The last country to declare independence, and have its sovereignty universally recognized by the members states of the United Nations was Montenegro over eleven years ago on June 3rd, 2006. Since then, both Kosovo and South Sudan have declared their independence from Serbia and Sudan respectively. Joining the ranks of South Sudan and Kosovo, as well as a handful of other countries in a similar situation, is the Catalan Republic.
Catalonia is an autonomous community located in northeast Spain which, for years, has been increasingly agitating for greater and greater independence from the Spanish monarchy. By 2014, however, Catalan citizens have become unsatisfied with simple autonomy, they wish to seek full independence from Spain, and held a referendum, today, October 1st, despite warnings from the Spanish government not to. Following an overwhelming victory in the referendum for independence, with nearly 92% voting in favor, Catalan officials have begun to suggest that Catalonia will soon become its independent state.
This is the latest installation in a larger phenomenon that has bestrewed the western world over the past few years: neo-nationalism. The examples are everywhere: The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, the election of President Donald Trump in the United States, and the election of President Shinzö Abe in Japan, and the election of ninety-four members of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party in the most recent German federal elections.
Globalization became the norm during the Reagan and Clinton years, but the United States, as well as the rest of the world, appears to be regressing into a nationalist state, in which tariffs are beginning to be reinstituted, border security is beginning to be tightened, and a renewed opposition to globalism has emerged. But what is fueling this rise of 21st century neo-nationalism? In a word: culture.
For better or for worse, when masses of people share the same space, a culture develops, in which people share the same values, partake in similar activities, and speak a common dialect. Many mistake culture as being divided along racial peripheries, but culture transcends these boundaries. Most of America, whether they be black or white, or are from Texas or New York, value economic security, freedom, and rule of law. However, as the United States expanded, given regions have developed different cultures, while still adhering to the core tenets of liberty. The Northeast has been generally concerned with ensuring all people have equal opportunity, with less emphasis on religion, while the Southeast has, while still maintaining values of equality and individualism, put a greater emphasis on family and religion. Neither of these are inferior to one another, but this highlights how geography can influence culture.
Once a culture is developed, a sort of tribalism has the potential to follow, with every country believing their culture is the best. In many east Asian countries, it is seen as socially unacceptable to be loud, abrasive, and assertive, where those are seen as virtues in the United States. Neither of these are inferior to each other, but this further highlights how geographical disparities influence the development of culture. This idea of absolute cultural superiority by some has engendered a feeling of isolation from other cultures, which has, in turn, generated a feeling of hostility to those who are different. Wishing to preserve one’s culture is not an issue, nor a major component of nationalism. Instead, it is the refusal to entertain the notion of other cultures.
This is apparent in the election of Donald Trump, who made promises to secure American borders against Middle Eastern and Central African refugees for their alleged refusal to abide by American laws. Nigel Farage, the Brexit crusader, also wished to refrain from admitting many Middle Easterners into the United Kingdom, as well as the admittance of Turkey to the European Union, due to fears that it would degrade Western, European culture. Kurdistan wished to hold a referendum so their populace may enjoy their own state where they may practice their own culture. This also explains the crisis within the European Union, as each individual state wishes to govern themselves in accordance to their own values, rather than take directions from international leaders who are out of touch with national values.
But what about Catalonia? The Catalan independence referendum was also influenced by culture, but rather than values, their culture resides in their history. Catalans are bound together by their rich history, and don’t wish to be apart of another country that doesn’t share it, due to the disunity it has fostered.
Some have proudly professed themselves to be “Western supremacists”, while others wish to create an international community of world citizens. Whatever side you may align with, or whatever point you find yourself on the spectrum, it is deniable that strong and homogenous cultures have played an important role in the rise of neo-nationalism.
By Louis Gleason, Editor-in-Chief