Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pater rot

A 'patriot' is deeply paranoid, a misanthrope at heart, with an enemies list and a capacity to take whatever means expedient. At least, this is according to a right wing blogger I've conversed with. What makes me say this? Well Richard Nixon could be fairly described in this way and my ruddy necked adversary defended the dead scoundrel by saying he was a patriot.

What's wrong with the above paragraph? Well, there's a few things actually. Though if the stiff stern style of patriot are presented as a fallacy, it's their own damn fault.
But, yes, even if Nixon was all those things, that doesn't mean this is a feature of all patriots, or an inevitable consequence of their fervour. To suggest otherwise is to fall into the same trap of stereotyping that our political foes employ.

What it does demonstrate is that ruthless behaviour is so often part and parcel of power; that one need not be possessed of all the facts, or always have the best interests of the American people at heart, to have dominion over them and, to a certain extent, their destiny.

After all, if we are to frame patriotism in any meaningful way, it is in the sure sense that we have a common interest in our nationalism and a belief in preserving our values at a social or community level. Taken too far, this ignores what is really best for us.

Without any strong sense of patriotism, our love and devotion restricts itself to the family or clan level, or it barely manifests itself at all.

Cheering for your team, backing your writers, championing your thespians.. patriotism has its positive traits. But when it comes to an uncritical level of support, one is almost asking to be led astray.

It is the patriotic many who fuel the elite few by aiding and abetting their enterprise. The most Machiavellian tosser, fucking his country over, is dependent on dupes for a living. So an admiration for the finest qualities we retain and an appreciation for the natural beauty and outstanding weather we have, is probably enough. That and the occasional social ritual.

The patriotic gesture brooks no argument once a predetermined understanding of acceptable conduct is agreed to by a cabal that would not have you in its ranks.

All this really points to is that is supremely popular of being manipulated in ways that, say, saving the whales or reducing the methane emissions in livestock is not. These are defined activities. You measure them and read the instrument, you don't get to 'form an opinion' since your job is to report, not interpret; to act, not  expostulate. However misguided or frivolous, these ideals are at least not pretending to be other than what they are. But anything from reducing taxes to committing the kind of atrocities we judge our enemies for can, and has, stood in for patriotism. It has been invoked for the very cause that is guaranteed to ruin those who place most faith in it as a means to salvation.

Privileging it over other verities like honesty and kindness and you've got all kinds of trouble.


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