Thursday, 19 April 2007

Quotes on Nationalism

An archive of quotes on the topic of Nationalism.

This first selection comes from an essay written by William Golding, the author of Lord of the Flies. He is trying to describe the ideas and impulses rattling around in his head when he set out to write the book. It is a beautiful piece of writing, and contains a lot of trenchant commentary on the ills of chauvinism.

The essay is titled 'Fable' and I encountered it in a collection of Golding's writings called The Hot Gates.

"There are always enough silly people in any country to form a sizeable mass movement."

"... my point is that however pathetic or amusing we we find these lesser manifestations of prejudice, when they go beyond a certain point no-one in the world can doubt that they are wholly evil. Jew and Arab in the name of religion. Jew and Nordic in the name of race. Negro and white in the name of God knows what."

"... one lot of people is inherently like any otherlot of people; and the only enemy of man is inside him."

"I condemn and detest my country's fault precisely because I am so proud of her many virtues. One of our faults is to beluieve that evil is somewhere else and inherent in another nation"

"But I know why the thing rose in Germany. I know it could happen in any country. It could happen here."

"Ugly nationalism raising its Gorgon head."

"... what I am trying to do is add together these elements, some horrible, some merely funny, but all significant ... they are a failure of human sympathy, ignorance of facts, the objectivizing of our own inadequacies to make a scapegoat."

"If humanity has a future on this planet of a hundred million years, it is unthinkable that it should spend these aeons in a ferment of national self-satisfaction and chauvanistic idiocies."

"Thepoint about off-campus history is that it is alway dead ... it is a cloak of national prestige which the uneducated pull around their shoulders to keep off the wind of personal self-knowledge."

"it is a dead thing handed on,, but dead though it is, it will not lie down. It is a monstrous creature descending to us from our ancestors, producing nothing but disunity, chaos. Disorder and war prolong in it the ghastly and ironic semblance of life. All the marching and counter marching, the flags, the heroism and cruelty, are mere galvanic twtches induced in its slaves and subjects by that hideous parody thing."

"People do not much like moral lessons. The pill has to be sugared ... also, the moralist has to be out of his victim's reach, when the full impact of the lesson strikes him. For the moralist has made an unforgivable assumption; namely, that he knows better than his reader; nor does a good intention save him. If the pill is not sufficiently sugared it will not be swallowed. If the moral is terrible enough he will be regarded as inhuman; and if the edge of his parable cuts deep enough, he will be crucified."

"So many people liquidated - lovely, elegant word."

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