May 19, 2010

A powerful mix

1898 political cartoon.

People have long observed how powerfully nationalism can motivate people, even those who have low status and little apparent stake in the nation in question. When World War I broke out in Europe, for example, there was widespread joy and euphoria on all sides. Even many political radicals who had previously vowed to oppose international conflict joined it.

Nationalistic enthusiasms (which nation is involved is immaterial) can override rational and religious considerations. Reinhold Niebuhr in his 1932 classic Moral Man and Immoral Society, has a succinct explanation:

"The man in the street, with his lust for power and prestige thwarted by his own limitations and the necessities of social life, projects his ego upon his nation and indulges his anarchic lusts vicariously. So a nation is at one and the same time a check upon, and a final vent for, the expression of individual egoism."

In his view, it is precisely that mixture of selflessness and vicarious selfishness that give nationalism its power.

A LIVELY CREW greeted shareholders at Massey Energy's annual meeting in Richmond, Va.

WORDS, WORDS, WORDS. A new survey about American attitudes towards things like capitalism and socialism finds some surprising numbers.

CHRISTIANITY AND CONSERVATISM. This article wonders how, given the Bible's powerful statements on social justice (yeah, I said those dreaded words), the two can go together.

OK, SO I'M SMIRKING. The state of WV is discontinuing it's redesigned version of Medicaid, which is something quite a few people I know will celebrate.


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