Nationalism is a sense of pride in one's own country, culture, and heritage. Nationalism fosters a sense of one's own culture as superior to and distinct from other cultures, an important trait that can lead to social cohesion and confidence.
Nationalism is less of a positive force when it is tied to imperialism. Nevertheless, it provides a narrative justifying imperialism, which occurs when a more powerful country runs the government of another country and administers the foreign country for its own benefit. It takes a certain degree of audacity to muscle into another country, and a sense of cultural superiority goes a long way to justifying what is a coercive occupation.
European governments often justified what were naked land and resource grabs by positing them as benefits to the lesser nation, which would gain as a result of exposure and training in European cultural norms and Christianity. People that might appalled at, for instance, robbing another country's rubber resources could...
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