Nationalist’s search

Vote for Brexit, election of Donald trump in the same year, surge of leaders like marine Le pen in France, Rodrigo Duterte, Jair bolsonaro in Brazil inter alia, in turkey, all these events have recently reinvigorate the global world’s threat of nationalism and morphed it into the neo nationalism. This neo nationalism has a slew of acute concomitant principles like right wing populism, nativism, anti-globalization, anti-immigration and many others. The reasons for the rise of this nativist populism and new nationalism have been defined by many thereby we have a number of different versions of it in letter but same in spirit.

Michael Hirsh who is an American journalist explained neo nationalism as “bitter populist rejection of the status quo that the global elites have imposed on the international system since the cold war ended, and which the lower income voters have decided is unfair”. Neo nationalism has also been called by Eirikur Bergmann, who is Professor of Politics, as a nativist populism. Many learned political scientists have drawn the Link between the recent emergence of new nationalism with the global economic meltdown of 2008 and the great depression with right wing populism. However, there are a number of means and tools that need to be unveiled by the nationalists to bolster their erroneous claims.

These nationalists have recently embarked to venture into the discovery of the novel but effective means to expand their scope and materialize their nationalist goals. In this pursuit, Food and sports are the means recently explored by these nationalists.

The ideological use of food to demarcate the people who belong to a certain community and its vernaculars and those who do not. Halal tortellini and a pork-free lasagna in Italy, beef and cow slaughtering in India, couscous and kebabs in Europe have outraged the right wing, nativist leaders against the people who they deemed them as outsiders. In this discussion, not mentioning Fabio Parasecoli would surely be unjust. He is a professor at New York University in the nutrition and food studies department. Being a competent authority in this subject matter, he has recently authored a book entitled Gastronativism: food, identity and politics,  in which he sheds the light on the way the food has been transformed into the ideological weapon that the nationalists have been wielding to expand their agenda that’s to construct the ideas of us vs them. To better answer the how part of this debate, we have to dive deep into its historical evidence.

As globalization and neo liberalism started to transcend the borders, that global, borderless system and economic interdependent organization of nations and states irrevocably altered the course of global food chain supply. This new intervention makes it expedient for everyone to get the food that they want to put on their table without worrying about the borders and distant cultures. As the food traverses across the borders, nationalists are vehemently making hay while the sun shines – the global food chain supply is the sun in this analogy.

The people who are brandishing this ideological tool, urging people to return their roots, and mistakenly imploring people to like the native food, ingredients and cultural heritage. There is nothing to criticize those who have the appetite for their food but should not invoke resentment and contempt for those who like otherwise, but it is none of the nationalists’ business. To channelize the pride in cultural heritage and culinary tradition, as nationalists vying for, impedes the marginalized and oppressed people to integrate in the society and at the same time resisting the translation and multinational corporation that the world has achieved after learning lessons at the enormous cost. Ostensibly, it is not the sole tool the nationalists invented, the sports is the other one to materialize their nationalist agendas.

Sport perhaps the only social activity, and more pronounced if there would be any such activity in the contemporary world which stages the national flag hoisting, national anthems playing and many others such activities both formally by the organizers and informally by the spectators in the field. All these events at this social activity allure the nationalists to express their overt national sentiments, thereby as a whole, the sport has been taking a central stage for everyone concerned with their national ambitions. To bring it into the cognizance of the readers, the synergy between sports and nationalism, we have to meticulously explore subtleties of it.

Baron pierre de coubertain, who established the modern Olympics in 1896, who also spearheaded the organization of international sports wrote assertively about sporting event that it would bring together Young male athletes from across the Globe, he was only specifically concerned with the physical well being of their own french men who were desolated and demoralized after the crushing defeat in the Franco German war.  Sports that have a global governing body akin to the United Nations, namely FIFA and ICC, consist exclusively of representatives of sovereign nation states in the global north and of behemoth countries in the global south. It vividly alludes towards the hitherto established ambitions.

Moreover, Olympics being free from all kinds of discriminations and partisanship and aimed to promote global peace has always been seen as being tainted by the nationalists and political agendas whether through boycott, protests or propagandas. Here enumerating the few such events. Proposed boycott by western countries of the Berlin Olympics in 1933 for being appalled by the Hitler’s racist policies and human rights violations at that time. Jesse Owens, the African American by winning four Gold medals singlehandedly destroyed the Nazi’s Aryan superiority as many considered. Additionally, Japan and Germany were prohibited from participating in the first Olympics after the second world war in 1948.

As it is now more evident than ever before that, the sportsmen and more specifically the cricketers have more say, influence and intrigue. While examining the ethnography of Asian sports, it is quite clear that cricket is now no longer England’s national game but has eventually become the central game of India, Pakistan, Sri lanka inter alia, their diaspora in the west. As British writer, V S Naipaul aptly stated that we were a society with no heroes, except cricketers.  As it is sportsmen who have that undue obligation to satiate the desires of oppressed and dispossessed. Clearly, Imran Khan, here in Pakistan now not been hailed for being a sportsman conversely, for being the torchbearer for justice and accountability. It is not the only case here, but it can also be manifested in Chicago, USA wherein the people of color who have long been socially, ethnically and economically ghettoized, hail no heroes but the sportsman Michael Jordan.

Evidently, after dealing with the synergy between sports and nationalist agendas and prides it is expedient to deal with the why question. Interestingly, the nationalists are aware of this fact that by winning the game or representing the strong, robust and skilled people at the international or national stage, it makes the people willing to applaud the culture, ethnicity and society as a whole is worth living and worth defending at every cost. In this sense, sports begets great national pride in their citizens. Moreover, sports is often construed as the means to expand goodwill and peace. It is not always the case.

Ruefully, sports instead of promoting peace and amusing people, has over the period, employed by the neo nationalists to deliver otherwise. Christopher Hitchens once wrote, ” As George Orwell wrote in his 1945 essay ‘The sporting spirit’, after yet another outbreak of combined mayhem and chauvinism on the international soccer field, ‘sports is an unfailing cause of ill-will'”. As he went further, “the international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred; one could deduce it from general principles”. Such sports have an overarching political ramification.

The recent 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing has also accentuated such political implications that international sports can have.  When the US and allies announced the diplomatic boycott, Russian president Vladimir Putin flew to Beijing and had a meeting with China’s counterpart almost after two years and then two counties issued a statement denouncing the NATOs expansion which Putin used as a reason for Moscow’s westward expansion in Ukraine. The greatest political implication was China’s joining Russia to eschew its ideologized cold war approaches. In contradiction to unity as propounded by IOC president the game aimed to, conflict oftentimes celebrated, which has always been the nationalist’s ambition.

To sum up, in the contemporary global world, nationalists are endeavoring to explore new tools and weapons to materialize the nationalist’s goals, in this struggle, food and sports are the recently invented promising tools. By brandishing these two tools, the wielders of these are expanding their scope and at the same time, making people wary of the transnational, multilateral and international platforms, which are apt to grant the world with global solutions to combat with Global problems.

Muhammad Ansar Abbas
Muhammad Ansar Abbas
I'm Muhammad Ansar Abbas, graduated from UET lahore as a transportation engineer. Currently pursuing MPHIL from university of the Punjab lahore.