There is something about patriotism that I really do not like.
I have just been reading Michelle Obama’s extremely good biography. She visited a hospital treating the wounded soldiers from the Iraq war. She related a story about a badly injured soldier, very badly burnt, who struggled, in great pain, to get out of bed so that he could salute the wife of his Commander In Chief.
I found that very moving but I also found it disturbing.
I suppose it smacked of indoctrination to me. I think the USA does indoctrination in a big way. With both patriotism and religion they have an intense programme – with churches, flags, vows, prayers and pledges. It starts with kids and goes deep into the psyche. I’m very suspicious.
I reserve my respect for people I revere – I’d struggle out of bed for Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Howlin’ Wolf or Noam Chomsky, – for Murukami, Roy Harper and a number of others – but not for someone who just happened to be the leader of a country.
Patriotism is equated to nationalism and blind acceptance in my mind.
Why is that? Surely patriotism is about loving your country and valuing the ethos and values on which society is based?
That’s just it. To start with countries are artificial constructs. They are merely tribal boundaries. They are nothing more than artificial constructs. They come and go. There is no natural entity that is a country.
I think you are being pedantic. Countries exist.
That’s debateable. But accepting the fact that nations exists, and putting aside the tribal elements of that. I do not like the arrogance of it. Patriotism seems to suggest to me that people feel ‘their’ country is superior to everybody else’s country.
What’s wrong with that? Taking pride in the place of your birth?
Because I find there is an unpleasant arrogance about that and it is founded on a xenophobic tendency and even, in some cases, racist element. To me all people are equally important and of worth and value. People are not of increased value just because they happen to be born in a particular part of the world.
But doesn’t your culture have values that you take pride in?
Yes it does. I am proud of the long history of social struggle that has created a fairer, thriving society. I am proud of the altruism and generosity, the pluralism, tolerance and freedoms.
But I am not proud of much of our history – the elitism, colonialism, wars, conquest, inherent racism, belligerence and the class system that has dominated my culture.
There is much that is wrong. There is still a great deal of unfairness, snobbery, exploitation and injustice.
So there are aspects of your society and culture that you like and aspects you do not?
Exactly. It is never my country right or wrong. Often it has been wrong. I do not support it when I believe it is wrong. I reserve the right to withdraw support.
So you wouldn’t fight for your country?
Yes, of course I would. If I felt the cause was just or if I felt my family and friends were threatened. But if I did not think the cause was just I would not.
You think you are in a position to make those decisions? You don’t think that our leaders are privy to better information and know best?
No I do not. I do not have any respect for most of our leaders. A lot of them got to their position by political chicanery. A lot of them are deeply unpleasant narcissists with sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies. Their vales are extremely flawed. It seems to me that their main motivation is wealth and power – not the public interest.
The current leadership is a good example. They are a bunch of extremist idiots driven by a lust for power and extreme nationalistic self-interest. Their handling of Brexit and the pandemic has been appalling. They have lied, misled and obfuscated.
These leaders represent privilege and the establishment – the very things that I find most obnoxious about our society.
Which leaders have you admired?
People of principle who put people first – people like Benn, Ramsay McDonald, Beveridge and Corbyn.
But they are all flawed.
We all are flawed. But they were principled and stood by what they believed. They tried to bring in fairness and justice. They created the welfare state and NHS.
They were also misrepresented by the media and the subject to vicious sustained attacks from the Media.
But I think we are digressing.
So to sum up – you do not consider yourself a patriot?
I consider myself a man of the world who stands for justice, equality, fairness and freedom all around the planet – and I do not believe my country is better than any of the others.
But all countries are not the same. All people are not the same. Is there somewhere else that you think is better?
I would be happy living in a number of other countries and cultures. But I guess we feel easiest with what we are familiar with.
I like living in Britain. I will fight to make it better!