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The Covid-19 Exposes the Limits of Political Populism and Parochial Nationalism

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The corona virus pandemic has caused a twist in course of many activities and ultimately, a recession in the economies of most nations in the world. On this premise, this essay will
elicit and ascertain the limits of political populism and parochial nationalism amidst this difficult period.


To begin with, it is very imperative to know what the two terminologies in the essay mean. i.e.Political Populism and Parochial Nationalism.

According to Gagnon, Beausoleil, Son, Arguelles, Chalaye and Johnson (2018) in their manuscript titled What is populism? Who is the populist?, Political populism is the invocation
of “the people” who are betrayed, wronged or otherwise left vulnerable to forces outside their control.

To add to that, Political Populism is a doctrine that supports the rights and power of the poor in their struggle against the privileged. Succinctly put “the people” against “the elite”.

A political strategy employed by specific type of leader who seeks to govern based on direct and unmediated support from their followers. It is particularly popular in Latin America and non-western societies.


More concretely, Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser (2017) defined political populism as a thin-cantered ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic camps, “the pure people” versus the “corrupt elite” and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people.


Political Populism also describes many more specific philosophies, vis-à-vis, right-wing, left-wing, and neither, including democracy, socialism, labour parties, and even some forms of fascism. Labour parties are refers to populist movements led often by labour unions.

Populist democracy refers to efforts to engage a higher proportion of the population more actively in the democratic process, such as through public referenda, and registering voters. Reactionary populism describes extreme right-
wing populism and is practically synonymous with the “radical right.”  It is most associated with anti-immigration policies and extreme nationalism; Donald Trump’s campaign was a perfect
example. 

Populist Socialism left-wing populism has often been associated with opposition to capitalism and support for communism or socialism. 

In parochial nationalism, there is a high sense of nationhood where indigenes of that particular jurisdiction uphold firmly and strongly to their national ideals, norms, values and culture
in such a manner that makes them narrow-minded.


According to Tomaney (2012), Parochial Nationalism is the tendency of a nation to promote the confinement of their interest to its local spheres, lacking global perspective: narrowness in their political and socio-economic dispensation.
Parochial Nationalism seeks to bring forth the ideology of “ours is better than theirs” to foreign cultures.


Rogers Brubaker pointed out, “Europe was the birthplace of the nation-state and modern nationalism at the end of the eighteenth century, and it was supposed to be their grave-yard at the end of the twentieth.”

In addition, many proponents of the globalization hypothesis argue that nationalist resurgence is a European phenomenon.
Thus according to Mary Kaldor (2004), in other parts of the world, forms of nationalism may vary and take the form of religious communalism, tribalism, clanism and so forth.

The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) emerged in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, China. While the outbreak in China is almost over, this highly
contagious disease is currently spreading across the world and throughout EU/EEA Member States, with a daily increase in the number of affected countries, confirmed cases and infection-related deaths.

Based on the high levels of global spread and the severity of COVID-19, on 11th March 2020, the Director-General of the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. COVID-19 is an acute respiratory disease caused by a newly emerged zoonotic coronavirus.

A positive-sense enveloped single-stranded RNA virus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), has been isolated from a patient with pneumonia, and connected to the cluster of acute respiratory illness cases from Wuhan.


The coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting 210 countries and territories around the world. There are currently 3,138,396 confirmed cases and 217,984 deaths from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak as of April 29, 2020, 03:18 GMT.


Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far less than 1% of those infected. Parochial Nationalism became the elemental force to be reckoned with in the post-Cold War world order, challenging its stability by reshaping boundaries, unleashing wars and disintegrating multinational states.


A clear scenario of Parochial Nationalism was seen in the words of Damms (2003) in his write up titled “Harry Truman as Parochial Nationalist” is when Truman, a former United State President’s uncritical belief in the America values and political-economic interest intensified of Europe, and set Sino-American relations on a path of long term animosity.


In fact Parochial Nationalism wasn’t pronounced only in the western world. By the 1950s, African nationalist leader: Kwame Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda (1964–1991; Zambia), Haile Selassie (1892–1975; Ethiopia), Albert Luthuli were championing the course of pursuing some sort of parochial nationalism.

According to Mills (1980) African political interest and involvement began in the 1870s and became a significant factor from the 1880s. African political nationalism in South Africa for instance, can be seen, broadly, as all political actions and ideological elements to improve the status, the rights and position of Africans in the emerging society imposed by white
intrusion and conquest.


In South Africa the case of Soweto Uprising, which comprised of 10000 to 20000 black students, protesting against learning in Afrikaans in school is prominent example of the political nationalism in Africa.

The COVID-19, a pandemic of course is and will have an adverse effect on the global economies as has similarly happened in 2008 of the global financial crisis. Amongst many reason that should cause anxiety is the fact that, many nations including the super power economies like Germany, United State of America, Russia, and France are going to be heavily affected.

They will be affected in the spheres of their economy, politics and social development in general. This depression in the socio-economic growth of many nations are due to the fact that, the covid -19 has caused a pause in international travels across the globe. Schools have closed and conferences have been cancelled. People’s movement are curtailed and restricted hence cannot fully partake in economic activities.

Countries have had to use a relatively colossal amount of resource usually, fiscal to cushion the citizens in diverse ways. Borders are also closed. This has certainly led to
deglobalization. The severity of political populism and parochial nationalism on the part of the United States of America, Brazil and the many other super power countries has contributed significantly to the failure of the world inadequate response to Corona Virus.

When footages and photos of COVID-19 emerged from the Chinese Jurisdiction about how the virus was rampantly affecting indigenes of China in January, 2020; Super power leaders such as Donald Trump of the United State of America, Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom were
among the many head of states who downplayed the potential threat of the virus. They were in high hopes that the virus wouldn’t rear its ugly head in the respective territories they were superintending.


Political populism and Parochial Nationalism has truly proven to be disadvantageous as the aforementioned countries have recorded more cases done the parent country where the virus
originates i.e. China. As of May 2nd, 2020, the total number of reported case for the United State was at a whopping 1.16
million and 67046 death toll. During the same time, the United Kingdom also recorded 182000 cases with 28131 confirmed death.


In the case of Boris Johnson, his hopes backfired to the extent that he even became the first world leader to catch corona virus. Prince Charles of the United Kingdom after Boris’s positive test was also announced to have contracted the deadly virus. These brings to bare how complacent these leaders were about the virus. If they had all come together to strike a common course to tackle the issue with China head on, the
whole mess could have been prevented.


Donald Trump, again, labelling his critics, “Un-American.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says about himself and his party, “We are the people,” and then turns to his critics with thequestion, “Who are you?” are all instances of political populism that have dominated political scenes around the globe. It is important to note that, dividing the populace (citizens or electorate) is the political business model of populists. Some of which are perpetrated to score political points.

Drawing from the case of Africa however, Ghana in particular, is fact that there have been concerted efforts and political will by the government and the largest opposition party to help contain and defeat the virus by embarking on several ventures that is worth applauding. The distribution of food items to many households by the opposition party shows Even more demonstrative of the limit of populism is when the President of the republic of Ghana declared as a collective national day of fasting and prayers on the COVID-19.


Excessive parochial nationalism in many nations have also resulted in unilateralism. Unilateralism has taken hold in major global power centres of the globe. This has deprived many nations from striking regional engagement that were mutually beneficial, in order to address these common issues.
According to Wikipedia, Unilateralism is any doctrine or agenda that supports one-sided action.


Such action may be in disregard for other parties, or as an expression of a commitment toward a direction which other parties may find disagreeable. As part of efforts to minimize the phenomenon of political populism and parochial nationalism,
Governments of various sovereignties should base their decisions and messages on the evidence rather than rumours. And they should focus on what is under their control rather than pretend that they can stop the virus at the border. Ultimately, it’s not open borders but an open society that is at
stake

In conclusion, COVID-19 has called for stronger states to provide assistance to countries with weaker capacity to deal with the crisis, even if the countries are adversaries. World
leaders should come together in one accord to adopt one common practice that can best fight the virus as parochialism in this circumstance will exacerbate the issue the more.

As emphasized by the United Nations Secretary-General, during the launch of a COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan on 23 March 2020 “We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable – millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves. This is a matter of basic human solidarity. It is also crucial for combating the virus. This is the moment to step up for the vulnerable.”


According to Michael Ignatieff (2010). “With blithe lightness of mind, we assumed that the world was moving irrevocably beyond nationalism, beyond tribalism, beyond the provincial confines of the identity inscribed in our passports towards a global market culture which was to be our new home.”


I believe, taking the above occurrences and arguments into consideration, it can be said that indeed, COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the limits on the long-practiced populism and parochial nationalism. Let us surge on with Philippians 4:13 which says “We can always do all things through Christ who
strengthens us”

References

Brubaker, R. (1996) Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the
New Europe (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).

Brubaker, R. (1998) “Myths and Misconceptions in the Study of Nationalism” in National
Self-Determination and Secession, Margaret Moore (ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press,
p. 233.

Damms, R. (2003). Harry Truman as Parochial Nationalist. Reviews in American History. 31.
457-462. 10.1353/rah.2003.0044.

Gagnon, J (2018) et al. “What is Populism? Who is the Populist?: A state of the field review
“Democratic Theory, vol. 5, no. 2.

Ignatieff, M. (1994). Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism. London:
Vintage, p. 2.
Kaldor, M. (2004). Nationalism and Globalisation. Nations and Nationalism – NATIONS
NATL. 10. 161-177. 10.1111/j.1354-5078.2004.00161.x.
Mills, W. (1980). The Roots of African Nationalism in the Cape Colony: Temperance, 1866-
1898. The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 13(2), 197-213.
doi:10.2307/218873.
Mudde, C., & Kaltwasser, C. R. (2017). Populism: A very short introduction. New York, NY:
Oxford University Press.
Tomaney, J. (2012). Parochialism – a defence. Progress in Human Geography, 37, 658–672.
SOCIAL & CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY.

WISDOM KOFI ADZAKOR
AN AVID NATIONALIST

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