In the last few weeks there have been some political upheavals that have sent waves throughout the world, but sadly, for many these were not shock-waves.
The reason for this is that not many were shocked by seeing Narendra Modi become prime minister of India, such was the rise of his popularity over the last few years. Whilst the rise of Nigel Farage and UKIP may have been slightly more surprising, it would not have been to the majority that voted for him in Britain’s European election.
In countries such as France, Denmark, Austria and Holland, parties with somewhat far-right views have also done unnervingly well. The popularity of Vladimir Putin is higher than ever in Russia, whilst the leader of the third most popular party in Greece has a swastika tattoo on his shoulder (google Ilias Kasidiaris). Even afar as Japan a similar sentiment brews. Clearly, nationalism is simply on the rise.
To go over the political policies and ideologies of the parties and individuals that are part of this rise would be giving them far too much credit for what they have achieved. In essence, their very emergence has been created by a set of circumstances. The current political climate is a case of the politics being brought on because of how people feel, not the feelings of the people being brought on through politics.
There have been outside instigators that have helped these nationalistic feelings boil to the surface of course, but at the base of it is a visceral, primal instinct.
In a world that is smaller and more accessible than ever, there are many that have a very strong urge to hold on to their patriotic (and for some religious) identity. For the Western nations – Britain, France, Holland – this manifests itself in being anti-immigration. Many parts of these countries have whole towns where it is rare to see an indigenous white face. For those in India, the changes many oppose is a move towards more Western attitudes. Both factors have left many feeling their nation is changing beyond recognition, and simply, they don’t like it. This in turn has left a gap in the market for fear-mongering politicians to use this feeling to win votes and thus gain power.
However, the result is that the people with this nationalistic mentality gain validation. Their belief that outside influences are ruining their nation is justified by politicians and seeing others feel the same. This can only promote ill feeling, which in turn can only cause problems and even trouble.
In India, a country that has already gone feral in large parts due to poverty and lack of education, the country has already gone backwards prior to Narendra Modi becoming prime minister. An appeal to make marital rape a crime was recently denied, whilst homosexual acts were made a criminal offence punishable with up to 10 years in jail just over a year ago. These acts were pushed through with backing from various religious groups, with politicians only too happy to pander to the biggest voting market in the nation; the Hindu male. It should be made clear though, the religion itself is far more tolerant than those that often represent it. Homosexuality, women with full rights; these are the hallmarks of a Western nation, which is what certain patriots don’t want Hindustan to become for fear of losing their culture.
The newly elected PM Modi is a man that has been called a fascist and even a psychopath. The Muslims residents of Gujarat will testify to these views, with Modi playing a direct role in the murder of over a thousand Muslims by Hindu mobs, with inflammatory comments and a direct lack of action to quell the violence during his time as governor of the state. His links to neo-nazi-esque groups such as the RSS are undeniable. Under his leadership, while India may progress economically, they are likely to regress morally.
As mentioned earlier, the Western nations are unhappy with a perceived influx of foreigners, which is undeniably stoked by the media, whom make it a bigger issue than it is for the sake of selling newspapers by provoking a debate that has been raging for decades. There are two specific parts of this that are most concerning.
Firstly, a big part of this Western nationalistic movement is blatantly Islamophobic. By looking outwardly different (think turbans, beards and burkas) and bringing in their own take on traditional things (halal meat for example) the effect is an everyday one for most people. This is hyped up to the public through the media and now has resulted in a divide through much of the country, as shown by the preposterous halal debate stirred up recently. As such, each side has become defensive and even paranoid. Sadly, we have already seen senseless killings on both sides in the UK (Lee Rigby and Mohammed Saleem) due to the tension both sides feel.
Secondly, as seen by many of those that voted for UKIP in Britain, immigrants are turning against immigration. What immigrants of a different time have gained, they are now begrudging the immigrants of today getting. Due to excellent but slightly evil propaganda, the myth of most immigrants coming in to live of benefits is being bought. This gives the immigrants of yesteryear, now settled and acclimatised, a chance to be smug and play the role of the good son by pointing out the flaws in modern day immigrants, which to be honest they were probably guilty of too at one time. The ridiculous level of irony aside, this is showing a rise in selfishness in society. Oh how quick people can be to forget.
The point of this piece is to highlight the societal issues on a human level that this rise in nationalism brings with it. How to deal with immigration, how far politicians should go to win votes, whether Narendra Modi is an ethically fit choice to lead a nation – these are separate issues. The real issue is the direct effect this nationalist mentality is having globally, which at the moment can only be seen as negative by those who wish to live in a free and united society.
It is ironic that the technology that has made the world closer has also helped divide us at the same time. It was Alexis De Tocqueville that said “people get the government they deserve”. Government of so-called civilised and powerful countries – superpowers even – now have politicians in positions of power that are racist, fascist or worse.
This begs the question, what does this say about us? Right now, the likes of Modi and UKIP are simply a sign of the times.