Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Nationalism not on par with xenophobia

Nationalism not on par with xenophobia

Nationalism not on par with xenophobia

Dear Editor,

In the article “The notion of the nation” (7Days, September 18) Joel Quenby quotes, seemingly with approval, AC Grayling’s comment that “Nationalism is an evil. It causes wars, its roots lie in xenophobia and racism.”

Over the last two centuries, the suppression of nationalism was one method by which many European governments sought to maintain their empires.

Consequently, when the conquered reasserted their right to self-determination and took up arms against the imperial powers, could it really be said they were tapping into the roots of racism and xenophobia? I don’t think so.

A more balanced and perceptive view of nationalism, particularly in the context of Southeast Asia, was offered by Burma’s Bogyoke Aung San, the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, in January 1946. In his presidential address to the Anti-Fascist Peoples Freedom League he said, “What then constitutes nationalism? The main factor is having to lead together one common life, sharing joys and sorrows, developing common interests and one or more common things like racial or linguistic communities, fostering common traditions of having been and being one which give us a consciousness of oneness and necessity of that oneness.”

An astute political observer, Aung San went on to warn that an opportunist political leadership might take advantage of nationalist sentiment for selfish individual or group interests.

This chimes in with Grayling’s view, but the Burmese leader also praised the anti-colonial struggles then taking place in Indonesia and Indochina.
Those conflicts were bloody but necessary, and the men and women who died asserting a right to national independence are, quite correctly, regarded as heroes.

Michael Hansen
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: [email protected] or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

MOST VIEWED

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • Ministry’s plan for net sparks fears

    The government has ordered all domestic and international internet traffic in the Kingdom to pass through a Data Management Centre (DMC) that has been newly created by the state-owned Telecom Cambodia, in a move some have claimed is an attempt to censor government critics. Spokesman

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh