Saturday, December 03, 2005

Nationalism isn't necessarily Patriotic

Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, a leading Scottish opponent of the Treaty of Union with England in 1707, provided us with a most perceptive definition of nationalism:

"Show me a true patriot, and I will show you a lover not merely of his own country, but of all mankind. Show me a spurious patriot, a bombastic fire-eater, and I will show you a rascal. Show me a man who loves other countries equally with his own and I will show you a man entirely deficient in a sense of proportion. But show me a man who respects the rights of all nations, while ready to defend the rights of his own against them all, and I will show you a man who is both a nationalist and an internationalist."

From that, it is easy enough to see where the confusion has arisen today between "patriotism" and "nationalism". The saying about patriotism being the last refuge of the scoundrel is often indeed the truth, by the latter-day definition of patriotism as being loyalty to the existing State (in whatever form) and its institutions... Thus "patriotism" on its own is really just a commitment to the maintenance of the status quo. We have seen too many profiteering wars, too many acts against the interests of the nations and their people disguised and justified in fervent flag-waving, to doubt the accuracy of the statement. A good nationalist will reject the institutions of the State and the system, if they no longer serve the interests of the Nation. Yet nowadays it is "nationalism" which is the vilified concept, smeared in negative connotations, despite its true definition being that given by Fletcher of Saltoun; while "patriotism" is of course permissable.... since it effectively endorses the existing power structure, economic system, and Establishment.


Alisdair Clarke said...

Thanks for this clear definition - and also for an excellent site

Welf said...

Thnak you for your comment. And I hope that you will come back to this site.


Thinking outside the square said...

You learn something new everyday.

I thought that Nationalism and Patriotism were very similar.

It seems they are not.