This is being written a day after 60,000 neo-nationalists have marched through streets in Poland calling for a “white Europe”. To an anthropology student, this is terrifying. Not only does this symbolically take place in Poland, the site of so many Nazi atrocities towards Jewish individuals during WWII. But also, this signifies a disturbing trend in neo-nationalism, xenophobia and far-right politics that has swept Europe. This can no longer go ignored or denied.
In the midst of apathetic governments rejecting their responsibility and disparaging the individual, anthropology offers significant analysis, an analysis that governments might have missed. Anthropology looks deeper. This behaviour is unacceptable, but not unexplained and its origins must be considered in order to understand why it has emerged.
Europe has experienced significant political, economic and social challenges that have resulted in an inflation of anxiety, paranoid politics and dissatisfaction with governments. The September 11 attacks in 2001 marked a change in global politics; the narrative was generated that it was, as Bush stated, the “axis of evil” versus the US and its allies, the ‘fighters of freedom’. A very specific narrative was generated about Islam being ‘the other’, ‘the enemy’, which has only increased a decade later, despite attempts to refute this. Additionally, the rising power of corporations, austerity in Britain, the refugee crisis and the global financial crash have left populations abandoned by governments and misrepresented by politicians. The defence of national culture, not only by individuals but reinforced by the governments themselves through programmes of forced integration has fortified specific ideas of ethnic nationalities. These coincide with the cultural practices synonymous with the countries past and thus, resist the unregulated change associated with globalisation.
Ultimately, this has produced conditions whereby the facts don’t matter, the emotions do. People’s lives have been overhauled by global events they cannot control. They are fighting back. However, often instead of resisting the structures of power that they cannot see, the ones that deceive and manipulate the public. They turn to their neighbours, ethnic minorities that they can see, and that they often fight unfairly with for limited resources. This is not justifying the vulgar actions of these neo-nationalists, but offering a contextual framework at which one might take a closer look. It is not always about nationalism, but about neglect and misrepresentation. If these people are able to feel more powerful by being racist, they will do just that.