Sunday, 19 June 2016

Populist Patriotism


I was listening to a recording of the murdered politician Jo Cox. She mentioned how proud she was of being from Yorkshire.

Hearing that made me think about pride. I found this on a Buddhist website; "Pride is defined as an exaggerated positive evaluation of oneself, often based on a devaluation of others. It results in a kind of attachment to oneself and aversion to others." Ironic, really, given what she was campaigning for. Perhaps it was just a  throw-away comment, after all, politicians need to get the public on their side and identify with them (although that's in short supply at present)..

Had Jo been born in Lancashire, I have no doubt whatsoever she would have been equally proud of having been Lancastrian. Similarly, had she been born in Berlin she'd have been proud to have been a Berliner. That's the nature of pride.


National or regional pride is a false construct - you're proud of whatever you are, and all your attributes, and in your mind it needs no justification; it's a form of arrogance.  National pride can be a very dangerous thing, as was so sadly demonstrated.

I don't feel proud to be British - slightly thankful, perhaps, given the situation in other parts of the world, but not necessarily proud. There are many things wrong with the UK, things that certainly wouldn't make me feel proud - else why are we switching governments every now and again or protesting about some issue or other? There are also many things that are fantastic about Britain, but the pride in that rightly belongs to those who initiated whatever is good. Attaching myself to that pride is hubristic. I can only be proud of what I do or achieve myself, not of an accident of  birth.

Pride has caused many conflicts, especially national pride. The pride that expresses itself as; "My country, right or wrong," is the worst kind - it's an excess of patriotism. It defines an 'in' group and an 'out' group.

Inevitably there are overtones here in respect of the referendum. To paraphrase Clausewitz - war is the continuation of politics with other means; the cooperation afforded by the EU is the continuation of peace with other means. We cannot allow it to be trashed by an excess of patriotism. A modicum of patriotism, however, can help shape it into what is needs to be, but patriotism is a double-edged weapon that can come back to bite you in the bum.


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