No to Nationalism

My WordPress dashboard had a link to a nice post on Chartreuse, An Open Letter to those Born after 1982. That post eviscerates many myths that Millennials grew on – that they have to get a nice job at a big corporation, for instance. The best part of the post explains what many urbanites know and non-urbanites refuse to understand: national boundaries don’t matter that much.

Country doesn’t matter.

I know we’re at war but the world is flat. A Jew hating redneck who lives next door is just that, a Jew hating redneck who lives next door. You probably have more in common with a skateboard riding, hip hop listening, kid who lives in India.

It’s the values that are important, not the land.

11 Responses to No to Nationalism

  1. SLC says:

    The issue of offshoring is becomming a serious political issue. For instance, in the recent Democratic primary in Virginia, the winning candidate, James Webb, made an issue out of his opponents’ working for a lobbyist organization which strongly encourages offshoring.

    I can relate my own frustration in attempting to get assistance with a computer problem from Dell support personnel in India. I say, good luck to anybody who buys Dell products!

  2. Bryan says:

    National boundaries might not matter in certain respects, but the notion that “the world is flat” is absolute bullshit. I can’t believe that idiot Thomas Friedman managed to popularize the phrase to the extent it has been.

    (1) His assertation that “the world is flat” was based on some guy in India telling him that the playing field is becoming level. This, in Friedman’s mind, translated to “the world is flat,” meaning that the process of levelling is complete. Booooooring! (And completely untrue.)

    (2) If the world were “flat,” countries, like, say Japan and the United States, would actually be further apart, and thus the time-space compression created by globalization would actually be stretched out, thus negating the very effects that he is trying to describe. It’s a shitty metaphor because logically it makes no sense.

    (3) And, yes, the values are important, not the land, but if national boundaries don’t matter, then why is it that the United States and certain European countries get to run around telling the other countries that are so much like us what to do? Why do we have things like neocolonialism? God, this just sounds like so much neoliberal propaganda it makes me sick.

    I agree that the myth that national boundaries are important should be smashed, but it’s not realistic to say that they aren’t important, because then it sounds dismissive of the very real problems caused by borders. I didn’t read the original article so maybe I’m missing context, but in this context I’m going to have to cry foul. One of the biggest problems of globalization is not actually globalization, but corporate globalization, which is the globalization of only those values that serve the bottom line. Which means freedom, individual liberty, and human rights can stay right where they are, thank you very much, and screw the “oppressed” peoples of the global South. As long as we can keep outsourcing jobs and building and maintaining sweatshops, all will be right with the world!

    If we’re going to promote free trade and open borders to commerce, we need to open those borders to the passage of people, too. It’s a sad thing when corporations have more rights than individuals (and they do, oh yes, they do.).

    (Apologies if this was sort of a rambling rant, I just get all fired up about this sort of thing, and I just had two cups of coffee, and I’m trying to get some work done on top of it all so I just kinda dashed things out as quickly as they came to me.)

  3. SLC says:

    Re Byron.

    I can certainly agree that Tom Friedman is a moron. Particularly relative to his commentaries on the Middle East, never have I heard anyone speak so knowledgably from such a vast fund of ignorance.

  4. Alon Levy says:

    Who’s Byron?

    Bryan, having read The World is Flat, I can tell you that most of the book talks about the process of flattening, and how people should adapt to it. Apart from the catchy title, it doesn’t say that the process of flattening is complete. Ironically, the weakest parts of the book – in particular, those trumpeting growth-mediated development and export-oriented growth – are the parts that Friedman’s critics talk about least.

    As for colonialism, think of it in terms of 19th century America. The US, an ascendant state but not yet a world power, had little traction outside its limited sphere of influence that was Latin America, but slowly became increasingly important in world affairs. Similarly, India considers the rest of South Asia to be in effect its colonies by right, and China’s carving out a similar sphere of influence in Southeast Asia. Friedman’s neo-liberalism is not so much about leveling North and South as about moving the most populous countries of the South to the North.

    But all of that has no bearing on the original point: people in Brooklyn have more in common with people in the Rive Gauche of Paris than with people in even Fairfield County, Connecticut, let alone Idaho Falls, Idaho. Militaries and intelligence organizations recognize borders; culture doesn’t. And one of the best ways to weaken the influence of the military is not to have some special solidarity with your country, so that when the fascists tell you, “Our way of life is in danger,” your knee-jerk response is not “Let’s kill us some brown people,” but “I don’t care.”

  5. SLC says:

    Sorry, I meant Bryan.

    Mr. Levy reminds me of some people I knew in college who claimed to be “citizens of the world”. They were usually from third world countries like India. I doubt very much that most Americans have anything in common with the denizens of the rive gauche (for the uninitiated, that’s the left bank of the Seine river which runs through Paris and is home to the bohemian sector of society). Mr. Levys’ problem is that he somehow thinks that New York City represents the entire United States, or at least the intelligencia thereof (this will, of course be completely unacceptable to residents of Boston and vicinity). New York City represents nothing except New York City. Most of the population of the US, including me, wouldn’t live there if they were paid to do so (e.g. a nice place to visit but a hellish place to live).

    By the way, in Mr. Levys’ statement concerning killing brown people, I didn’t realize that Germans had become brown people.

  6. Alon Levy says:

    Of course I don’t think New York represents the entire US. This sort of cosmopolitanism exists in many places in the US – including, of course, Boston. A lot of American liberals who got pissed off after 2004 started talking about the urban/rural divide, but restricted it to the US (i.e. people in San Francisco have more in common with people in Boston than with people in the Central Valley); this just takes it one level further.

  7. Bryan says:

    people in Brooklyn have more in common with people in the Rive Gauche of Paris than with people in even Fairfield County, Connecticut, let alone Idaho Falls, Idaho.

    Okay, well, I have to weigh in a little bit here. I’m from Connecticut (not Fairfield County, but New Haven county right next door), I’ve spent considerable amounts of time in NYC (and have a great deal of friends there) and I’ve lived in Boston for the past two years. I have friends all over the country from all sorts of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. One of my best friends is an upper-middle class Catholic high school academy in the west. Another lived below the poverty line in rural Alabama. The three of us probably have more in common than any two random people I could pick off the street in a cosmopolitan area like Boston or New York.

    I guess the point I’m making is that you’re breaking down one big generalization (nationalism) into smaller generalizations, but you’re not really changing anything. Your personal experience of culture may be tied in many respects to where you’re from, but there are plenty of other things that are more important, and I’m not sure if you’re intentionally reducing it to a regional thing to make a point but I think that’s a problem.

  8. Alon Levy says:

    I like to separate the individual and collective levels here. Generally I refrain from talking about the individual level, largely because a) most of what I say seems trivial (“people are individuals, not instances of their nations”) and b) some people go apeshit whenever I use the word “individual.” Basically, my point is that culture transcends geographic boundaries, but if you need to impose some borders on it, the national ones make no sense.

  9. SLC says:

    The only people in the US who could identify with the left bank in Paris are the denizens of Greenwich Village in New York and Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley.

  10. The only thing flat in the Flat World of Thomas Friedman are the flat cars carrying the large shipping containers of cheap imports to the USA. You can see the logo COSCO flashing by on the containers rolling by. COSCO is the giant shipping company owned in part by the Chinese Liberation Army. (Why worry about the borders when this is happening across America. )
    No one asks how this long haul shipping and packaging overheads competes with local production. It is obvious that the cheaper labor markets without any entitlement overhead , can knock out local production due to the value of work being radically discounted in other lands. However, it all still depends on a consumer society still having enough money left to buy even the cheaper goods. Sooner or later, a balancing act will come which will shatter the Flat World. In the more prosperous nations, wages have been deflated and new working poor classes have been created which in turn forces the need for cheaper and cheaper consumer goods. There is no end to the devaluation as long as workers who make the products do not make enough to buy the things they make and have to ship them out across the world in order to survive. The desitute impoverished workers will never have enough money to buy anything the more prosperous nations have left to sell. In the end no one can do business with people who do not have money at one end or the other. And there are not sufficient numbers in the upper classes to support the whole of any given society. It is not possible for 20% of a population to support a 80% working poor class. 20% can not consume enough products to make up the difference.
    The Globalist Free Traders do not like the phrase but it is indeed a race to the bottom.
    Even in everyone in the world was provided a good education and a computer, it is meaningless if everyone is competing for the same jobs. This is not Free Enteprise where success should be duplicated over and over again. It is raw Capitalism isolating and making things exclusive for just a few. It has never worked in history. And history tells us what happens when workers have no voice in their destinies.

    We should be preparing for the post -Globalization era and toss Friedman’s The World is Flat book in the wastebasket.

    The hauntinng faces of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina exposed a silent depression residing in the USA predict the future.

    For more information see Tapart News and Art that Talks at and Explore the lost worlds in the Flat World of Friedman and his Globalist Free Trader friends at and view the Cross 9/11 Tangle of Terror artwork by Ray Tapajna asking who will now untangle the terror Globalization and Free Trade have bred. Also see:

  11. Alon Levy says:

    There is no end to the devaluation as long as workers who make the products do not make enough to buy the things they make and have to ship them out across the world in order to survive. The desitute impoverished workers will never have enough money to buy anything the more prosperous nations have left to sell. In the end no one can do business with people who do not have money at one end or the other.

    It sounds exactly like the current situation in India, Thailand, Vietnam, and Brazil.

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