I’ve been listening to my philosophy cd’s again. The professor today mentioned Nietzsche in passing (the professors and I covered Nietzsche in depth several disks back, so it’s okay that it was only a passing mention), and in particularly he spoke about Nietzsche’s presponse to Nazism and fascism in the form of a criticism of the Idol State and the Mass Man.

That got me thinking about Nationalism as Idolatry. We use the term “idol” and “idolatry” loosely these days: We have our American idols, and pastors warn about excessive TV watching as a form of idolatry. Now the American “idol” is really more of a shorthand for superstar or cultural aristocracy, and TV idolatry is more of an addiction or obsession, though the case can be made for the extension of the original meaning of idolotry to include addiction, and not just false-god or icon worship. But Nationalism, particularly in the extremes that it’s taking in this country now, does not need any kind of help to fit into the definition of idolatry. There is worship, both of symbols (flag, eagle, etc.) and of a metaphysical force/god (America, or the mythological Christian America ideal), we have priests (in the form of pundits like Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity, etc., and in the form of politicos like Bush, Frist, Cheney, etc.). Fighting for the American way is beginning to smack more of jihad than a defensive position.

Of course, simply saying that nationalism is idol-worship or a false religion does not make it so, but neither does saying it is not make it not so. I’m interested in any contrary opinions while I form a supporting argument. In the meantime, I find this an interesting counterpoint to the likes of Coulter’s accusation that liberal moonbats are godless, or rather their liberalism is their god. It seems more plausible that nationalists have a few too many gods, or at least more than the 10 Commandments allow.

Nationalism has been concerning me for a little over a year now, since I began to be alarmed by the things coming out of the mouth of my self-described NeoCon co-worker. I’ve wondered what the proper response to it is, beyond identifying it and discussing it with friends, interested parties, etc. I don’t think it bears outright defiance, certainly not yet, as the sort of Nationalism that worries me is only an extreme on a spectrum, not an inherently bad thing. Rather it bears subversion, and I think Nietzsche’s concept of the Mass Man is informative. The best form of subversion is to be authentic, unique (if that is the authentic you), and unapologetic about it. Whether the authentic you is taking beautiful pictures of waterdrops on flower petals, submersion in the joys and frustrations of parenthood, or something more political or philosophical, reinforcing the authentic you does not put you in opposition to Nationalism, but normal (at 90 degrees) from it. It marginializes it. Fervor and debate are the fuel that Nationalism burns, but unselfish self-interest is a non-reactive environment. The Mass Man – the non-discrete result of an assembly-line education and culturalization – is not himself a fire of Nationalism, but he is very much dry kindling. Does that make sense?

Since we’ve brought up the Nazis and Ann Coulter already, let me direct you to this quick quiz, which I surprised myself by doing poorly on. It seems like the best advice is, if it sounds intelligent, it was probably Adolf. If, on the other hand, it sounds clever, it was probably Ann.