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Patriotism: Trash or Treasure?

 
 
dlowan
 
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2003 05:42 pm
Patriotism: "Love and support of one's country - devotion to one's nation."

A discussion about the value of patriotism broke out on this http://www.able2know.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=13290&highlight= thread, and I promised to start a separate thread - well, I am doing so - but somewhat late.

I will give a rather extreme, and quick, version of my views on the subject, to begin debate - which I suspect it will do with a bang!

I view patriotism as a currently somewhat ridiculous, atavistic human characteristic - probably commencing with teritoriality and the bonds felt by early humans with their fellows in the smallish groups that once marked our societies - which once had more survival value than it does now.

With the rise of the nation states (where they DID rise - we see some countries where loyalties remain tribal, at most), I see this emotion/instinct, whatever it is, as having somewhat uneasily and patchily stretched itself to cover a larger physical and emotional landscape.

So - now? Well, by accident we are each born in some particular fairly arbitrarily determined state - whose imaginary (except for island nations, like Australia) boundaries are supposed, if one is a patriot, to cause one to have a strong emotional attachment to the artificial entity - to believe it (if only secretly, in one's heart) better than other arbitrarily determined segments of the earth - to honour a pretty, or not so pretty, piece of cloth.

Hmmm - all harmless enough, I suppose - if not very rational - (I DO, by the way, accept that I would MUCH rather live in some countries than others - but not because they are intrinsically better - just that history has been kinder to them, and they are wealthier and freer and such) - but what if we extend our patriotism, as I experience many folk to do, to believing that our segment is better, more moral, more just, more important, more god-blessed (funny how countries who actually share the same god tend to believe this entity favours them over their neighbours!), more correct, more human, more entitled than those who live a differently named segment of the planet?

I do not, by the way, claim to be free of this trait - I see that it IS a natural human characteristic - nor do I deny that there have been advantages for many citizens of nation-states from their adherence to each other, and that there will continue to be.

What I DO attempt to do is resist the temptation to see this trait as anything more meaningful than what I believe it to be - I attempt to counter the atavistic stirrings of misty-eyed loyalty with reason and logic. It works - sometimes - LOL.

I am happy to live where I do. I have been very lucky in the lottery of earthly landing-zones. My country does stuff that I am proud of. It also - as would be expected - does lots of really shitty stuff. I hope not to be blinded to this and not to support my country's actions where they are (to my eyes) plain wrong. I suspect your country is much the same, no? I recognize that I am likely to have been just as loyal to any other nodule of earth that I landed on. So would you.

My beliefs do not imply that I do not and cannot work to better my chunk of earth or appreciate the work that preceding generations did - good and bad - it makes sense to hoe the row that is in front of you.

I still want Australia to win in the Olympics - but I think that that is very funny!

I have lots more to say, but I will shut up for now, and let people argue.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2003 05:43 pm
And now I am going out! heehee
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Craven de Kere
 
  2  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2003 06:06 pm
Patriotism is a useful tool to forge solidarity among silly humans who can't get over their territorial instinct and their desire to be part of a group that they anoint with superiority.

It's a useful tool because everyone has a falling for it in some way. Even nations that do not like the more arrogant American brand of patriotism have their own forms.

A Brazilian might not claim to have the greatest nation on earth. Mainly because it's most obviously not. But they claim to have the best land, the best women and the best pizza (not kidding). Any Brazilian on the international stage is a household name for a nation that is starved for recognition.

Some people like to claim patriotism is mere recognition of sucess. They claim it's factual. When one looks at the bigger picture the absurdity of this claim is apparent. It's reasonable to take pride in what you do, but patriotism is taking pride in whatever good you can spin out of your country to feel good about yourself ("We saved your asses").

Even the most pitiful nations on earth have patriots. Patriotism is the search for glory when one can't produce enough for oneself ("you should thank us for all we have done for the world").

If it were mere factual recognition of desireable elements it would not be so laden with emotion. It would not be patriotism. It would simply be factual recognition of a desireable trait. It would be on par with recognizing academic excellence or admiring a successful individual.

But just as vain parents live vicariously through their children people want to feel like they are a part of something special. Patriotism is the national equivalent of a neighbourhood gang.

But patriotism is useful. As long as the teeming millions are so easily swayed by emotional appeals like patriotism it's a very useful tool. Our least common denominator happens to make up the bulk of our population.

Self proclaimed superiority is such a need for many humans that it is folly for a leader not to tap into it.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2003 06:55 pm
The way the Bush administration is promoting patriotism is trash by every meaning of the word.
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Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2003 07:30 pm
Out of curiosity, how should a political leader promote patriotism? Or, should they not promote it at all?

Is it possible for a country's citizens to have a sense of patriotism without it being a competition? Are any countries successful at that?


I can't say why, but Mexico comes to my mind as a country of people who have managed a non-competitive sense of patriotism. I just get an impression of national pride that is unrelated to materialism and fame.
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yeahman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2003 07:48 pm
i will speak from where i came from; korea.
without patriotism, korea may still be a colony of japan. is that necessarily a bad thing? korea would have lost its culture; language at the very least. perhaps religion and tradition as well.
when i went to china, i was very surprised to see that the ethnic koreans living there were among the most patriotic anywhere in the world. many koreans moved to china during japanese imperialism and there are now 4th generation korean-chinese there who speak perfect korean. in the US by the time you get to the 2nd generation and certainly by the 3rd generation all knowledge of the mother culture is lost. much of the korean opposition to japan grew in china with some of the most famous revolutionaries operating from exile in china.
so in times of peace, patriotism may seem like a senseless characteristic but in times of conflict patriotism often helps preserve a people.
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cicerone imposter
 
  0  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2003 08:27 pm
I probably need to explain my previous post. I say trash, because we had no right to a preemptive strike on Iraq on the basis of false information that they were a threat to the US from WMD's. Just because we have a strong military does not give us the ethical right to strike at a country on a false premise of potential danger. It uses our military for the wrong reasons. We build up our military for "defensive" purpose, and not at the whim of an administration that uses false information to win the minds of the congress and the American People.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2003 11:07 pm
Butrflynet - I confess as soon as I hear a political leader appeal to or promote patriotism my alarm systems go off.
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2003 01:29 am
I don't like the current corruption of the word either, c.i. Patriot Act indeed!

Yet. . . . Good things happen - bad things happen, and how I receive the news depends much on my relationship to the people they are happening to: family, friends; residents of the same town, state, nation, "tribe", etc. You can fight human nature - call it instinct if you wish. You can have a lush green lawn in the desert. Turn your back on either one and human nature, like nature itself, can spring back to its natural state with some vigor. Plant that lawn if you wish, but prepare to water it frequently.
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Heliotrope
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2003 02:16 am
Patriotism does strike me as a rather absurd way of conducting the affairs of individuals and nations.
It may ery well have been useful in the past but I think it will go the same way as the Berlin Wall, which was another artificial separator of peoples.
Personally I think Bill Hicks summed it up perfectly.
Quote:
Bill Hicks said :-

I hate patriotism man. It was a round world the last time I looked.
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InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2003 03:06 am
The U.S. of A. is one of the most nationalistically ideological nations on earth. After WWII, its nationalism was superseded perhaps only by that of the Soviet Union and other communist nations up until the end of the twentieth century.

US children are indoctrinated as early as four and five years old at the outset of pre-and kindergarten education where pledging allegiance to the US flag as the symbol of the singular nation under the god is taught and learned. The mere questioning of the concept of pledging allegiance to a flag as a symbol of a theological nation is cause for response on the level of a national crisis, let alone the questioning of the concept of pledging allegiance to a flag itself.

Enrollment of US children in quasi-military organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America, where concepts of duty to country and god, and scouting/survival skills are instilled, is high.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2003 04:17 am
Rant ahead:

The US gets a really bum rap for patriotism. The indoctrination is a very relevant point as few other countries have patriotism hammered into their people so much (heck I have even seen patriotic cartoons on TV for kids, the US is one of few nations with a rich history of using patriotic cartoons ranging from the natural production of a patriotic culture to outright propaganda).

But despite all that I like to single out every nation's patriotism. We all have the nature in us and it just manifests itself in different ways.

Dlowan mentioned the olympics. I think that is a very relevant example. Roger mentioned the familial aspect of patriotism (which is certainly both more flattering and relevant than my comparison of it to a gang).

While the US might be one of the rarer countries whose patriotism is politically entrenched other nations have patriotism just as strong with other manefestations.

While I find it flawed (due to it's inevitable tendency to make objectivity more difficult) it's human nature.

I still remember the first time I got frustrated by devotion that clouded objectivity. I was about 5 or 6 and was looking at a photo album with a friend. I asked him who the prettiest lady in the album was and he did not miss a beat. "My mom".

Even at that age we children had a clear concept of beauty and even at that age I could recognize his answer as colored by familial bias because his mother was.. well, simply put NOT the prettiest (my mom was! kiddin').

I couldn't argue with the kid. Even at that age I recognized that some things trump reason. Especially in matters of subjectivity emotion makes humans sometimes shun objectivity entirely.

I think patriotism is related in both the good and bad ways. Good because the tribal nature of humans serves a purpose. The haphazard and aleatory joinings of humans that we call "family" exists for a purpose. It is a survival mechanism.

Earlier I mentioned how it was folly for a leader not to tap into this power and ye11oman mentioned the survival of culture. I think it's very relevant. If there is a common goal I think patriotism is a power to be harnessed. If you want to help the economy you tout "buy American" (used to work till the evolution toward services, remember Wal Mart and how they used this as a selling point?). If you want to stifle war weariness you ask everyone for scrap metal.

But there are, of course, dangerous uses. Sofia mentioned the equation of patriotism to Nazism as a pet peeve and it's certainly not equitable but the relationship is there. While it's not fair to indict the tool for it's most treacharous use the lenghths to which one will go when justifying the use of the tool is a valid point.

One reason people mention US patriotism so much is because US patriotism is more political than in most countries (hell the US is more political than most countries, all the advanced democratic capitalist countries are).

When patriotism is used in politics there is almost always duplicity if not mallice. It might not be Nazism and Nazi propaganda but it's almost always a pretext.

One thing I must touch on (because roger is here) is that I know that many people do not consider themselves blind patriots. It's not "my country right or wrong" but simply "my country". I think that is a hugely relevant distinction as the "my country right or wrong" is simply stupid. I find it important to highlight the discerning patriotism.

But nevertheless I have a constitutional objection to patriotism. It's an emotion that I tolerate (and tolerate far better than some jingoistic people's tolerance for my qualms with patriotism) much in the same way that while love might be blind it's inexorable and a part of human society.

I don't care about emotions such as patriotism untill it clouds objectivity or is misused.

When it's used to futher an agenda or make money (car dealerships capitalizing on the war fever to sell cars under flags that were simply not as important to them before) the deception is glaring and almost mallicious to the objective eye.

When it's a simply emotion of love and devotion I have no qualm. But even in non-politicized patriotism I see it as the cause for some degradation in objectivity. I'll use another Brazilian example (because they are less charged issues here).

In Brazil, they crave recognition. Their patriotism is such that they maintain that a Brazilian invented teh airplane. This is not some bar room boast like the "we saved your ass Frenchie" that a coarse American in a bar might yell to a Canadian. It's in their textbooks and airports and landmarks are named after Santos-Dumont.

When I first heard of this claim I dismissed it as typical Brazilian exagerration of their compatriot's feats. But after careful research I found that they had a small case to make.

Santos-Dumont had enought to his name without needing the plane. He put the dirigir in dirigible. He has an important place in the history of the wrist-watch (needed it to fly, his buddy Cartier made the first commercial wrist-watches because of Santos-Dumont).

But Brazilian patriotism makes them lack objectivity in this matter. Few of the researched the details, they all claim Santos-Dumont flew before the Wright Brothers (pronnounced "porn purveyors").

The Brazilian street is wrong. The Brothers flew in 1903 while Santos-Dumont flew in 1906. Santos-Dumont did make an important breakthrough (he did not need the catapult) but simply put he flew afterwards. He even got tips from the Wright brothers.

When confronted with the dates and details the Brazilian reaction is simply that the Wright Brothers flew in the same way a man fired from a cannon flies. They denigrated the Kitty Hawk flights as a projectile.

They ignore that the quality of the flight by the Wright brothers exceeded Santos-Dumont's later flight despite their facilitated take off.

My retort was always that of the Wright Brothers did not fly then nothing that takes off from an aircraft carrier does.

That is just a tiny example of patriotism's effect on objectivity. It's non-political and hopefully not charged but what I am trying to explain is that once you step outside the circle the circles flawed perceptions are glaring.

It's all good and well for the Brazilian to say that São Paulo has the best pizza in the world but they would do well to try another. They would do well to notice that there are few foreigners who would agree.

It's all good and well for Americans to tout our political foundation but they would do well to notice that there are lots of nations with good political foundations. If the love-affair were less blind this perception would be ameliorated greatly.

When I first went to school a freind of mine was in a race and I was cheering. Another friend was cheering for his opponent and when I asked why the repy I got was "Because he's Mexican".

It's understandable to better associate with one's peers. It's understandable to show preference to blood or proximity. But it's no less divisive and lacking in objectivity for this.

So basically, I don't mind patriotism. I have patriotic elements. I mind when it clouds objectivity. To some degree it ALWAYS will. But since it's inexorable I think it important to distinguish between the mother who loves her son and wants what's best for him and the mother who still refuses to believe her son can do wrong and favored him to a detrimental degree.

Incidentally the nationalism is relatively new. In the past it was not harnessed on a national level and as such lended itself less to ideology. It was mainly a "let's all stick together and kill our enemies" tool.

Rant paused.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2003 04:28 am
Whew!
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2003 04:50 am
I find myself agreeing with Craven and Roger! Where's the fun? LOL!

The US certainly does appear, to the citizens of a generally less obviously patriotic nation, - (ours - meaning Oz's - DOES get mighty ugly and/or extremely funny at times, though - clinging eg, as does Brazil's, it seems, to every contribution by an Ozzian or almost Ozzian) amusingly ( and sometimes frighteningly) hairy chested and dewy eyed - but it is, indeed, all relative.

Note - I do not argue for its excision - simply for its tempering with reason and a - (to me) - healthy dose of scepticism and humour. It is, indeed, natural - as is not sharing one's toys, shitting in the woods, and picking one's nose in public. I also acknowledge its efficacy - in its place - and its feel-good qualities - (not unlike the afore-mentioned activities.)
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2003 04:59 am
Butrflynet wrote:
Out of curiosity, how should a political leader promote patriotism? Or, should they not promote it at all?

Is it possible for a country's citizens to have a sense of patriotism without it being a competition? Are any countries successful at that?


I can't say why, but Mexico comes to my mind as a country of people who have managed a non-competitive sense of patriotism. I just get an impression of national pride that is unrelated to materialism and fame.


Butrflynet - it seems to me sensible and helpful to have a sense of commitment to various levels of one's social fabric - like family, friends, local community, state, country - and to wish to contribute to them and make them better. I think this CAN be done in a fairly non-competetive way, or that the natural competitiveness can be harnessed in a useful and/or fun way. For instance, I find that most people whose posts I read here have a sensible and balanced sense of loyalty to their own country. Awareness of history and the differing cultures and beliefs of other countries seems to me to be a very helpful thing in this regard. Simply knowing and understanding that most countries believe, in one way or another, in their superiority seems to me to be a useful corrective to unthinking national pride.
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yeahman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2003 09:04 am
at least today, i think americans are among the least patriotic people in the world.
i am fairly young but even i received my primary education during the cold war. the soviets were evil. george washington could not tell a lie.
we no longer have a common enemy. we had terrorism as a common enemy for a short while but bush screwed that one up pretty badly.

but the main reason why americans are less patriotic is because we're a heterogeneous society of immigrants.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2003 09:14 am
Hmmm - that last point is interesting - perhaps being a "heterogeneous society of immigrants" is one thing which has caused the US to score - for many outside eyes - highly on the patriotism scale? That is, an attempt to bring the genouses together?

Thinking out loud - Australia had a horrid outbreak of patriotism in the 80's - after absorbing a lot of Asian immigration in the previous decade....and in the 1890's - what was happening then??? Hmmmmm.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2003 09:26 am
My daily (local) morning paper is http://www.derpatriot.de/grafik/basic/logo.jpg.

Now, I'm 'patrioticaly' watching Germany winning (hopefully) vs. Iceland in the European Championship qualification (football/soccer).

More later.
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2003 09:52 am
Ye110man heterogeneous society of immigrants.


Disagree with your most recent statements, ye110man, but have been enjoying your comments in several discussions lately. You may well be better qualified to decide which countries have more or less patriotism than another, but my personal experience is that the more recently a group has immigrated to the US, the more patriotism they exhibit. Ahhh, even there, it may be social or economic position that relates to patriotism, instead of date of arrival. It sometimes becomes hard to control all the variables.

Digressing - I mentioned personal experience. Does that seem to represent suspect anectdotal evidence, or good, solid empherical data?
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2003 09:56 am
LOL! It is my thread! We allow both - as long as firm conclusions are not drawn from anecdotal data - and a healthy scepticism for the iron-cladness of research findings is demonstrated.
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