THE NEW CHAUVINISM - Why should I love this country?

psylent

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An interesting article I thought, and timely since I am about to apply for Naturalism and will be pledging allegiance to the Queen! The last paragraph stands alone as a great comment.

THE NEW CHAUVINISM

Why should I love this country?

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 9th August 2005

Out of the bombings a national consensus has emerged: what we need in Britain is a renewed sense of patriotism. The rightwing papers have been making their usual noises about old maids and warm beer, but in the past 10 days they’ve been joined by Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, Tristram Hunt in the New Statesman, the New Statesman itself and just about everyone who has opened his mouth on the subject of terrorism and national identity. Emboldened by this consensus, the Sun now insists that anyone who isn’t loyal to this country should leave it.(1) The way things are going, it can’t be long before I’m deported.

The argument runs as follows: patriotic people don’t turn on each other. If there are codes of citizenship and a general belief in Britain’s virtues, acts of domestic terrorism are unlikely to happen. As Jonathan Freedland points out, the United States, in which “loyalty is instilled constantly†has never “had a brush with home-grown Islamist terrorismâ€.(2)

This may be true (though there have been plenty of attacks by non-Muslim terrorists in the US). But while patriotism might make citizens less inclined to attack each other, it makes the state more inclined to attack other countries, for it knows it is likely to command the support of its people. If patriotism were not such a powerful force in the US, could Bush have invaded Iraq?

To argue that national allegiance reduces human suffering, you must assert that acts of domestic terrorism cause more grievous harm than all the territorial and colonial wars, ethnic cleansing and holocausts pursued in the name of national interest. To believe this, you need be not just a patriot, but a chauvinist.

Freedland and Hunt and the leader writers of the New Statesman, of course, are nothing of the kind. Hunt argues that Britishness should be about “values rather than institutionsâ€: Britain has “a superb record of political liberalism and intellectual inquiry, giving us a public sphere open to ideas, religions and philosophy from across the worldâ€.(3) This is true, but these values are not peculiar to Britain, and it is hard to see why we have to become patriots in order to invoke them. Britain also has an appalling record of imperialism and pig-headed jingoism, and when you wave the flag, no one can be sure which record you are celebrating. If you want to defend liberalism, then defend it, but why conflate your love for certain values with love for a certain country?

And what, exactly, would a liberal patriotism look like? When confronted with a conflict between the interests of your country and those of another, patriotism, by definition, demands that you should choose those of your own. Internationalism, by contrast, means choosing the option which delivers most good or least harm to people, regardless of where they live. It tells us that someone living in Kinshasa is of no less worth than someone living in Kensington, and that a policy which favours the interests of 100 British people at the expense of 101 Congolese is one we should not pursue. Patriotism, if it means anything, tells us we should favour the interests of the 100 British people. How do you reconcile this choice with liberalism? How, for that matter, do you distinguish it from racism?

This is the point at which every right-thinking person in Britain scrambles for his Orwell. Did not the sage assert that “patriotism has nothing to do with conservatismâ€,(4) and complain that “England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationalityâ€?(5) He did. But he wrote this during the Second World War. There was no question that we had a duty to fight Hitler and, in so doing, to take sides. And the sides were organised along national lines. If you failed to support Britain, you were assisting the enemy. But today the people trying to kill us are British citizens. They are divided from most of those who live here by ideology, not nationality. To the extent that it was the invasion of Iraq that motivated the terrorists, and to the extent that it was patriotism that made Britain’s participation in the invasion possible, it was patriotism that got us into this mess.

The allegiance which most enthusiasts ask us to demonstrate is a selective one. The rightwing press, owned by the grandson of a Nazi sympathiser, a pair of tax exiles and an Australian with American citizenship, is fiercely nationalistic when defending our institutions from Europe, but seeks to surrender the lot of us to the US. It loves the Cotswolds and hates Wales. It loves gaunt, aristocratic women and second homes, and hates oiks, gypsies, council estates and caravan parks.

Two weeks ago, the Telegraph published a list of “ten core values of the British identity†whose adoption, it argued, would help to prevent another terrorist attack.(6) These were not values we might choose to embrace, but “non-negotiable components of our identityâ€. Among them were “the sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament†(“the Lords, the Commons and the monarch constitute the supreme authority in the landâ€), “private propertyâ€, “the familyâ€, “history†(“British children inherit … a stupendous series of national achievementsâ€) and “the English-speaking world†(“the atrocities of September 11, 2001, were not simply an attack on a foreign nation; they were an attack on the anglosphereâ€). These non-negotiable demands are not so different to those of the terrorists. Instead of an eternal caliphate, an eternal monarchy. Instead of an Islamic vision of history, a Etonian one. Instead of the Ummah, the anglosphere.

If there is one thing that could make me hate this country, it is the Telegraph and its “non-negotiable componentsâ€. If there is one thing that could make me hate America, it was the sight of the crowds at the Republican convention standing up and shouting “USA, USA “, while Zell Miller informed them that “nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators.â€(7) As usual, we are being asked to do the job of the terrorists, by making this country ugly on their behalf.

I don’t hate Britain, and I am not ashamed of my nationality, but I have no idea why I should love this country more than any other. There are some things I like about it and some things I don’t, and the same goes for everywhere else I’ve visited. To become a patriot is to lie to yourself, to tell yourself that whatever good you might perceive abroad, your own country is, on balance, better than the others. It is impossible to reconcile this with either the evidence of your own eyes or a belief in the equality of humankind. Patriotism of the kind Orwell demanded in 1940 is necessary only to confront the patriotism of other people: the Second World War, which demanded that the British close ranks, could not have happened if Hitler hadn’t exploited the national allegiance of the Germans. The world will be a happier and safer place when we stop putting our own countries first.
 

TranceVisuals

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Isn't always the problem when we transfer our love away from people, to ideals,
things, abstract stuff that isn't feeling, suffering, joyous life?
Is not the realisation that we are all in this together on a single ball of dirt hurtling
through space and time, trying to figure it our cooperatively a far greater sense of
pride and responsibility, than to any "line in the sand". Just look and study the situation
in Iraq, and most of the Middle East to understand what nonsense Arab Nationalism is,
and why it has seemingly been subhumed by the pretense of Muslim Fundamentalism.
I would die for a stranger in another country, someone I have never met, nor ever
likely to for, though given the option I would prefer to moderate my habits, so that
we can instead all share in the wealth of this whole universe together. Really it is true
folks, although we may not be able to touch it, and grasp it, quite yet, for future
generations this is literally the wealth that awaits us. A move beyond the concept
of boundaries and limitation in terms of material wealth and energy, not in some
new age 2012 Eschaton way, but in real terms, in terms of space to live, air to
breathe, homes to build, and visions to make possibly real. All of course in the idea
of consensus, and mutual respect.
 

Craic Addict

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Dunno. I come from N. Ireland where we can't even decide who to owe our loyalties to! Fine line between what you think of your country and what you are prepared to do for in the name of your country if you ask me. Is this Islamic fundamentalism new? Hell no. It's interesting to note that no country which has converted as a whole to the Muslim faith has ever faltered rom it. No christian country can say the same. I personally am unimpressed by British and US jingoism, I think there's more to GB than "the great british breakfast"and the like but if you ask some of my friends they are not so charitable. Ireland has been given short thrift by GB throughout history (No dogs, no blacks, no Irish)but now that the Republic, Europe's poor cousin is reaping the rewards of the EU, GB is reaping the whirlwind of its imperial past. Unfortunately noone has told the right wing yet that it is indeed the past.
How they failed to see the bollox they made in N I would not be reflected in Iraq is beyond me.
You kill civilians in great enough numbers, you got a fight on your hands. It's like they never heard of the IRA and the like. I'm bewildered. Not surprised.
 

Sparkle-ma

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Hey Jason....are you going for dual citizenship or throwing the towel in?
 

psylent

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Sparkle-ma said:
Hey Jason....are you going for dual citizenship or throwing the towel in?

Ha ha, my parents go all quiet on the phone when I say I am applying for citizenship. "You're not giving up your Australian Passport are you", they whimper.

Of course not!! But a British Passport means ability to work in Europe which is very valuable in my eyes.

Oh and of course, I just want to support a winning cricket team! :irazz:
 

grokit23

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For all the talk of patriots sticking together and countries being safer, I'd like to point out that it was in New Orleans in the Good ol' USA where “loyalty is instilled constantly†that the people are so loyal and clearly sticking together in a crisis that they had to keep on sending more and more National Guardsmen to stop the uncontrolled reassigning of the wealth by the patriotic looters.

Good luck with it Jase! :ismile:
 

lala69

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If you look at "British-ness" - how would you define it? Even more difficult in a city like London which is very un-British with regards to its population. Patriotism is great in certain ways - being proud of your cricket team when they whip ass (esp if you're from SA!) etc etc. But when that pride limits your ability to note when your country is causing harm, then you have a problem. how people think to enact world-peace by making people patriotic is beyond me. I thought that's how the football yobs were born?
 

rcain

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....seems like a reasonable enuf chap....australia u say?.....didnt we just send a whole load of people over there....why r they commin back again?
 

Barclay (Dark Angel)

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I'm in just about total agreement with George Monbiot here. More, I believe the state exists to serve its people - not the other way round...

Increasingly, we're all citizens of the world. Any other thinking is dangerous (e.g. think Global Warming). Parochial nationalism will only lead to all kinds of massive problems, from prejudice and discrimination, to empire building, to the destruction of life itself. It may be tempting to be insular and protectionist, but it's very blinkered and will only result in short term gain, followed by long term pain.

It's ignorance and arrogance in the extreme.

Hugs,

Barclay
 

monster

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I think that American patriotism, along with the American meritocracy dream is an illusion that was created by the U.S government decades ago as the ultimate tool to keep the population plyant. It is perpetuated so effectivly by the general population themselves that when it is shown to be an illusion as in New Orleans it is a genuine shock to them.
But the fact is Americans are cold bloodedly murdering each other in astounding numbers every day, they have by far the highest murder rate of any nation, the hurricane just magnified what is going on in American cities anyway and they live with this as part of this patriotic illusion of being "the greatest nation on earth".
If thats patriotism we need none of it. If it envolves being unquestioningly loyal to some arbitrary authority that see human life as such an expendable thing then no thanks. If it envolves a nation lying to itself on such a fundamental level then you can stick it up your arse. It is the very antithesis of freedom.
 

tortoise

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I love my country more than any other not because it's better, but because it's my home. I know it better than any other country, good points and bad. It's like family. I "belong" here. That's not to say I wouldn't consider living anywhere else, I would LOVE to live abroad and I have a list of countries I'd love to move to. But I would always consider this one my home, I think anyway.
 

Technognome

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grokit23 said:
For all the talk of patriots sticking together and countries being safer, I'd like to point out that it was in New Orleans in the Good ol' USA where “loyalty is instilled constantly†that the people are so loyal and clearly sticking together in a crisis that they had to keep on sending more and more National Guardsmen to stop the uncontrolled reassigning of the wealth by the patriotic looters.

Good luck with it Jase! :ismile:

I think you will find those 'looters' were just patriotic concerned citizens trying to rescue goods from flood damage. :irolleyes

WTF is shooting looters about anyway? Not like their suicide looters is it! :irolleyes

How do you tell the diference between a looter and someone holding their laptop over their heads. OH YEAH looters are coloured init! Bit like shooting people who you think are sui bombers. Suspect cause their coloured! :isad:

International boarders are lines on maps drawn with the blood of people. One world democratic government is the only way to control international corporations - think of the saving in defence budgets alone.

PHLUR :sun:
 

psylent

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Technognome said:
One world democratic government is the only way to control international corporations - think of the saving in defence budgets alone.

Well Monbiot does make quite a compelling case for a world government in his book "The Age of Consent: A manifesto for a new world order"
 

splitmind

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That was a fascinating article. On the subject of Orwell, I thoroughly believe it should be made compulsary to read 1984.
 

julian

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Why should I take any pride (or shame) in my citizenship?

It's as silly as supporting a team and taking any pride when they win, or shame when they lose. What exactly is my merit if they win? Why should I be sad if they lose? I just don't get it.

In fact, why should I take any pride even from my own merits at all? There is this colleague of mine always trying to look good, selling himself, bragging about the smart things he does, and hiding what he doesn't know. It's just pathetic.
Just strive to better yourself and help those around you, what do you have to demonstrate to the world?
 

AEON

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my problem with patriotism relates to its unclean associations with nationalism... and also to the kind of senseless pride in other entities' achievements which 'patriotism' seems to enforce.

strangely, the people who find it necessary to bleat constantly about the grand achievements of others who happen to share an (often vast) geographical boundary are often those who refuse to accept communal responsiblity for the less worthy achievements of same - those who fly the flag for US patriotism seem to find it difficult to accept the credit for My Lai or Abu Ghraib, just as australians who harp on about civilising the untamed outback rarely mention Myall Creek.

you can't have it both ways; either you ARE collectively tied to the achievements of others, good nad bad, or you're not.
 
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