Thursday, 26 January 2017


Patriotism is a word that's appearing more and more within politics. There's a fuzzy boundary between patriotism and nationalism, and an excess of patriotism is chauvinism or jingoism.

Patriotism is a form of tribalism and one of the easiest emotions for the scoundrel to harness in achieving an end, as evidenced by numerous 'patriotic' demagogues and despots throughout history, along with Dr Johnson's observation that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. By that, Johnson meant that appeals to patriotism by a politician must be viewed dispassionately, as their aims are rarely patriotic.

Patriotism is rather illogical to my view - why pledge unquestioning allegiance to a particular country merely on the basis of being born on its soil? And what is allegiance to a country; surely it can only be to the government of the day, which many will have an issue with, as why else have elections every now and again? My country, right or wrong is not a philosophy I can adhere to, it betrays reasoning, encourages blind obedience and engenders Group Think. The Nazis and the KKK had their roots in patriotism.

I find images of American school kids with their hand over their heart reciting a creed in front of the star-spangled banner deeply disturbing and somewhat Orwellian; no wonder Trumpian anti-intellectualism is on the march. I wonder if Trump's next executive order will be to produce a list of proscribed authors, or declare certain art forms decadent (so long as it's modern art and musicals, I wouldn't have much of a problem with the latter). Marx and Engels once said that the workers have no country; they were talking about the millions of workers who had, were and would be sent by the ruling elite to fight in wars in the name of patriotism and that had little or nothing to do with them.

Being the product of parents of two nationalities and not being born in the UK myself, I have little truck with either nationalism or patriotism. I don't see myself as fully British, nor fully Dutch. Rather, I see myself as having a wider outlook that's not constrained by boundaries based on language and so-called culture. Having led a seagoing life added to that. All this, perhaps, makes me more tolerant of other nationalities - we all belong to one race and we're all driven by the same pursuit of happiness. As a consequence I'm probably more supportive than most of the EU as a fully-fledged state.

Someone told me recently that the EU is forcing us to lose our culture. I'd like to know how, unless it's to make us a bit more outward looking and not so bloody insular. It's also startlingly ironic when you consider the British have been the most successful nation ever in terms of forcing their culture on others. Most of the grand houses around the country were financed either through slavery or the pillaging of the Empire, which was deemed very patriotic at the time (and don't think I'm engaging in post-colonial relativism and making any judgments - it's just the way they did things then and no-one alive today can take responsibility for that).

What I really detest are the people who browbeat others with their patriotic zeal. It's invariably hiding something else and that's usually compulsion and a desire for subservience to a totalitarian ethic. Don't get me wrong - there are causes worth fighting for, but they have little or nothing to do with patriotism and everything to do with the difference between right and wrong.

I agree, however, that religious differences can introduce problems, especially when a religious philosophy encroaches on areas that should remain fully within the secular sphere and a belief having little to support it, other than numbers, is imposed on a population. Radical Islam and Republican Christianity fall into this category.


  1. Well, as you know G.B. Shaw was born in Dublin so I can see his point of view :-)

    1. Unfortunate first initials for old Shaw.

  2. No such things as gods, countries or races; all exist only in the minds of men. Only nature, continents and species are real.