Patriotism. It has been called everything from the refuge of the weak-minded to the greatest virtue. Patriotism though cannot be defined so simply. We all have our own version of that concept. We understand it differently through various mind prisms of life experiences, upbringing, religion, philosophy, and metaphysics.
The reason many of us define patriotism differently is because people disagree on what is most important to their country. I have a number of friends who claim to not be patriotic at all because they do not like the way things are and want them to change. I would posit that this is still patriotism. They want things to be different, to be better for their country and regardless of whether their particular beliefs are right or wrong or whether they consider themselves patriotic, they are patriotic.
Here is my recipe for healthy patriotism.
As members of society we tacitly or explicitly (especially in cases of immigration) accept the social contract of our respective societies. Citizens of the United States of America pledge allegiance to the flag and constitution. Citizens of Canada pledge allegiance to the Queen and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But the society is so much more than that. We sometimes forget that there are certain national cultural values that exist and it is *our* responsibility to know them and respect them.
We are all different. We are all snowflakes. We look differently, we think differently, we express ourselves differently. Perhaps it is not so but it seems sometimes that we have are losing the tradition of civil discourse. We do not discuss, we argue. We listen just long enough and attentively enough to object. Let us get that back. We will all be better for it.
One of the problems that is observed throughout western societies is that people are not well versed in the subject of Civics. We do not sufficiently know how our own countries, our own governments function. There are a couple of wonderful videos where actor Richard Dreyfuss explains the importance of that subject. So rather than let me try to do it, I will turn it over to the master:
Education is the cornerstone of a successful society. How can we even begin to understand the concepts of governance and patriotism without knowing the history of those concepts. This does not mean that I value humanities over science. The logic inherent in science, especially mathematics and physics is paramount to being able to reason logically about subjects that cannot be easily defined. They are also important when it comes to understanding economics. Claiming to be a patriot but not to care at all about one’s country’s economic and monetary policy is an insanity, especially in the light of the current recession and its causes. Everyone apparently has a opinion on what the governments should do about the recession but ask many of the people what their thoughts are on the current monetary policy of their government or even who is in charge of it and you will get blank stare.
Freedom of speech and expression.
This ties in with previously mentioned subjects of civility, Civics, and the social contract. We can all scream and seethe at each other from our respective camps but that will not get us anywhere. Without being able to express ourselves, we cannot move forward as a society. And yes, I do count hate speech as an important function of this. I know I am about to lose great many of you but consider this: banning hate speech will not make it magically disappear. In fact, it is impossible to ban hate speech; we can only ban public expression of it. And that my friends, is equivalent to sticking our proverbial heads in the sand. Hate speech is rooted in ignorance and the only way to fight against it is with education not the with silence and ineffective laws.
I am not being merely academic about this. I grew up in the country where I was hated and discriminated against (sometimes publicly) based on my ethnicity. So I have experienced racism and I still say let the assholes spew their hatred. Forbidding them to speak in public will not make them change their minds.
So these are the ingredients for healthy patriotism. The cooking methods can be multiple but the constant must always be respect for others, knowledge to empower change, and earnest will to make life better for everyone and not just the people who agree with you.
This is obviously a subject you have given much thought to. I must confess that I am one of the many who do not know exactly how my government works. Sure, I learned the basics at school, but since then South Africa has changed so much and is constantly changing and all I knew is outdated. I sometimes feel like a stranger in my own country. Thanks for your thoughts, it has given me a lot to think about.
You have very clearly thought about this issue for a long time, as your case is well thought out and presented. You have caught, I think, the basic issue: no one wants to discuss an issue calmly and reasonably unless everyone else agrees with his/her point of view. No one is allowed to disagree or have a thought that is contrary to our own. It is the saddest commentary on humanity. Thank you.
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