Monday, August 1, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Patriotism



Mailbag Monday: A weekly segment that covers readers' questions and concerns about all things Philosophy, Bro, and Philosophy Bro that don't quite fit anywhere else. Send your questions to philosophybro@gmail.com with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line.

--

Alam writes,
Bro, what's the deal with patriotism? Isn't patriotism (or being proud of your heritage) just being proud of some arbitrary bullshit? It seems like we have no really good reasons to be proud of where were were born or what our genes are; we sure as hell didn't get to decide that shit. Am I right, or am I way off base here?
What's up, Alam? This seems to be a growing sentiment, even if it’s not a new one; George Carlin maybe put it best: 
I could never understand national or ethnic pride, because to me Pride should be reserved for something you achieve on your own. Being Irish isn't a skill, it's a fucking genetic accident. You wouldn't be proud to be 5'11". You wouldn't be proud to have a pre-disposition for colon cancer. 
Really, who gives a flying fuck where you were born? What does that say about you as a person? I was born in America, but I'm perfectly literate and I even believe in evolution. Sweeping generalizations about any nationality will be false. I have certain habits that I've acquired culturally, sure, like my preference for "fucking" over "bloody", but why should I be proud of those? Aren't those as arbitrary as where I was born? How does my being American give me any title or claim over the American victory in WWII? I wasn't even a glimmer in someone's eye yet. Shit, I barely have anything to do with the course of American politics now. What exactly have I accomplished to justify this pride?

Where your ancestors were born is even more arbitrary. The Jersey Shore cast is fucking thrilled to be Italian, but that doesn't really inform how they go about their days at all. Plenty of Italians are intelligent, hard working members of society who make valuable contributions; it's not like all, or even most, Italians are fuck-ups with abs. And plenty of fuck-ups with abs aren't Italian. In fact, being Italian has nothing to do with how those fucking assclowns act. Besides, how far back are we supposed to go? We all likely came from Africa at some point - why aren't we all just fucking thrilled to be African? Wherever your ancestors are from, their ancestors were almost certainly from somewhere else.

So it seems like this all boils down to tribalism, a tendency left over from the ancestral plain where it was useful evolutionarily to identify strongly with a group of bros who had your back. We naturally want to belong to tribes, which is why people get so fucking worked up about sports teams that they have no connection with, except maybe a city. Isn't nationalism just that same tribal urge, and wouldn't we be better off leaving it behind?

But here's the thing: are you sure that national pride or patriotism is pride in strictly an accident? For starters, some people emigrate to other countries and choose to become citizens. These people, more than anyone else, have a right to be proud - they achieved a goal, which was membership in a group of which they were not a member, and which likely has requirements that must be met. And if we can justify national pride for naturalized immigrants, why can't we justify pride for birthright citizens? This flips the problem on its head - am I not justified in being proud of being American, just because I was accidentally born here? Does my place of birth somehow naturally exclude me from national pride? That doesn't make any more sense than my place of birth automatically entailing national pride. 

Sure, being here isn't something I achieved, in the same way that a naturalized immigrant achieved. But staying here is something I've achieved. It was easier for me to become a citizen, but that doesn't mean that I'm incapable of actively embracing my citizenship. Maybe you wouldn't be proud of being 6'11", because that's a genetic accident. But you might legitimately be proud of being a fucking world champion in basketball, even though a genetic accident made that much, much easier. Maybe you wouldn't be proud of being predisposed to colon cancer, but you sure as fuck could be proud of beating colon cancer, even though a genetic accident made that much, much harder.

Yeah, okay, but is citizenship in a country really comparable to a championship in sports? Being born with the genes to become 6'11" is not the same as being born a champion. Being born predisposed to cancer is certainly not the same as being born a cancer survivor. In both of those examples, a genetic accident contributed to an achievement, but it wasn't the same as the achievement; there was work to be done to get to the achievement. If I sat around and did nothing all the time I would still be an American citizen. In fact, there are plenty of American citizens who do that. That's not a very high bar for achievement, is it?

At best, though, that makes the case that not every American has grounds to be proud to be an American, that not every Brit has grounds to be proud to be a Brit, and so on. Perhaps we should have to earn our national pride in some way or other. This is not a new notion. As far back as Plato, you owed just about everything to the City-State. You couldn't just hang around and do nothing; you could leave if you wanted to, but otherwise, you fucking followed the law and you served your time in the military and then you didn't do shit like corrupting the youth. And these contributions to state, those contributions justified your pride in your city-state.

Of course, it seems like contributing to a city-state or a nation justifies pride only if contributing is something to be proud of - so here's an important question: Is the existence of Athens or America or Italy or any state a good thing, something that we can justly contribute to or participate in? This in turn raises difficult questions about what exactly a state is. Is America its current government? Is it the body of institutions that comprise that government? Is it the set of values ostensibly enshrined in the founding documents? Is it the laws, or the enforcement of those laws? Some of these are more worth contributing to than others. The ongoing existence of a body of law in America, for example, is probably a more worthwhile project than keeping the current members of the American government in power.

Now, it’s no surprise that I think that American democracy is something worthwhile to participate in; I grew up in America. I’m a bit biased, of course. So what's the big fucking deal if I further "American values"? Should I be proud of that? That's what I was taught to do, and it was purely accidental that I was taught that. 

Look at it this way: if I was born and grew up in a successful anarchist colony that was surrounded by giant capitalist systems, would I be justified in being proud that our colony has survived? I was raised as an anarchist, and my entire culture was anarchist. Of course I would think anarchy is something worth furthering. But that doesn't mean that anarchy is meritless, or that I don't have grounds for believing that it is something worth furthering. It's possible some of my fellow anarchists have rejected anarchy and gone to live in capitalist society, the pigs, just as it is the case that some of my peers who were taught the same "American values" I was taught have rejected those values; my predisposition, whether to anarchism or America, does not render me incapable of overthrowing those values, and it does not render the act of retaining those values completely insignificant.

Ethnic pride might work the same way - typically, ethnic pride carries with it overtones of a particular culture, and this is the guide to how far back one might go. Puerto Rican and Irish prides aren't simply celebrations of a genetic inheritance, or at any rate they shouldn’t be; both of those ethnicities have strong cultures attached to them. If the members of those cultures have good reason to believe that there are elements of that culture worth furthering, then perhaps they can legitimately take pride in furthering those elements of the culture.  

Under this rubric, discussions of whether national pride is justified become discussions of whether furthering a nation is worthwhile. Am I justified if I'm proud to be an American? Well, that depends: is America - whatever America is ontologically - worth furthering, and do I participate in that? That is a lengthy and heated debate; any American who denies that America has problems is as blind as any detractor of America who denies that America makes any positive contributions to the world. However, that ongoing debate challenges the fundamental premise of the attempt to undermine patriotism per se - that patriotism (or ethnic pride) really is a celebration of strictly accidental features of an individual. I’m not saying we should all blindly accept the goodness of our environment, but perhaps we can legitimately decide to take advantage of our genetic accidents and participate in the opportunities for good that those accidents have presented us with. 


Man, this is a hot button issue, and I'm really looking forward to the discussion in the comments. I've favored the argument that Patriotism is possibly justified, because the original question assumed it isn't, but there are likely significant problems with the sort of patriotic rhetoric that states use to justify obedience to that state. It's a nuanced issue; I've just tried to crack it open a little wider.
--
Plato's Republic lays out exactly how a city-state should work according to Plato, and in several of the Five Dialogues, especially the Crito and the Apology, he discusses our relationship to the law.


In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls discusses how we participate in social contracts by benefiting from the institutions those contracts set up, and argues that those benefits should be available to all, since all are equally bound by the contract. 

22 comments:

  1. Hey PB,

    Can you really justify a discussion about the merits of patriotism without first framing the argument?

    I understand why you skim over the ontological definition of what the object of patriotism actually is, but if that definition differs between folks, the difference between argumentative viewpoints is so large as to make establishing a common ground for debate nearly impossible. And that's before establishing what the method of/obligation to patriotism actually is. As brief examples:

    Object of Patriotism: The current social paradigm of the U.S., and all the institutions which support it.
    Method of Patriotism: Obedience to those institutions as a means of participating in and perpetuating said paradigm.
    Obligation to Patriotism: Socratic Reciprocation. The social order supports and sustains you, and thus you should support it.

    Object of Patriotism: The Enlightenment ideals embodied in the Constitution (all human beings have inalienable rights and government through democracy is the best way to ensure they get those.)
    Method of Patriotism: Refine one's own (and society's) understanding of those rights in a manner appropriate to current social circumstances. Update social institutions as necessary to reflect this new understanding.
    Obligation to Patriotism: Kant's categorical imperative (member of kingdom of ends). As a dude in a society of dudes (and dudettes), you owe it to all of them to make that society as good as possible because you'd want them to do the same for you.

    Object of Patriotism: The U.S. government (and related institutions) as it currently stands.
    Method of Patriotism: Participation in the political process.
    Obligation to Patriotism: Pragmatism-ish. Regardless of how bad government is, lack of government would be worse. Forget being good. We just need a government that works and actually cares about solving problems more than getting re-elected. We can figure out the solutions as we go along.

    Each of these views has its own direct opposition, and given the variety of philosophical tenets one can bring to the discussion, the amount of views explode. On this, like every other important subject, it's extremely easy to fall into the fallacy of believing that just because two people are using the same word(s) that they mean the same thing. I'd hate for that to happen to the comments.

    That said, having read through most of your summations and posts, I'm curious. I know you probably won't give your own opinions, but what avenues do you feel would be beneficial to begin framing productive and insightful discussions?

    I ask because the world needs bros interested in politics as politics rather than politics as yelling until people say you're right, or just bros willing to think, period, and for that alone, this site is priceless.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Chris,

    Great comment. I think establishing ontological possibilities as you have is sufficient to create a prima facie case that patriotism is possibly justified; you needn't settle the ontological question prior to establishing that patriotism can have merits, which was my goal here. But, I mean, your comment is a really helpful way to kick things off. I'm glad it was this rather than some angry hipster's rant about 'Mericuh.

    But your three listed methods, though they have different ontological underpinnings, have striking similarities. And I don't think we need to settle the ontological question completely before we start in on those methods, especially on the similar grounds of advancing useful institutions. Which is a damn good thing, because settled questions are few and far between in philosophy.

    I think starting with the commonalities would be helpful, but hardly exhaustive. A discussion that begins by laying out the agreements is a helpful one.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A recent-ish revival of patriotism seems to be in response to bros and bitches who are in favour of cosmopolitanism, arguing that we should view ourselves as part of a universal human frat, rather than ones restricted by national borders/sentiments. Patriotic dudes have responded by saying that such a community is much too 'thin', lacking the gut-emotional pull that patriotism has, relying instead on intellectual gumption, and we need to fucking FEEL a connection, rather than just think it. It's been said also that patriotism strengthens bonds to national frat-brothers, whereas cosmopolitanism is the 'parochial ideology of the globally mobile managerial class' - and fuck that. It's been argued that we need the nation-frat to teach justice and human rights because the world is NOT a coherent community. Bros also say that the 'polity' is part of a bros identity - going back to the Greek city-states. Some peeps say that there should be solidarity in common national goals or that bros are united by national sentiments. One dude suggests that moral education/duty spreads outwards in thinning circles - starting with family, then friends and acquaintances, then community - and that cosmopolitanism can lead to moralism and intolerance, leading to imperialism, and no one wants a bar of that because it's shit.

    ReplyDelete
  4. (sorry if the frat-metaphors don't make sense, I'm in Australia so I have to actively translate from Philosophy Mate into Philosophy Bro)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I feel that my patriotism is justified. My type of patriotism is the second type described by Chris, and my pride comes from the fact that i side philosophically with what the Founders were trying to accomplish. I would like to think that my solidarity with the Founders is due to my rational analysis of the role of government, and that my respect for the documents they left behind (i have read The Constitution, The Declaration, and The Federalist Papers) represents a conclusion based on research and individual thought, performed by an intellect whose existence is independent of where it was born. That's what my patriotism is, and it is distinctly different from the popular notion of patriotism. The Pledge of Allegiance, the placing of the right hand over the heart when the anthem is played, etc. are fucking stupid in my book. Those are all designed to emotionally indoctrinate people, although that type of propaganda can be useful in some cases (think the galvanizing of the home front in WWII). Thanks for the post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. In response to a worldwide community being too thin a bond to actually make us feel a connection, perhaps it's only a matter of time. Centuries ago, people living in what is now a single country didn't feel that much of a connection to one another. If we look a it from a simplistic historical view, globalization is just that. If we have moved from "connections" or a sense of identity built upon relation by blood or kin onto a larger community and then a state or country, shouldn't a community of states (or a single state) be the only logical conclusion?

    ReplyDelete
  7. As an active duty service member I've been struggling with just these types of questions. I found myself wondering: what IS America, really? And to what aspects of it do I owe my allegiance? Make no mistake, I follow orders and do my job. However, I can't help but wonder about the overarching policy that determines those orders. I can't help but feel dismayed at the pervasive jingoism in our culture; the lack of real discourse on America's policy or its place in the world; the faith in the leaders of our institutions and their purportedly noble intentions. Most people seem to conceptualize America as a homogenous force for virtue and freedom. But an honest appraisal of our global circumstance - as well as a sufficiently astute study of history (read: Latin America) - casts some serious doubt on this view. Not for many, though; many people cling to nationalism like a religion. And this attitude of blind patriotism is especially acute in the military, as you might expect.

    My pride in being American has slowly waned over the past few years. With that said, it is still there. This nation was founded on grand ideas and sound precepts. We still are a democracy with great potential, a democracy in which I am proud to participate. But the progress of this nation - the continuation of this experiment in liberty - has no place for dogma or the mere espousal of ideals. We have to live them. “America is the greatest country in the world,” is – I think – an assertion to be proven, not a mantra to be blindly repeated, an incantation to assuage doubt and ward off the harbingers of decline. I will be truly proud when I can say such a thing with reasoned confidence.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Also Bill Hicks:

    "People ask me 'Are you proud to be an American?'"

    (verbal shrug) "I didn't have a lot to do with it. My parents fucked here; that's about it. I tried to tell them: 'Fuck in Paris!' But they couldn't hear me, because I was in the spirit realm, without a mouth or vocal chords."

    ReplyDelete
  9. @Patriot?

    Bro, your comment gives me hope, i certainly like to think that this kind of reflections on your job and patriotism are not unique within the armed services of the USA. I agree with you on all the things you said.

    Now, i have to say something before i share my thoughts: I´m German. Now with this out in the open, you will understand that i strongly oppose blind natiolism and the kind of obedience to a polis/nation/state described in Plato´s republic. This kind of blind obedience in which an individual is asked to subdue all it´s needs to that of the state is my mind just the fucking foreplay to a a lot of trouble. Yes, Plato says that a philosopher should be king because that bro has all the wisdom needed to make the decision,but how do we judge which Bro has the most wisdom? How do you measure that?


    I am certainly in favor of the idea of a global "commonwealth" (as a given number of territories or states working as equals with common ends and values ) which as sights said, seems like the logical consequence of the historical development we have seen through the last centuries and decades.

    However i would argue that this development ,form a utilitarian point has not yet achieved the greatest good for the greatest number of bros. As it looks now, we have,due to the lack of a common philosophical base which combines the gross majority of all bros, and more practical, due to the multitude of political systems and cultural viewpoints created a lot of problems (read: wars and conflicts ). Sure, Things like financial and millitary power play a giant role,but as long as we cannot define a common philosophical base,that is shared by (almost) all bros, written down in a meta social contract signed by all nations , i would argue that individual states competing for ressources will be unfortunately the natural state of human affairs.

    btw, The values expressed in the declaration of independence and the universal declaration of human rights,would in humble opinion do the job just fine.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It's not impossible for someone to wish they had been born elsewhere.
    As a freethinking, creative person, I'd be very unhappy in say, a conservative Muslim country - and would do everything I could to get out.

    ReplyDelete
  11. @PB:

    It's probably a pet peeve. I've noticed that many philosophical schisms and unnecessary arguments stem from confusion regarding ontological underpinnings, and my modus operandi borrows from science: when confronted with two seemingly irreconcilable philosophical paradigms, both of which indubitably contain aspects of truth, don't bother arguing which one is more right. Find a broader, more encompassing, logically consistent paradigm.

    I'm sure the methods I listed contains similarities beyond implicitly assuming participation in public life is preferable to non-participation. I've been living according to the results of my philosophical investigations for so long that my personal paradigm has gelled. As long as the basic tenets match experience, lead to logically consistent actions, and remain life-affirming, I see no compelling rationale to change them (even though it makes me particularly ill-suited to espouse a different paradigm). One only commits existential suicide when one's existence is no longer joyful.

    As it stands, my current take on patriotism would be to extend a Maslow-ish heirarchy of needs into a Hegelian-ish (but not Marxist) dialectic of historical development, where the concept of patriotism (starting with the exclusive in-group loyalty of tribalism), when embodied in a successful society, necessitates its own negation and transcendence as external conditions change (with the guiding values being meeting human needs). I believe such a model would be able to accommodate the current definitions of patriotism, as well as the objections to current definitions of patriotism. It would also further develop the process that Anonymous mentions with the idea of the global commonwealth.

    @Patriot:
    Good luck with your soul searching, if I can call it that.

    ReplyDelete
  12. @Chris

    I will not claim that I understand your post in it´s entirety ( after all , I´m not a philosophy major,just interested ), but wouldn´t you agree that the best possible patriotism is the second model in your first post in which you mention the The Enlightenment ideals as objects of patriotism ?

    It seems to expand on Kant´s Idea of perpetual peace which in my opinion concentrated on the large scale conditions for a meta social contract between nations ( no standing armies, no contracts that left the possibility of future wars open ), but didn´t lay down a reason for the people to actually advocate these goals ( yeah I know, he kinda did it wiht his categorical ethics) . By trancending ( and ultimately redefining ) patriotism to fit your second model we would have the foundation for this kind of peace Kant envisioned.

    Which brings us to the 1 million Dollar question: How do we make people understand that it is better to have faith and trust into the ideals the,oh say ,American flag stands for and not the flag itself or the people who claim to defend these ideal , often by violating them ?

    ReplyDelete
  13. @Anonymous:

    (split into 2 posts due to character limit. Apologies for skipping foundational steps and/or being confusing)

    I'm hesitant to agree to your claim, because it assumes that what the U.S. is like, right now, can be generalized. That is, the whatever-it-is that makes modern U.S. culture what it is, is the same for all cultures in all times. That's a bit vague, so hopefully this helps:

    Society has one basic obligation: ensuring its members survive. Protection, food, shelter, whatnot.

    In early human societies, or so some theories go, survival was difficult enough that everyone needed to have each other's back. There was no room to fuck around. Decide you don't feel like pulling your weight today, the tribe may not have enough food for the winter. Get a girl pregnant before you've proved you can provide, you may be dooming the baby to death. Drink from the wrong watering hole, get poisoned and die.

    So you get social codes that keep the tribe safe from stupidity. Support kin/country no matter what. Do what you're told or get exiled, because otherwise there's a good chance you'll end up killing someone else. Even if you don't understand the rules, they've helped your tribe survive for centuries and that's worth some respect. This leads to the first type of patriotism I listed. When the alternative is death, it's hard to argue.

    Later on in civilization, some bros got together and said, "Hey, maybe we've got this survival thing down. Maybe we need to take a look at what society is actually doing. I mean, I can be cool with the king taking my stuff when he needed it to protect me, even if it pissed me off. But what if he's not protecting me anymore?"

    In answering that question, John Locke proposed something new. Government is supposed to protect inalienable values. Not just life, but liberty and property as well. He redefined patriotism without many people realizing it. You're not loyal to a social group anymore. Instead, you're loyal to what a country is supposed to protect. As long as a government does that, everything's cool. If not, take it down.

    Fast forward to the U.S. Revolution. Thomas Jefferson changed it to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." As far as Locke's contract goes, as long as the government protects you from getting killed, enslaved or stolen from, that's it. It doesn't have to give a fuck whether or not you feel like your diversity is being respected. Deal with haters on your own time.

    ReplyDelete
  14. With the Civil Rights and other movements, people slowly realized that when there are enough haters with power, there's no way people are getting treated fairly. So now government needs to make sure that people's diversity is respected.

    Finally, people have started reinterpreting Jefferson's "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This changes things too. Before, it was "The government is good because it keeps assholes in check, and the rest of the time it stays out of my way." Now, it's "The government is good because it does all that, AND it actually helps me when I need it." Republicans vs. Democrats.

    Each new definition of "patriotism" builds on the previous definition, like a huge tower of blocks. Without the "survival" block, you've got no place for the "life, liberty and property" block. And you need that before you can even think about the "respect for diversity" block.

    5,000 years from now, when the block we're currently working on is firmly in place, who's to say most people won't look back and think of liberty as quaint and outdated? "Can you believe they used to value liberty? Everyone knows when people are free to do what they want, all they do is follow their social conditioning. That's why overcoming social conditioning is where it's really at."

    And 5,000 years later: "That must have been a barbaric time indeed, when people still had to contend with social conditioning. I'm sure glad that's done with. I mean, patriotism is obviously about pushing the envelope of what's possible and redefining what humanity actually is."

    That's why I can't agree that Enlightenment ideals are the BEST patriotism. But I will agree that, with refinements, they may be the best values to support. For right now.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hmmm. This is a good site and for fucks sake it is nice to see people thinking. The constant bros thing is a little irritating but I realize that say as much about me as the frat boy tone of the posts. I would make a poor member of the tribe and thus in any hunter society would have disappeared early in the game. Either death by predators or knocked off by hard ass team members unwilling to carry my load for me. In other words I wouldn't be very patriotic. Still ain't.

    Are we hard wired for patriotism, survival by tribe? I think we are. Why? Or why has evolution favoured this trait? The slant I'm taking here is more along the lines of what does patriotic behaviour do, rather than what it is. It isn't one thing but I think it identifies a sought after behaviour. To be patriotic means you will suffer even die for your way of life and for the survival of other members of the tribe. Patriotism is a socially acceptable way to declare one's fanaticism. It is our way of telling other's I'm in , you can count on me. It is the expression by word and deed of our level of commitment to the group. It devolves into ritual so that we can quickly and easily identify friend and foe and I use devolve because our gestures devalue over time. I may salute the flag now when earlier times I my have had to kill a fucking lion with my bare hands or the like. Plus I think any discussion of what is benefits from the discussion of its opposite. If one cannot state the opposite of something we lack context.What is the opposite of patriotism?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Crap. Switched the order of Civil Rights movement/government welfare. New Deal precedes MLK Jr. My bad :-S

    ReplyDelete
  17. I can see to a certain extent your disagreement with pride based on simple things that are unrelated to the achievements made on the land. And I agree with you that this national pride is a territorial instinct. But I think it is rather we are taught to use the shelter as a labeled container to put those intense emotions that one might call "pride." Many of us when we are little we see our parents scream for sports or independence day or get emotional for a cultural holiday. Its a way for us to be biologically a family. We all subconsciously look for a connection with the stranger sitting next to us in the baseball stadium, so we paint our faces and make these animal sounds with the person we don't even know. Culture of any kind is in itself, to me, an "excuse" for people to connect without actually being straightforward..thats my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hey Chris

    Nothing to apologize for man. I completely got your point and understand your hesitation. Thanks so much for your sophisticated post. But might I just add that your last sentence, in which you point out that these are the best valus to support for now, made me think of something a skeptic once said :

    "Science is the best tool human have ever created to gain objective insights into the nature of reality. And if there´s a better one, science will discover it."

    I would also say that these values (with refinement) are the best values, and if there are better one, these values , by making sure that everyone has unalienable rights will make sure we fidn them. Maybe through open discussion, maybe by giving individual freedom of choice.

    @ the other anonymous:

    good question. What is the opposite of patriotism? What is diametrical to it? I think We have to follow the excellent analysis Chris did in the first post. If you define the government as object of your Patriotism, the opposite would be to criticize/ fight the government. The second one is obvious (rejecting ideals) and the third one would be no participation in the political process.

    @Miss Bobo: It´s part of the human condition and exists in all of us in different degress. Heck, there might even be a bell curve for the population.

    ReplyDelete
  19. To original anon. et alii

    Or the opposite might be no government-- anarchy-- as usual some where in the middle of the two lies the fertile ground of human progress. But to be patriotic is to be active and proactive towards improving the status quo-- what ever that means. Thereby leaving the door open for all of us to be on the same team even though we may have very different ideas about what is good. To be unpatriotic is to be inactive-- to do nothing or next to nothing about the way things are. To not vote for example is an unpatriotic thing to do.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I missed this post originally... But I've got a slightly different perspective than I've seen posted yet.

    All the comparisons above follow the lead of the original post in assuming that patriotism is my pride in belonging to my country. It then asks how we could call patriotism a virtue.

    I would answer by questioning the definition. I don't think patriotism, or filial piety, or religiousness, is pride at all, although it normally manifests with pride. Patriotism is belonging to something bigger than oneself, and admitting it. Patriotism is the antithesis of individualism. "Dulce et decorum pro patria morire," as the man said. (And, also, "Carthago delenda est.")

    And now for a brief point. "My country, good or bad." Many have spoken against this statement, calling it jingoistic; but I'd say that although a jingoist CAN say it, he doesn't mean it, because to a jingoist, his country is only good and never bad. And here is the heart of patriotism: admitting that my country CAN be bad, and still remain my country.

    This is why patriotism is not pride: because it can sometimes be the OPPOSITE, shame. This is also why it's a virtue: because it allows one to work to improve something, rather than either denying responsibility for improvement (because "it's not my fault"), or by denying the possibility of improvement ("hey, any country with me in it is pretty darn good").

    Um... "Bro." (Looks like I forgot to talk "bro." My blog-patriotism is obviously faulty. I feel deep shame.)

    -Wm

    ReplyDelete
  21. To what extent does geography and climate contribute to people and culture? How do people and culture alter the environment?

    After many generations perhaps the people and the land become so closely aligned that the people from a region are as distinctive as the region itself.

    So patriotism is related to pride in ones self and by extension to ancestors and community.

    I think if a region is distinctive as San Francisco is distinct from Salt Lake City is distinct from Dover, De. then certainly the people from those regions who contribute to making the area distinctive have a right to be proud of their distinctiveness.

    This all relates to patriotism as a part relates to a whole.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Well, from the point of view of a culture, which naturally will try to preserve itself, patriotism is kind of a fine line. If a group absolutely lacks any patriotism, the group falls apart - a country completely passionless about itself is just a country of pushovers waiting to get their asses kicked. But if it's TOO patriotic, you turn into a self righteous dick of a country. Not cool, bro.

    ReplyDelete