If there were a coin with a head of socialism embedded on one side, the insidious countenance of nationalism would surely be on the other. Together these make the prospects of growth and liberty a mean handicap. Each is a violation of the liberty we are granted as individuals, but nationalism is an underestimated foe of humanity.
Although religious intolerance appears to stand high and mighty as the single most threat to the liberty of our world's most challenged people, even the most obvious cinder box - the Middle East - is being inflamed more by the outmoded sway of nationalism. Yes, the same nationalism that brings the Lebanese people to the streets, that ignites the Palestinians, and perhaps inspires the Syrians to regime change - all are falling into a trap that hardly resolves the real problem that plagues these people.
Indeed, for all the energy that goes toward state building in Palestine - the "two-state" vision - it is hardly an economically viable one. Better that the peoples of the Middle East look to establish values of liberty and economic self-interest in a system of political and economic union. What sense the nation, if the economy that lives under its shackles cannot thrive? Yes, religious intolerance divides these people, but nationalism will eventually kill their dreams. Indeed, Iraq would best set the proper economic and political tone for the region by embracing federalism. Is there sense in making divisions where they need not be?
Europe stands as the best example of a modern effort to diminish the tone of nationalism - the European Union frail, but concerted toward economic and political union. There, we hope, the future is full of prospect. But the Middle East? What if by some miracle there is peace? Surely, the economic interests of the region are best served by abandoning division and working toward a customs union and perhaps a Pan-Arab state - one based on liberty and democracy and inclusive of Israel. Surely, that must be the vision? Unfortunately, the currency of these times still rings of nationalism, in all its small-minded forms.
So too, in Canada. Canadian nationalism continues to hold our people back. Canadians continue to hold on to a history that is flawed. And it costs us dearly. The opportunity costs of not addressing the failing of our nation state charade will become increasingly clear to Canadians - both in a domestic sense, and a foreign policy framework. We will be handicapped economically as surely as our international stature will continue to collapse. The current fiasco over missile defense and the embarrassing failure of Canadian tsunami relief execution are just the most visible recent tarnishes. The more we look like ineffectual hypocrites and free-loaders, the more the world, not just the U.S., will see us for what we are. In some cases, we will simply lose the international respect we once commanded, in other cases we will open ourselves up for abuse.
Better we start to dismantle the rhetoric of the nationalist. Better that they and their socialist mouthpieces begin to answer to the failings of this country.