Thursday, 9 August 2012

Patriotism and Nationalism

Both these terms seem to have become, in the minds of the literate elite at any rate, synonomous with 'Fascism.' There certainly are examples where extreme patriotism and extreme nationalism are, and have been, exploited for ideological purposes, but does that mean that anyone who feels a small glow of pride in belonging to a particular nation or supports the activities of representatives of that nation is a "fascist?" I would argue no.

I am a patriot in the sense that I am proud to be British. I am proud of what my forebears achieved under the banner of service to their country and the ideals it apparently stood for. I am proud to be associated with the achievements of our athletes and I am proud to have been associated with the British Fire and Rescue Services and of my family's links in the past to the British Armed Forces. I am not a nationalist in that I do not consider myself exclusively Scottish, Welsh, Irish or English. A simple look at my "family tree" tells me that to do so would not just be nonsense, it would render about three quarters of my forebears something they weren't. Yes, I wasn't born in the UK, but then, neither was Spike Milligan and a whole slew of other famous and far more patriotic Britons.

What we share is that we were born of parents who were British, serving in British Armed Forces or working in British Colonies or Possessions. Perhaps this is why, when some "pop Star" like Morrisey, a beneficiary of the wealth produced by the efforts of those who, over the last five centuries risked life, limb and health to make Britain "great" and bring back wealth, likens patriotism to fascism, I am annoyed. People like him see nothing beyond their own prejudiced and blinkered view of society. Worse, by misapplying labels like "fascist" to anyone and everyone they disagree with, they debase the very real evil those labels represent.

Exclusive nationalism is a slightly different matter to 'patriotism.' I can be patriotic without being 'nationalistic.' As a patriot I can still feel ashamed of the stupidity of politicians, the ideologies some of them continue to promote or the appalling behaviour of some Britons abroad. Nationalists, on the other hand, believe in the superiority of everything to do with the 'nation' they are part of. Thus everyone not of their 'nation' can be labelled as 'inferior' or their culture decried as 'barbaric.' Examples are the 'tourists' who go to Muslim countries and engage in activities that offend local custom or even the law of that land - then demand exemption because 'its allowed where I come from.' Nationalism is what leads down the road to exclusion of some groups and to the favouring of sections of a population over others when taken to extremes.

People like Mr. Morrisey would be better engaged on pondering why, in modern Britain, one still finds a nation so divided that few, if any, call themselves "English." What is it about the way they have been raised that almost everyone you meet proclaims, on being asked, themselves a 'Mancunian,' a 'Tynesider' or a Scot, Welsh or any one of the regional labels rather than admitting to being 'English' or even, God forbid, "British?" Is this tribal identity relevant in the 21st Century? Is it the result of the sort of 'Class War' that seems to have been fostered by the politics of greed and envy of the last century? Or is it the result of a mythos with its roots in the literature of the 19th Century and Sir Walter Scott's (among others) wonderful, but often historically inaccurate, stories?

I'm a patriot. I'm British and I'm proud to be so. It makes me proud to hear the crowd in the stands singing the National Anthem with gusto at the medal ceremonies, and my German friends and neighbours think its wonderful that we do. If that makes Mr. Morrisey and his friends uncomfortable - tough.

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