Thursday, February 21, 2013

Patriotism? No thanks!

“Yet some can be patriotic who have no self-respect, and sacrifice the greater to the less. They love the soil which makes their graves, but have no sympathy with the spirit which may still animate their clay. Patriotism is a maggot in their heads.” - Henry David Thoreau

Nation-states have a logic of their own. So insidiously is the logic purveyed through the state’s institutions that it becomes common-sense. Like religion, it encourages devotion to a vague and ill-defined abstraction. Even in its most innocuous forms, patriotism is irrational. The World Cup and the Olympics are known for their unabashed displays of nationalism. Flags, patriotic chants, and cross-national rivalries are the order of the day. Football is the quintessential illustration of sociologist Benedict Anderson’s argument that nationhood itself represents an “imagined community”  –  an affinity between strangers who will never meet or hear of one another, but are bound by a mental image of shared history, often mythologized, and of common destiny. Nowhere is that community imagined more fiercely than in the football stadium, and among the hundreds of thousands gathered in pubs and living rooms across the country communing with those in the stadium urging their national team forward against those of other countries. Do hundreds of thousands of Scots gather in front of their TV sets on St Andrews Day to celebrate their nation by singing “Flower of Scotland”? No chance. But that’s exactly what happens when Scotland takes the field in a World Cup or Euro match. However, so eroded are national boundaries in the modern game that it mocks the very idea of a flag, anthem and passport that distinguishes between “us” and “them.” FIFA, recognizing the reality of massive and constant migration accelerated by economic globalization, allows a player to effectively “choose” a country to represent at senior level, even if they’d played for a different one all the way up to Under-21 level. The  cosmopolitan make-up of today’s football teams also negates the idea of a shared history lionized in national flags and anthems.*

The world moves on and nationalism is becoming less and less relevant in face of increasing globalisation. National differences and antagonisms between peoples are daily more and more vanishing owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life.

 Many a good Scot do not consider themselves as nationalist, instead they much  prefer the more noble label ‘Scottish patriot’. A patriot, so the idea goes, does not look down on other nations, but ‘instead only’ loves his own. The "Scottish nation" is meaningless: all "nations" are mongrel, a mixture of so many immigrations and mixings of peoples over time that the idea of a Scot is largely comical. Nation-hood is not the same as culture. There are many varied cultures within Scotland which is not some homogenised whole but like most countries, is a diverse and complex tapestry. If you take a person from Berwickshire and someone from Northumberland, separated by only a few miles and introduce them to a German, he's not going to be able to tell the difference, by looks, by dress, by accent, by mannerisms. Take somebody from Glasgow and Thurso and i am sure the German will recognise a difference in at least the accents.

Nationalism is the egg that hatches fascism it has been said. And patriotism is but the begetter of nationalism. Patriotism is highly toxic. When ingested, it corrodes the rational faculties. It gulls people into believing their leaders. It’s  wheeled out whenever a leader needs to improve his ratings. It masks those who benefit most from state policy. And it destroys the ability of people to come together across boundaries, to take on those with the most power: the multinationals.

All borders are fabricated myths, and with them the false concepts of immigration, emigration, nationality, national pride and patriotism. It is not the rich who ascribe topatriotism. They are perfectly at home in every land. Russian and Indian oligarchs living the high life in London. Celebrated Scots like Sean Connery and Jackie Stewart take up residence in foreign climes. Patriotism is not for the likes of wealthy.

The lottery of place of birth should not be used to cloud judgement. One cannot feel pride for being born Scottish, that was just the luck of the draw, you might well have been born Welsh. Patriotism is a fraud whereby would-be rulers "self-determine" to impose their vision of nationhood on an entire community. Nationalism is an ideology of separation, of hatred for the ‘other.’ It is a creed of oppression. What is necessary is to develop human solidarity, the instincts of mutual aid that enable us to survive and which have fueled all human progres. Throughout history, governments incessantly brainwash the minds of men, women and children with the evils of past foreign masters. The struggle against alienation is inherently a struggle against patriotism.

The Socialist Party doesn’t believe in patriotism. Our critics can call us unpatriotic but we will take pride in being unpatriotic. We never identify ourselves as Scots (or British) first and foremost, instead we define ourselves in terms of our socialist politics. Patriotism was born with the one and sole purpose: to control the masses; and so far it had done a very fine job.The process of creating the "Scotland" was awash in the blood of Scot slaughtering Scot. Nation-states can only be authoritarian and geared to the interests of a tiny elite. The working class is manipulated into identifying their well-being with the aims and ambitions of the ruling class. As classes within the nation disappear, the hostility of one nation to another will also come to an end.  Socialists work for the day "patriotism" will simply means being proud to be part of humanity. Or to perhaps adopt Eloise Bell's word, socialists are "matriots" those who loves Mother Earth.

"Conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot." -  Emma Goldman. 

* List of Scotland international players not born in Scotland
2009 data-list of foreign born players in the SPL
2011-12 season data list of 603 foreign SPL players

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