Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Blind Nationalism as a Mortal Enemy of Globalization

One of the staples of Hollywood blockbusters is disaster movies.  In these high-expense, high-action,-high-computer graphics films, disasters strike our planet, in the form of natural disaster, alien invasion, or unstoppable epidemics, leading to global humanitarian crises of scales unimaginable to modern human society.  In most of these films, Hollywood unequivocally uses US assets, whether it be the military, political leadership, or individual heroism, to defend the planet from the disaster, ultimately achieving victory for the world (and for America) after great sacrifices and prudent actions.

Apparently now those who can afford the old America-centric formula of Hollywood blockbusters are blatantly copying the patriotic formula.  The latest Chinese blockbuster "Wolf Warrior 2" is one such blatant copy.  In the film, a gun-toting hero kicked out from the Chinese military heads to Africa to save Chinese nationals from evil foreign mercenaries intent on destroying the world with a virus.  The use of poor Africans, expensive special effects and combat scenes, as well as patriotic themes of a national hero saving the world cannot be any more similar to Hollywood action films.

Of course, this is not to say that the Chinese has no right to make a film starring their own nationalistic heroes, any more than Hollywood has the right to automatically cast the US as the protector of mankind in the event of global disasters.  In both the Chinese and Hollywood cases, appealing to nationalism helps to boost box offices, ensuring that the blindly patriotic audiences use the words of mouth to spread positive views of the blindly patriotic films and bring ever more revenues for the films.  Appealing to nationalist fervor of the audiences is good business practice.

But as businesses often do, they have not thought about the long-term implications of continuing to produce such blindly nationalistic films for the general public.  By starring larger-than-life heroes of a particular nationality fighting against simply evil characters of other ones, the films instill and cement among the audiences a belief of their country being above others, and the need for their own country to establish their own national interests as the "collective good" of mankind.  Frequent use of impoverished locations for conflicts (Africa and Middle East as favorites of both Hollywood and Chinese films), provide some sort of moral justification for the blatant nationalistic themes.

Use of such nationalistic films, by different countries with different perspectives, will only lead to divisiveness across the world along political boundaries.  After all, nationalism, as an ideology, cannot be compromised.  For most people, believing that one is a member of a certain nation means it is next to impossible to be convinced that one is member of another one instead, without serious efforts at assimilation, an act that many members of the nation at the moment cannot agree with politically.  Nationalism, as a black-and-white concept, can only be diminished, but not revised or abandoned.

Films such as "Wolf Warrior 2" (and their Hollywood equivalents) do exactly the opposite.  By accentuating the outsized role of one nation in particular for global peace and prosperity, they falsely claim that globalization as we know it is nothing but an extension of some country's power to areas beyond its political borders.  By highlighting the plight of poor people in the films' locales, they indirectly tell the audience that without the power of one powerful nation, most people (of other nations) are significantly worse off.  In the process, it contributes to the audience's belief that some countries are fundamentally better than others.

From the perspective of globalization, having such narrow nationalistic ideologies festering among the general public can be extremely dangerous.  Successful globalization at the personnel level requires people to see beyond nationalities and evaluate people simply by their talents and skills.  In a truly globalized world, a more qualified foreign person, under any circumstances, should have greater access to opportunities to wealth and professional advancement in any country than a less qualified person from that country.  Nationalism, manifested in the belief that the national labor market ought to be protected, stands as a significant obstacle.

Nationalism explains why immigration continue to be a thorny issue, even when there is clear indication that at least some immigrants positively contribute to the destination country's economy.  The resilience of the nation-state, in an age of global trade and information flow, reinforced by borders closed to most people seeking to move freely for residence and employment, is a testament to the danger of blind nationalism.  Patriotic films such as "Wolf Warrior 2" contribute to the continuing strength of blind nationalism, a boon for governments at the expense of true globalists.  

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