Patriotism: Extension of Family, Cultural Ghetto, or License to Kill?

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“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.” – Edward Abbey

Patriotism is basically an expression of love toward one’s homeland that takes into consideration all its circumstances, including its people and culture. Patriotism is characterized by a deep attachment a citizen of a country feels obliged to acknowledge consciously as a reality that cannot be dispensed with. Generally, it is considered to be an inherent spirit that connects individual humans not only to their immediate families but also to the socio-cultural roots that have sustained for generations the community life where they are meaningfully located and the communal values that have shaped the core of their humanity. Patriotism is the leading factor that goads people to pull their acts together and face imminent threats to the very institution that has given them social character and cultural identity as a nation. Patriotism strengthens the national fiber of a country and gives its denizens a sense of integrity, self-esteem and cohesive dignity.

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In certain instances of historic significance, patriotism is concretely tested and aggressively realized in courageous acts aimed to defend an embattled motherland. It is essentially a persistent power that transcends and overcomes one’s fear of death, because it endows individuals with a selfless foresight of ideals that might not be fully realizable at this point of time but might become more feasibly in the generations to come. Patriotism has therefore created heroes both exultant and tragic. What uniquely stands out though is the fact that its inspiring strength has molded warriors of impeccable character — noble defenders of their most cherished patrimony. It is the solid wall that continuously prevents the erosion of a people’s will to defend their sacred sovereignty against aggressors and colonizers.

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Patriotism is the primal factor,  the most fundamental cornerstone, in the formation and reinforcement of a stable nation. Furthermore, patriotism is a matter of zealous, and hence non-negotiable, commitment to the preservation of a national culture. In this sense, it is not only in the battlefield that patriotism is witnessed but also in every act of fortification directed to institutions that promote and instill in the minds of the present and the next generations the preeminence of the socio-cultural condition that has provided and will continually provide them with a kind of national pride and dignity unassailable on the international front.

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“The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonorably, foolishly, viciously.” – Julian Barnes

Nevertheless, in the deep winter of national impoverishment, fragility and economic uncertainty, patriotism hibernates. It is not something that is always awake, alert and enthusiastic. Patriotism is simply set aside and ignored when, in the depth of severe destitution and scarcity, a powerful and wealthy nation turns up and offers its resources as an act of salvation that promises a life of comfort, contentment and leisure. Patriotism is effortlessly blown away in Faustian capitulation to a trouble-free and painless achievement of one’s heart’s desire. At the end of the day, it may be plainly perceived that the grand design of the powerful is really to extinguish the fire of patriotism in the heart of the subservient nation, now utterly subdued.

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Patriotism is not without its fault; an overdose of it impedes progress. At its most extreme, it is a key that credulously locks the gate of a nation and prevents the inroads of new concepts and initiatives in varied fields that can facilitate better, finer and more creative advancements in the human condition. A particular country, in its ultra-patriotic posture can miss and even be deprived of much of the new technologies the modern world offers like high-tech gadgets, instruments and equipment, which surprisingly are profusely enjoyed by the elite leaders of that country.

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“Patriots always talk of dying for their country but never of killing for their country.” – Bertrand Russell

Ultra-patriotism is anathema to open-mindedness and spawns fanatical dogmatism and an uncritical frame of mind. It is therefore not astonishing to find it an ally of both religious and political fundamentalism. In this case, what we have is a rabid adversary of rationality at the least and, at most, of scientific analysis and investigation. Ultra-patriotism is a defeatist stance that underestimates and stamps off the natural flow of the human creative power; it is only for those who have chosen not to think. Soldiers in the armed forces are generally programmed to achieve this level of stupidity by initially letting them swallow hook-line-and-sinker the motto: “Obey first before you complain.” And in the performance of their duties as the so-called patriotic vanguards of the national interest, they are instead turned into subservient minions of manipulative and exploitative leaders in government, whose interests they bigotedly defend at the expense of the common people’s security and well-being.

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Editor’s Note: Photograph four by Anuko. Photograph five by Beverly and Pack, and photograph six by IOM Haiti.

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3 Responses to Patriotism: Extension of Family, Cultural Ghetto, or License to Kill?

  1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1John Goss
    May 15, 2014 at 1:37 am

    I cannot contemplate patriotism without thinking of Walter Scott’s canto from The Lay of the Last Minstrel which we learnt at school during the last days of the British Empire. It starts:

    Breathes there a man with soul so dead
    Who never to himself hath said
    This is my own, my native land.
    Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned
    As home his footsteps he hath turned,
    from wandering on some foreign strand . . .

    I could go on . . .

    Thanks for the journey back to my childhood, before we have time or ability to reason out our philosophies.

  2. Dady Chery
    +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Dady Chery
    May 15, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Yes. Patriotism is about the taste, sights, sounds, aromas, and stories that form the core of one’s spirit. Unfortunately, it is too often an impulse to suicide, rather than a willingness to face death, which one should have, anyway, for life to have any value. Borrowing from Bertrand Russell’s statement, I would say: “Patriots talk of dying for their country but never of” -living- for their country.

  3. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Ruel F. Pepa
    May 15, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Many thanks for the appreciations and the insightful comments, John Goss and Dady Chery.

    Though offering one´s life for her/his nation under siege is fundamental in patriotism, such an act of sacrifice should be guided by solid and reasonable principle and not blind faith. Fearlessness amidst a struggle should not be equated with reckless desperation. Likewise, patriotism should not always be equated with death.

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