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Mr Cameron and the EDL: Confusing Patriotism with Nationalism

05/02/2011

It wasn’t long since Charlie Flowers started arguments on Indymedia about what patriotism really means. Most left-wingers are somewhat wary of the word, myself included. It encourages people to be proud of events that they have no control over or say in, such as where on the planet they are born, or the achievements of historical figures who existed in the same space. It creates a competition between different places, despite there often being no logical reason for the lines being drawn in the first place. Sometimes the pride and belief in ones own country is held even when other countries are oppressed by it, making a “my country is better than yours” dynamic. This can be used for light banter, imperialism, or de-humanising people from different places or of different creed and values. I argued that there is a firm difference between taking pride in a country and being proud of a country. It seems that it is more difficult than I thought to explain the difference between nationalism and patriotism.

Another difference is that patriotism is a love for ones country, whereas nationalism takes into account political concerns. Of course a main reason people do not like the word nationalist is because of the potential to focus on its nation to the point of domination over others, or of the nationalists ideal culture upon its inhabitants. People think of the fascists. This view is too simplistic for me, however, as anarchist AND an anti-globalist, my issue with nationalism lies in its defense of the state. Of course, being into anti-fascism, there are many other worrying features of both of these things.

Last night, as I was reading though Facebook however, David Cameron did a fantastic job of pointing out the differences between two forces to me. Now Nationalism is more associated with older traditions and cultures than Patriotism, so the divide isn’t down the line of these two words, but I will continue to use patriotism as love and pride in a country, and nationalism as being proud of your country’s gains and position. just to make it easier. He was suggesting that May Day bank holiday be removed, and that it should be replaced by “UK Day” in October. This might sound patriotic to those who have never celebrated May Day, but to those of us who have, it is the exact opposite. Beltane has been celebrated for more than centuries since the pagan times, and it signifies the new month/season, so it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to move the date. Besides that, you can’t really dance around a May Pole in October. If people have held their cheese rolling and morris dancing and traditionally British and English cultural festivities on this day, it seems ridiculous to move it. Some people have actually been brought up to mind their pagan and celtic heritage, or have been brought up pagan themselves. Would we move Christmas? Jesus was not supposed to be born upon December 25th. It seems downright unpatriotic.

Another unpatriotic move a country can make is of course to disrespect the workers who build the country and make it what it is. Even the best architects can only do so much without a labour movement. This might be debatable to some people, but I think if you are truly proud of our country, then you celebrate the work that your community put in to making it a great place to live. If Cameron wants “UK Day”, then why not look at ST George’s Day? The Right have been complaining for a long time that we don’t put enough emphasis on celebrating our country and the patron Saint of England. Now personally I would prefer it if we spent St George’s dressed up as knights and dragons running around town personally, but I don’t see that happening. UK Day will probably be looking at mostly white straight rich men who were largely imperialists and war mongers and leaders. At best I figured it would be a PC day celebrating our multicultural society and taking a look at the different people and histories of Britain, and that it might happily piss off the BNP, who have been urging communities to celebrate the day.

It seems though that I was wrong about the last part. Mr Cameron has decided that multiculturalism has failed. His proof being, I assume, that we got bombed once 10 years ago. ‘Islamists’ were the only threats directly named in his talk. Whilst of course, there are points to be made about how they may see women’s rights or LGBT rights, those issues also exist in other religions, and indeed in some Atheists in this country. Islam is just the easiest target. His answer to this seems to be to shun those groups that need to improve, so that they may recluse further into themselves, and support only those who are out and proud about how much they love this country and share all of its values. What strikes me about this is that I’m not patriotic at all. I’m not loved by the government of course, but they aren’t treating me as a possible terrorist based on my upbringing. Why should British nationals, especially second or third generation, have to prove how patriotic they are? It must be an interesting sign to liberals, watching David Cameron (conservative) talk about why liberalism is so important.

This comes, as widely mentioned, on the same day that a rally of roughly 2000 EDL members rambles through Luton. The English Defense League, who feel the most dire thing this country is in danger of is being overtaken by a warped version of Sharia Law, have been around since a few nut jobs that really do want this got rowdy at the funeral of soldiers, outraged that British troops have been killing Muslim armies and civilians abroad, and obviously pissed off, offended and upset many in the process. Cameron’s speech today played into their hands, and it was said by ‘Tommy Robinson’ that Cameron “knows his base”. (of course much to his dismay, Gove’s school plans are likely to result in a good many faith-based schools including Islam)

It seems that the already obnoxious patriotic Tory of yesteryear is gone. Churchill was a good indicator that nationalism had overtaken patriotism in the views he expressed. However, even the Mussolini admirer would probably be turning in his grave as he watched the closure of museums and libraries, and as the great british forests get sold off (yes to charities, but the trees are being chopped down) and the rural festivities centuries old are told to move to another time under neoliberal policies. Maybe he wouldn’t, in hindsight. But many would. I don’t know how to end this post, except to say that if you really do take pride in your country, then do it every day. Yes, value the culture, both in history and present day, keep it clean, enjoy the forests and the parks and the lakes, go to the festivals – all of them, talk to the people, even enjoy the city culture that exists now, be proud of the fact that the country keeps libraries and museums open so that all may learn of their past and the present, and the great artworks of their country, and of all countries, but more than that, don’t lose it. Otherwise, what will you have to celebrate this ‘UK Day’?

LOLCⒶT
PS, sorry for the unimaginative choice of links!

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From → LOLCⒶT, Opinion

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