Thursday, December 08, 2011

National pride makes you happy, but it depends on what kind of national pride

From MedicalXPress:
Research shows that feeling good about your country also makes you feel good about your own life—and many people take that as good news. But Matthew Wright, a political scientist at American University, and Tim Reeskens, a sociologist from Catholic University in Belgium, suspected that the positive findings about nationalism weren’t telling the whole story. “It’s fine to say pride in your country makes you happy,” says Wright. “But what kind of pride are we talking about? That turns out to make a lot of difference.”
This doesn't seem too surprising to me, since when I hear someone on the right saying that "America is the best country in the world" or that "immigrants are lazy" they are being proud nationals, but that is a type of pride that I don't understand (or feel). So, what are these types of national pride?
Reeskens and Wright divided national pride into two species. “Ethnic” nationalism sees ancestry—typically expressed in racial or religious terms—as the key social boundary defining the national “we.” “Civic” nationalism is more inclusive, requiring only respect for a country’s institutions and laws for belonging. Unlike ethnic nationalism, that view is open to minorities or immigrants, at least in principle.
This also makes sense, given the "Take back our country" and "Restoring America" rhetoric that is being used by the right. My questions were always, "take back from whom?" and, "restore to what?" After all, if we elected a Democratic non-White president, then did someone steal our country? And why do they think that the country is broken because we elected a Democratic non-White president? However, conflated with the "Obama is a Kenyan" and the "Obama isn't American" rhetoric together with the "Obama is an atheist" and the "Obama is a [secret] Muslim" rhetoric, it becomes more clear as to why ethnic nationalists (the most vocal of which are on the political right) are certain that Obama has a fundamental hatred of the United States.

On the flip side, we can see that Obama doesn't necessarily hold to this position. In his many speeches, he seems to be more of the civic nationalist; how he speaks about fairness for everyone, including ethnic minorities, LGBT people, women, the poor, and even immigrants. How he doesn't seem to buy into American exceptionalism and the religious triumphalism that is being espoused by his opponents also shows the contrast in  his character.

But let's see what else the article says.
Like other researchers, they found that more national pride correlated with greater personal well-being. But the civic nationalists were on the whole happier, and even the proudest ethnic nationalists’ well-being barely surpassed that of people with the lowest level of civic pride.
Hm! This is interesting. If the article's points hold for Americans (the study was done in Europe), then it implies that the political right wing don't really become as happy with their national pride than people who whole more of a civic pride. Interesting. But what does this have to do with real conditions?
The findings, he adds, give a clue to what popular responses we might expect to “broad macro-economic and social trends”—that is, millions of people crossing borders (usually from poorer to wealthier countries) looking for work or seeking refuge from war or political repression. “It’s unclear what the political implications of the happiness measure are—though unhappy citizens could demand many politically dangerous, xenophobic responses. Ethnic nationalists, proud or not, appear relatively less happy to begin with and more likely to lead the charge as their nation diversifies around them.”
Wow. It's almost like this explains some of the reasons why the views of migration - illegal and legal - exist and are perpetrated in the US.

Now, I'm not saying that this is the answer for everything we see with regard to national pride. However, it does seem to put forward an interesting rubric in determining how and why certain outcomes from national pride manifest themselves.

Paper found here.

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