Bits and Pieces

Monday, May 12, 2003

Why Patriotism Sucks Ass

I've been getting a lot of hate mail recently about my perceived hatred of America. Most of it has been of the mindless 'you're just jealous of our success. We're number 1!' variety that can be easily ignored. However, to save a lot of time reading your crap I thought I'd expound on my opinions just to clear it up.

Basically, this is why patriotism sucks (and why America by extension sucks in many ways). Just to make sure you understand, I DO NOT HATE AMERICANS. They are, for the most part, some of the friendliest people I've ever met.

You see, for those of you who haven't studied the idea of nationalism to any extent, patriotism is just another word for it. At the heart of it it's simply the idea that you are in some way part of an imagined community,such as a nation, that produces and reproduces its identity on cultural representations of locations, people or events. For example, an Englishman may feel strongly connected to the White Cliffs of Dover (chalk cliffs on the south coast of England). The cliffs represent the barrier between ourselves and the rest of Europe, and reinforce a sense of separation from the continent. At the end of the day, however, it's just rock.

National identity is built on lots of these little things. Englishmen see themselves as separate from Europe, and subscribe to the traditional view that we are all reserved, stiff-upper-lip type people. That's based on many things, such as our physical separation from the continent, the way in which we have resisted European political trends that seem to sweep across the continent every 50 years or so, and too many other little things to mention. It isn't true, but we like the idea. Americans see themselves as a tough, enterprising, courageous people - based on the idea that they discovered and conquered a new continent, and then fought and won the land from the British. That, also, isn't true for the most part. That's the main thing that pisses me off about the US. It isn't their fault that they are the embodiment of nationalism. I should rise above it, but it's easier to hate than to love, so there you go.

Until the aftermath of 9/11 I was able to bury this urge to dislike America, but the unbelievable wave of patriotism following the attacks has led to a man (and I use the term in its loosest sense) like Bush being allowed to go out and kill who he likes.

Now here's the problem. Patriotism, in isolation, is not a bad thing. It encourages a sense of civic duty. If you feel you are part of a community you will be less inclined to commit crime, as you will be damaging the very community of which you are a part. However, the flipside of it is that patriotism encourages a dangerously binary view of the world. Us and them. Black and white. Good and evil. It makes it very easy for a certain corrupt leader to exploit you and make you believe that you are fighting evil (of course, you are a good person. You could never be evil - therefore, you must be on the side of the 'goodies', fighting against the 'baddies'). This 'otherness' allows you to depersonalise the whole thing. It turns the 'others' into cyphers, and you forget about the human cost of bombing a shitload of 'them'.

The danger I see approaching today is that the traditional allegiance between Europe and the US is breaking down. It was always a fragile bond, as we don't agree with the way of life of Americans in many ways. This latest thing in Iraq has pushed us over the edge. Now we'll see the formation of a new bloc in Europe, and the US will become entirely separate. What that means in reality is that, divided, we will be much weaker. Whether or not you agree is up to you, but that's the way I see it anway.

Anyway, I'd like to go into this deeper as its a pretty interesting subject, but I have an exam Thursday on this very subject, so I can't be bothered. I'll probably update this on Friday.

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