Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Good Patriotic Folks

Pictured Enver Pasha, Leader of The Young Turks, killer of 2.6 million people.

Let us examine patriotism for a moment. What does it do? Well, in the good column it makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside, perhaps even our chests swell a bit when we think about it. In the negative category it justifies us killing millions of people and denying the chance for relevance and greatness to billions of others.

Why does patriotism make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. After all we don't have anything to do with being born in any certain spot. We have about as much to do with our country of origin as we do with the laws of physics. Taken from this view point, patriotism makes about as much sense as being proud that the earth is held in orbit by a force called gravity. And yet most human beings take great pride in the placement of their mother's vagina the day they were born (unless the individual created the country, or immigrated in which case they can justifiably be patriotic). The reason is inevitable superiority. You can always feel special for being patriotic. It makes you special, it makes you better than someone else. Better yet you can never screw it up, and being that it is inheritance you get it completely undeservedly. That is why we are proud of arbitrary and rapidly shifting boundaries scribbled across this globe. To be powerful and special regardless of how worthless and incompetant, regardless of how undeserving of life you are, this is the goal of humanity up to this point.

What bad has it done? Well off the top of my head, and limiting myself to genocides in the last 90 years (to include the wars caused by patriotism would likely stretch this article to thousands of pages) I seem to remember a great deal of carnage and wasting of humanity. First, starting in 1915 the Turkish people swellled up with national pride and decided to increas their national unity. The subversive and decidedly un Turkish Armenians therefore had to go. 2.6 million of them were executed, beaten to death, starved, or tortured to death for the sake of national unity. Starting in the early 30s Josef Stalin noticed that the Cossacks were not living the Russian way. This threat to Russianness, this festering afront to national security was summarily liquidated to a huge extent, some say up to 30 million. Good patriotic folks from Germany gave up everything for the glory of the nation and in the exitement threw a little party called the Holocost. Later pride in being a Hutu and the desire to strengthen Hutuness led them to murder 800,000 innocent Tutsis in Rwanda. We all remember our friend Slobodan Milosevic and his little cleansing?

One thing you'll notice is that all of these nations were destroyed, or nearly destroyed as a result of their patriotism. The Turks were so enthralled with strengthening national unity that they were destroyed in WW1 only three years later. Stalin so thoroghly staggered the USSR with his national security measures that he was nearly destroyed by a German force fighting on four fronts. Hitler committed suicide in a completely devastated country only 12 years after founding the most patriotic regime seen on earth. Rwanda went from being a crummy place to a shithole. Slobodan Milosevic now stands in front of a war crimes tribunal and looks out of his cell window only to see a torn and broken Bosnia. Look at how good patriotism is for Sudan right now. Any hope they had of economic improvement is being destroyed and they are facing the very real threat of military invasion.

Why does patriotism cause this degeneration of power? Simply, it prefers its own. At its mildest it prefers its native born for positions of power and stiffles in incoming talent not from its own boarders through immigration strangulation. It absolutely does not pursue human talent from other countries. In its more extreme forms it actively rids itself of talent that would otherwise be helping it. Germany for example, spent a great deal of energy ridding itself of people like Albert Einstien. Also "its own" is often a safe, uninspiring, uninventive person who fits into the national stereotype and is thus useless for the purposes of evolution and innovation. Without those two things power is severely crippled. Without power there is only destruction.

Hurray for national unity in Rwanda


Blogger Mr Pineapple said...

Great points on patriotism both here and in your main article on meritocracy. I come from this from a different perspective as your primary focus is power and mine is psychology (my field of study).

Starting with the positive/negative aspects of patriotism. First I completely agree with your assesment of the terrible damage it does and how completely illogical it is. It seems so increadible to me still that this is so widespread. Just to play devils advocate for a sec... A lot of your base ideology seems to be quite socially darwinian, or Nietzchian, and from this perspective a case can be made for historical advantages to patriotism.
Basically you bring up the extreme worst cases of patriotism gone mad, and rightly so, however patriotism is found in many nations without lots of these effects. It is a way to bind members of the 'tribe' together to strive and fight for a single cause. A good case can be made for the idea that no nation that currently exists would exist at all without the drive of patriotism to help fight neighbours. It has been the primary motivation for people to fight for their nations throughout history, as well as a general motivating drive for the general population as well. Nazi Germany is a perfect example of patriotism gone mad, but by the same token without patriotism I am willing to guess that Great Britain would have been overcome by Germany in WW2. This is pretty much true in most cases through history, I don't really think a nation could have survived or even been created in the ruthless dog-eat-dog world of human history without the drive to fight that patriotism grants. This may well no longer be strictly the case, we seem to be living in slightly more civilised times now, but as much as I hate to say it, it seems like patriotism has been essential to the current nations survival throughout history. From a current perspective I can see nations still thinking of patriotism as essential to survival. From a global perspective, or an individual one, it is illogical and terrible. From a state perspective, I would say that to give up patriotism completely while all the nations around you do not would seem to be very risky, and very detrimental to your 'power'. This is essentially why patriotism has survived and why it started, the groups that sided exclusively with themselves were the ones who survived the crucible of human development, and the ones who didn't were fractured and overtaken. Your points about immigration, racism, and personal achievement on here I completely agree with and it is probably detrimental to be patriotic in the modern era for these reasons alone, but just adding a bit of a different historical perspective.

In a more fundamental way I think that patriotism as well as racial pride, religious, etc are all part of the same psychological phenomena. In your meritocracy article you point to superiority as the base reason and I think this is only part of the story. As I said you are analysing this based on power so I don't disagree but here is a different outlook...

In my opinion all these things are based on the fundamental problem of group identification. This is a basic idea in social psych. If a person is put into a certain team in an experiment and made to compete with another team, they will very quickly begin to be more friendly to their team members, like them better, attribute more skill to them, and less to their opponents (lots of other experiments and ideas, just look up 'group behaviour' in social psych for more detail). The fundamental in all of this isn't that they feel superior, you can do the experiment with no competition and there is no real feeling of superiority there, they just begin to identify as a member of that group. I think this is instinctive tribe behaviour. We automatically identify ourselves socially according to a certain hierachy and groupings. In modern society this can get very mixed up. We can identify with men, women, our nation, our state, our football team, our religion, our race, our social class etc. To me the fundamental problem is that we put what we are above who we are. Some don't but it is a widespread problem that people are stuck in their roles of identifying 'as' something. An interesting historical example of how these are all related is in history texts of 5-7th century BC Athens and the rise of the city-state. The original groupings and politics was all based on the complex tribal system, where tribal loyalties were paramount. That tribal loyalty was transfered to the city-state of Athens as society mixed and external threats arose, changing what people identified themselves as from the members of a particular tribe to the members of a state (and patriotism was born)

Again none of what i have said is really disagreeing with you, I think your points on this are spot on, just bringing a different perspective. I will put some serious thought in and see what I can say about power, because I really do disagree with you there.

2:37 PM  
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