People hold up their phones during a prayer and candle vigil organised by the city after a shooting left 20 people dead in El Paso, Texas, the US, August 4 2019. Picture: MARK RALSTON / AFP
People hold up their phones during a prayer and candle vigil organised by the city after a shooting left 20 people dead in El Paso, Texas, the US, August 4 2019. Picture: MARK RALSTON / AFP

In 2008, Prof Jerry Z Muller, a professor of history at the Catholic University of America, penned a telling essay, Us and Them: the Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism, in the respected Foreign Affairs magazine. He wrote:

“The rise of ethnonationalism, as the sociologist Ernest Gellner has explained ... was propelled by some of the deepest currents of modernity. Since ethnonationalism is a direct consequence of key elements of modernisation, it is likely to gain ground in societies undergoing such a process.”

The current cycle of violence in Kashmir and recent Texas mass shootings are by-products of ethnonationalism. It thrives in a climate of fear, poverty, unemployment and reckless political leadership. History is full of destructive examples. Books such as Christopher Hudson’s The Killing Fields in Cambodia and A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche, are footprints of unchecked ethnonationalism and what it can do to societies. 

SA is no exception. As the world mourns the victims of Texas white nationalist terrorism, you have to remember the words of Arundhati Roy in War Talk:  “Each of those who died that hideous death was someone’s brother, someone’s mother, someone’s child. Of course they were.”

Dr Lucas Ntyintyane
Via e-mail