Patriots and Patriotism

An analysis of an easily-mocked ideology.

Patriotism

Patriotism

Given the analysis of patriotism in the media due to a certain infamous twitter picture, it seems relevant to me to not analyse patriotism from a class perspective, but strip away all the unnecessary meat from bone and observe patriotism on its own, at its most basic and what it fundamentally is as an ideological perspective.

A "certain infamous twitter picture"

A “certain infamous twitter picture”

I never pretend to understand patriots. This is of course, the expected outcome of observing a group of people who one doesn’t just disagree with, but is confused by.

Whilst there is a difference between patriotism and nationalism, one gets the impression that the two cross over on minor issues.

Patriotism is loving one’s own country.

Nationalism is loving one’s own country and believing that it is better than other countries.

In a sense the patriot has nationalistic tendencies. Whilst a patriot won’t cheaply steep to sinister ideas of national and racial superiority (this would be an apt situation where a patriot and a nationalist would disagree), a patriot will hold feelings of defensive superiority to certain elements of their national culture.

A patriot believes that minor customs (styles of cooking, different methods of etiquette) are of the utmost importance and are more unique – perhaps better – than other nation’s customs. In this sense, a patriot has nationalist tendencies in regards to the small nuances of day-to-day culture.

The patriot makes the trivial become vital and twists the banal and the mundane into national symbols.

The belief of unique-ness is interesting here. The notion that one’s own culture isn’t clichéd but is original – even though it is apparent that patriotism is an ideology so dominant and widespread – for it needs to be to survive – is clichéd

Patriotism is unsubtle.

It was very difficult to find a picture for this post because I wished to find a picture which wasn’t garish or outrageous to the extent that I was mocking an ideology so obvious and blunt that it is oft custom to plunge into ridicule.

However, it soon became apparent that finding a nuanced picture to represent patriotism disputes the very point of patriotism. Patriotism is an ideology outside of rationality. Patriotism is the fetishisation of land, of customs, of food and the belief that one’s own land is different and only shares rare similarities with other countries. In this sense patriotism is a very intriguing ideology.

In general, one might assume that most patriots align themselves with the political-right. The political-right view themselves through almost scientific descriptions, self-describing themselves as “practical”, “logical” and “pragmatic”. But what is logical or rational about the adoration of land to which one’s own mother so happened to break water on? This isn’t of course to suggest that those of a left-leaning disposition aren’t or cannot be patriots, but at a mere glance, they are less in number and if they are patriotic, their patriotic tendencies are more diluted.

Politics is very complicated and the ideological constructs of “Left” and “Right” do cross over. In simplistic terms, right-wing is about the individual and left-wing is about the collective. Patriotism – in a sense – aligns itself with dichotomies associated with the left. Patriotism is anti-individual and pro-collective. It isn’t about you, it’s about the nation. Patriotism is rooted in political-symbolism, perhaps more so than any other ideology. Political-symbolism in its nature is about uniformity and the belief in the collective. Whilst certain counter-cultural groups do have symbols and practices (anarchists have the A-symbol, the black flag and the black cat), one gets the sense that the symbolism of patriotism is firmly rooted with paranoia. An anarchist wouldn’t question you not holding a black flag and a capitalist wouldn’t react with disbelief if you didn’t display the Gadsden flag, but a patriot would question why one isn’t wearing a poppy on remembrance day, or why one isn’t displaying the union jack or the St. George’s cross outside one’s window or why one isn’t a monarchist.

Patriots assume that everyone should be patriotic, and that opposing beliefs don’t oppose their ideology but oppose them on a personal level. In this sense, whilst one can draw a distinction between one’s personality and one’s ideological world views, the borders between the two are blurred when it comes to patriotism.

The Iconic Anarchist "A"

The Iconic Anarchist “A”

 

The Gadsden Flag

The Gadsden Flag

St. George's Cross

St. George’s Cross

The logic of patriotism is that everyone should be a patriot, and if one isn’t then said person is performing an act of deep pernicious immorality. In this sense, there is an imperialistic side to patriotism. Thus, whilst patriotism and nationalism can be separated, they’re so close that they can disturbingly cross over into one another.

I must state again for sheer clarification, I do no pretend to understand patriots. I don’t – and cannot grasp – what mindset allows such an ideology to develop inside someone’s brain.

Thus the real question is why are people patriotic?

At its root, this is very easy to understand. All ideologies provide people with comfort. An ideology, a doctrine, a political dogma offers a neatly-spun explanation of how our complex world works, how it should work and how we – as humans – should all act to create a better world.

All ideologies are intrinsically utopian.

Thus, the patriots utopia sees no distinction between the state and the individual. The individual has to love the state and nation, and because in a patriots utopia all individuals are patriots, then society and the individual are one and the same: the views of the people and the views of the government are identical. The individual loves their country…every individual loves their country…thus, society loves itself.

Ideological comfort is deeply rooted in comradeship (especially if you’re a Marxist – more on this in later posts). There is something pleasant and calming about meeting other people who have similar world-views to you. There are no culture-clashes and instead there is a shared identity.

But at its root, patriotism is profoundly rooted in subservience. I must serve my country. I must serve my monarch. I must serve my nation. I must serve my culture. Society has to be served, saved and protected by me. I cannot disagree. My nation transcends my opinions. My nation – no matter who is elected – will always be beautiful and will always be perfect.

In this perhaps there is an explanation. Whilst there is a sense of subservience to the patriot ideology, there is a common ownership. England isn’t just a country, it’s my country. The country was born in.

Patriotism is a blend of collectivism and individualism. It is simultaneously about common-ownership and individual-ownership. It is the ultimate plain and centrist ideology. And due to this, as well as being immensely trivial, it is also immensely common, which is why its presence is ever the more disturbing.

The Age of Cynicism

A theory concerning the rise of Nigel Farage’s Euro-sceptic party. Feel free to disagree…

The media seems to be bizarrely surprised that the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) have gained 24 MEPs. As expected, pundits and everyone surrounding me have offered their opinions to explain this violent surge in UKIP coming first in the UK’s European Elections: the leadership of Nick Clegg, the leadership of Ed Miliband, a protest-vote against the mould of lib/lab/con, a disliking for the ‘open door’ immigration policy, the rise in Euro-scepticism, and even the fact that Nigel Farage promises to do what most parties won’t even talk about, that’s right: legalising cannabis and bringing back the smoking room in pubs.

Nigel Farage smiling whilst looking confused...

Nigel Farage smiling whilst looking confused…

Everywhere I go, there is a strange anti-authority feeling in the air. A weird mist of pseudo-anarchist thinking, what I can only really describe as “political existentialism”: not just despair with politicians but the foundations of the system as a whole. I think what we have witnessed is much much more than people disliking Ed Miliband’s leadership style or Euro-scepticism. I think the pressures of discontent have been building up and up and up. You only have to look at history:

9/11. The Iraq War. The Afghanistan War. The “Dodgy Dossier”. David Kelly’s death. Guantanamo Bay. Abu Ghraib. The NSA/GCHQ. The worldwide economic crisis. The MPs’ expenses scandal. The phone-hacking scandal. The paedophilia cases in The Catholic Church/Catholic Schools (bitterly termed by some as “Paedogate”). New Labour’s betrayal of the Old Left. The “Broken Promises”. The increase in University Tuition Fees. The rise in popular-phrases such as “Broken Britain”. The blurring of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ and the abandonment of Political Ideology. The dislike and backlash against the cultural-concept that is “political correctness”. WikiLeaks’ ‘Iraq/Afgan War Logs’. The ‘Collateral Murder’ video. Everywhere I go, I seem to be breathing in a strange atmosphere where everyone in power – or associated with it – is either incompetent, corrupt or a rapist.

A strange feeling of political disillusionment has been steadily rising over the years, occasionally there will be a violent peak in the steady increase due to the odd scandal or due to an event not being resolved properly or quickly enough – and the events and scandals don’t go away, but instead, remain firmly seated in the minds and hearts of the public consciousness and the political zeitgeist.

It is said that each era has a feeling (i.e. “The Roaring Twenties”, “The Rebellious Sixties”). I used to disagree with this theory, but now I believe there is something to it. What are we in now, other than a disturbing and bizarre “Age of Cynicism”? There isn’t trust: there is only contempt, criticism, fear and hatred – and if there is praise, it is simply lost. I do not wish to answer questions of whether this cynicism is fair, logical or even intelligent – but it is simply an observation.

Don't get too intoxicated on this

Don’t get too intoxicated on this

I know that this theory that I have proposed sounds broad in scope, but I do think there’s something to it. Of course, there has always been a general pessimism surrounding the reputation of politicians and bankers, I am not denying this, but have we ever seen dislike for people in positions of power so widespread and so lacerating in nature?

I am not saying that The Iraq War or 9/11 or The London Riots are directly responsible for the rise (and indeed, European Election Success) of UKIP, that would simply be ludicrous. What I am saying is that these events of the past are simply “another moment” in history which provides reasons for people to dislike the political elite, and indeed the world which they are part of. Each event adds up, of course.

I think it vital to point out that all of this hasn’t just been climaxing and climaxing, until eventually, we witness UKIP’s European Election success! No, far from it. The rising popularity of UKIP is just, in my view, merely a symptom of the age, the symptom of the events which all add up to form a generation that is perhaps united by some strange pessimism. And if there are more of these ‘scandals’ and unsettling political events to come, combined with increasingly cynical news-stories (as opposed to positive ones), then expect more symptoms of our age to come.

These symptoms produced by such a unique time to live in (UKIP’s rise being one of them) will, in my view, increase. The future symptoms/events which await us in the future could either be more bizarre, more unsettling, more fascinating or more important than the rise and success of Nigel Farage and his Euro-sceptic Party.