Is Boris Johnson encouraging simplistic notions of national identity in an attempt to further his political career?
UK Foreign Secretary Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was born in New York City. A dual national for most of his life, he renounced his US citizenship in 2016. He has Turkish, English, German and French ancestry.
In Johnson’s recent “Brexit Manifesto” article for the Daily Telegraph, he wrote:
“I look at so many young people with the 12 stars lipsticked to their faces, and I am troubled with the thought that people are beginning to have genuinely split allegiances.”
But why would Johnson, a highly educated man who held dual nationality for many years, espouse such simplistic nationalist views?
Research indicates that “Brexit was caused by low levels of education”. The Conservative party depends on the older, less educated, voter.
No matter how intelligent, people with lower levels of education are more susceptible to less complex stories.
And Johnson surely knows that national identity is just a story.
So, is Johnson, a man described as “a liar and a charlatan”, deliberately promoting nationalism, that he doesn’t believe in, to further his political career?
In response to Johnson, MEP Guy Verhofstadt said: “I think this is a binary, old-fashioned and reductionist understanding of identity. I think we need to be smarter, more open and more inventive then that,”
“It’s nonsense to talk about split allegiance. It’s perfectly possible to feel English, British and European at the same time. As it is perfectly normal to be a Dubliner, Irish and European at the same time,”.
Journalist Fintan O’Toole also echoes Verhofstadt’s views.
English nationalism, “unlike Irish nationalism”, he writes, “has not been forced to rethink itself and imagine how it might work in a world where collective identities have to be complex, ambiguous, fluid, and contingent.”
“It does not know how to articulate itself without falling back on nostalgic notions of Britishness that no longer function.”
Whether Boris “£350m for the NHS” Johnson is being sincere or not, what is becoming clear is that the simplistic nationalism he is peddling is increasingly being seen as unfit for the 21st century.
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