Is nationalism ever a force for good?

The lack of it can also be a problem.

JARED DIAMOND: What about nationalism for a country? Is it good or is it harmful? Well, that's like asking about self-confidence and ego strength for a person. If a person has confidence and ego strength, is that good or bad? You can have too much of it and it's harmful if you are so full of yourself that you ignore other people. If, on the other hand, you lack confidence and you depend upon other people for your own image, then you don't have the courage, you don't have the identity, you don't have the sentiment to deal with your own issues. With nationalism today, there are countries that seem to me that have a healthy nationalism. I regard Finland, a country that I love as having a healthy nationalism based on reality.

The Finns speak the Finnish language. Nobody else in the world speaks the Finnish language. It's a beautiful, but very difficult language. It's the root of Finnish national identity. The Finns have a national epic, the Kalevala, in the Finnish language. And every Finn can recite the Kalevala, Of Americans and English people can recite Shakespeare. So the Finns have a healthy national identity focused on their language, their culture, and also their history, and what they've been able to overcome. There are countries that have excessive national identity. There are for example, people who would regard Germany during the 1930s during the Hitler era, as having had excessive national identity. Today, it seems to me that Germany has a healthy national identity.

Germany's national identity is not based on going out and conquering the world and acquiring [INAUDIBLE],, but recognizing that there are wonderful things about Germany that distinguish Germany from other countries. German's long history with the German language, the language of Martin Luther, that unifies Germans Protestants and Catholics, the government support for the arts in Germany, the emphasis on the importance of the community in Germany as opposed to the rights of individuals. In the United States and Los Angeles, anybody can build a house with any architectural plan that you like. And so there's no attractiveness to neighborhoods. In Germany, there is attractiveness in the neighborhoods. So it seems to me that Germany has a healthy national identity today. It did not in the 1930s. Chile has a healthy national identity. After Chile recovered from the trauma of a military government in 1990.

When a democratic government came back, it would have been so obvious for the democratic government to try to take revenge on the military government's leaders who had tortured and killed so many Chileans. But the first speech by Chile's new democratic government in 1990 was that he wanted to build a Chile for all Chileans, a wonderful expression. That's real national identity. A Chile for all Chileans means a country where the tortured and their relatives can live together with the torturers. It sounds terrible, but that's the only way that Chile could get out of the horrors of their military government. But that depended upon Chileans having a sense of national identity that transcended the horrible things that had happened in Chile.

  • Nationalism isn't always a bad thing. When a country doesn't have self-confidence, and a collective sense of identity, that is also a problem.
  • The optimal situation, in the case of nationalism, is that a nation's citizens have a healthy amount of it. For instance, as Jared Diamond points out in this video, Finland seems to have a nationalism based in reality — and largely founded on their unique language. It imbues them with an innate pride but doesn't compel them to conquer the world.
  • Also, nationalism that is used to be inclusive, rather than exclusive, can help a nation transcend its darkest moments.


Has a black hole in a lab confirmed Hawking radiation?

One of Stephen Hawking's predictions seems to have been borne out in a man-made "black hole".

Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Surprising Science
  • Stephen Hawking predicted virtual particles splitting in two from the gravitational pull of black holes.
  • Black holes, he also said, would eventually evaporate due to the absorption of negatively charged virtual particles.
  • A scientist has built a black hole analogue based on sound instead of light.
Keep reading Show less

Thumbs up? Map shows Europe’s hitchhiking landscape

Average waiting time for hitchhikers in Ireland: Less than 30 minutes. In southern Spain: More than 90 minutes.

Image: Abel Suyok
Strange Maps
  • A popular means of transportation from the 1920s to the 1980s, hitchhiking has since fallen in disrepute.
  • However, as this map shows, thumbing a ride still occupies a thriving niche – if at great geographic variance.
  • In some countries and areas, you'll be off the street in no time. In other places, it's much harder to thumb your way from A to B.
Keep reading Show less

A map of America’s most famous – and infamous

The 'People Map of the United States' zooms in on America's obsession with celebrity

Image: The Pudding
Strange Maps
  • Replace city names with those of their most famous residents
  • And you get a peculiar map of America's obsession with celebrity
  • If you seek fame, become an actor, musician or athlete rather than a politician, entrepreneur or scientist

Chicagoland is Obamaland

Image: The Pudding

Chicagoland's celebrity constellation: dominated by Barack, but with plenty of room for the Belushis, Brandos and Capones of this world.

Seen from among the satellites, this map of the United States is populated by a remarkably diverse bunch of athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs and other persons of repute (and disrepute).

The multitalented Dwayne Johnson, boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dominate the West Coast. Right down the middle, we find actors Chris Pratt and Jason Momoa, singer Elvis Presley and basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. The East Coast crew include wrestler John Cena, whistle-blower Edward Snowden, mass murderer Ted Bundy… and Dwayne Johnson, again.

The Rock pops up in both Hayward, CA and Southwest Ranches, FL, but he's not the only one to appear twice on the map. Wild West legend Wyatt Earp makes an appearance in both Deadwood, SD and Dodge City, KS.

How is that? This 'People's Map of the United States' replaces the names of cities with those of "their most Wikipedia'ed resident: people born in, lived in, or connected to a place."

‘Cincinnati, Birthplace of Charles Manson'

Image: The Pudding

Keys to the city, or lock 'em up and throw away the key? A city's most famous sons and daughters of a city aren't always the most favoured ones.

That definition allows people to appear in more than one locality. Dwayne Johnson was born in Hayward, has one of his houses in Southwest Ranches, and is famous enough to be the 'most Wikipedia'ed resident' for both localities.

Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, IL, but his reputation is closely associated with both Deadwood and Dodge City – although he's most famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which took place in Tombstone, AZ. And yes, if you zoom in on that town in southern Arizona, there's Mr Earp again.

The data for this map was collected via the Wikipedia API (application programming interface) from the English-language Wikipedia for the period from July 2015 to May 2019.

The thousands of 'Notable People' sections in Wikipedia entries for cities and other places in the U.S. were scrubbed for the person with the most pageviews. No distinction was made between places of birth, residence or death. As the developers note, "people can 'be from' multiple places".

Pageviews are an impartial indicator of interest – it doesn't matter whether your claim to fame is horrific or honorific. As a result, this map provides a non-judgmental overview of America's obsession with celebrity.

Royals and (other) mortals

Image: The Pudding

There's also a UK version of the People Map – filled with last names like Neeson, Sheeran, Darwin and Churchill – and a few first names of monarchs.

Celebrity, it is often argued, is our age's version of the Greek pantheon, populated by dozens of major gods and thousands of minor ones, each an example of behaviours to emulate or avoid. This constellation of stars, famous and infamous, is more than a map of names. It's a window into America's soul.

But don't let that put you off. Zooming in on the map is entertaining enough: celebrities floating around in the ether are suddenly tied down to a pedestrian level, and to real geography. And it's fun to see the famous and the infamous rub shoulders, as it were.

Barack Obama owns Chicago, but the suburbs to the west of the city are dotted with a panoply of personalities, ranging from the criminal (Al Capone, Cicero) and the musical (John Prine, Maywood) to figures literary (Jonathan Franzen, Western Springs) and painterly (Ivan Albright, Warrenville), actorial (Harrison Ford, Park Ridge) and political (Eugene V. Debs, Elmhurst).

Freaks and angels

Image: Dorothy

The People Map of the U.S. was inspired by the U.S.A. Song Map, substituting song titles for place names.

It would be interesting to compare 'the most Wikipedia'ed' sons and daughters of America's cities with the ones advertised at the city limits. When you're entering Aberdeen, WA, a sign invites you to 'come as you are', in homage to its most famous son, Kurt Cobain. It's a safe bet that Indian Hill, OH will make sure you know Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, was one of theirs. But it's highly unlikely that Cincinnati, a bit further south, will make any noise about Charles Manson, local boy done bad.

Inevitably, the map also reveals some bitterly ironic neighbours, such as Ishi, the last of the Yahi tribe, captured near Oroville, CA. He died in 1916 as "the last wild Indian in North America". The most 'pageviewed' resident of nearby Colusa, CA is Byron de la Beckwith, Jr., the white supremacist convicted for the murder of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers.

As a sampling of America's interests, this map teaches that those aiming for fame would do better to become actors, musicians or athletes rather than politicians, entrepreneurs or scientists. But also that celebrity is not limited to the big city lights of LA or New York. Even in deepest Dakota or flattest Kansas, the footlights of fame will find you. Whether that's good or bad? The pageviews don't judge...

Keep reading Show less