Thursday, 3 October 2019

Nationalism and “Noble Lies”

There are two kinds of democracies—those that are dominated by liberals and those that are dominated by nationalists. The first type of democracies are often pushed into enacting utopian policies which devastate their economy and culture; while the second type are mostly able to avoid the pitfall of utopianism. Liberalism is a foolish, even dangerous enterprise. Nationalism too, if the nationalists are lacking in conservative values, can turn out to be unsatisfactory, but it’s a safer option for a nation because it’s fundamentally anti-utopian.

But how can nationalist sentiments be aroused in a country? In Plato’s Republic, Socrates offers an answer to this question. He talks about “noble lies” which the citizens must be told to persuade them into believing that they are the sons and daughters of the soil on which their nation stands. The citizens must believe that no one can question their possession of the land, because they are the children of the land on which they stand. The noble lies have the power to create a natural bond among the citizens—inspire them with feelings of pride in their nation's culture and history.

The noble lies that Socrates is talking about are not outright lies; these lies are not intended to deceive, they are being told with a good intention. They are an elucidatory device for revealing some important political ideas. The noble lies enable people to understand their rich history and culture, and become aware of the moral principles on which their nation is founded. It is noteworthy that the liberals use lies too for cementing their rule over a nation, but the difference is that their lies are ignoble—their lies are not meant to elucidate, they are meant to deceive.

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