The Ugly Side of Nationalism

The shadow of the Great Khaan stretches far and wide across time.
The shadow of the Great Khaan stretches far and wide across time.

Nationalism: Patriotic feelings, principles, or efforts.

1. An extreme form of this, esp. marked by feelings of superiority over other countries.

2. Advocacy of a political independence for a particular country.

-From New Oxford American Dictionary.

Every country has nationalism, but it’s when that nationalism teeters to the first sub definition that things become worrisome. No one country is more guilty of this more so than another; it exists in all forms and shapes everywhere you go. No matter where you go, if you know someone of the specific nationality being targeted by nationalists, the display is a shocking wake-up call to the bigotry, fear, and hatred that exists in your nation. It can manifest in shocking ways, especially through children.

Since the mineral boom, several types of nationalists have emerged in Mongolia: The politburo resource nationalists, and the everyday, on-the-street nationalists. The “nationalists,” as they are simply referred to as, hate all foreigners, particularly the Chinese. The hatred of the Chinese stems from a history of Chinese rule over Mongolia, and a rekindling fear of colonialism sparked, in part, by China being one of the largest consumers of Mongolia’s mineral wealth. The famous rapper Gee speaks poorly of them in his songs, and posts updates decrying the Chinese via his Facebook page as well.

Anti-Chinese update from Gee. Photo courtesy of Rapper Gee on Facebook.
Anti-Chinese update from Gee. Photo courtesy of Rapper Gee on Facebook.

The views of the nationalists is much like any other extreme nationalist movement: They want racial purity, despise foreigners and those who would engage them, and often seek out confrontation. You hear all the stories as a foreigner: The foreign man with the Mongolian girlfriend attacked by men in a car, women getting punched in the gut walking down the street in broad daylight, and the many, many barfights that erupt because a foreign man was talking to a Mongolian woman. You also hear about the Chinese workers who have to live on their construction sites, because nationalists often stake out their camps, waiting for someone to leave so that they can cause trouble.

It should be noted that this phenomenon is limited to the capital city, Ulaan Bataar. I have yet to hear of or see any such harassment anywhere else in the country, which leads me to the next (and most important) point:

These (mostly) men represent a minority of Mongolia, and the whole of the country should not be judged by their actions. It’s an unfortunate case of “those who shout the loudest are the ones we hear most often.” Those on the extremes tend to be quite vocal, while those who are rather moderate don’t scream about their level-headed approach, mainly because a level-headed approach doesn’t often involve ostentatious actions.

Whenever I hear about those in America who decry foreigners, it makes me feel bad. As a foreigner here in Mongolia, I know what it feels like to know that there is a group of people laying in wait to harass or harm you simply because you are foreign. Being a foreigner in another land is difficult enough without having my safety put on the line by a small number of nationalists. If you love your country, that’s fine. Keep the positivity that comes along with that and ditch all the negativity and supposed superiority and take a moment to see your country from the eyes of someone else. Don’t yell at others who are different. They want to share in the opportunity, culture, and/or experience that your country offers that they may not necessarily find in theirs.

The world is shrinking, and we will be seeing a lot more of one another as travel become more accessible and affordable. Embrace it! New people are pretty cool, regardless of where they come from.

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3 thoughts on “The Ugly Side of Nationalism

    1. Sorry for the delay in response; I wasn’t quite sure what to say.

      I have indeed read much about Mongolian history, and I have seen that there were many, many battles with China. However, you are not those warriors, and the people living in China today are not the foes your ancestors fought against. Holding onto all this anger towards one group of people is like swallowing poison and expecting them to die. How does the anger help? I would honestly like to know. I can imagine if it was focused and used in a productive way that benefited others, then yes, it could be helpful, but if you’re just sitting at home fuming over China, then I don’t see how that helps.

      I can’t speak for you personally; perhaps you’ve had a more personal history with China that I am aware of, but I don’t think you should condemn 1.35 billion people for the mistakes of a few (especially when it is those who aren’t even alive anymore). We shouldn’t be held accountable for the actions of people who were around when we weren’t even alive, don’t you think? I’m sure there are plenty around the world who would point a condemning finger at Mongolia for the conquests of Chinggis, but it wouldn’t feel fair to have such anger thrown your way for something you had no control over, right?

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