Through a relatively extended period I have looked into this subject with different eyes trying to get a good understanding of what people think of patriotism. I read what seems to be countless articles by bloggers, journalists, and ordinary commenters on related subjects that google threw in my way; a lesson I learned from it was that people have different perceptions of what patriotism is and criticise it, or celebrate and advocate it, in different ways, most of which aren’t exactly correct. No matter how common, severe or seemingly a direct result the actions of individuals are, you don’t judge an idea based on people. So, when judging patriotism as an idea, you can’t say for example: “Who are the people who most loudly proclaim themselves to be patriots? Who hitch over-large flags to their trucks and obscure their bumpers with “God Bless America” stickers? Who are these “patriots”?”. That’s just irrelevant. Assume you found someone with an American flag tattooed on his arm, who was a Vietnamese hero that saved seven soldiers from certain death, would you change your views on patriotism ?. No you wouldn’t and shouldn’t because individuals were never the basis on which we judge an idea. Another incorrect methods is the country approach, where someone, mostly a citizen of said country, would start citing horrible events that happened, or still happen, in his country; racism, oppression, dictatorship, marginalization or an overall low state of affairs for individuals and communities both. Those may all be valid points in case you would like to demonstrate why you dislike this country or these people but it’s not a valid argument with respect to patriotism.
In the previous post I presented you with Tolstoy’s take on patriotism, which I will now briefly analyse. Feel free to skip this section.
- How come individual egotism, represented by a violent act for a personal gain, is condemned, but national egotism (patriotism), represented by a country’s violent acts for the increase of its own power and resources, isn’t ?
- Every person, English, American, Russian and such, prides himself for the country he was born in, and wishes his country to be the greatest. For a country to be great another must deteriorate. Do you see where this leads ?
- What produces war is the desire for an exclusive good for one’s own nation.; to be a patriot is to desire an exclusive good for your nation; to end war, we must end patriotism.
- Acquisitive patriotism is to seek to increase your resources; retentive patriotism is to seek to get what you once took; restorative patriotism is to seek to take back what has been taken from you. do you see any common factors ?
- To say that, if patriotism was beneficent, by uniting men into states, patriotism even now is just as beneficent, it is the same as saying that, since the ploughing was useful and beneficent for the field before the sowing, it will be as useful now, after the crop has grown up.
- Righteousness not patriotism.
I intentionally repeated Tolstoy’s arguments, without explanations, in order to show how much it all made sense, and how laughable and vain those who celebrate and extol patriotism every where they could are.
There are two issues, I believe, that weren’t pointed out or stressed in the afore mentioned article. One is those who claim they don’t exercise acquisitive, retentive or restorative patriotism. According to them, patriotism can and should be selective. Meaning that in some situations you ought to be a patriot, but in others you shouldn’t be one. If country A is invading country B, the Bs need to be good patriots and defend their country, while the As shouldn’t and should refuse to enlist in the war. Considering how patriotism is a special affection for one’s own country, a sense of personal identification with the country, a special concern for the well-being of the country, and/or willingness to sacrifice to promote the country’s good, are all qualities that suggest it rather fanciful to be able to turn it off and on at will, it means there is something wrong with their premise. What they described isn’t patriotism, it’s righteousness; justness; equality of all; to stand on the right side no matter who the contenders are. Which is essentially what Tolstoy hinted at at the end of the article.
The other point is one regarding a common misunderstanding. I shouldn’t mistake my refusal and objection to patriotism, as denial of your love for your country. But you also shouldn’t mistake your love for your home as a love for your country. Your childhood home, the streets of your neighbourhood, and your family and friends may be dear to you and you might remember them with a nostalgic wishful air, but that and those aren’t your country. You could be as loving and affectionate for what constitutes home to you, without a care for where it happened to be geographically located. That is actually the norm, not the other way around. To find and connect with a ‘home’ is a tribal instinct in you, to feel a strong bond with the place you live/lived is natural. Patriotism on the other hand is a learned quality; something that was artificially implanted in you by feeding you stories of heroism, victories, hardships overcome and nations conquered, while withholding anything that shames it from your young mind, leaving you to find that for yourself after you have become a patriot so you can defend it in earnest. Test yourself, look at pictures or souvenirs of your home, and then look at national symbols of your country, your flag or a famous sighting, and compare your feelings. It’s different. If anything at all, you might feel pride in your country based on rational, statistical or historical reasons, but nothing resembling your feelings towards your home. The difference between loving your home and loving your country is worse than if you said:”I love all fruits”, because you love five or six or a hundred kind of fruits, it’s as if you said: “Sammy should love all fruits”, because you know most people love five or six or a hundred fruit.
I’m very tired right now, but I have a little more to say about this subject to be done completely. It seems there will be a third part.