Chip Tsao: The collective madness of nationalism

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[You can read the original text in Chinese here. Used with permission]

Whereas the recent “Scandal of Sun Yang’s drug cheat” became the battlefield of Chinese nationalism, those who read English remained sober and reasonable on the verge of that phenomenon of collective madness called nationalism, which was described by the 19th century Scotland writer Charles Mackay in his classic work on social psychology Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, a beautifully chosen title that reflects the literary style of the Victorian age.

Mackay reviewed the European Crusaders, the witch-hunt, the speculative scam of Tulip bulbs imported from Turkey, the South-Sea Bubble and many other instances where the ignorant, uneducated crowd became the victim of deception, rumors, and lies, resulting in evilly blood-stained disasters.

This book became one of the most basic texts for later research on “populism”. British scholars had already alerted about the relation between the ignorance of the masses and public elections. Under the lack of rational thought typical of nationalism, the collective hatred of the “Cultural Revolution” may happen any time.

This book was published in 1841, when the British war for trade, also called Opium War, was yet to be resolved. Afterwards, the Chinese will instrumentalize this war as the popular delusion of “The Great Powers bullied us”, with no mention of the fact that it was British occupation of Hong Kong what brought the system of the civilization of Rule of Law to China. As for today, Chinese nationalism has finally degenerated into the “Olympic Boxers” and the “Olympic Cultural Revolution” –even when the Hong Kong swimmer and singer Alex Fong Lik-sun praised the American champion, he was declared a traitor by Chinese netizens.

Fortunately, Hong Kong remained under British rule for more than 15o years, thus avoiding many different catastrophes, and a younger generation of Hongkongers has likewise rejected Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying’s “national education”. Mackay’s masterpiece is world’s best textbook on civic education. Hongkongers were lucky to have the “Treaty of Nanking”, but how about after it? We have to rely on ourselves..

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