After Religion, this has got to be one of the most contentious issues you can bring up.
In summary this is the attitude that members of a nation have when they care about their national identity.
Nationalism can be an extremely positive thing. It can bring a loose group of people together into a cohesive force to get things done. It can however cause massive problems when one 'nation' collectively 'goes after' another.
Who Does it Affect?
Some nations are extremely susceptible to Nationalism.
- The French have a FRANCE FIRST policy where they must lead. Problem is the French have the same ability to lead as their president has ability to keep his knob in his trousers - ie none at all.
- The Germanic peoples have a bizarre ability to collectively group together as a people then kick off against another country. The Brits have been a recent favourite, Poland is a traditional target and if all else fails there's the French!
- In Engerland it means shaving your head, worshipping a dead kraut and kicking off each time your piss poor soccer team gets a shoeing.
- In the United States, nationalism is frequently coded as "patriotism," the approved exhibition of which suspiciously resembles that of the enthusiasm shown for certain dead dictators in Munich in the '30s - flags and ribbons draped from every available ledge, parades and rallies, chanting of slogans that invoke God's approval of your leader's plans, and the danger of being deported or shot for suggesting that Jesus might not necessarily have sanctioned the election results.
When it goes Wrong
Sometimes due to borders being drawn in the wrong place this can lead to real problems. Belgium is really two countries welded together to keep the Dutch and the French from fighting back in the 1700s. The Flemish in the north and the Walloon in the south. The northern Flemish are hardworking, taxed to death and Dutch. The Walloon are bone idle, on benefit and French. Each would rather be part of its parent country and consider themselves Dutch or French not Belgian. Politically (given that they have the capitol of the EU and it would look really bad if they kicked off), they are stuck together and they hate it and each other. Nationalism means being Dutch or French not Belgian.
Thus it is that Scottish nationalism can breed patriotism, happy drunks dancing in fountains after football games, self determination rather than long distance control and a pride in ones self and ones nation. It can equally cause bigotry, violence against others who do not 'belong', an expensive but useless parliament and can wreck a nations own identity. It also causes bigots in other countries (ie England) to try to use the same arguments (ie they want self determination) oblivious to the fact that the arguments they are trying to use have little validity (they've had self determination for hundreds of years).
So there you have it, if the god botherers don't get us, the bleeding nationalists will!