The Love of One’s Country is a Dangerous thing:
Kevin P Clements
“What sort of love is this love that we have for countries? What sort of country is is that will ever live up to our dreams?What sort of dreams were those that have been broken? Isn’t the greatness of great nations directly proportional to their ability to be ruthless, genocidal? Doesn’t the height of a country’s “success” usually also mark the depths of its moral failure? And what about our failure? Writers, artists, radicals anti-nationals. mavericks, malcontents-what of the failure of our imaginations?
What of our failure to replace the idea of flags and countries with a less lethal Object of Love? Human beings seem unable to live without war, but they are also unable to live without love. So the question is , what shall we love?…. Unfortunately, in imaginations that are locked down into a grid of countries and borders, in minds that are shrink-wrapped in flags, they don’t make the cut…recalibrating our priorities might.
An old growth forest, a mountain range or a river valley is more important and certainly more loveable than any country will ever be. I could weep for a river valley and I have. But for a country? Oh man, I don’t know….” Arundhati Roy The Guardian Weekend 28 November 2015
Arundhati Roy is reminding us of the terrible damage that patriotism and nationalism have generated in the past and are generating in the present. She is also telling us that if we do not find other “Objects” for our love and energy then it is highly likely that nationalism will continue to do damage well into the 21st century.
This dangerous element to patriotism was picked up in the first verse of the Irish Nationalist song The Patriot Game.
Come all ye young rebels, and list while I sing,
For the love of one’s country is a terrible thing.
It banishes fear with the speed of a flame,
And it makes us all part of the patriot game.
In response to the Paris attacks: the French and British governments have increased levels of fear and paranoia, infantilised their citizens, undermined taken for granted levels of political efficacy ; urged everyone to wrap themselves in national flags and to vest their future security in military and coercive solutions.
Instead of encouraging non violent and imaginative responses to the problems at hand they have deliberately narrowed the scope of acceptable,rational solutions to those that have already proven to be flawed.
The problem is that a repetition of policies that have already generated preventable suffering and death is to join the “Death Cults” rather than focus on some realistic and rational alternatives, As we discovered in the 1980s, there is no possibility of national security in such a tightly interdependent world. Genuine security has to be collaborative, cooperative and relational. We generate effective security in relationship with others – even with those that might seek to harm us.
Terrorism is always aimed at provoking hatred, division, polarisation and war. If we succumb to these responses ourselves we give the terrorists what they most fervently desire. The fact is as British Quakers have said in a recent statement on these issues.
The military actions of Western nations recruit more people to the cause than they kill. Every bomb dropped is a recruitment poster for ISIS, a rallying point for the young, vulnerable and alienated. And every bomb dropped on Syrian cities drives yet more people to flee and seek refuge in safer countries.
We can and must do better than this. We have to resist efforts to divide us as human beings. This means a rejection of narrow nationalist concepts of security. It also means resistance to deep division, polarisation, dehumanisation and demonisation.
If we do not do these things we will have no normative constraints on our violence.
The best way to security is through connection rather than division; dialogue rather than megaphonic diplomacy and through a radical quest to expand and exhaust all nonviolent options before utilising force. France has come through a second major trauma in a year but that does not mean it has to succumb to the tactics of those who have committed violence against them. It can and must appeal to nobler enlightenment and humanistic traditions so that it disarms by reminding those who commit violence of their deeper humanity.
It is vital that we reassert the global rule of law, our political leaders must treat terrorist acts as crimes, not acts of war. They are appalling crimes but they do not of themselves justify war. It is also important that the West and Russia do not keep fuelling the Syrian conflict by dispatching more and more lethal weapons into an environment that is already awash with such weapons. The United Nations needs to become much more centrally involved in accelerating diplomatic and humanitarian initiatives that remove the need for deeper bombing. It is also important that we cease thinking of ourselves in terms of our tribal and national identities and begin focusing on more cosmopolitan global human identities. If we do not start thinking in non nationalist terms we will be doomed to repeat all the mistakes of the nationalist eras of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Instead of undermining the European Union, for example, this is the time to strengthen and expand it. It is also the time to expand other regional projects so that we diminish the power of nations and generate higher levels of cooperative security in peaceful regional arrangements.
In all of this we need to remember that peace cannot be dictated. It flows from collaborative, cooperative and peaceful relationships between all peoples and states. If our political leaders don’t get this simple point then the people need to live alternatively with regional and global loyalty rather than national.