The Love of One’s Country is a Dangerous Thing.

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.


About kevinclements2012

Short CV Professor Kevin P Clements. I am the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand and Secretary General of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy. Prior to taking up these positions I was the Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia . I went to Queensland from International Alert where I was Secretary General from January 1999 to September 2003. International Alert is one of the world’s largest NGOs working on conflict transformation. It pioneered innovative policy and practical approaches to conflict prevention and transformation in Africa ,Eurasia and Asia . It has also made a major contribution to the mainstreaming of conflict prevention within European Foreign and Development Ministries, the EU and a variety of UN institutions. During his time there I was on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and past President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels. Prior to becoming Secretary General of International Alert I was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. My career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I was, for example, formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra .Prior to this I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand . My first academic position was as a lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University . I took up this position from a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University where I worked on development issues with Paul Streeten and others. I have been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian , British , Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention , peace, defence and security issues and advised the German Government and the OECD on States and Violence. I was, a member of the New Zealand Government’s Defence Committee of Enquiry in 1985 and I currently conducting Problem Solving Workshops in North East Asia with high level participants from Japan, China and Korea. Iwas President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998, President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. I was Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association 2008-2010. I got my B.A, B.A Hon ( First Class) and Ph.D in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford from 1970-1971. I have been a regular consultant to a variety of non governmental and intergovernmental organisations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues and I have written or edited 7 books and over 160 chapters /articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. Research Expertise 1. Peace Research Theory- Conflict and Conflict Resolution Theory . Preventive Diplomacy , Development and Peacebuilding 2. International and Regional Regimes-APEC, ASEAN, the ARF, ECOWAS 3. Political Sociology-International Organisations. Multilateral/bilateral negotiating processes. 4. Fragile States, Legitimacy and Political Hybridity 5. Alternative Defence and Security Policies-Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific region. 6. The politics and ethics of international humanitarian intervention 7. Altruism and Compassion In my spare time I like to paint with acrylics or pastels, go to the theatre, listen to classical music, visit art galleries etc!
This entry was posted in Cosmopolitanism, Global Rule of Law, Nationalism, Patriotism, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Love of One’s Country is a Dangerous Thing.

  1. Tim Webster says:

    Kevin, I believe with all my heart, mind and body that what you have said here is absolutely, indeliby true. Thanks for articulating what I haven’t been able to.

    Best to you,
    Tim Webster

    Liked by 1 person

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