OPINION: Gen Z should lead the fight against rising trend of global nationalism

Vedant Kulkarni is a senior and a member of the Student Governing Association executive branch. (Archive photo by John Chapple | Collegian Media Group)

With President Donald Trump in the US “accidentally” identifying himself as a nationalist during a rally, to Narendra Modi in India, openly identifying with a radical Hindu nationalist faction, the world has seen a sudden rise in nationalism and nationalist leadership.

While nationalism may sound attractive, if the 20th century taught us anything, it was that nationalism and fascism go hand-in-hand and are overall destructive for the world. Nationalism makes us hate complete strangers or anyone who disagrees with us.

Many people also tend to confuse the terms “nationalism” and “patriotism.” In reality, they are very different.

Simply put, nationalism asks you to believe that your particular community is the greatest and that no other community could be as good as yours. Nationalism tells you to believe your leaders blindly and to never question their actions. Nationalism tells you that you are superior and that everyone who is not exactly like you is your inferior. These sort of beliefs are borderline fascist.

Patriotism, on the other hand, encourages us to improve ourselves. Patriotism tells us that, while our community is excellent as it is, we can make it better. Patriotism asks you to make your nation’s growth and the growth of others in your community a top priority. Patriotism asks you to defend your community’s sovereignty and to work toward a harmonious world. Patriotism believes in making collective efforts for inclusive growth.

The beauty of patriotism is no match to the hatefulness that hides under the banners of nationalism and fascism. However, as we see nationalists supporting Trump in the U.S., Boris Johnson in the UK, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Modi in India, Vladimir Putin in Russia, the rising popularity of Marine Le Pen in France and many more examples around the world, ultra-nationalist ideologies are on the verge of regaining power.

This growth needs to be stopped as soon as possible. The solution to preventing the rise in ultra-nationalism and fascism is within the younger generation. Generation Z needs to get more involved in our local community and national and international politics in order to take the necessary steps to hold our leaders accountable.

This century belongs to millennials, Generation Z and Generation Alpha. All of us were born near or on the cusp of the new millennia. We see the beauty that technological advances hold. We see the power of diversity, and equity as well as the benefits of globalization.

Most of us see climate change as a global crisis, and we want to do something about it. We believe in the importance of trusting science and supporting the advancement of sustainable technologies.

Most importantly, we, the younger generations, are gutsy and courageous individuals. Older generations may call us rebellious or unruly at times, but our rebellion comes out of a disappointment in the status quo. We see how our leaders and authorities fell short and continue to miss the mark when it comes to treating our planet with respect.

Those of us who are coming of age during the peak of globalization have experienced lives enriched by diversity. International students especially know the benefits of how one’s life changes after interacting with people worldwide.

At Kansas State, we pride ourselves on being a university that produces talented, global leaders. All of us should actively develop our leadership capabilities to become individuals who will change the world. Domestic and international students alike should come together to create a better, more diverse and harmonious global community.

We should take inspiration from Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, David Hogg and many other members of Gen Z and stand for what we believe in.

We are going to be leaders of the world soon. We will control the governments, the industries and be in positions of higher education. It will be up to us to decide what to do with this power.

We can utilize this power for the betterment of everyone across the planet. We can do wonders with a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, science and global growth.

We can work collectively to make our planet healthy and ensure that poverty across the world comes to an end. It is the right time for all of us to unite and fight the rise of nationalism and fascism across the world in order to make the world a better, more globalized place to live in.

Vedant Deepak Kulkarni is a Collegian contributor and a senior in management information systems and mass communications. He is also the international student affairs director in the Student Governing Association cabinet. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.