Is Patriotism Irrational? An Opinion Piece

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27th Feb 2019 Assignment Reference this

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Definitions:

Patriotism: The quality of being patriotic, having devoted love/loyalty/pride to one’s country.

Irrational: Not logical or reasonable

Pride: A feeling of pleasure and satisfaction when you do something good.

Militarism: The belief that a country should build up a large military so that a country is prepared to aggressively promote or defend national interests/beliefs.

Being devoted to your country seems very logical to many people, some people/places actively encourage Patriotism as it brings people together who share the love for their country. However I believe that there are also dangers with patriotism. Patriotism can lead to a false sense of pride and the exclusion of others who are not one of them. In this essay I am going to explore the reasons why people think patriotism is a good thing and why patriotism is actually dangerous and irrational.

Modern Patriotism is irrational because a person that is born into a country was only born in that country by coincidence, they didn’t choose to be born in that country. Patriotism is also irrational because as every patriot believes that their country is the best and only one can qualify as the “best country” not all of them can be right. It’s also immoral because every country has their interests in making their country better even at the downfall of others.

However others say this argument is false because their defining of Patriotism is wrong. People say that patriotism has nothing to do with other countries and instead what they are describing is Nationalism. Nationalism is where you see your country as superior to other countries and this gives you an excuse to spread your countries’ beliefs forcefully. Nationalism is a bad thing because it leads to irrational blaming and discrimination akin to the Nazi rule1. Patriotism in the eyes of a patriotist is completely different to Nationalism as it is only about the love and devotion for your country and not the belief that it is superior to every other country. A true patriot would feel like they had to show extreme moral scrutiny for their country.  A Patriotist sees their country as a work in progress and not a finished perfect place as a nationalist would.

However the line between Patriotism and Nationalism is very slim and most of the time Patriotism leads to Nationalism. For example the USA a very patriotic country displays characteristics of a Nationalist country. In a poll made on June 5th 2008 by an American news site called Gallup3 they asked if racism against blacks was widespread in the US. The poll showed that the American people, especially the black population, said that it was widespread in America. One of the main reasons for this is that as they are a very patriotic country it is harder for them to see where their country is going wrong so they blame it on other groups. One common example of this is “Foreigners are taking our jobs”. They see the unemployment crisis as the fault of the influx of foreigners not the country for not supplying enough jobs or making workers redundant. This blaming soon escalates to full blown nationalism and even in extreme cases Militarism.

Patriots who are asked “why do you love your country?” will list achievements and the virtues that the country have and not answer the question. However if another country had the exact same virtues and achievements most patriots would not show the same love of that country. This means that the only reason they love their country is because it’s their country which is completely irrational as mentioned before and because they did not choose to be born there and most probably had nothing to do with the growth of the country.

However patriots would argue that they should be patriotic because as an individual they have had an effect on their country no matter how small and they have the right to call it their country. Some patriots even say that they must be patriotic to understand the nation and it’s interests and also to care about the country so that it can improve and expand.

When someone criticizes a country you can see, especially on social media sites such as twitter, that patriotists attack and exclude that person even if it could help the country in question. This can also happen on a larger scale with Militarism. If a country or person criticises another country, in countries that are seen as very patriotic the people of said country will race to defend their country and threaten the country that is accusing them. In a militarist country where they are ready to use their army war can happen almost spontaneously over just criticism or rivalry with other Patriotic countries

Another problem with Patriotism is that it gives people who are patriotic a false sense of pride. When the US army win a war the US citizens feel a false sense of pride even though they have not accomplished anything. This feeling of pride is dangerous because it can give you a feeling of superiority over other people. It also leads to the reluctance of a person/country to participate in critique and reform and the exclusion of any one that that challenges the ideals of their country. This arrogance pushes people away making Patriotism something that is supposed to bring people together actually alienates them.

In some places you can also get forced Patriotism where the people are forced to “love” their country and display complete loyalty to their country and/or leader. The problem with this is Patriotism cannot be forced6. You can force people to sing the national anthem or salute the country’s flag and leader but you cannot change their opinions and beliefs towards the country and how perfect it is so the forcing of Patriotism is completely irrational. One example of forced Patriotism is North Korea where under the strict rule of Kim Jong-Un, their leader, the people have to be patriotic to North Korea or else.  In North Korea the punishments for having an opinion about the state of North Korea or not showing the patriotic characteristics that is forced upon them are incredibly severe. If you do something as simple as not bowing in front of a leader of North Korea then they can implement the overly strict “three generations of punishment rule”7. This rule says that a person and the next two generations born in the camps can be sent to prison camps. This forced Patriotism is not working at all which you can see from the thousands of refugees trying to escape from North Korea every year. Patriotism and forced Patriotism clearly are not working to control or bring people together.  

Patriotism appears the most when a country is threatened by another country. In World War 1 and World War 2 Patriotism was actively encouraged by those in charge so they could justify to the people the reason to enter in to war and protect their country when war was upon them. They used propaganda like the Lord Kitchener recruitment poster to “evoke patriotism and guilt in those yet to enlist without straying as far as emotional blackmail”8. This caused a divide between the people of Brittan of those patriotic soldiers who society was accepting of and the people that hated their country and didn’t enlist to fight who were then rejected from society.

However during World War 2 Hitler and the Nazi party aggressively encouraged Patriotism on a country that was struggling economically. Hitler, using Patriotism, made the people of Germany believe that the Germans as a race were superior to normal people and that the only reason they lost the last war and failed economically was that the Jews and Russians were working together to make Germany fail. Hitler used their pride and passion which derived from their Patriotism to get his own way in invading the whole of Europe. Other fascist leaders like Hitler take advantage of the rise of Patriotism for their own plans. These leaders feed off the seemingly innocent love for their country and turn it into insecurity for their country and hate for other countries to promote themselves.   

Taking pride in the success of your country or the country you live in can be a good thing. Being pleased for and celebrating achievements is acceptable and mostly harmless. For example we can all enjoy encouraging our competitors in the Olympic Games. However Patriotism can easily become a bad thing for instance when Hitler became outraged when watching Jesse Owens, a black American, win 4 gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Germany (Berlin). Hitler’s Patriotism lead him and the people of Germany to see the Germans as a superior race which then lead him to invade other countries to make his country stronger. So I think that Patriotism can only be rational in an ideal world where patriots are able to take criticism from other countries and the leaders of other countries and do not use Patriotism as a weapon to get their own way. Until Patriotism is this Patriotism is irrational.

Bibliography

  1. https://www.quora.com/Is-nationalism-good-or-bad
  2. http://news.gallup.com/poll/109258/majority-americans-say-racism-against-blacks-widespread.aspx
  3. https://youtu.be/k2tztxtyNdI
  4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/intimacy-path-toward-spirituality/201506/why-pride-is-nothing-be-proud
  5. https://www.quora.com/Is-forcing-patriotism-good-for-our-country
  6. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/19/brutal-inhumane-laws-north-koreans-forced-live/
  7. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-28642846
  8. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/patriotism/

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