Nationalism, what’s good!?

Because Rappler probably got scared to publish this on their website, I’m just going to post it here. This is in response to Mr. Jose Luga’s iSpeak article “The problem with the lack of nationalism” published on September 24:

I hear you, Mr. Luga. I hear you. However, I have four points of contention regarding your sentimental and educative piece on Philippine history and nationalism.

First, you described “nationalism” in your essay based on the definition of professor Teodoro Agoncillo which is “the defense of one’s independence.” However, you failed to operationalize “independence” in your statement and so I had to do my own research.

I summarized in three revealing assumptions grounded on various literature what it means to be “independent.” Independence means:

  1. Self-rule and freedom from external control;
  2. Self-sufficiency in terms of economic existence; and
  3. Self-reliance in terms of military security and strength.

Provided with these three conditions, can we say that the Philippines is “independent”? I hear a resounding “no”. The Philippines is not an independent country.

However, still citing these conditions, can we even argue that there’s at least one independent country in the world in this day and age? Even the United States–widely regarded as the most powerful country in the world–lacks independence because of its co-dependence on China for economic subsistence and expansion and its critical need for allies to ensure its security.

And let’s not forget North Korea, a country so nationalistic it had to segregate itself from the rest of the world with the foolish idea and hope that autarky would work. Did it? Well, if famine, food shortage and begging your rich neighbour for investment mean yes, then they’re doing one hell of a great job.

All things considered including its extended confinement, can we say North Korea is independent? No, it is not.

I will even go far as to say that your use of this definition of “nationalism” in today’s mise en scene is as dangerous to this country as Heneral Luna’s furtherance of nationalism because you’re trying to encourage isolating the country from the rest of the world in political, social and economic terms.

Are you suggesting to relinquish our UN and ASEAN memberships? Should we starting asking nations to repatriate all our OFWs whose remittances keep our national economy afloat? How about we start preparing the planes and ships that will carry all our foreign investors out of here and back to their home countries?

Moreover, you said if one nation oversteps the independence of another nation, that’s hyper-nationalism. Isn’t that what Tagalog nationalists have been doing for decades in Mindanao, or practically every island of this country? Forcing their own nationalism on other ethnic groups when these groups have their own national identity which is just as true and genuine to them? Isn’t this a showcase of our lack of empathy for the perception of these people? Isn’t this the source of the never-ending atrocities in Mindanao? The murder of the Lumads?

Mr. Luga, this is what nationalism does to you.

Second, you are correct in intimating that context is everything and I admit that’s a lapse on my part. My article failed to acknowledge the context of General Antonio Luna’s nationalism based on the movie.

Having said that, I stand firm on my position that the advertisement of nationalism in today’s context can be dangerous. This is a caveat, not an imposition. Tolerance and freedom of expression are two of my paramount virtues. I wrote my first article because I wanted to spur a dialogue. These dialogues are healthy and necessary because our national attitudes are shaped by these stories. They correct misconceptions that are a result of the ambiguity of language and words. They emancipate minds from the slavery of antiquated ideas and open them to ones no one has ever dared explore before. That’s how we progress as a nation.

Third, you said that we lag behind our Asian neighbors but didn’t specify on which area. I can assure you though that we’re millions of miles ahead of them in terms of the proliferation and quality of love teams. ‪#‎AlDubRocks‬, am I right?

Anyway, I just assumed you mean economic development. You said the culprit for this holdup is our lack of national identity. I find this argument problematic. And I’m sure you do too as evidenced by your “could”.

First, is there even a credible study that empirically identifies and measures that “lack of national identity” correlates with “poor economic growth”?

And while I try to avoid using Singapore as a basis of comparison with the Philippines due to their colossal differences in several departments, it is important to note that it is not having a “national identity” that underpinned Singapore’s decades-long robust economic growth.

As a matter of fact, it is the opposite of true. Singapore did not wilfully cling on to economic nationalism to boost their economy. They set aside this so-called national identity, liberalized their economy and opened it up to the world. And today, Singapore is the most economically progressive nations in the world.

Finally, you said our politicians lack nationalism. I don’t think so. It’s not lack of nationalism that is their problem. It’s their lack of humanity and empathy for Filipinos and everyone else in the world. Except for their penises, I guess.

Humanity and empathy build bridges, nationalism builds walls. Nationalism builds walls within walls and it will continue to do so until such time we realize we’re on our own because we have kept everyone out and fenced ourselves in. Nationalism will lead us to our own demise because of our failure to keep up with the times.

At the end of your article, you echoed the challenge posed by Heneral Luna in the movie. What are we willing to do for our country today? Here’s my advice to everyone: Love yourself first and hunt your dreams down. Do not let anything keep you from realizing your potential. Not borders, not ideologies, not visa restrictions. The Philippines is our Motherland, and as such, it will be her utmost pleasure to see us happy and successful. And after all, how can one love his or her own nation or another human being when they don’t even know how to love themselves?

When you have finally become the best possible version of yourself, that’s when you become a worthy caretaker of this beautiful nation.


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