Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nationalism vs. Patriotism

-It's a curious thing in a material sense. The people who die fighting don't have much to lose. The people with everything to lose- don't die fighting. The trick is getting someone else to do your fighting for you. The haves are careful to call the have nots... patriots. 

Time and time again, I see people confused by the subtle differences of nationalism and patriotism. The terms are not interchangeable and do indeed- define two different belief systems. Belief systems are opinions. It is important to make that distinction. Nationalism tends to be blind loyalty to the state or political entity. Patriotism tends to be loyalty to a country, culture, or concept such as freedom. It does not require blind loyalty to a political body or entity.

The "Patriot Act" should have been titled the "Nationalist Act." That type of accuracy might have raised some eyebrows. The definitions are blurry and confusing because the state likes it that way.

Those subtle differences are not even born out with precision by commonly referred to references. Here's wiki on nationalism: It can also include the belief that the state is of primary importance, or the belief that one state is naturally superior to all other states.[3][4] It is also used to describe a movement to establish or protect a 'homeland' (usually an autonomous state) for an ethnic group.

Pretty close. Now here's patriotism:
Patriotism is a devotion to one's country, excluding differences caused by the dependencies of the term's meaning upon context, geography and philosophy. In a generalized sense applicable to all countries and peoples, patriotism is a devotion to one's country.

Wiki says that the term nationalism is related to patriotism. Really?

This is not a case of splitting hairs. In fact, these two terms are the basis for many disagreements and one of the reasons our entire culture is fractured and cannot agree on anything political.

Patriots are devoted to their culture, country, or people- perhaps to a concept such as freedom. You will not find blind devotion to the political state within the definition of a patriot. That is not what a patriot is devoted to.

Nationalism is blind devotion to the state. I cannot think of a better example than Hitler's Germany. Or unfortunately, the U.S. depriving American citizens of Japanese descent their freedom, lives, and property in relocation camps. Adamantly justifying it. Don't go waving your patriot flag at me while defending that. That's nationalism.

The lines get blurred because the political state wants them blurred. Devoted nationalists are called patriots by the political state. They want to confuse you. They want good followers. What they don't want is patriots. People who question the powerful over reach of the state. Patriots are not concerned with blind loyalty to the political state. In all cases, patriots spell death to oppressive regimes and to the political state.

I posed this question to a fellow blogger. Why are we surprised that our political state has drafted legislation to detain and imprison it's own citizens without due process? Our oppressive political state kidnapped hundreds of suspected terrorists from all over the world. Of course the vast majority are guilty, evil men. But what about the few who aren't? Are the few innocent ones simply acceptable collateral damage? The ones fingered by a desperate snitch? How do we sort them out without due process? Without due process, the innocent are denied freedom. Isn't that one of the reasons we killed the King's men? Aren't we the big flag waving patriots that say all men are created equal?

There in lies the rub. You can't have it both ways. Either you are for limiting the power of the state by refusing to engage in criminal acts of kidnapping and cloaking your activities in a shroud of nationalism or wars on terror or you are not. If you are going to tolerate the act of kidnapping by the state abroad then you must tolerate domestic acts of kidnapping, denial of due process, and forfeiture of civil rights right here. You are a nationalist, but you are no patriot. You can't have it both ways.

How would a patriot react? Patriots question the illegal conduct of government- even in the face of a majority of nationalists or popular opinion. They are devoted to their culture and country. Devoted to people confused and misguided by the state. Patriots have great courage because oftentimes- they can be an isolated minority. Nationalists are whispered a lie by the political state. You are a good little patriot.

Here is something written by patriots. Perhaps you will recognize it.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

You aren't a patriot simply because a political entity says you are. In fact, you are probably a patriot when the state says that you are not a patriot. “The duty of a patriot is to protect his country from its government.” - Thomas Paine

In the new world order, blind loyalty to the ever expanding and oppressive state is good. They call those loyalists- patriots- and they do so for a reason. They blur the lines on purpose. They expand their power and they get you to fight their battles for them. "Patriot." Now you know why.


Pilgrim's Pride said...

Super essay. May I suggest a further refinement to your vocabulary?

"Nation" in the context here is a 19th C. concept from what we call now the "Age of Nations".

Really is was the age of nation-states.

Nation-states occupy land, geography, or "country" and the three terms came to be confused and used interchangeably by the peasantry they owned.

So "nation" in the 19th C. sense is used to identify which empire owns your sorry butt, almost always so it could tax or draft the unlucky slobs within its borders.

But there was a time when "nation" meant something quite different. Echos of that meaning persist today.

Nation. Native. Natal. Nativity.

All from the Latin, "to be born".

A nation in this sense -- the sense used by Francis Scott Key in "The Defense of Fort McHenry" and by William Churchill in his famous "Lionheart" speech -- means "a people, related by blood, born of the same ancestors, sharing a common heritage and a common destiny".

A nation is your family writ large.

History tells us the nation is the largest stable political entity absent compulsion.

The nation-state is a nation that organizes its political will.

AP's recent Midinites and Israelite were two nations contending for the same country.

A nation-state must have its own country, at least in the days before electronic communication and virtual communities.

Sometimes, a successful nation finds it expedient to enslave another nation. An empire is born.

An empire is really not a nation. It's an aristocracy or the "stars" of the founding nation. Or at least that's what they call themselves.

Aristocrats rule everyone else because they can.

And now we're right back to your most excellent discourse on nationalism (19th C. definition) and patriot.

The sad thing is, a patriot fights for the land of his fathers only when the local aristocracy fails.

Does it matter to a peasant serf which aristocratic family enslaves him?

Not really. It only matters to the aristocracy in question.

Or as my sainted mother was fond of saying whenever the subject lent itself, "Our royalty want their serfs back."

Over my dead body. So to speak.

Brian said...


I am prying my eyelids open with some caffeine at this very moment and reading this definition.

It's a travel day and I will certainly take a look back. I am an editing fool...thank you.

joseph said...

Nationalism is the will to power. In the lust for unbridled power that knows no limits and borders "nationalism" employs geography, such as Midwest farmland and ranches motifs and the cultural accouterments such as religious conformity and Country Western music.
Nationalism's power is Orwellian in that it obscures it's true intentions. It extracts power from a false sense of identity, creating social dependency and the fear of institutional violence upon non-conformists.
Nationalism parades in martial regalia and conjures sentimentality out of human emotions of attachment of shared experiences.
Today, patriotism is the periphery and nationalism is on full display in it's hubris pageantry in corporate politics, media monopoly, and military might.
Great article Brian, keep it up.

hac5x3 said...

Not sure what how or what we label these wars matters. Wars like these are nothing but money-driv­en imperialis­t wealth transferri­ng quagmires. You are right - the HAVES (who stay home and golf) get the HAVE NOTS to "sacrifice­" their lives and limbs in imaginary acts of patriotism­. This while playing God Bless America at ball games so that the MINOR HAVES can feel like they are participat­ing in some nationalis­tic event. Either way the war spending goes from the public (via the deficit) to private pockets. In other words "we've been robbed".