What is a Nation?

What is a Nation?

Vox Day is going off on Yoram Hazony — author of The Virtue of Nationalism — for being a fake nationalist:

I read Hazony’s book. Unlike many on the nationalist Right, I saw through him immediately and pointed out that his “National Conservative” conference was an obvious attempt to set up yet another neoclown gatekeeping organization, this one focused on nationalists. Hazony’s further attempts to “defend his ideas” readily reveal him to be not only a gatekeeper, but a shameless liar of the Ben Shapiro variety for two very obvious reasons.

First, to the extent there is any distinction between two terms that have historically been used in a synonymous manner, nation is a subset of race. Necessarily. So to base an argument on the idea that nation is actually a broader category than race is worse than dishonest, it is deeply stupid. It’s a total nonstarter.

Second, the etymology of nation makes it obvious that racialism is, and always will be, an element of nationalism.

1250–1300; Middle English < Latin nātiōn- (stem of nātiō) birth, tribe, equivalent to nāt(us) (past participle of nāscī to be born) + -iōn- -ion

One’s nationality derives from one’s birth, not one’s geographical location or paperwork. It is an identification based on DNA, blood, and family, not ideology, confession, documents, or current location in the space-time continuum. By appealing to the fact of adoption, Hazony is stupidly attempting to derive a rule from its occasional exception.

I find Hazony’s rejection of race as important for nationality to be bizarre, particularly given his Jewish identity and his own home in Israel.

The Jews are, in my mind, perhaps the best demonstration of what nationalism ought to be. Naturally, this is not to say that other nations ought to emulate the Jews in the particular forms of nationality that make the Jews distinct: this would be to miss the point. What is worthy of emulation is the conceptual model, not the details of practice (funny hats, twirling chickens, etc). This emulation would, in fact, require rituals that reflect one’s own people’s distinctive nature.

But the conceptual model of the nation of Israel is not genetics alone, as Vox Day himself identifies this when he calls racialism “an element of nationalism.” There is something else at work.

What is that something?

Retaining the nation of Israel as our example, we can go back to its namesake: Jacob, who was renamed “Israel:”

Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

– Genesis 32:28

It is to Vox Day’s point that the literal name of the nation refers to the descendants of a single man.

But what made Jacob special was that he was special — not “special” as in “better,” (certainly not by my reckoning), but special as in distinctive, different, and other. What Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did, collectively, was to go out, apart from their nation of origin, and intentionally, consciously, make themselves distinctive. More importantly, through the act of circumcision, the Jews made themselves appear distinctive and “other” to others, forcing a cultural circling of the wagons and an internal interdependence.

(This effect of circumcision may have been a matter of appearance, but more likely, it was the shocking horror with which other nations must have looked upon the mutilating act itself).

It was this togetherness that forged a genetically-related generation into a nation. One could say that it is this togetherness — and the lack thereof — which respectively distinguish “the nation of Israel” from “the Jews.” The latter is a genetically related collection of individuals, living all around the world, and speaking a variety of languages and worshiping a variety of Gods. The former is also genetically related, but live together, speaking the same language, and worshiping the same God.

To put it in more biological terms, a nation is the most advanced natural level of political organization. Humans live in families, which — like wolf packs or lion prides — tend to band together into related groups called tribes, or clans. These tribes — such as the twelve tribes of Israel — coalesce into nations (usually, as is the case with Israel, it is actually the nation which subdivides into tribes). What makes the nation “real” is what makes the wolf pack “real;” a litter of pups may be related, but they are not a pack unless they run and hunt together.

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