To me, this is another important piece of “the war of ideas” that we did not get much of a chance to talk about in our Middle East unit. But, it’s obviously a big part of the history and themes we are talking about in our Europe unit. I want you guys to do some critical thinking about nationalism. Nationalism—showing loyalty and support to one’s home country and taking pride in one’s national identity—is actually tricky thing to discuss in a country like Thailand where being patriotic is such an important value. Obviously, there is nothing inherently wrong about feeling proud about your national identity. C.S. Lewis once said, “Patriotism properly ordered can be a place from which to understand other people from other places, as people who love what they love just as we love what we love.”
However, as evidenced in the tragic history explored in The Book Thief and other numerable examples from history, nationalism does have a dark side. Nationalism has been used to justify extremism and violence, and nationalistic sentiments have been used by leaders as a means of manipulation and control. George Orwell said this about nationalism: “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” Albert Einstein even said that “nationalism is an infantile disease” and “the measles of mankind.” Harsh words!
Keeping in mind this broad range of opinions and your reading of The Book Thief, please compose a blog post about your thoughts on nationalism. In your post, you could address any of the following questions: What can we learn from history about nationalism? What do you think are the pros and cons of nationalistic thinking, and do you think that nationalism is mostly good or bad? Do you think there is a point at which being patriotic becomes harmful? Do we need to reconsider anything about nationalism in our continually globalizing world?
And (most importantly) can you make any personal connections or write down any personal reflections inspired by these questions?