The old saying is that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Exaggerated nationalism is the last refuge of fools. We see that whenever any nation or ethnic group starts waving flags in the faces of other people. The most current example in the news is the foolishness in the region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain.
The regional leader, Artur Mas, is trying to get the Spanish prime minister to be an accomplice to breaking up the nation. It does not take an Einstein to see that if the Catalonian separatists get their way, the Basque region will start waving its own demands for independence in the face of Madrid.
As I understand it, the Spanish Constitution codifies the unity of the nation--a unity that cannot be broken by any single region's vote, much as Lincoln refused to allow the South to break up the union. So the Catalan separatists are basically asking the Spanish central government to become an accomplice to unconstitutional illegality. Today, the Spanish prime minister formally declined the invitation to join a conspiracy to break the law. No surprise there; but--hey--it's always worth trying to see if the other side is really that dumb!
In the case of Catalonia, the foolishness is emphatic, especially given the reality that at least 40% of the population originated in or has close ties with other regions of Spain. Interestingly, the ruling nationalist party in Catalonia (which favors the use of the Catalan language) is now conducting a P.R. campaign for separatism in Spanish (Castilian) in an apparent attempt to target that 40% that may not necessarily be too enthusiastic about finding themselves suddenly cut off from the rest of Spain. The use of Spanish is necessary since the Spanish or Castilian language is the one favored by a plurality (about 46%) of the people in Catalonia, in spite of a language policy in the schools favoring Catalan and the regional government's other efforts to promote Catalan.
You will see photos in the media of separatists holding up hostile signs saying,"Catalonia is not Spain." Although the disdain signalled by this message is repellant, the statement is indeed true in a sense that the separatists are too obtuse or too stubborn to see. Catalonia is not Spain. Catalonia is only a part of Spain. As such, under the Spanish Constitution, Catalonia cannot vote on secession. Only Spain as a whole can decide whether or not to preserve its national unity.
It would be very surprising if the European Union (EU) ever gave its blessing to welcoming a breakaway region that clearly violated the constitution of a member nation. Germany could find Bavaria one day splitting off, or France could find Corsica seeking the Catalonian route. Or, maybe, Italy could see a similar move in Lombardy. And, ironically, Belgium, where the EU headquarters in Brussels is located, may have a problem with its own Flemish-speaking Flanders region. It's a Pandora's box scenario that risks bringing chaos to the European Union. As I understand EU rules, every member nation must approve a new applicant for membership. I doubt Spain, an EU member since 1986, would approve a Catalonian application.
In sum, nationalism is the eternal curse of people who never learn, even from the bloody history of Europe.
(Image under GNU License)