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Friday, 10 March 2017

My problem with patriotism

I’ll be honest, I’ve never really understood people’s problems with immigration. Immigrants, migrants, expats, whatever. I just don’t see what’s wrong with it. My logic is that this world is full of land, and humans should be allowed to go wherever, but we’ve just created all these laws and divisions that try to bar us from going to certain parts of the world. Most likely we’ve created these laws for practical reasons; there are too many of us in the world to be in one place at the same time. Fair enough.

But some people get so obsessed with their country (which really is just land and concrete) and act as if it’s ‘so great’ to be from America/England/Russia/Tanzania/Ukraine/China etc. I’ve never been a patriot or a nationalist, so I can’t relate. I’ve never felt this whole-hearted sense of pride for being born in Britain, or having parents from India and Tanzania. Perhaps I used to feel a sense of pride for growing up in London because it was familiar territory, and now that pride has transferred to Guildford where I live. I love Guildford because I’m happy here, I’m doing a course I want, and I’m in recovery. I also love the aesthetics; the scenery, the mix of the trees and the river with the commercialism and shops.

But that doesn’t mean I’m prepared to die and fight for Guildford if war strikes. I’m not going to lay down my life for land and concrete. The phrase ‘dulce et decorum est’ meaning ‘it is right and proper to die for your country’ in Latin has always sounded absurd to me. Why should I be proud of my country? Why should anyone? Being from a certain country is not an accomplishment. I feel proud of my personal accomplishments. I’m pretty proud of this blog, for example. I’m proud of my musical abilities. I’m proud to be sober. These are things that I’ve done. Being born in a certain place with a certain skin tone is not an achievement.

Maybe I’m just too individualistic. Maybe something inside me rolls her fluttery brown eyes as she hears people cheer for England winning the world cup or the Olympic Games. The thing is though, England didn’t win that. Athletes won. Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah are the ones that should be proud. They trained hard and achieved greatness. Their personal gain has nothing to do with me. It’s inspiring, and it’s admirable, but it’s an accomplishment of individuals not ‘England.’

The same goes for something like the Slave Trade. That happened hundreds of years ago to millions of people, and it was horrible. (We must bear in mind that throughout History humans have always exploited other humans for labour; slavery doesn’t only apply to this demographic that we all know I’m speaking of). The Slave Trade was disgusting, but just because I have dark skin why should I feel some sort of ‘pain’ because of it? It didn’t affect me or anyone I know. I should feel upset about things that have affected me directly as a person and deal with those. It happened a very long time ago and it was horrific, but that was then. The people that were affected by it are long gone. Same goes for the ones who partook in it. Those white slave owners and racists back then were disgraceful, but why should people with white skin who exist today have to feel some sort of guilt for something that didn’t even concern them? It happened hundreds of years ago, most white people that live today  agree that slavery is a bad thing, but why should they have to feel ‘sorry’ for something that has nothing to do with them as individual people?

And herein lays my problem with nationalism/patriotism. When we tie ourselves to a country, and act as if it’s oh-so important, we are creating problems and conflict that doesn’t need to be there. If we can remove ourselves from these superficial things like country and skin colour and other stuff that we can’t decide, then we will then be able to look past them and see the person inside.

But what about culture? Well, what about it. I don’t have a culture. If anything I’m culturally British, whatever that means, because I was born and raised in this country. I don’t really view culture as that important, and if I’m honest I never have. People ask me where I’m from and I want to just say I’m from London, but I 'have' to say India and Tanzania. I’m not from those countries, I’m from the UK. My dad is from Tanzania. He was born there and grew up there. My mum isn’t from India either; her mother was from there, but my mother was born in Britain like me. I’ve never even been to India. Does this mean I’m not proud of those countries? No, I’m not ‘not’ proud of those countries, but I’m not super proud of them either. They're just countries. They won’t tell you about who I am as a person; the music and films I like, the books I read, the things I’m afraid of, the way I think, the way I treat people. They don’t really make up my identity.

I could have ethnic origins from anywhere. Point is; does it really matter? It matters in a descriptive sense, sure, and in terms of general human curiosity and looking at how different people live their lives it is nice. It is nice that the world isn’t all the same, that we have people living in a mixture of manners. And those cultural variations will usually be for a reason. For example, tropical countries are hot so it would make more sense for people to be more laid back. They’re more likely to leave their doors open which makes it easier to interact with neighbours and speak to other people. England is cold so we have to leave our doors closed all the time meaning people are less likely to interact as regularly. When you strip it down cultures adapt usually from places of practicality and common interests.

So to go back to my previous point, I don’t have a problem with immigration because in my silly utopian head this world is everyone’s world. I know most of the world doesn’t agree with me because if it did I wouldn’t be writing this post, but it makes sense to me. I just don’t get why people are so proud of coming from a certain place. ‘LOOK AT ALL THE GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF X COUNTRY!’ No, look at all the accomplishments of individual people who happened to be born in a certain part of the world. Woo-hoo, ABBA are from Sweden so I’m Team Sweden! China invented tea! Karl Marx was German! BUT NO! Hitler was also German so all Germans must be evil! America are the greatest country in the world because they, like, just rule init! BUT THEY’RE EVIL COS LIKE SLAVERY AND MURDER OF NATIVES INIT!

When will humans realise that all the greatness and evils that happen in this world are simply caused by other humans.

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too.

- John Lennon

Do you agree? Are you more of a patriot? Is race socially constructed and just designed to divide us? Give some thoughts to what you think!

12 comments:

  1. I think part of the pride in one's country, at least from an American point of view, is all of the freedoms and privileges that come with being born in such a liberated place when there are so many places on Earth right now that still aren't as liberated. I think part of the "pride" comes from being so thankful to be born in that kind of country and having the opportunities that one has. Certainly that's a big part of why I'm "proud" of being American in the sense that I wouldn't want to have been born anywhere else and I am very "proud" that I got to be born in the USA as opposed to some of the other countries by ancestors came from. I mean, there's a reason why they left there and came here and I agree with their reasons.

    That being said, I definitely can agree with you that some people take it way too far and it becomes too much of a tribalism and anti-individual thing. As I say often, the key is balance.

    And it depends on what scale you're looking at. I don't think connection to the country you live in is "superficial", I think it's inevitable. When you live in a certain country, it often does tend to have it's own culture and specific influences and proclivities. Someone who has traveled can often tell when they meet people who are from the countries they traveled to because they are now familiar with that culture and their differences. I think we should balance recognizing and appreciating those differences not idolizing or ignoring them.

    I just so happen to love learning about psychology and biology and what makes us the same and what makes us different and why we make the choices we do and react the way we do etc. etc. So I tend to see these things and positive things that bring knowledge, not negative things that bring conflict. It's more like a tool that could be used for both but I tend to prefer using it for the positive - to learn and grow and understand.

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    1. I dunno if this is a stereotype from TV but it seems to me that Americans often feel really 'proud' to be American and act like it's the greatest country in the world. (It's something I've always found quite funny to be honest). But I get that it's because there could be way worse places to live in or be born in. Yeah, of course people are inevitably going to feel attached to their country. Whether I like it or not, I am going to identify in certain ways tied to being British. Even the way I write and speak and the language I use, the 'dry' humour, is a very British thing. Culturally I am very British because I was born and grew up here. I wouldn't say I'm 'proud' of it though, but then Brits have a stereotype of being negative and complaining a lot (especially about the weather) LOL. I think it's actually quite funny how Brits are seen as 'negative and moany' and Americans come across as all positive and proud and 'yes we can!'

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    2. I think that's an accurate stereotype and an overall feel of the majority of people in the USA. Many love our Constitution and Bill of Rights, as well as the Founding Fathers and what they stood for, represented and envisioned for this country. And yes, I admit that I think Americans take it a little further than most other nationalities; However I do think many people do have some form of positive attachment to their country - whether in the form of pride or not - and like to be where they're from.

      Have you ever traveled outside of England? (I'm sorry if I've asked you this before, I don't remember.)

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    3. I've been to Berlin, Tanzania, Madrid, parts of Italy, and Paris. (Paris is actually ugly like London, though the tourist places are nice. Berlin is fun and really clean, Tanzania is beautiful and Spain and Italy are great). I would love to go to India, Barbados (or any nice Caribbean Island), New York, LA, Las Vegas, Florida (all the exciting looking American states lol), Canada (though not in the Winter), Cuba, Brazil, Kenya, Egypt, Barcelona, Australia, Hawaii, Dubai (I hear it's more commercial and 'westernised' now so hopefully I won't have to walk around in a headscarf), just lots of places really. Only warm places though. I have no interest in Russia or the Middle East - Russia because it's really cold and fuck Putin (and general Russian politics), and the Middle East because only a crazy person would go there. LOL that probably sounds terrible but yeah.

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    4. Wow, that's really awesome that you've been fortunate enough to travel all of the different countries you have! Travelling can be such a powerful mind-opening experience. :D

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    5. Thank you lol, to me it doesn't really seem like that many but then I know people who have been to loads more places. Another stereotype but is it true americans don't travel much or usually just go to different states? Like bit random but there's this family guy episode where Peter goes 'travelling' but he just travels to different parts of the country. Like to me 'travelling' is going to a different country; I've been to lots of places in England but I wouldn't class that as 'travelling' in the same way.

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    6. Yes, aside from truck drivers, I think most people in the USA never go past something like 500 miles or about 805 kilometers past where they're born or something like that. I'm not sure about those numbers so I'll have to get back to you on that detail but conceptually, most Americans don't really travel and not that far. A minority travels to different states and it's mostly corporate business people that travel to other countries.

      I think travelling is a huge deal because it helps you be more open to diversity and how different systems work for different cultures etc.

      If you've ever been to America though, it is so big, it is almost the same size as Europe. The people are pretty spread out and there are TONS of different cultures in America aside from the overall American culture. I'm actually in the midst of writing a post about it. There is the overall American culture, the regional cultures (i.e. west coast, mid-west, etc.) and even some state cultures (i.e. California, Texas, etc.). So for Americans, travelling to different states is a good place to start because you still see totally different cultures and experience "culture shock" the 1st time.

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    7. I would love to go to America and it is true it is a huge country/continent. I guess as an outsider you group everyone 'together' in your head, like you don't think of northerners vs southerners or texans vs new yorkers or country folk vs city folk or east coast vs west coast. It's the same in the UK, like you have those up north who speak in different dialects and are culturally different to southerners. Likewise those living in smaller towns are different to those living in larger cities like London, Manchester, Birmingham etc. I know this is another stereotype and it really pisses british folk off; do americans really think all brits are either cockney or posh? I know you probably don't think that because of your intellect but some 'dumber' people seem to think that and that's how british folk tend to be portrayed on ALL US shows. As a brit I actually find it seriously annoying.
      This might make you laugh, I made this youtube vid a few years ago called 'Stupid stuff americans say': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvOEVX8MGJE&t=52s
      (I was 16 here; naturally my perceptions have shifted but yeah it's just a comedic vid).

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    8. Yes, I think when it comes to cultural and geographical factors, traveling from California to Texas is like going from Germany to Italy and traveling from San Francisco, CA to Los Angeles, CA is like travelling from Manchester, England to Liverpool, England.

      Just to clarify, when you say "either cockney or posh", what exactly do you mean? What does that all entail?

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    9. (I tried to watch the video but it was tough for me to hear what you were saying over the music. Sorry.)

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    10. I think it's more of a stereotype like in american TV shows or in internet memes. So cockney is like eastend type talk, saying things like 'nah mate, ah can't be fucked bruv' and then posh is like queen's english/still living in the victorian ages.
      Lol it's fine about the video

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    11. If you're talking about accents then yes, I think most Americans probably do see them as being "either cockney or posh".

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