us and them

the recent events in ukraine reminded me to remind you guys that, if you’ve never read it, you should read jerry z. muller‘s terrific 2008 piece for Foreign Affairs – “Us and Them: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism” [pdf here]. it’s worth rereading periodically, too, since it’s so gosh durned excellent!:

“A familiar and influential narrative of twentieth-century European history argues that nationalism twice led to war, in 1914 and then again in 1939. Thereafter, the story goes, Europeans concluded that nationalism was a danger and gradually abandoned it. In the postwar decades, western Europeans enmeshed themselves in a web of transnational institutions, culminating in the European Union (EU). After the fall of the Soviet empire, that transnational framework spread eastward to encompass most of the continent. Europeans entered a postnational era, which was not only a good thing in itself but also a model for other regions. Nationalism, in this view, had been a tragic detour on the road to a peaceful liberal democratic order.

“[A] survey would show that whereas in 1900 there were many states in Europe without a single overwhelmingly dominant nationality, by 2007 there were only two, and one of those, Belgium, was close to breaking up. Aside from Switzerland, in other words — where the domestic ethnic balance of power is protected by strict citizenship laws — in Europe the ‘separatist project’ has not so much vanished as triumphed.

Far from having been superannuated in 1945, in many respects ethnonationalism was at its apogee in the years immediately after World War II. European stability during the Cold War era was in fact due partly to the widespread fulfillment of the ethnonationalist project. And since the end of the Cold War, ethnonationalism has continued to reshape European borders….

“Nineteenth-century liberals, like many proponents of globalization today, believed that the spread of international commerce would lead people to recognize the mutual benefits that could come from peace and trade, both within polities and between them. Socialists agreed, although they believed that harmony would come only after the arrival of socialism. Yet that was not the course that twentieth-century history was destined to follow. The process of ‘making the state and the nation commensurate’ took a variety of forms, from voluntary emigration (often motivated by governmental discrimination against minority ethnicities) to forced deportation (also known as ‘population transfer’) to genocide. Although the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ has come into English usage only recently, its verbal correlates in Czech, French, German, and Polish go back much further. Much of the history of twentieth-century Europe, in fact, has been a painful, drawn-out process of ethnic disaggregation.

“Massive ethnic disaggregation began on Europe’s frontiers. In the ethnically mixed Balkans, wars to expand the nation-states of Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia at the expense of the ailing Ottoman Empire were accompanied by ferocious interethnic violence. During the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, almost half a million people left their traditional homelands, either voluntarily or by force. Muslims left regions under the control of Bulgarians, Greeks, and Serbs; Bulgarians abandoned Greek-controlled areas of Macedonia; Greeks fled from regions of Macedonia ceded to Bulgaria and Serbia.

“World War I led to the demise of the three great turn-of-the-century empires, unleashing an explosion of ethnonationalism in the process. In the Ottoman Empire, mass deportations and murder during the war took the lives of a million members of the local Armenian minority in an early attempt at ethnic cleansing, if not genocide. In 1919, the Greek government invaded the area that would become Turkey, seeking to carve out a ‘greater Greece’ stretching all the way to Constantinople. Meeting with initial success, the Greek forces looted and burned villages in an effort to drive out the region’s ethnic Turks. But Turkish forces eventually regrouped and pushed the Greek army back, engaging in their own ethnic cleansing against local Greeks along the way. Then the process of population transfers was formalized in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne: all ethnic Greeks were to go to Greece, all Greek Muslims to Turkey. In the end, Turkey expelled almost 1.5 million people, and Greece expelled almost 400,000.”

et cetera, et cetera….

“Analysts of ethnic disaggregation typically focus on its destructive effects, which is understandable given the direct human suffering it has often entailed. But such attitudes can yield a distorted perspective by overlooking the less obvious costs and also the important benefits that ethnic separation has brought….

“But if ethnonationalism has frequently led to tension and conflict, it has also proved to be a source of cohesion and stability. When French textbooks began with ‘Our ancestors the Gauls’ or when Churchill spoke to wartime audiences of ‘this island race,’ they appealed to ethnonationalist sensibilities as a source of mutual trust and sacrifice. Liberal democracy and ethnic homogeneity are not only compatible; they can be complementary.

One could argue that Europe has been so harmonious since World War II not because of the failure of ethnic nationalism but because of its success, which removed some of the greatest sources of conflict both within and between countries. The fact that ethnic and state boundaries now largely coincide has meant that there are fewer disputes over borders or expatriate communities, leading to the most stable territorial configuration in European history.

“These ethnically homogeneous polities have displayed a great deal of internal solidarity, moreover, facilitating government programs, including domestic transfer payments, of various kinds. When the Swedish Social Democrats were developing plans for Europe’s most extensive welfare state during the interwar period, the political scientist Sheri Berman has noted, they conceived of and sold them as the construction of a folkhemmet, or ‘people’s home.’

“Several decades of life in consolidated, ethnically homogeneous states may even have worked to sap ethnonationalism’s own emotional power. Many Europeans are now prepared, and even eager, to participate in transnational frameworks such as the EU, in part because their perceived need for collective self-determination has largely been satisfied…..”

read the whole thing!

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there’s always one…

vortigern, king of the britons. or maybe of some of the britons. rumor has it that HE was the one who invited the saxon mercenaries, hengist and horsa, over to england (or i guess britain) to help him deal with the picts and the scots … but once they got their feet in the door (according to gildas [more on gildas here])…

“Then all the councillors, together with that proud tyrant Gurthrigern [Vortigern], the British king, were so blinded, that, as a protection to their country, they sealed its doom by inviting in among them (like wolves into the sheep-fold), the fierce and impious Saxons, a race hateful both to God and men, to repel the invasions of the northern nations. Nothing was ever so pernicious to our country, nothing was ever so unlucky. What palpable darkness must have enveloped their minds — darkness desperate and cruel! Those very people whom, when absent, they dreaded more than death itself, were invited to reside, as one may say, under the selfsame roof…. They first landed on the eastern side of the island, by the invitation of the unlucky king, and there fixed their sharp talons, apparently to fight in favour of the island, but alas! more truly against it. Their mother-land, finding her first brood thus successful, sends forth a larger company of her wolfish offspring, which sailing over, join themselves to their bastard-born comrades….”

don’t hold back, gildas — tell us what you really think of the saxons! (~_^)

“…From that time the germ of iniquity and the root of contention planted their poison amongst us, as we deserved, and shot forth into leaves and branches. The barbarians being thus introduced as soldiers into the island, to encounter, as they falsely said, any dangers in defence of their hospitable entertainers, obtain an allowance of provisions, which, for some time being plentifully bestowed, stopped their doggish mouths. Yet they complain that their monthly supplies are not furnished in sufficient abundance, and they industriously aggravate each occasion of quarrel, saying that unless more liberality is shown them, they will break the treaty and plunder the whole island. In a short time, they follow up their threats with deeds.”De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae

did vortigern set the anglo-saxon invasion — sorry, settlement — of britain ball rolling? maybe. maybe not. if he did, he wouldn’t be the only guy in history to do something as stupid….

king david. the scottish one (david i). he invited lots o’ normans and other continental types up to scotland to take part in his “davidian revolution.” i suppose he had a bit of an excuse since his mother was an anglo-saxon, so david wasn’t 100% a scot, but still…

“King David I, who also had large estates in central England, consciously remodelled Scotland’s administration along Anglo-Norman lines. He encouraged Normans to come north by giving them senior office, thus strengthening his new feudal structure. Charters soon mention knight service, mounted serjeants, mounted and infantry archers…. In the south and centre fortified royal towns, *burghs*, sprang up to the inhabited by Englishmen, Flemings, Normans, Anglo-Danes and of course Scots. Older forms of loyalty and kindred groupings, later seen as clans survived in the western Highlands, while in the north-east the Celtic leadership survived but transformed itself into a feudal aristocracy…. [I]t is worth noting that 12-century Scottish rulers, addressing their subjects in order of importance, referred to their ‘French, English, Scots, Welsh and Galwegians’. Although the Normanization of Scotland was basically peaceful there was plenty of native resistance, both cultural and physical. Many risings were directed against the ruler and his ‘foreign friends’, particularly from the north and west. All were defeated as the building of castles spread across the land.” [pg. 43]

wait. flemings?! [pg. 19]:

“After a devastating storm ravaged Flanders in 1106, Flemings emigrated in droves from their homeland in Flanders, now part of Belgium, at the invitation of Henry I…”

i guess i should add henry to my list. (bloody norman!)

“…who offered them financial inducements and land grants to resettle in Britain. Skilled weavers and craftsmen [the original h-1b visa holders? – h.chick], the Flemings moved into southwest Wales and parts of the Scottish Borders, erected castles, farmed the land, and established villages in the shadow of their castles.

“As early as 1107, Henry I deliberately encouraged the Flemings, and English settlers from Devon and Somerset, to move into the Welsh lands in Pembrokeshire. By the beginning of the thirteenth century, the fully anglicized Flemings provided a buffer zone between the regions administrative center, the castle at Pembroke, and the local Welsh population.”

yes. yes, they most certainly did (links added by me):

“Flanders suffered greatly after a series of storms, in 1106. Samuel Lewis wrote, ‘During a tremendous storm on the coast of Flanders, the sand hills and embankments were in many places carried away, and the sea inundated a large tract of country.’

“This led a large number of Flemings to seek asylum in England, where they were welcomed by Henry I. They settled in various colonies across England, but soon, Samuel Lewis wrote, they ‘became odious to the native population’, and Henry I moved the Flemings to the remote farming settlement in the cantref, a district of Rhôs, in south Pembrokeshire.

“This systematic planting of Flemish settlers by Henry I, and later Henry II, had significant consequences for the people of south Pembrokeshire. Geography Professor, Harold Carter looks at the effects, ‘If you look at the “Brut y Tywysogyon” – the Chronicle of the Welsh Princes – it records “a certain folk of strange origins and customs occupy the whole cantref of Rhôs the estuary of the river Cleddau, and drove away all the inhabitants of the land”. In a way you could almost call it a process of ethnic cleansing.'”


diarmait mac murchada or “diarmait of the foreigners.” not a very bright guy:

“Diarmait Mac Murchada, anglicized as Dermot MacMurrough or Dermod MacMurrough (c. 1110 – 1 May 1171), was a King of Leinster in Ireland. In 1167, he was deprived of his kingdom by the High King of Ireland – Ruaidri Ua Conchobair. The grounds for the dispossession were that MacMurrough had, in 1152, abducted Derbforgaill, the wife of the King of Breifne, Tiernan O’Rourke. To recover his kingdom, MacMurrough solicited help from King Henry II of England. In return, MacMurrough pledged an oath of allegiance to Henry, who sent troops in support…. Henry II then mounted a larger second invasion in 1171 to ensure his control over Strongbow, resulting in the Lordship of Ireland. MacMurrough was later known as Diarmait na nGall (Irish for ‘Diarmait of the Foreigners’).”

apparently, mac murchada promised that, if they helped him get his kingdom back [pg. 103]:

“‘Whoever shall wish for soil or sod, richly shall i enfeoff them.'”

too clannish and too busy in-fighting to notice the bigger picture.


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