Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Definition of Patriotism

There is a very funny column in The Sunday Standard called Loose Canon, the writer is not identified. I read the column every week. This last Sunday he wrote about Batswana who have entered the Big Brother House. His point was people like to complain that they don't represent the country well. He tried to make a case that the Botswana housemates are actually excellent reflections of us, but we just don't like what we're seeing in the mirror. I tend to agree, but that is not why I'm writing this. He says some Batswana say Big Brother must be patriotic and choose people not like us so they don't embarrass us on international TV.

Then he goes on to say, "I am not a patriot. I consider myself a citizen who just happened to be born here. I don't like the idea of patriotism it has a whiff of the irrational around it.....In other words, patriots are idiots who cannot think for themselves."

I've always been slightly scared of patriotism. It is a bit like culture, pulled out when a person wants to win an argument. If you say something another person doesn't like but they have no strong argument to counter you with, they say, "Well that's very unpatriotic." It's a good "shut-up, I win" way to argue. Depending on the country it can be very effective. Batswana are pretty patriotic folk so it can work occasionally; do it in America and you win hands down.

What do you think? Is patriotism irrational and the realm of idiots?


Sue Guiney said...

What an interesting question. I do believe that there is nothing wrong with national pride. I believe it's important to try to take pride in as much about ourselves as we can. But "patriotism" can definitely be used as a shield to hide behind and as an American I can say that Americans do that with dangerous regularity.

Julien said...

I agree with Sue. There is nothing wrong with national pride, but it shouldn't make up for someone's inability to think for themselves.
I guess in France what would be considered unpatriotic would be to always agree with what the government says and not protest.. so I can't complain. lol

On another note, I can relate to what that columnist was saying. As someone who lives away from his motherland, I have very often been considered as some sort of ambassador of my country, when all you can do is represent a fragment of your culture. it's very frustrating.

Lauri said...

Sue- it is a bit of a thin line this one- national pride and blind patriotism. On Facebook a Zimbabwean friend mentioned how Mugabe used patriotism to batter people into submission. It looks like our new administration may be taking a page from his book, sadly.

Hi Automatic Prince- Thanks for stopping by. I think it's lovely the French think that way. It is patriotic to be part of an active and vocal civil society. Also it is a drag to have to carry the weight of a country on your back. Our last Big Brother contestant (we have African Big Brother here with people from differnt countries in the house) slept with three of the guys in the house and came out being quite proud of it. Batswana, who try hard to put on a conservative, moral front were up in arms.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Human beings like to belong. Whether it's in some club, a sports team, or a country. We like to be part of a whole. My family moved around a lot, I lived in the U.S. and Canada. As an adult I just haven't developed into much of a belonger. I love the U.S., but I'm not pathological about it, like some people are. And it makes me mad when people that know nothing about Canada, (that have never even been there), make jokes and belittle it, because Canada is a great country.

Anonymous said...

I think it is good to be patriotic if it means having pride in or love for one's country; but when patriotism impedes the need for change as sometimes happens in Australia it can become a negative mindset. Open-minded patriotism is definitely the way to go.

Lauri said...

Selma I think you've hit on it- open minded patriotism, not patriotism used as a club for submission.