An analysis of an easily-mocked ideology.
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.
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 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 I 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.