Another node on the subject has been brought to my attention. Go there, it's much more beautiful.

Hmmm, perhaps that should be 'Patriotism can be evil'.
Anyway, on with the rant.

As I write this, it is the 4th of July, in America at any rate. All over the country, your politicians will be out, demonstrating their patriotism. Children will have put streamers on their bicycles, demonstrating their patriotism. Possibly, there will even be parades.

Does nobody else find this disturbing? I mean, sure, independance from a senile paper-taxing empire is cool, but patriotism?
I mean, you can call it what you like, love of one's country, respect for those who fought in whatever bloodbath created it or whatever, but patriotism is basically an excuse for feeling good about yourself, through your country. Believing that your country is better than others.

So far, nothing particularly bad. I think my country is better than most(though that is largely because of the relative lack of people in the area. Probably something to do with population and post-colonialism.), at least out of the ones I've visited (limited sample, I know. One closet dictatorship and a prison colony, plus home, makes for a pretty poor comparison. Anyway, back to the subject at hand). But I have suffered from the effects of misused patriotism, from my fellow countryfolk, and seen the same suffering in many others. Patriotism is itself only bizzare, that by an accident of birth you should come to consider one patch of dirt more illustious than another (hence my modified title for this node), but it is one of the most powerful tools for mobilising people to truly irrational causes. So, let's look at some bad things thatt you can do if you, too, learn to manipulate people's national prejudices.

  • WAR!: Seriously. Patriotism, or large mercenary budgets, are necessary to war. If the only people in the world were, oh, I don't know, anarchists, wars would all die in their fledgeling stages as everybody responded to the call to arms with "mneh."
  • Frenzied Nationalism: I see this a lot in stereotypical American comments about Communism. What went wrong was something along the lines of "democratic capitalism vs. dictatorial communism", and the propaganda was directed at the communism rather than the dictatorship. Silly, and another misuse of patriotism.
  • Kids who hassled me at school: Again, I'm serious. In New Zealand, the media-portrayed bloke is a beer-swilling farm type rugby player with an IQ of 102, maybe. In America, think Ivy League, footballers, cheerleaders and the American Dream(of which Bill Gates is the most astounding example). Not fitting in to patriotism is a surefire way to become unpopular among the small children at primary school. And secondary school. And university.
  • The Moral Majority: Did any of you know that the stated reason, at the end of last century, for making Marijuana illegal in NZ was that it was 'not a kiwi drug'? Beer and cigarettes are though, so they were ok. I realise that that was likely just an excuse and that by including mention of illicit drugs or anything even remotely resembling a vilification of christain virtue (hah!) I risk being classed as either a hippie, subversive, communist traitor or whatever. I am in fact only one of these.
In the final analysis, I guess, what I am upset by is not so much patriotism itself (though I still think it's an idiotic construct) as the power it has to cause people to defy the simplest principles of decency and consideration for others, simply because those 'others' are unfamiliar or different. Patriotism is just one manifestation of this, though one of the more widely acceptable in the world today.

Allowing belief in one's own or one's country's superiority to interfere with basic humanity is stupid. To those who ridicule the misfits, those who believe in any war their country serves up to them, those who allow their national spirit to replace their human one, I say you are being silly. Wake up and think about things for yourself.

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