Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Fine Line Between Patriotism and Nationalism


In the wake of the unlawful gathering in Charlottesville, VA I decided that an article on this topic would be a good idea. Exactly at what point does Patriotism turn into Nationalism?

To better understand this, it is best to look at the base level impetus to promote change in a society. I call these the 4 P's. You must have all four of these if you hope to motivate people into taking action. They are Pride, Patriotism, Prejudice and Propaganda. Let's look at the four things separately before we combine them into one concept.
PRIDE - This can be as small or as encompassing as you want but the larger the feeling of pride, the more potential people you can have follow you. German patriotism arose from the founding of Germany in 1871 putting an end to the splintered nation-State wreckage from the 18th and 19th centuries. It could also be a common cause such as the Czar abdicating in Russia (Serfdom was only abolished in Russia in 1905) and the people sensing a freedom they hadn't felt in centuries. Once you have engendered pride, you will have the attention of the people (in proportion to how much of that feeling you have created).
PATRIOTISM - This is the second 'P' and it is as important as the three others. You now have the people expressing pride but you now need a focus for that expression. "Let's Make America Great Again!" "USA!" "Ein Volk, Ein Stadt, Ein Deutschland!" God, Guns and Guts made the USA!" Patriotism in itself isn't bad or good... it is a neutral entity. What people can do in the name of Patriotism can be good or bad though. Patriotism is the focus of pride. It gives people a sense of identity and the feeling that they belong somewhere. That is a normal human condition. We want to belong and have a sense of identity. In most cases, it stops right there... but in some cases, it doesn't...
PREJUDICE - You have instilled pride in the people and gave them a slogan or two to allow for patriotism but if you want them to follow you past a certain point, you need to solidify your gains. What better way than to find someone or something or... some culture that can be perceived as a threat to patriotism?
The Jews were persecuted for centuries in various ways. in the Middle Ages, they were prohibited from owning land or livestock... so how were they going to survive? They became shopkeepers and merchants and jewelers and (eventually) bankers. While they were successful, their means of earning a living was divorced from the land... and with a bit of tinkering, they became the demon bankers that controlled the wealth and sought only to enslave those tied to the land by manipulating money through the banks. This was how Hitler used prejudice in Germany. Another example would be the Reds in Russia. Their version of prejudice included Royalists (Czar Supporters), Republicans (Shcharansky Supporters) and the Rich (Kulaks and other wealthy people) who were hell bent on oppressing the workers. Germany used Prejudice to focus the German people while the Reds used it to exterminate those who would stand against them. The Catholic Church in Rome falsified evidence against Galileo Galilei to convict him of heresy; the implication was that any who supported GG would then not be a believer in God. The Re-Education in the PRC was another incident where prejudice was used to modify societal thought. I am sure you can find many more examples of this tactic being used (and it usually results in bad things happening).
PROPAGANDA While the final 'P' is as important as the other three, you still need a sort of glue to bind people together and that glue is...propaganda! Propaganda ranges from exaggerating an action to allow for better understanding "Loose Lips Sink Ships!" "Join the Army!" to its purest and deadliest form: Agitation Propaganda or Agit-Prop. While the previous two samples actually serve a constructive purpose, agit-prop too often is directly produced from prejudice and at its best (or worst), it can take a grain of truth and bundle it with a sack of lies to sound valid to those not informed. At the top of this article, you will see three such examples of agit-prop. All is fair in war but if you stop and think about these pictures, are they fully telling the truth? Are Jewish bankers actually scions of Satan? Do the Bourgeoisie actually have in in for ALL of the Proletariat? If the third poster is to be believed, then all Germans would be sterilized and Germany would no longer exist as a country. You might laugh at the pictures but imagine people instilled with pride, drawn together by patriotism and vulnerable to vicious prejudice... Yes, it is no longer funny, is it?
While I consider Nation-Statism to be a disease (and a massive waste of resources), patriotism in itself isn't really bad. You are a member of a Nation State and you choose to express your pride in that fact by waving a flag. that in itself is a peaceful action covered by the First Amendment. I personally think the line is crossed though when violence accompanies the patriotism. I then call it nationalism and that is where things usually go bad. Nationalism can emerge from both sides of the equation; it isn't a strictly Left-Wing or Right-Wing situation. Ultranationalism springs from Nationalism and that is how you get someone like Hitler, governance like the USSR (and even more so the current Russia) and the degradation caused by Pol Pot. Mao Tse Tung and others.
What happened in VA was patriotism was subverted by nationalism and it shows that humankind still has a lot to learn.
Note: What just happened in NC was a disgrace. Destruction of our history needs to cease.

A Jaded Bard