Saturday, September 5, 2015

patriotism and its complications


There’s an interesting post at Upon Hope about patriotism vs nationalism. Mark makes some good points about the essentially emotional nature of patriotism.

This post got me thinking about a number of things in relation to patriotism. For example, were the Australian soldiers who went off to fight in the Great War in 1914 inspired by patriotism? If so, what kind of patriotism? Was it love of Australia, or love of Britain or love of the British Empire (loving Britain and loving the British Empire were not quite the same thing).

My grandfather fought in the Great War, at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. After he came back from the war he expressed no hatred for the Germans or the Turks but with a burning and venomous hatred for the British. I have no idea how widespread such feelings were among Australian First World War veterans but if they were at all common it tends to suggest that Australian patriotism was a rather complicated thing. We went to war for Britain rather than for Australia and that is the kind of thing that is likely to create some contradictory feelings. The First World War may have played a major role in undermining the traditional identification of Australians as being both Australian and British.

My uncle fought in the Second World War in the Western Desert and in the Pacific. I never heard him express any particular animus towards the Germans or the Japanese but he certainly had an intense dislike for our American allies. That of course is the problem with getting mixed up in a war fought by an international coalition - the various partners in the coalition inevitably have different and often conflicting aims. Such wars are often disastrous for the junior partners in the coalition - the Second World War made the US a superpower but it reduced Britain to the status of a third-rate power. It’s difficult to see what exactly Australia gained from that war. The US insistence on the destruction of European colonial empires dangerously destabilised our region and as a result we found ourselves fighting wars in Malaya, Bornea (the Confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia), Korea and Vietnam. Becoming involved in international wars can put strains on patriotism. A patriot should be prepared to fight for his own country but does he have any duty to fight for someone else’s country? Does a patriotic Australian have a duty to fight a war in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Iran?

Patriotism also gets complicated in other ways. The uncle I referred to above had a certain love for Australia but his love for Britain seemed rather stronger and his love for Scotland overwhelmed everything. His Scottish ancestry was somewhat distant but on an emotional level he identified very very strongly as Scottish. In a country such as Australia patriotism does tend to be ambiguous and to a certain extent artificial. 

Given enough time of course a genuine Australian patriotism would develop. The descendants of the Norman conquerors of England eventually came to develop an uncomplicated sense of Englishness but it took centuries. Australia is unlikely to be given the necessary time as the forces of liberalism work tirelessly to destroy and manifestations of Australian patriotism.

1 comment:

  1. Imagine how it must have been for us French-Canadians fighting for a foreign Kingdom to whom we had no ethnic relationship.

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