LSE100, Will You Be My Valentine?

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By Shanice Khoo

Love and nationalism both exist for the purpose of harmonious living, both may be watered-down into a checklist of factors, and both are in decay. We know, from our expansive LSE100 knowledge, that the force of globalisation has dimmed nationalist fervour. The same apathetic attitude is found towards love. Four in ten Americans are disbelievers of marriage, rejecting all the romance attributed to it. Are we spiralling-down into a bleak world with no sense of national identity, and worse still, no love?

It is almost a necessary attribute of an LSE student to consider all concepts as ‘social constructs’, making it only natural to think of love and nationalism as manifestations by society. How can this harsh reality be truth? Love and romance is used in poetry, and poetry is used to capture the soul. Moreover, your breath shortens and your heart beats faster when you look into a lover’s eyes. Biology doesn’t lie. Love has to be a force of its own.

Yes – biology isn’t lying and Barrett Browning was serious about counting the ways she loves thee. But love is not a force of its own, and neither is nationalism. As the human race developed, we adopted more ways to advance our kind apart from mere hormonal urges, and we produced this useful tool called ‘love’. Love has not only provided a greater incentive to procreate, but it has helped us get along with our partner. The power of love lies in its lack of definition. Its mystery makes it a malleable tool for solving internal conflicts. We feel more convinced and inclined to stick with one person because of the ‘power of love’. But the brutal underlying reality is that it is just much more economical – emotionally, physically and monetarily – to stay with one partner.

Likewise, nationalism is used for social cohesion; a tool to unite a large body of people. It may be used as a political tool for support, such as Tsar Nicholas I’s ‘Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality’, the Commonwealth’s fight for decolonisation and, of course, Nazism. It is clearly a construct. But I propose that even in its purest state, if culture were the only factor governing nationalism, it is still a social tool contrived to create a sense of purpose in order to maintain harmony.

The second similarity is that love and nationalism may be conjured by a checklist of factors. Slobodan Milosevic, former President of Serbia, manifested Serbian nationalism during the Yugoslav War. He created a common culture through exaggerating the injustice of Serbia’s defeat by the Ottoman forces at the battle of Kosovo Polje, which happened 600 years ago. By adding a common political cause, forming a ‘Greater Serbia’, Milosevic engendered Serbian nationalism. We can draw on many other examples that justify the same equation: common culture + political ideology = nationalism.

Love also has its own equation, though some might object. An article in The Telegraph argued against the reliability of a mathematical formula that solves L, the predicted length of a relationship. L is derived from adding together 10 variables, including factors such as the importance a male partner attaches to honesty. The journalist tested it out and found someone the formula predicted would give her 12.9 years of love, but she concluded, “The only trouble is… I don’t fancy him”.

I am not arguing for a single equation of love that is universally applicable. What’s more, I am interested in love, not how long you can cohabit. I believe that the factors governing love are personal, but may still be discerned through careful introspection. There are some governing features that may appeal to all: lover = caring + relatable + attractive + etc.

There is a tangible argument for this. In the movie Her, Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, who falls in love with his intelligent Operating System. The physical aspect of relationship is also explored by the movie through the use of a surrogate human. Even with my prior disbelief of falling in love with something like Siri, I ended up convinced. If an intelligent system is able to discern our personal factors governing love, a computer code may be all we need for love.

More realistic evidence is a study by psychologist Arthur Aron, who taps into the more intangible aspect of love. He successfully made two people fall in love in his laboratory by making them answer ‘36 questions on the way to love’. The path to love is now a free app, endorsed by The New York Times. Great news guys, love just takes you 36 questions and even better, it is literally priceless.

Now that I have firmly established how love and nationalism are similar in their use as social glue and in their ability to be construed, I return to the question: does the dwindling evidence of love and nationalism mean we are spiralling into a bleak world?

The answer is simply, no. The reason for the dimmed evidence for love and nationalism is that the underlying reasons governing their existence can be found elsewhere. As a social glue, globalism or arguably, westernisation, has superseded nationalism. We have less use for love as our increased wealth negates the need to form lasting marriages to reduce the burden of costs. And this ability to discern, or at least act, according to the foundations of what we actually require is a positive reflection on humanity. The human community continues to progress in our search for the truth of society’s existential needs.

I am not an anti-love pessimist. In fact, I’m quite the opposite – I love love. I believe that we should embrace our ability to construct love. It’s fun. Test out the 36 questions, it may reveal more things about you than the person opposite. Most of all, remember that love’s diminished state is evidence for our economical lack of need for love. We should use it less seriously, not as a premise for a marriage, but for all its perceived magic, and all its kind acts.

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