Photo by Maja Ruszpel
A nationalist independence day march in Warsaw drew a crowd of roughly 60,000 people, many of whom carried banners reading, “White Europe,” “Europe Will Be White” and “Clean Blood.” The marchers, who were mostly young people, were advocating for a Poland closed off to immigration and non-white ethnic groups.
Seeing this happen in the same country where the ruins of Auschwitz and Birkenau still stand is chilling.
But history repeats itself until we learn from it, and humanity has more learning to do. In that vein, I want to ask anyone who subscribes to a white nationalist perspective: what do you think would happen if you got what you want?
Pause for a moment to consider before reading on.
My impression is that the Polish marchers, and white nationalists everywhere, believe that living in a country with only other white people would make their lives better, their streets safer, their culture more stable. But that’s just not how it works. History and human nature are clear on that.
A brief example: all of European history. Europe was populated almost entirely by white folks for thousands of years. Ethnically, it looked the way the Polish marchers dream of their country looking.
But during those thousands of years, the people of Europe fought each other constantly. They conquered each other, slaughtered each other, and declared their enemies defeated, only to repeat the cycle a year or a generation later. The warfare was incessant and no one ever really won.
The Roman conquests of Greece, Spain, Gaul, Britain and Germany—white people killing white people. The centuries of war between Britain and France. The countless internal struggles between claimants to various thrones. The British oppression of Scotland and Ireland. The endless fighting over the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg lands. The first world war. The second world war. All largely more of the same.
This was an almost entirely white-populated (and Christian) continent, filled with almost entirely white-populated (and Christian) countries, and all they did was invade and kill each other. Sadly, we see this pattern echoed in the history of every human culture around the world. People can always find a reason to hate each other.
This is where we get to human nature. Most of us walk around with the attitude that we’re part of one group, and that people we see as different from us are part of other groups—black and white, Christian and Muslim, American and Russian, rural and urban; the list can go on forever. This attitude almost inevitably leads us to see people in other groups as less than human and come into conflict with them—not black and white but black versus white. But that’s a conflict no one can ever win, because the problem isn’t the other group—it’s the way we ourselves see the world. Even if we close our borders or put up walls, we’re still left living with that attitude of us versus them.
So we just end up turning on others in our original group. White breaks down into British versus French or Polish versus German. People we used to see as allies and friends become opponents, because our minds need a new enemy—a new them for us to fight. If we defeat one perceived enemy, we’re not satisfied. We just look for a new one in order to maintain our sense of who we are. There’s no way of escaping this cycle, unless we approach life with a new perspective.
If we really want to feel safe in the world, we need to learn to see all others as ourselves and let go of the delusion that we have an identity separate from anyone else. Otherwise, we’re just spinning our wheels, trying to divide the indivisible, and hurting ourselves and other people by doing it.
If you’re wondering how to start seeing things differently: praying for the well-being of people you don’t like is a good practice. So is any form of meditation or self-reflection. Anything that helps us question our assumptions about the world will move us forward.
White nationalists should consider that what they want to achieve has already been tried, without the results they’re hoping for. Let’s just learn to love instead. There's room in our hearts for everyone, and room for us in the hearts of anyone we might fear. To come to the place where loving and being loved meet is all any of us really wants—and we can all be there.
To pursue hate instead is to deny ourselves our true nature.
Ian is a writer and the founder and editor of Open Heart Beginner's Mind.