A Discourse on Nationalism Ethic – Between Fact and Value (Part 1)

It was about several days ago when I read an article posted by one of my friends regarding studying abroad. In the article, an interview was conducted with an alumni graduated from ITB, Indonesia’s very well-known and highly reputable institute in science and technology. What I would like to emphasize in the article is about the nationalism ethic. She actually says that there are many ways you could choose to build your country, either from inside or outside. Thus, this writing would be dedicated to talk about nationalism ethic. As my previous writings, I would not like to insist you on the matter regarding my view. My discourse in this view has been conducted between myself and my inner one in a deep conversation.

Between fact and value

In the treatise, A Short History of Ethics, Alasdair McIntyre says that actually there is a problem that always lingers the ethical issue that is always tried to be solved: between fact and value. The problem can be easily stated as is-ought problem. A simple example that is very often used is: because he is my father, I ought to obey him and another example depicting the problem relating to nationalism ethics is like this sentence: because you are Indonesian, you ought to build this nation. A critical question then arises: why should I obey my father? Why should I dedicate myself to my nation? Is there any plausible reason to justify the act? Generally speaking, the is-ought is a problem that always tries to justify the reason holding a value (respecting parents, nationalism, etc.) that is considered having a correlation with a fact or to reject such a disposition, thus claiming that value is always independent from fact.

To be born as an Indonesian is indeed a fact that I could not dispose of. More specifically, born in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia is also a fact of me. Thus, am I then obliged to serve my nation’s interest? I would like to elaborate my ideas in this writing.

Sartre says that facticity has no correlation with your current situation. What is meant by facticity is the fact that everyone holds. In regard with my case, for example, facticity shows that I am an Indonesian. But if I follow what is taught by Sartre, being an Indonesian is only a fact that has no correlation with my current status as student. Thus, the time when I was graduated, I would be free to choose not working and serving my country. With the sea of possibilities waiting ahead, I will have many numerous better opportunities and leaving Indonesia will be a good choice actually since this country is always lingered with cliché problems: sex and religion. I will then be able to earn as much money as I want, to build my own family, living happily ever after without have to struggle and think hard about the welfare of others. This is my life and since I find happiness and pleasantness by doing this, I will try hard to sustain my current life. Or the other way may also arise. I choose to serve to my country by working as a civil servant, as an example. But, the important thing that should be underlined is: I choose to work as a civil servant because I choose to do it and it has nothing to with my facticity as an Indonesian. As a conclusion, if I would like to live in a Sartrean life, I should treat my facticity as the facticity that stops there. My current situation should be independent from the facticity.

Until this point, the objection that I would like to raise is relating to this condition: if it is the facticity that opens my opportunities, should I leave it behind? Does it mean that the facticity has entailed me a great responsibility? Take another case as this one. I was born as an Indonesian and because the Indonesians are good taxpayers, I then had a big opportunity to get into an outstanding school and graduated with better outlooks. I think that a simple missing link regarding facticity is the abstract connection that actually exists between numerous facts and its consequences.

This will then deliver me to also think that not all values are independent from facts. Some values may be independent and these highest values are indeed what can be said as categorical imperative by Kant where universalization of values could be established, such as you have no right to kill a person without any plausible reason; even if you have any, such an act is indeed objectionable. However, there are values that I think cannot be released from facticity because the matter of choice and consequence. This will be the main part of the next writing where I will explain the matter of choice and consequence relating it to the condition of abstract connection.