The Best Definition Of Patriotism
(1) the first subterfuge of insider scoundrels
aiming to trick or intimidate "the people" into assisting in their own exploitation
and flag-saluting youth into dying for the rich without asking why;
(2) an attitude of illogical devotion to
the state which makes the state itself a religious idol (or business regime),
existing for its own sake rather than for the sake of its citizens (or workforce),
who exist only to serve it;
(3) an artificial tribalism, a kind of
racism, the first step toward and probably the most important underpinning
Those aren't definitions of the wrong kind of
patriotism. That's what patriotism is. There is no "good" patriotism. Patriotism
isn't good. It's pure stupid.
Patriotism is a lot like religion and a lot like
television. Eduardo Galleano, talking about the odd abundance of TV sets
in Latin American shanties, once wrote that poor TV watchers are being taught
to accept fantasy as their share. Exactly! When he described religion as
the opiate of "the people," Marx was making the same point, and patriotism
is another drug that serves the same purpose.
As another even dumber kind of religion, patriotism
turns the citizens of a state into the mere shadows of their citizenship,
clouding men's minds to obscure the failure of the state to serve the citizens
whose only reason for having a state ought to be to do themselves some good
but who wind up accepting a reverse situation in which the state's only reason
for having citizens is to do it (or rather it's major stockholders) some
Logically, a state should be justifiable
only as a productive mechanism - but its product should be a good life for all its participants, not profits
just for the rich insiders. A state should be practically considered a joint
venture to which all participants contribute as equally as they can
and from which all equally take the benefits (since there is no logical
reason to participate equally unless you expect to benefit equally).
But, instead, almost all modern states are the
instruments of a few powerful politicians, capitalists and big land owners,
military and media chiefs, celebrities, courtiers and friends and families
of the powerful. Most of the rest of the nominal citizens are virtually forced
to contribute - but in the win or lose economic systems that dominate the
world, the benefit they derive is rarely and then only coincidentally
their fair share. The insiders - the winners - the actual stockholders -
to whom the countries of the world and most of their resources de facto belong
- find it expedient and sickeningly easy to pacify (and intimidate) most
of the losers by giving them fantasy as their share - election circuses,
flags, marching bands, TV, religion, and patriotism - patriotism both to
keep their foolish chests puffed up with empty air and to keep them securely
in line (and productive).
Like religious fervor which is always strongest
in a crowd of righteously self-deputized believers in a demanding and vengeful
god, patriotism is intimidating. In fact, people are more afraid of the power
of their states than they are of the power of their gods. The armed jackboots
of the state, its black-robed judges, its walled and barred prisons, and
its gallows loom much larger in people's nightmares than the devil and, except
perhaps in the middle east, children pressed into citizenship at birth and
forced under the watchful eyes of their fellows, including the ever present
bullies in the room, to salute a flag daily, stand for the anthem, and cheer
for the team, once the state's godhood is deeply embedded in their brains,
fear being branded unpatriotic more than they fear being branded sinners.
In the last few decades, in slightly enlightened parts of the world, leftist
agitators have almost liberated people from fear of being caught black, gay,
female, or even atheist. But even leftists still fear being caught unpatriotic.
Which is absurd. Patriotism is not a beautiful
ideal. Thinking of it that way is an illogical habit. It's an ugly trick
played on the peons to con them, confuse them, and keep them conveniently
scared of each other. Once the flag is tightly wrapped around any "free"
enterprise venture to keep on exploiting "the people," including through
one war after another, even leftists trying to get the exploited but thoroughly
conned workers and soldiers to listen to them for their own benefit, must
absurdly wrap the ill-fitting flag around their objections to corruption
and war and pretend to salute the rich insiders' damned country.
The only common sense reason for people to organize
a state is as a practical mechanism to do things together they can't do or
can't do as easily or as well apart - FOR THEMSELVES. Obviously, a sensible
state is a tool or organization to serve its members, not a totem to be saluted.
The only obligation intelligently self-interested members owe the state is
to take care of it, as you would take care of any tool, to keep it working
properly - FOR YOURSELF - not for the tool. Of course, participants in a
state have to seriously participate to make the state work - but not for
the state - FOR THEMSELVES - obviously. And that only makes sense if it does
work or can be made to work.
Jefferson argued that the state should be overthrown
every time it stops working. To exactly paraphrase the first leg of the syllogism
in the Declaration of Independence: worn out, broken, inappropriate tools
or malfunctioning organizations should be fixed or (if they can't be fixed)
discarded and replaced. But a lot of propaganda has gone under the bridge
since Jefferson's day, and today's patriotic citizens, brainwashed since
birth to regard the state as a totem (a godhead) rather than as their own
tool or organization, don't think they have the right to rebel.
A state should be called a state, which means
a civil mechanism the importance of which lies in its function, but patriotism
is a dumb fantasy that distorts a state into a country or a nation - a sacred
tribal unit based on territory or race - not function.
The logical function of a state is to serve the
individual participants by making their lives better. The logical relationship
between participants and the state is no more than a practical contractual
relationship. And the attitude of individuals committing themselves to participate
in a state should be the same sensible attitude of watchful self-interest
that they take into any contractual deal. A commitment to blind patriotic
fervor is the kind of deceptive sub-paragraph any smart person should cross
OFF a contract before signing to avoid being cheated.
Patriotism transforms what should be equal fellow
citizens, participants, into cowed serfs subjecting themselves to the country
as if it were the lord of the castle on the hill (or the owner of the mill).
Patriotism surrenders individual importance and dignity to the country and
(always, everywhere) excuses the country's failure to work equally for each
individual. Patriotism turns the state into one more master and a second
absurd religion. Patriotism is outrageously illogical.
It goes against common sense, and nothing dismays me so much as that even
people who should know better have bought into it.
Incidentally, to fend off any reactive language abuse, I am not talking about perfectly respectable, sentimental, nostalgic love of a PLACE where a person (due usually to childhood bonding) feels "at home." But home and state are not synonymous.