This is another piece of the puzzle to understanding "The Crazy Years" that we're trying to live through. It also dovetails together nicely with politics becoming religion for an increasing number of people.
So time for a long dark teatime of the soul, and some serious introspection to make sure that you're staying sane and grounded. Or don't but don't blame me when you realize that it wasn't just Kool-aide you drank.The easiest way to feel empowered is to claim identification with some sort of group (gender, nationality, religion, etc.). It is the laudable characteristics of that group that you identify as your own characteristics, which are based on the way a gender, a nation, or a religion prefers to think about itself.The easiest way for a group to build its sense of identity is through the rejection or the demeaning of that group’s “opposite.” In order for atheists to present themselves as rational and intelligent, they have to present the religious as superstitious and foolish. This is certainly easier and more effective than consistently being rational and intelligent. In order for America to think of itself as strong and important, it has to think of Europe as being weak and worthless. And in order for women to think of themselves as compassionate, they have to think of men as violent.Part of this is simple projection. All the aspects of yourself that you are ashamed of or fear that you possess (weakness, anger, irrationality) can be easily forgotten if you assign those traits to someone you are not. If you strongly identify as one thing, your opposite can be not only a scapegoat, but a shit storehouse. Anything you’d like to distance yourself from can simply be stored in the identity of your opposite. “This group over here is ___________ [enter whatever disgusting thing you can’t bear to see inside of yourself]. I belong to the group that is the opposite of this, and so therefore I possess the opposite qualities.”This is meant to convince both yourself and your audience of your value. When someone has a gap in their sense of self, or in their sense of the value of themselves, that gap can be filled with the sense of the group with which they identify. Nationalism tends to strengthen during times of struggle. Individuals fall on hard times, they find themselves suffering from unemployment or poverty or displacement, which causes self-doubt. People erase that self-doubt, or at least cover it up, by suddenly proclaiming participation in a larger project, the project of a nation. Their nation is great, their nation has a tremendous history, and so they are allowed to participate in that greatness, to possess it, to play a part in that tremendous history.Nationalism, in and of itself, is not bad. Identifying with a larger group is not, in and of itself, bad. Particularly when a group has been degraded and dismissed. The act of coming together, of saying, “These things that you dismiss as worthless, they have value,” is a meaningful act.