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Forums: Index > The Soapbox > Patriotism

The Value of Patriotism Edit

I don't actually like the direction this wikia is heading. It's simply becoming a political discussion forum rather than a resource on candidates. But I'm confident that this will change. In the meantime, I'd like to take advantage of this chaos to ask a question for the masses that has long plagued me: I've never understood why patriotism is considered a good trait. For something that so many politicians find themselves claiming and defending, and something that comes up as a topic so often, it seems this question is not often enough asked. What is good about patriotism? Why do nations deserve our love and respect, and especially why more than cities or provinces or the continents or the world in general? I'm not really interested in discussing how much patriotism is good or how much patriotism is too much, or why the PATRIOT act is or is not patriotism, flag-waving, flag-burning, etc. I just want to break out the core question: what could possibly justify the notion of patriotism? Of course others will have other things to discuss about patriotism, but I'll thank you to start your own section 2 header on it. Jun-Dai 17:09, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

versus Nationalism Edit

  • Is there any difference between patriotism and nationalism, other than a positive and negative connotation, respectively? Jun-Dai 22:46, 7 July 2006 (UTC)
  • Earlier this year on a conference on ethnic conflict in Marburg, Germany I had a discussion with a Social-Psycologist who did some studies on this matter. Following his definition nationalism is a national identity based on ethnicity (like for example Germany used to be 1871-1945, or also Italy, Denmark, and many other european countries). While patriotism is refering to an national identity that is based on a political idea, like in France 1789-now or the USA 1776-now. Therefore you could say that nationalism has a more negative connotation. Thorben 10:54, 20 July (WET)
  • This seems like an artificial distinction to me. Patriotism does seem to be indistinguishable from nationalism. There may be a distinction between the kind of patriotism/nationalism found in the North America/Western Europe and that found in Central/Eastern Europe but calling one "patriotism" and one "nationalism" seems contrived to me. I consider myself post-patriotic. That is, I do not consider nation states to be the most important political units in this world any more, so patriotism/nationalism becomes irrelevant.

I also belive that "a national identity based on a political idea" is not a relevant concept in today's world. The age when people who believed in Enlightenment values emigrated to America are long gone. In this globalised world I feel more kinship with a Burmese democracy campaigner (someone trying to bring liberal Enlightement values to a part of the world that lacks them) than a right-wing US Republican (someone trying to take those liberal Enlightenment values such as freedom of religion and equality away from a country founded on it). McLurker 13:09, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

what makes a nation Edit

I would like to think that rather then being patriotic to a nation, I'm patriotic to the ideas that build the nation; forexample, the Constitution verses the United States. This may be a factor of the ralative young age of my county compaired to other countries around the world. But the fact remains that I would defend the Constitution even if that meant defending it against the United States.

Relative young age?? The US is one of the oldest nations in the world, in the sense that it has defined a common national (ie. superregional) identity a century earlier than most other countries. For instance, most European countries were no more than collections of autonomous provinces not too long ago (and still are, to some extent)

If I were a nationalist, I would fight to protect the United States interests over the constitution. Or the ideas that make up the United States. The US revolutionary war is a good example to me personally. There were those who fought for an idea of the declaration of independence, and others who fought to protect the unity of the existing nation (as colonies of Britian). I would like to think I would have done my part to create a nation that held fast to the ideas that came out of that declaration. Toonces

An interesting suggestion. I think I agree with your main point: that I'm favorable to certain ideas that "built" this nation, such as the bill of rights. I don't see the value in bundling them all together and being faithful to all of the ideals, either of our founding fathers or of our current body of law, and I don't see the patriotism in picking and choosing a few key things in our government that truly stand out. Also, if we are simply working off of the quality of these ideals, it seems kind of unpatriotic, because we would lose that once another country adopted a constitution that was superior (i.e., better matched my own ideology) or once our own country modified the constitution to make it inferior to that of other countries. And, as with the person below, you've also adopted a non-standard definition of patriotism. What you describe has little to do with "love for one's country", pride in our heritage (which contains enough shameful events to match some of the worst in the world), etc. Lastly, you haven't really explained what you find to be "good" about the kind of patriotism you describe. Jun-Dai 21:03, 23 July 2006 (UTC)
Why do you think that these definitions of patriotism are non-standard? Webster says (and I assume we all love webster :) that Patriotism is a "love of or devotion to" one's country. It seems to me that devoting effort to founding documents or concepts, and protecting the interests of citizens both fall within that.
It's a non-standard restriction of the definition to one aspect of the country. The definition you provide from Webster is the one I'm much more accustomed to. Jun-Dai 17:59, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

Why a Politician Should be a Patriot Edit

I see a Patriot as someone who places the interests of his own nation (or whatever level of locality) before the interests of others. As a citizen, I certainly do want the officials I elect to be interested in protecting my welfare before any other concerns. I don't demand that I be treated better than others, but I do demand that I be treated at least as an equal... and I want my representatives to ensure that for me.

I think it is naive to hope that we'll ever get to the point where a majority of politicians care about all people in our One World equally. That type of utopia, even if espoused by the majority, can never be maintained; it is too vulnerable to the inevitable minority who are unscrupulous and solely self-interested.

This may be true, but it is completely unenforceable. How are you going to make sure politicians are patriots? Indroduce lie detector tests? As long as politicians are not corrupt and represent voters, it doesn't really matter whether they are patriotic or not. Patriotism should be a personal issue only, just like religion. It should not come into play in politics. The job of government is to administer, not to engage in irrational idealistic quests.
That type of utopia, even if espoused by the majority, can never be maintained; it is too vulnerable to the inevitable minority who are unscrupulous and solely self-interested.
How is nation-centric (rather than global-centric) politics less vulnerable to that? Jun-Dai 20:19, 23 July 2006 (UTC)
No politicial scope is invulnerable to self interest. Patriotism is a way for politicians to define thier interests. If a politician goes on the public record saying that he will look after the interests of his nation (/locality) first, you know (grain of salt) he will be loyal to that nation (/locality).
Okay, that seems sensible enough. But it still leaves me with two questions: (1) Wouldn't it be a better leader whose most important priority was to improve global politics, recognizing that to accomplish that he would have to work locally, rather than a leader that was loyal to his country first and willing to concern himself global politics only in the interests of his constituency. and (2) Why does national scope stick out so much? We have a special, much-used word, patriotism, but we have no equivalent for any other scopes defined. The concept you've worked out doesn't logically favor nation-love more than province-love or city-love and yet clearly we do. Jun-Dai 18:29, 28 July 2006 (UTC)
(1) I feel it's a fair issue for voters to decide. In today's world, I don't want my representatives to worry about global interest before national interest because I believe that other national leaders are worried about their national interest first. It would put us at a disadvantage. I do understand the chicken/egg argument here, but I think it is inevitable in this type of system. While you may disagree with my individual position, I hope you concede my right to take that position and subsequently the value of patriotism to me as a citizen.
(2) I have a theory on this, let me know what you think. If two municipalities below the national level have a disagreement a parent municipality can (one way or another) step in and decide the issue. At the nation level, there is no real parent (assuming you agree that few if any nations are willing to make their own sovereignty subservient to the will of the UN and other international organizations). Therefore when two nations disagree, we see more direct conflict (war, economic sanctions or trade restrictions, immigration laws), which forces people to take sides and usually citizens take the side of their own nation. While it's not impossible for two cities to go at each other, or two counties... I think it's a bit rare and certainly not as heated (exceptions exist of course, like the Civil War in the US). I think that's also why some people quickly call their fellow citizens un-patriotic if they don't "take the side" of their own nation in some conflict. I'm not saying it's right, that's just why I feel it happens.
This line of reasoning seems to promote the assumption that all the citizens within a politician's region of representation will have common, non-conflicting interests. All sane citizen's will, of course, desire many of the same fundamental benefits of governmental organization (e.g., clean water, reliable transportation systems, personal safety, economic security), but people of different classes and different standards of humanitarian compassion will have vastly different views on how the government should function to provide those benefits to them. The political action (or inaction) most sought by self-interested wealthy business owners and corporate executives will rarely provide much benefit to the average factory worker, in their own region, let alone in some other region. So to what group is the politician to be "patriotic" when the interests of the citizenry conflict. History demonstrates that they are most often "patriotic" to the groups offering them the most money, perks, and power (i.e., the ruling class) up to the point that the masses decide they're being exploited just a bit too much and organize themselves well enough to force the politicians to make some concessions.
As I see it, we should be "patriotic" to the amazingly innovative and resourceful human race and to the precious ecosystems of our planet. When we take actions that are genuinely--and I mean genuinely--respectful and beneficial to the peoples and ecosystems of the world, all of us will benefit in the long run. And when we take actions to harm, oppress, or exploit those peoples or ecosystems (as our government has sadly done) it will hurt us in the long run--as the recent years of terrorism and climate change have clearly demonstrated. Global collaboration for the common good is fundamentally beneficial. Whereas, the us (pure good) vs. them (pure evil), Christian vs. Muslim, black vs. white, Ford vs. Chevy supposed competitions for resources or glory are sad distractions that suppress our potential as noble, sensible beings.

Patriots and Nations Edit

Part of the problem with patriotism is in its definition, which I suspect is the result of its being largely a propagandistic concept. Generally it is defined as love of one's country, which creates two definitional problems: what is included in this particular idea of "country" and what is included in this particular idea of "love"? The fact that few people can articulate what is meant with these and that no two people can agree on it explains its problematic usage, along with similar terms, such as unAmerican. All that exists of the term with regards to common understanding is a vaguely positive notion about love and loyalty and country. What I often see is people articulating patriotism as a concept that is defined in such a way that they can them apply it to themselves or people they favor (this happens often in partisan discourse). That two people above have defined the term so differently (ideology of the fouders vs. protecting the interests of the country's population) in ways that seem to line up with their ideologies (based on what little I know about them: what they've written here) is evidence of this. The only practical effects of patriotism that I can see are reinforcement of the dominant culture (apple pie, John Wayne, the English language, etc.) over the entire population, excusing various forms of protectionism and harming other populations for our own country's benefit, and most of all, villefying people. Jun-Dai 21:33, 23 July 2006 (UTC)
I don't know if this is the correct area to pose a question to you or if this should be moved to the discussion page (I'm new, please help me out)... but do you NOT see a value to a politician being primarily interested in those that he represents (or the fundamentals upon which his society was formed)?
If a nation is dominant in one area, is that bad? For example, lets imagine that the strength of the US economy allows it to exert diplomatic pressure on other nations (through heavy-handed stuff like sanctions, or more mildly through trade agreements, etc.). Would a non-patriotic politician view this as a bad thing? One group of people is taking advantage of another group. If there is no loyalty to either group, wouldn't a politician want to create a situation where everyone was treated equally?
I guess I don't see an inherent value in the latter (fundamentals)---a politician should be interested in the fundamentals if he believes that they are, well, good, and not because they were handed down to him. As for the former, it's a bit more complicated. I think that a representative should follow the interests of his people, up to a point. I don't know that any of our representatives in the US do this, but that's sort of a secondary point. What I'm trying to get to, is that I feel we should choose a politician that we feel matches our interests and is strong enough to carry them out, not because he is patriotic. Another way to put it that's kind of awkward, but perhaps helps reveal a subtle distinction that I've been making all along: it should be considered a good thing if a politician is patriotic in effect (she does things that are good for the country), but only up to a point (i.e., not so far as to cause significant harm to others); however, it should not, in my view, be considered a good thing that a politician is patriotic as a character trait. Jun-Dai 18:56, 28 July 2006 (UTC)
Regarding fundamentals, I agree with you. In fact, I don't think we really disagree very strongly on the priority of "fellow-citizen interests". Maybe we're just arguing over terms. Whether patriotism is a character trait or simply part of a representative's thought process in decision making, it sounds like we agree that some amount of it is good but that at some (we can debate on how extreme) point local gain should take a back seat to global gain.
An addendum to my point at the top of this section: I think that one striking effect of patriotism is to make it harder to reflect negatively on the actions of this country, its government, or its people. People that too often bring up subjects that reflect shame on the United States are frequently attacked as being unpatriotic or unAmerican, and this makes it so easy to forget shameful chapters of our own history. If we as a group had a better grasp on these details (when I went to a liberal arts school in NY, I found that half of my friends had never heard about Japanese American interment), we might be more hesitant to take such reckless actions in the rest of the world. Liberals that consider themselves patriotic will claim that this is simply a misuse or misunderstanding of patriotism, but I feel it is a perspective that naturally arises from patriotism rather than simply being a mutant form of it. Jun-Dai 18:56, 28 July 2006 (UTC)
I certainly won't argue that patriotism is a serviceable substitute for intelligence or that it should allow us to justify uninformed decisions. There have been folks in history that have made poor decisions and used patriotism to rally public opinion around those decisions. Then again, the same can be said of religion, environmentalism, and racism. There are a ton of stupid people out there, some of them just happen to call themselves patriots.

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