9 of the world’s greatest thinkers on the stupidity of nationalism

Over-eager nationalism is hardly known for its great outcomes. So, it’s hardly surprising that some of the world’s sharpest minds have had less than flattering things to say about provincialism, flag waving and fanatic patriotism.

Let’s take a look at their wise words.

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

— Voltaire


“Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it….”

— George Bernard Shaw

“Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”

— Arthur Schopenhauer


“Madness is something rare in individuals — but in groups, parties, peoples, and ages, it is the rule.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche


“Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious”

— Oscar Wilde

“Nationalism is an infantile thing. It is the measles of mankind.”

— Albert Einstein

“People who enjoy waving flags don’t deserve to have one”

— Banksy

“National boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatical ethnic or religious or national chauvinisms are a little difficult to maintain when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars.”

— Carl Sagan


“National identity is the last bastion of the dispossessed. But the meaning of identity is now based on hatred, on hatred for those who are not the same.”

— Umberto Eco

Title photo credit: Walt Jabsco

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36 replies

    • “I see it everyday in people of low abilities and intellect”

      I take it you wake up and look in the mirror every morning.

  1. The nation state is a fake man made concept, which makes the idea of nationalism all the more ludicrous.

    • This demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of the words you listed. People belonging to those groups may share similar traits, but these are not all the same people. You seem like the sort of person who also thinks you can’t be racist to white people, or that the world is flat.

      • That’s a great strawman argument that you posited, Silly. Of course people can be racist to so-called white people and of course the earth is not flat. However, all of the members of the groups listed by someretchris have one thing in common–they are evil.

    • Nationalism is not hating people from other countries, it’s having pride in your country and/or thinking that your country is superior. There’s a line, and it’s not even a fine one.

  2. There is no problem with having a national identity and pride provided it’s attached to a knowledge of that nations history (both good and bad) and not taken to jingoism. Nationalistic pride can give a sense of belonging and security and is to be encouraged in the young, but it should be instilled along with a sense of social responsibility and concience. Saying there is no need for nationality is refusing society and cohesion, humans do need a sense of belonging.

  3. Does that mean that Farage and his Faragian empire is ‘stupid’. Wow, Many of Her May’s Neo Nasty RW Tories want to give him a medal for being the leader of Brexit. And now he has media contracts and is lauded across the globe. So being a Neo Nasty has it’s rewards…..

  4. We should be more concerned about the welfare of the Earth and mankind as a whole rather than our little bit of it. Some celebrate globalisation others fear it. One day there will be a world government.

  5. How has patriotism been hijacked by right wing nationalism to the extent that we now associate flying the English flag and to a lesser extent flying the British flag with the far right nasties ? Both isms should be positive forces for good in any country surely as in many EU countries who happily display their national flags for their countries. I am a patriotic British European who was in service to my community my country and the EU and waving the flags too.

  6. It’s all about tribalism and territoriality. Which are essential for survival in hunter/gatherer societies. But we’ve moved on from hunter/gatherer, so it’s completely unnecessary. Some people should focus their efforts on looking for one of those ‘job’ thingies.

  7. We should be more concerned about the welfare of the Earth and mankind as a whole rather than our little bit of it. Some celebrate globalisation others fear it. One day there will be a world government.

  8. It is basic but you can’t be an internationalist in a nationalistic world – otherwise you get stripped off your industry and resources whilst the nationalistic places retain and grow theirs… basically what happened to the West since the 1970’s.

    It’s like being the only guy who turns the other cheek in a world of slappers…

  9. I would add Rabindranath Tagore to the list. One of his essays, ‘Nationalism in India’ has the following words for India under British rule: ‘Nationalism is a great menace. It is the particular thing which for years has been at the bottom of India’s troubles.’

  10. Patriotism is the last refuge to which the scoundrel clings/Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king. Bob Dylan.

  11. It depends on the type of nationalism. If it is the type that suggests one group of people are superior and that foreigners are inferior then I have no time for it.

    However, I consider myself to be a Welsh nationalist in the sense that I want the people of Wales to have the right to self-determination. But my nationalism is inclusive – everyone that lives in Wales is valued and welcomed by me, regardless of race, creed, colour, religion etc – they are all part of my Wales which I want to see as an independent nation but part of the global community

    • I’m with you on this one but can you add a little bit for me please? “everyone that lives in Wales……and those who are Welsh but live elsewhere”….I want to be in the “valued” gang too please 🙂 Zx

    • Your still a bigot, every person on earth is equal, there are no nations on this earth, all man made divisions made for profit.

  12. Patriotism is the last refuge to which the scoundrel clings/Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king. Bob Dylan.

    • No we are not as a matter of fact [west Africans, uniquely, carry the alleles of Gorillas and Chimpanzees], and even if we were all the same people have a right to live their own lives among their own kind and not be troubled by outsiders. I’m guessing you advocate open borders because you’re from a part of the world that has contributed precisely nothing to the civilisation you think should keep you in welfare cheques. The authority fallacy on a large scale is to think someone is right in opposing ‘nationalism’ because he’s [a] famous [i.e. promoted for his usefulness] and [b] says things you agree with. Do get a grip.

  13. Liberals… ha in practice you’re all wrong we believe in what is truly right security and stability for all

    • You want stability and security? Great – the most intermingled cultures are the ones that don’t have the my-culture-versus-your-culture violence. Look at the Balkans about 25 years ago, Israel and Palestine now, Northern Ireland during the troubles. Keep people divided and they develop mistrust and often hatred of “the other”. If, on the other hand, “the other” is also your brother in law he is less of a mystery or a threat. In reality, us “liberals” have been getting it right all along 🙂

  14. On a smaller scale, anybody can enter your abode as it has no meaning that you either own it or pay rent to occupy it, but have no right to enjoy it and determine who may enter it?

  15. You cannot be racist to white people. Black people’s response to white people is always in the context of hundreds of years of slavery, oppression and racism.

  16. Let me see.. Four centuries of ignorant,blinkered white nationalism has produced the failed American state .

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