Tag Archives: patriotism

On the Farcical Nature of Patriotism

I was always uncomfortable with patriotism (Germanic: Obeying the “father”). I thought it was just that little spark of rebelliousness I always had. But I have come to see it as a legitimately objectionable idea. And that’s just it. It’s an idea, a story, a fiction. The whole notion of national borders and cohesiveness is a comfortable and politically necessary, but nonetheless illusory, myth.

Not only is the diverse and multifaceted population in a continuous rise and fall, but the ideologies that these varied people hold are in constant flux. Due to uncountable reasons, the inhabitants that occupy the geographical space called a country, are inconstant, in all their disordered habits and in all their contradictory beliefs, and are thus, anything but cohesive…in anything. Is there a status, or position, at all? And if there was, what would it be?

I found comeradeship when I discovered political scientist Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. Communities are imagined, since none of the members of even the smallest nation will ever know, or even meet their fellow-members. The members have only a mental idea of their membership in this group. The curious, and perhaps most disturbing part of this fantasy, is that these imaginings make it possible for millions of people to die on behalf of this community.

Breaking down the fallacy of the entity called a nation, is a bit like breaking down the entity habitually called a person. It is convenient to think in terms of a unified self, but upon investigation, there are but scores of systems and processes. Nervous systems, circulatory systems, digestive systems, all in flux, creating our bodies, minds, flickering consciousness, ever-changing moods, and endless desires—all in flux, which is to say, in a process of dying, but we are uncomfortable with that word, and with the very idea.

So, just as the fiction of the nation provides us with a sense of fraternity and belonging, the familiar concept of selfhood and personality supplies us with the needed sense of security and identity.

Can we give up fiction at the cost security? Even a false sense of it?

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Independence or Interdependence?

I am wearing beautiful cotton clothing stitched by sun-beaten hands in a faraway place where the Buddha was born. The dyes used to color them come from ground up plants and a broth of chemicals. The bright blue bag sitting next to me that holds my books comes from Germany and is made from old truck tarpaulins. As I write, I am sitting in an elevated wooden chair in my favorite coffee shop, with a steaming cup of tea within reach of one hand. The tea leaves are left to dry under a distant sun. Millions of trees are ground into pulp to make the disposable cup I drink from. Gigantic steel ships traverse the seas, every day of every year, to deliver these goods, leaving hundreds of miles of smoky, black trails in their wake. After crossing the invisible line of arbitrary borders, they are waved in to dock by the welcoming flag of good relations.

Is patriotism a symbol of a false sense of division? Does it reflect what we might think of as communal ego, that serves only to separate—as if we could? Do we find solace in it and a sense of belonging, security and community? Or is it through political obedience? Are either valid?

Imagine there’s no countries 
It isn’t hard to do 
Nothing to kill or die for 
And no religion too 
Imagine all the people 
Living life in peace 

You may say that I’m a dreamer 
But I’m not the only one 
I hope someday you’ll join us 
And the world will be as one …

~ John Lennon