is a big difference between nice nationalism (our kind) and nasty nationalism (their kind), but the disease itself is the real problem.
Albert Einstein said, “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It’s the measles of humanity.” You and I must keep in mind that even without cynicism, nationalism is a false way to view reality, and breaking through its illusions is crucial to the way of peace.
The illusion is that nationalism helps to free people. The reality is that nationalism is now the same as militarism.
The illusion is that other nations are inferior, misguided, and wrong in their ways. The reality is that every nation struggles with inner conflicts.
The illusion is that God favors one country and supports its destiny. The reality is that God has never expressed an opinion about any nation, and never will.
The illusion is that national boundaries make us secure. The reality is that we live in an open world where boundaries mean less and less.
The illusion is that your country defines who you are. The reality is that finding out who you are requires self-searching and self-knowledge.
Each of these pairs shows a way for consciousness to grow by facing reality. Every illusion was once true, or at least had the weight of truth on its side. But consciousness is always on the move. Liberating ideas change into shackles unless we change them.
Adapted from Peace Is the Way, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2005).