Saturday, August 3, 2013

Patriotism II

Garry Davis, dean of the One World movement, in 1956.
He had his own flag and passport, and often his own jail cell.

 You say you want a revolution
 Well, you know  
We all want to change the world 
But when you talk about destruction 
Don't you know that you can count me out    
--Revolution, The Beatles 

We are all capable of becoming fundamentalists
because we get addicted to other people's wrongness
― Pema Chodron 

Our so-called leaders speak
With words they try to jail you
They subjugate the meek
But it's the rhetoric of failure 
--Spirits in the Material World, 
The Police

[Offered in the spirit of a cease-fire, a follow-on to Ranger's earlier post on patriotism, The Troika]:

How do we define patriotism? Is it a secular faith? Is patriotism necessary in order to permit a government to cohere and flourish amidst a diverse populace? Not everyone can be a One-Worlder like Garry Davis (God rest his soul), after all.

Perhaps patriotism is an ennobling feeling which could be directed towards perfection of the national entity. Why does it so often devolve into an adversarial relationship among fellow nationals?

Is patriotism one of those strong primal emotions like love, one which can go horribly wrong if invested in the incorrect thing? (Ranger avoids such road hazards by sublimating his strong emotions into his writing ... but not everyone has pen and pad.)

Do terrorists have patriotism? Can they be patriotic to their home nation, while being patriotic also to their cause? If not, must terrorists step outside of their government's creeds in order to be terrorists? Are terrorists effectively a government unto themselves?

What is good about the feeling and/or action of patriotism, and what is detrimental? Can patriotism neutralize violent religious fervor? Or, is it just the opposite, and does it foment such fervor, acting in tandem with or as an accelerant of it. Alternately, is patriotism not an either-or phenomenon?

[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar.]


  1. Patriotism means to recognise the own country's population as a group and to value this group's well-bring so much that one may sacrifice some personal well-being voluntarily for the group's bigger benefit.

    Psychologists have long ago learned that humans have non-selfish instincts which make them punish antisocial behaviour even if this harms their own interests. Likewise, humans can be unselfish enough to contribute to their group t their own expense without expecting an equal or greater return.

    Patriotism is such social behaviour / thinking / instinct at the national level.

    I don't see how anything about terrorism could be patriotic. Patriotism is about helping one's own group, while terrorism is about harming another group.

  2. SO,
    Were the Nazis patriotic when they were starving Russian pows and committing other acts of state sponsored T?

    1. I don't see how that could have helped the country. In fact, the starved POWs were missing among those POWs which later worked in German agriculture, mining and industry in '43-'45.

      The starvation and freezing of many Russian POWs was partially a rare example of poor German planning and organisation. POW camps and their structures were simply lacking. The inability to handle POWs began with the armoured spearheads; they often merely disarmed POWs and then sent them to some rally point unguarded.

      But honestly, you sound as if you were trying to bait me. Something's wrong with you if the only thing you could associate with a German making a comment is "Nazi terror".

  3. SO,
    No i'm not baiting you.
    I used an example that is usually accepted as true.
    It's state sponsored T.
    If that is offensive to you then i apologize for calling a spade a spade.
    I reckon predator drones killing civilians and kids is also state sponsored T, but nobody in the US court system have addressed this fact.

  4. Neither is terrorism. The term is ill-defined, but "terrorism" doesn't cover all kinds of atrocities. That's why there's still the word "atrocity".

    Terrorism is the special kind of atrocity that's aimed for disproportionate moral/political effect. Not caring for captives isn't terrorism, it's a dereliction of responsibility and amounted to million-men homicide.

    "Terrorism" was fire-bombing cities, dropping scary leaflets into cities, and maybe revenge massacres after partisan attacks. Such actions aimed at disproportionate morale/political effects.
    Atrocities without such intent are mere atrocities, not terror.

    Obama's assassination campaign is disrespectful of human lives in its collateral homicide tolerance, but it's not terrorism.
    It would have been terrorism if for example they had randomly assassinated people in Pakistan in order to blackmail them into handing over OBL.

  5. Jim,

    "Terrorism" definitions - one of the rare cases where Wikipedia is useful:

    1. It's a widespread phenomenon that allies' actions shall be exempted from the definition of terrorism while actions of people whom one dislikes shall be covered. This makes a UN definition attempt pointless.

      I suppose Jim applies the label on what he dislikes. This is a kind of rhetorical dirty trick in my opinion - a manipulation of a narrative.

      I've seen a similar dynamic with "human shield", another ill-defined term. The Geneva Conventions define protected persons, not what a "human shield" is. Fact is, many accusations concerning "human shields" are not about actual Geneva Convention violations. Troops staying in an urban centre or civilians in the same bunker as a military command centre are not cases of human shielding, for example.

      The rhetorical trick of using an ill-defined negative label and attaching it to a political or other kind of opponent is widespread. I dislike it because it erodes respect for the actual problem over time.

    2. I saw this author on some TV show a while ago. Tom Brokaw did not include these stories in his books.

      This isn’t the “greatest generation” as it has come to be depicted in popular histories. But in “What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II France,” the historian Mary Louise Roberts draws on French archives, American military records, wartime propaganda and other sources to advance a provocative argument: The liberation of France was “sold” to soldiers not as a battle for freedom but as an erotic adventure among oversexed Frenchwomen, stirring up a “tsunami of male lust” that a battered and mistrustful population often saw as a second assault on its sovereignty and dignity.


  6. SO and Andy.
    I have always used the same definition of T.
    It's violence that goes beyond the immediate target.
    I apply it where ever it fits.
    IMO drones create T b/c the target goes beyond the immediate victims/targets.
    This is why the twin towers were T. The target was not the towers - it was the American people.
    And it worked.
    I agree that terror bombing is indeed T.
    Even when we do it. I think of Hanoi in the early 70's.

  7. Sven,
    Back to the point. You link nationalism and patriotism, and rightly so.
    My question is- now that our nations are getting less homogenous does this idea still hold true?
    America and most of the Nato allies are getting larger ethnic blends, and more so as the dasys progress.
    So what effect will this have on patriotism?

  8. RAW, Germany is now probably more homogeneous than in 1914.

    1914's soldiers spoke Bavarian, Saxon, Hannoverian (also known as "German"), Plattdütsch, Frisian, et cetera. A soldier from Munich couldn't understand one from Cologne.

    Radio and later TV changed this. Luther's bible translation standardised written German and Radio/TV standardised spoken German.

    A German with Turkish parents of now can speak fluently with 99% of Germany's adult population today, which is than could be said of the majority of troops in 1914.

    About German accents (Anglophones are too much under influence of the nonsensical shouted Hollywood 'German' language):
    I suppose one can spot the differences between the accents without understanding the language.

  9. I think the short answer is "hugely variable".

    "Patriotism" is really just another variation of the human need/desire to belong to a pack. Tribes, regions, ethnicities, nations...variations on a theme.

    And the product would seem to vary as much as human beings vary. Some people might be motivated to greater compassion and kindness towards "their" pack while others to hatred and rancor towards "other" packs.

    And I think the short answer about the religion question is "depends on the person and the culture". Some people in some cultures connect the two very strongly; think Shinto and patriotism in pre-1945 Japan, or Christianity and patriotism in Renaissance Spain.

    Some, not so much.

  10. FDC; it cannot be only a desire to belong to a group. How would "patriotic duty" claims fit into that?

  11. I think the original definition of "patriot" was one who loves and supports his country and will sacrifice for it. A more contemporary American usage would be more akin to nationalism coupled with political loyalty.

  12. Sven: There are duties and obligations in any group, regardless of the type of group; if you're part of a "tribe" you're more or less obligated to conform to the mores and customs of that tribe. If one of those customs is, say, foraging, or fighting other groups, you either participate or you lose your place within the group.

    How is that really distinct from "patriotic duties"?

  13. Well, the Webster's definition is "one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests" without specifying how that support is provided.

    But what I think is interesting is that the original Latin meant "lineage", implying that the original "patriots" were patriotic to their family or clan.

  14. Chief,
    The definition given makes no moral, legal orany other consideration.
    Is patriotism always a good thing?
    Was Manning patriotic?

  15. jim

    I'm sure he thought he was. What one perceives himself to be may not be what another perceives him to be. Based on the dictionary definition, it would appear that Manning did not support his country's "authority". As to his country's "interests", that is pretty much subject to partisan political interpretation.

    I'm sure George III did not consider Nathan Hale a "patriot".

  16. When I think of "patriotism", it's flags, parades and honoring people who served their country honorably in the past. The jury's still out on those of the present.

    Some honest and heart-felt pride in the land one lives in and its people. As an example, I thought Natalie Maines was being patriotic when she made her infamous statement about President Bush in London. Expressing one's opinion about the people who run our government is love of country.

    And participating in the life of the community.

    Now, OTOH, maybe you all have seen the video of the PA police chief or Ted Nugent expressing their opinions of the current crew complete with death threats and the powerful weaponry to do that.

    Not patriotic at all. IMVHO.


  17. The definition given makes no moral, legal or any other consideration.


    Is patriotism always a good thing?

    Of course not, no more than "love" is always a good thing. Love is a wonderful emotion...until it makes you all obsessive, stalker-y, and insane. Patriotism - or whatever else you call the feelings of duty, obligation, loyalty, and bonding of a person to a group - is as liable to perversion and misuse as any other human emotion.

    Was Manning patriotic?

    As AL says, that's the crux of the biscuit. I would argue that he was, by trying to force the notional sovereign of his country (The People) to confront what was being done in their name and either endorse or reject it. But that assumes a patriotism that considers the individual's country's "moral authority" to be more important than its temporal or military authority, and the individual's country's "interests" to be open governance as opposed to politico-military power.

    Those have always been opposing viewpoints and the former much less popular in the corridors of power than the latter.

  18. Chief, and Al and Andy.
    I try not to live in a black and white world, but what i'm gonna say is b&w. Sorta.
    IF WE ARE A DEMOCRACY then my taxes pay for my government. My gov't buys things for me. These include security and related items like documents.These documents belong to the gov't and also by extension to the individual citizens regardless of their security rating
    If this is true then guys like BM have the citizens right to deliver these documents up to the public.
    I am assuming that my belief that i own a part of the documents entitles me to be exposed to them.
    Where in the Constitution does secredcy get a nod?

  19. jim

    Are you suggesting that nothing, therefore, should be "classified", but just put in the public domain?

    The Constitution in no way addresses this, just as it does not address a vast number of the details of day to day governance. The Constitution provides for a legislative, executive and judicial branch of the government to handle these little details of governance, subject to such details not violating a stated or implied provision of the Constitution. And it grants, solely to the judiciary, the authority to identify such violations.

    By supporting the Constitution, we grant the right to be governed by the form of government that the Constitution provides, and that form of government has legislated the what, where, when why and how of "security". If we don't like the legislation pertaining to security, then we can attempt to urge our elected officials to change such legislation, learn to live with it, move to where the legislation pertaining to same is more to our liking, or organize a revolt.

    Every day, thousands of Americans actively withdraw their consent to be governed as provided by our Constitution. In many cases, they are charged with crimes of various severity, from littering to murder. In Manning's case, he has been charged with specific violations of Constitutionally authorized elements of governance (The UCMJ and laws pertaining to security).

    If you wish to withdraw your consent to be governed, then the "remedies" available are mentioned above. Nowhere does the Constitution offer individual and separate "ownership" of our society and elements of governance. Rather, it is "joint and several" - the individual's "piece of the pie" is undefined, and the use of the pie is a joint decision, delegated by the Constitution to the elected representatives.

    Using your "personal ownership" logic, how would you see the governance of state roads in Florida? About 211 million feet of roads, "owned" by some 20 million residents. Does that mean that you have the right to do as you see fit on your 10 foot share of the road network?

    The confusion in contemporary American society is that more and more citizens think they have the authority to govern, but reject that in return, they too will be governed.

    "We The People", by the Constitution, and thus by extension to our elected officials and by further extension to their appointed officials, have established the governing laws and regulations of classified information. After all, we are a nation of laws, not a nation of men.

  20. Al,
    All i'm saying is that BM DIDN'T STEAL ANYTHING.
    IF u steal something you take it into your possession. BM did not do that.
    How does one steal a secret?
    One can expose a secret , but stealing it is impossible. The charge of stealing gov't property is a real stretch in my opinion.
    Isn't all federal property the property of all the citizens, or is the government like the Vatican?
    Yes we need secrets,but i can't figure out why?
    If we can't trust our elected leaders with the truth , then how does that translate out to democracy?
    We are a wonderful nation- the enemy that we are fighting is classified and unknown to Congress and the courts are secret and so to intel and black ops budgets.
    Welcome to democracy.
    Manning didn't steal squat.

  21. Yes, "public property" is the property of all citizens, and effectively Manning stole from the other 300 million citizens, entrusted the info to the federal Government by law and regulation. I addressed the notion in my comment above.

    The statute 18USC - 641, under which Manning was charged under Art 134 of the UCMJ, pertains to "Public Money, Property or Records":

    Whoever embezzles, steals, purloins, or knowingly converts to his use or the use of another, or without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof, or any property made or being made under contract for the United States or any department or agency thereof

    He definitely "purloined" or "converted to the use of another" records of the United States.

  22. Aviator,
    thanks for the specific reference.
    The words are clear, but what was his intent?

  23. "I am assuming that my belief that i own a part of the documents entitles me to be exposed to them."

    I don't see how you could reasonably expect that in all cases.

    Look at operational security. Are you saying that Americans of 1944 should have seen the Overlord plans? What about the cases of intelligence source materials; soldiers and civilians in WW2 literally died to protect the fact that the Allies could intercept the German Ultra code.

    I would say that the modern U.S. intelligence and defense agencies have gone too far in classifying materials; I think a lot of what is classified falls under "embarrassing" or "inconvenient" rather than truly critical for intel or defense needs. But I don't think the answer is for some low-level intel weenie to decide for himself which is which.

    I think Manning's intent was to expose what he saw as corruption and war crimes. That doesn't change the fact that, like any protestor engaging in civil disobedience, he was guilty of breaking the law as written.

    If we have an issue with that We the People should force our legislators to change the law, not plead for special privilege for the protestor.

    And as far as that goes...the fact that the ridiculous PATRIOT Act is still in force more than 12 years after the original Al Qaeda attack tells me pretty much what I need to know about how concerned We the People are about this excess secrecy and the folderol, stupidity, excesses, and outright criminality it might conceal.

    Sadly, we're getting the government we deserve. Even more sadly, those of us who don't WANT that government are getting that government largely because the rest of our fellow citizens could give two shits.

  24. jim-

    Intent or "motive" is not a requisite part of being guilty of an offense. Prosecutors use "motive" to sway a jury to eliminate possible doubt. Defense lawyers use "Intent" to mitigate a criminal act to reduce the level of crime charged or sentence. The law simply prohibits a given act, and Manning knowingly committed that act.

    Chief- Oh yes, the joys of representative democracy.