Chloe Westley is the Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
When I was a child, I remember our teachers playing Imagine by John Lennon at a school assembly. I thought the sentiment was lovely. All people living in peace, no countries, no borders, no war. It’s a very pretty idea…with absolutely no basis in reality.
The modern Zeitgeist among academics and politicians in Europe is that borders are a thing of the past; that they are a nasty, xenophobic barrier to progress and co-operation, and any sense of national pride should be disregarded as backwards and racist.
As an immigrant to this country, I don’t understand this way of thinking. To deny the notion of nationhood and borders is to deny that there is anything of value in this country worth protecting, or any particular set of principles that divides British society from any other. But this country is special, and it is worth protecting.
It is a privilege to call Britain home. And it isn’t racist or xenophobic to expect the Government to protect and guard its borders, as well as to ensure the implementation of a fair and controlled immigration system. The desire to protect your home is as universal as the desire to love, to work and to raise a family. Why should protecting your country be any different? We put up fences and walls to guard our homes, but guarding national borders is somehow subject to accusations of xenophobia.
Globalists do not believe in maintaining national borders, because they do not believe that this country is their home. After all, if you believe that there is nothing that distinguishes Great Britain from the rest of the world, and reside here merely for convenience, then you would be satisfied being born or living in any other country. In fact, the way some on the Left describe this country with disdain, you would think they would prefer to live just about anywhere else.
There are of course those who describe themselves as strictly ‘European’ – not citizens of the world, but citizens of Europe. They advocate a greater European superstate, to replace individual nation states, with a strict border around Europe. They replace nationalism with supranationalism – the community is extended to the European continent. Whilst this is a minority view, (just 15 per cent freely choose to describe themselves as ‘European’), it is worth pointing out that calling oneself a ‘proud European’ expresses the same innate instinct to belong to a country (albeit an imaginary country, as the EU is not yet a superstate).
Living in a world without borders, and without nations, would not magically result in world peace and a greater sense of belonging. Rather, people would seek other tribes to belong to – quite possibly even extreme political and religious tribes.
Moral Psychologists such as Jonathan Haidt lhave warned against the dismissal of national identity. The need to belong to and defend a community is an innate human instinct, and is often expressed by loyalty to the nation state:
“There is nothing necessarily racist or base about this arrangement or social contract. Having a shared sense of identity, norms, and history generally promotes trust…Societies with high trust, or high social capital, produce many beneficial outcomes for their citizens: lower crime rates, lower transaction costs for businesses, higher levels of prosperity, and a propensity toward generosity, among others.”
There are of course extreme forms of nationalism, particularly ethno-nationalism, that need to be avoided. We should strive for a golden mean of nationhood: one which allows citizens to care for and protect one other, to maintain national borders and traditions, which is welcoming to visitors and immigrants, and is fair and just in dealings with other nations.
A shared national identity doesn’t necessarily mean that citizens believe their country or their people are innately superior to all other nations. Your love for your family does not require you to hate strangers – but you would do anything to protect and care for them above other people, simply by virtue of them being family.
You cannot force people to stop loving their country. A shared national identity is what brings people together, despite differences in religion, politics, football teams and age. Because the thing that we have in common is our home – and we should take care of and protect our home together.