I have never bothered to understand why such word as “patriotism” can be interpreted by different people differently. Somehow, it didn’t trigger even a slight interest to get more clarity on whether my interpretation of this word as something positive is correct.
But one day I noticed something which I always knew. It was one of these weird life situations when we have a eureka moment regarding something which we have always been aware of because it has been in front of our very eyes all the time.
I realised that all politicians from every country would mention a few times the word “patriotism” in their speech. Perhaps, it would not be so surprising except for one aspect. These politicians represented the entire spectrum of the political parties from far-left to far-right.
It also became apparent that “patriotism” is being used with increasing frequency. I found it controversial that the more politicians would deliver the patriotic messages, the more people with radical views would start to surface.
Since forever I was told that the word “patriotism” is nothing but positive. But the current environment signalled that my understanding of it was in clear contradiction with the reality. How come it was possible that such positive term leads to so many negative consequences. Therefore, I decided to do a little bit of research and get to the core of this issue.
I started with checking dictionaries. One of the most common definitions of “patriotism” is devoted love, support and defence of one’s country, national loyalty.
Wikipedia specifies that patriotism is also understood as an attachment to a homeland. This attachment can be viewed in terms of different features relating to one’s homeland, including ethnic, cultural, political, or historical aspects.
I noticed something which I read many times before but never paid attention to it. All dictionaries also indicate “nationalism” or “chauvinism” are synonyms of “patriotism”.
James Paul, professor of globalisation and cultural diversity at Western Sydney University identified nationalism as a complex and multidimensional concept that oriented towards developing and maintaining a national identity based on shared characteristics such as culture, language, race, religion, political goals and/or belief in a common ancestry. Nationalism can be positive or negative. He also defined chauvinism as an excess of patriotism or an exaggerated patriotism and a belligerent belief in national superiority and glory.
Little by little it became clear that patriotism might not be so positive after all. However, to avoid misinterpretation, I decided to compare it with another word which all of us would understand only as positive. Naturally, my choice was the word which carries the ultimate positive meaning – “love”.
Dictionaries define love as an intense feeling of deep affection, deep romantic and/or sexual attachment to someone. Synonyms of love are fondness, tenderness, warms, intimacy, attachment, endearment, devotion, adoration, passion, desire, compassion, humanity, friendliness, kindness, charity, and many other words which carry meaning that cannot be interpreted other than positive.
The basic law of logic tells us that positivity produces a positive response. If any word, idea, or ideology leads to something negative and ugly, it is unlikely that the core nature of such word, idea, or ideology to be positive. It made me realise that based on correlation with synonyms, we can really tell whether the word carries a truly positive meaning.
Synonyms of love is a clear indication that this approach is viable. Because any of its synonyms do not suggest that love is capable of producing hatred.
I assume that some people may argue that obsession could be interpreted as a synonym of love. I would disagree with it because the definition of the word “obsession” is an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.
Moreover, its synonyms are a fixation, infatuation, addiction, fetish, craze, mania and so on. It shows that obsession cannot be compared to love because it is unhealthy.
Besides linguistic nuances, I also realised what are real consequences of the frequent use of patriotism by politicians. Because an absence of clear measurement provides patriotism with the capacity to transform to nationalism with its grey nature and then further to chauvinism.
Since patriotism is exclusive, I would also assume that the same “nicely looking” word is the reason for a rise of racism. It explains why we witness so much of negativity in our daily life.
Definition of patriotism contains elements of fake attachment. What does it mean, love to one’s country and national loyalty? Does it mean that when we cross the border we are not supposed to like the land? And how would we know that it is not the land that we shall love if there is no clear demarcation of the border?
In contrast to patriotic, love is inclusive. A person could be in love with someone, but at the same time, he or she would also love parents, siblings, children, friends, and other people.
Definition of love also does not create conflicting feelings. A person could love the country where he or she was born but at the same time, this person would love the entire world. Love does not provide any potential which may lead to hostility.
I concluded that patriotism indirectly prohibits us from seeing a beauty of other cultures or other people. It might be responsible for a growing number of individuals who would disrespect others just because of a different colour of skin.
Patriotism serves as a foundation for citizens to agree with their leaders even if they are wrong. It teaches people that they shall reject reasonable solution from another country just because it was proposed by their own government.
It naturally builds a mentality whereby it is normal to think that whoever is not our co-citizens are our enemies. Moreover, patriotism powerful tool which assists ignorant and arrogant people to come to power. By providing such assistance, patriotism has a potential to eliminate freedom of expression.
“Patriotism is most fervently displayed
in times of war and impending war. Even during times of peace,
patriotism is often expressed in
commemorations of war and in ceremonies involving the military.
Is patriotism, then, necessarily warlike?
Does patriotism lust for violence?
Or is there an achievable form of patriotism grounded in respect for humanity in general, and aimed at achieving peace?”
“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”