Edited by Ajay Ravi ’19
I should note that piece is not intended to criticize Spirit Week, but to consider its nationalistic basis.
What is manipulating us today? Nationalism. I’m not simply referring to nationalism in the scale of a nation-state, but rather nationalism in the context of any group of individuals. Though yes, when the term nationalism is used, it should often be referring to a nation.
According to Ernest Gellner, an expert on political theory, these nationalistic feelings can be described as a government-sponsored infection. They are usually organized by those in power, often by a government, and can be used to a government’s advantage — creating loyal citizens that enlist in the army, for example. They can also help individuals win elections…perhaps the phrase “if you vote for me, you’re a real American” sounds familiar.
Now, nationalism, on a smaller scale, can also be applied to class-wide elections — many students, when participating in these elections, often refer to the “greatness,” Spirit, “talents” and “Sacred Heart values” of their class, invoking nationalism to gain appeal among classmates, and as a result, maximize their votes.
Or, perhaps we can examine Spirit Week — a time in which there is, indeed, an outbreak of nationalistic fervor. The leaders — the class presidents and Spirit Chairs — are manipulating (well, almost manipulating) us into cheering and wearing the colors of our grade by relying on nationalism. They are suggesting to us that we’d be going against our entire class and diminishing its spirit in failing to do so. In a grade-wide email, we were told to buy costumes in order to not “be a cotton-headed ninnymuggin” — surely, they did not want any peer to betray our class. Here, they’re just using these nationalistic, class-wide feelings in order to garner spirit points.
So, the cheers in Spirit Week, the pledges to the flag, and the chanting of “U.S.A.,” should not always be considered a byproduct of pride; it could also be a byproduct of manipulative nationalism.