from Russia with bias

Archive for January 2019

Is Patriotism Better Than Nationalism?

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I keep seeing various people, including those who I respect, using the word ‘patriotism’ as a positive alternative to nationalism. I must admit that, like many people who went to school in the USSR, I find the word “patriot” disturbing, because of it being a larger-than-life marker of both moral and material corruption. Falsely ascribed to Saltykov-Shchedrin, but nevertheless a widely popular line immediately comes to mind: “If you hear someone shouting about patriotism, be sure that something has been stolen somewhere”.

But besides emotions, there is also a rationale behind my aversion to most, if not all things “patriotic”. It’s the word patria or fatherland itself that’s problematic. It derives from the cult of common ancestors, which cemented prehistoric tribal cultures. But tribalism, built around a patriarchal figure who rewards relatives for their loyalty to the tribe and rallies them against hostile strangers, is something modern societies have been struggling to overcome over centuries, while trying to build a more efficient, impersonal and meritocratic state.

In his two-volume treatise on political order and decay, Francis Fukuyama shows how people’s natural tendency to reward relatives by giving them higher status and access to resources at the expense of better-performing non-relatives led to the decay of powerful political regimes over centuries. Nationalism, which one may call patriotism so it sounds more seemly, is a path to corruption because it rewards ethnic kinship at the expense of decency and talent. In Eastern Europe, it is simply a front for post-Communist mafia state.

For someone like me, who came of age in the late 1980s, the word solidarity suits much better as an alternative to nationalism as it transcends national borders linking with the old Polish slogan: “For our and your freedom!”. When instead of dividing nations, the frontline in the global war of values cuts right through them – in the US, Britain, Russia and everywhere in Eastern Europe – it is international solidarity of people who cherish freedom, openness and diversity that matters, while “patriotism” is something that belongs to the other side of the barricade.

Written by fullofbias

January 17, 2019 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized