Understanding Nationalism

by: Maris Cay E. Gabornes

          Every Philippine History book contains something about nationalism and how it contributed to the Philippine Independence. Despite the frequent usage of the term, a lot of people are still confused with its actual idea and application. Nationalism and patriotism are often thought to be interchangeable concepts. However, these two words are technically unlike. Raul Manglapus explained that nationalism is rooted in the Latin word natio which literally means birth while patriotism is from the Latin patria which means fatherland. The former is the love of nation or birthplace and the latter is love of fatherland (as cited in Abueva, 1998).
          Jose Diokno argues that nationalism is more than patriotism, yet if examined carefully, patriotism is an older feeling. Oscar Alfonso noted that “man had already felt patriotism during primitive times when there was yet no concept of nation” on the other hand nationalism was a new development in the modern history (as cited in Abueva, 1999). Nationalism is often referred to as the product of the late 18th century revolution era and the offspring of the French Revolution since these events are the turning point in the history of nationalism. Heywood (2007) differentiated further the two terms and in its context contradicted Diokno’s claim. According to him:
“Nationalism has a doctrinal character and embodies the belief that the nation is in some way the central principle of political organization. Patriotism provides the affective basis for that belief. Patriotism thus underpins all forms of nationalism; it is difficult to conceive of a national group demanding political independence without possessing at least a measure of patriotic loyalty or national consciousness.”  

Nevertheless, not all patriots are nationalists because not all of those who identify themselves with their nation see it as a means through which political demands can be articulated.
          Generally, nationalism is the attitude that the members of a nation have when they care about their national identity and their actions when seeking to achieve or sustain national unity and independence (Miscevic, 2005). In a Filipino’s perspective, nationalism is a sentiment and a commitment which manifests the national soul or spirit (Abueva, 1999). A typical Filipino’s view of nationalism will include the revolution -  Andres Bonifacaio and other Katipuneros sacrificing their own lives for their country’s freedom, Jose Rizal’s death at Bagumbayan, patriotic songs like Lupang HinirangPilipinas Kong Mahal and Bayan Ko, people power during EDSA I and II, and supporting Filipino products. In short, most Filipinos see it as a love for their nation.
Since nationalism signifies one’s love for his nation, it is important to understand what nation is before one can fully grasp the concept of nationalism. A good definition of nation was presented by Ernest Renan of the Sorbonne in 1882, "A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle, two things which are in reality...one. One is the common heritage of a people of a rich heritage of memories; the other is the actual agreement, the desire to live together, the will to continue to make a reality of the heritage they have received in common" (as cited in Benigno, 2003). Needless to say, nationalism will never be possible without identifying one’s self to his nation and the existence of something that unifies each member of a nation is vital to achieve this end, it can be language or a common history.
Nations are described by a combination of cultural and political factors. From these factors, one can identify cultural and political forms of nationalism (Heywood, 2007). Based on Heywood’s account, cultural nationalism emphasizes the regeneration of the nation as a distinctive society on the basis of a belief in the nation as a unique, historical and organic whole. It draws more focus on the educational system, language, literature and the arts.  Political nationalism, on the other hand, recognizes the nation as a discrete political community, and is thus linked with ideas such as democracy, sovereignty and self-determination. It describes nation as a group of people adjoined together by shared citizenship, heedless of their cultural, ethnic and other loyalties. Aside from political and cultural nationalism, Abueva (1999) added another form which is economic nationalism. On the economic aspect of nationalism, nation is regarded as an independent civilization that addresses its own economic decisions and promotes social justice. It advocates that the task of nationalism doesn’t end with the attainment of political independence, hence, its goals are directed to proclaiming and safeguarding the national interest of the people.     
Nationalism is also viewed  by some as an ideology, as Horacio de la Cuesta puts into words, it is “a concept of what a nation is, what it can be, and what it ought to be” (as cited in Abueva, 1999). Political thinkers portray it depending on their respective ideals and so nationalism had varieties of political manifestations. There are four principal contrasting demonstrations of political nationalism namely liberal nationalism, conservative nationalism, expansionist nationalism and anticolonial nationalism (Heywood, 2007). In Heywood’s description, liberal nationalism is grounded on the fundamental assumption mankind is naturally divided into a collection of nations with each possessed of a separate identity. It asserts that all nations are equal therefore each and every nation has a right to freedom and national self-determination. Conversely, conservative nationalism is less concerned with national self-determination instead it seeks social cohesion and public order that’s rooted from national patriotism. One can argue that it is a form of traditionalism since it suggests that a shared past is vital to patriotic loyalty. The third form which is expansionist nationalism also contradicts liberal nationalism for it is an instrument of aggression and imperial conquest. According to Heywood, it is often traced to the irrational belief that one’s nation is superior over others. Fourth is anticolonial nationalism which is associated with the struggle for national liberation. Its difference from liberal nationalism lies on its quest for social development that’s why it is more often linked with socialism rather than liberalism.
  In the Filipino experience, nationalism is more of an anticolonial one provided their dominant goal of political independence (Constantino, “n.d”). Ideally, Filipino nationalism, as characterized by Constantino, is defensive or protective, anti-imperialist, mass-based and not anti-development. She relates that nationalists believe that the resources of Philippines should be for the benefit of Filipinos today and in the future. To achieve this, she suggests that the Philippine government should protect its people against foreign competition and give them preference in dollar allocations. In the sense of being anti-imperialist, she clarifies that it isn’t synonymous to racism. Filipino nationalism isn’t anti-American or anti-Japanese; it only advocates opposition against those policies of governments that harm the interests of the Filipino people, policies which these governments pressure the Philippine government to adopt. It is mass-based because, unlike in the past, it aims to serve the interest of the majority and no longer the interest of one or another sector. Constantino regard it as democratic since it believes in the greatest possible participation of the people in the determination of policy, particularly in the re-orientation of development programs. Most importantly, Filipino nationalism is not anti-development and it does not advocate economic, political, scientific or cultural isolation.  It actually fosters ease and comfort, good health, and access to the best products of man’s intellect and artistic spirit that the highest achievements of modern science and art can provide. This means that nationalism believes in economic, political, scientific and cultural exchanges with other countries but it recommends that such exchanges are done carefully and selectively, always placing priority on the needs and welfare of the Filipino people.
Through the years, Filipino nationalists had continuously assessed Filipinos in terms of their nationalism. Unfortunately, they are confronted with the sad reality that majority of Filipinos no longer have the same intense fire of nationalism that triggered national heroes to fight for independence.  Benigno (“n.d.”) attempted to identify impediments that hinder Filipinos in attaining a strong sense of nationalism.  Most of the reasons he offered are socio-cultural in nature. Among those impediments, tribal mentality, self-centeredness and colonial mentality have the most significant effect. Tribal mentality is committing one’s deepest loyalty to his immediate and extended family which is enlarged somehow through a network created by the kinship system (Benigno, “n.d.”). This tribal thinking is further applied and exhibited in one’s loyalty to his hometown, province or region; thus anyone from outside their circle is virtually ignored, treated with suspicion and mistrust, and an easy prey to stereotyping. Filipinos are prone to be more offended by negative comments to their hometown, province and region than those about their country. Self-centeredness is the tendency of Filipinos to act only if they are directly affected by certain events and if they are not, they just proceed with their own lives unmindful of their fellow citizens’ undertakings. Colonial mentality is the product of over three centuries of being under colonial rule. It is generally the failure of Filipinos to identify themselves apart from their previous colonizers and is often demonstrated in one’s preference for foreign goods over Philippine-made products (Abueva, 1999).
Despite these impediments, Filipino nationalism isn’t impossible to be revived. Benigno (2003) was encouraging Filipinos to do just that when he said, “We were born Filipinos. Now we must learn to be Filipinos.” We must immerse ourselves into a changed and dynamic culture. For culture is never permanently fixed, never frozen. Like the Japanese, like the Koreans, like the Malaysians, we must care, we must hustle, we must be proud. We must learn. We must work hard.”

How to cite this article:
Gabornes, Maris Cay E. (2010, January 28). Understanding Nationalism. Retrieved from http://learningfragments.blogspot.com.

Abueva, Jose. 1998. The Book on the Nation-state. Philippines: University of the Philippines Press

__________ 1999. The Book on Nationalism. Philippines: University of the Philippines Press

Benigno, Teodoro. 2003, December 5. What Nationalism? 2010, January 26.
__________ “n.d.” Impediments to Filipino Nationalism. 2010, January 26.
Constantino, Leticia. “n.d.” What is Filipino Nationalism? 2010, January 26.
Heywood, Andrew. 2007. Politics (3rd ed.). China: Palgrave Foundations

Miscevic, Nenad. 2005, September 4. Nationalism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2010, January 26.

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