Vagaries of perception: Patriotism

Finally managed to catch Saving Private Ryan. I know, close to a decade later. Sue me.

I’m decidedly not a pacifist. Not even an anarchopacifist. As I’ve explained in a previous post, righteous fury is justified. Nature is raw and uncut, why should we, products of nature be any different? In fact, a dedicated pacifist population [at least among cultures, if not within] is exploited in a myriad ways until the weakest link is found, most of the time. See also: imperialism and Conquistador invasion of the Incan Empire.

Of course, I also don’t subscribe to a strictly primordialist theory, broadly asserting that every race/ethnicity fights [and should] for its own racial dominance and benefits. Universal brotherhood is an idyllic ideal to look forward to. Is that contradictory? It’s like the UN and world peace. Ideals; won’t ever happen but it looks good in writing.

War is glorious, or was. To die for something, used to be the single defining moment in a man’s life. even now, ideological struggles are romanticized. However with the advent of long range firearms, most of the “honour” in battle was gone. What “honour” is there in being able to shoot a man from afar? It was a strategic weapon in battle, but at the cost of honour. To this day, I believe melee weapons are the true test of warrior mettle. It’s a very unique combination of agility and deft footwork, and skill and grace, and well…honour. When you take a human life, you lose a part of yourself as well. When you take a human life, hand to hand, then you will truly appreciate what you lost. My two cents worth.

Anyway, that’s not what the discussion is about. If dying for something is good, sorry Bertrand Russell, what are good things to fight for? What you believe in? What you own? What you value? What you feel you must defend, with your life if need be?

I used to think patriotism was a valid concept. Forgive the cliche, I loved my India. Blindly. Because I was born there. Because I’m a purebred Dravidian. Because that land was my birthright, the land of my father and grandfather and all those before them. I feel this rush of xenophobic [very mild but it’s there] thoughts every time the word Pakistan or UK is uttered.To this day I despise Victorian accents especially by people who are not British. Disgusting wannabes.
And then I moved here and I did *coughwasmadetocough* NS, and yet I didn’t take up citizenship when it was offered. Because I held to that ideal of patriotism. I haven’t “lived” there for a long time now, and I was seven when I left; I hardly remember what it was like, but blindly, patriotism appealed to me.
And then came the proposition that I’d pay roughly four times the same amount a citizen pays if I didnt become a citizen myself OR get a three year bond immediately upon graduation. Well since the option was open, very practically, the offer was taken.
And just like that, my citizenship changed. Was it really that easy? Some paperwork? The Indian High Commission just wrote me off, excess baggage-like. Daym.

Now, patriotism means something totally different. It means shit. I can’t be like the bureaucracy. My loyalty can’t just change hands and go to the highest bidder. It’s not governed by paperwork.

An altogether new realisation hit me. I suddenly recall having read this somewhere before. Let’s talk about holy cities. Say, Jerusalem. What is about Jerusalem that is holy land? Is it the sand there? Or the bedrock? Or that entire sector in the earth’s volume? Can I get a bottle of road-side sand from Jerusalem and be blessed for it? If, hypothetically, a holy city can be transplanted somewhere else, down to the last brick, and rock in the crust, would it still be holy? Or would the holy spot be the gaping hole left behind?
If I can’t answer that, but what business have I being patriotic? What exactly am I defending? What do I hope to save? Of course, if you have an answer, then that’ll be the cornerstone of your conviction.

And I do have an answer. My own personal answer. But it leads me away from patriotism. It leads me to a different kind of extremism. I still feel that it is only right that I feel compelled to defend my birthright, and that of generations to come. It is only right to right as many wrongs as possible, and to stand for justice. It is only right to help those of your clan, your brothers, and your people. The ones to your left and right, and the one in front, and the ones behind you. And if you’re in a crowded city like mine, those above and below as well.
But this time, it’s not one particular tract of land, or a state or a continent. I am not a/an [enter nationality here]. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and my loyalty is not to the state, it’s to the planet; not to the government but to the people of the world. Just as they are inextricably bound to me by that same reasoning, even if they don’t know it yet and perhaps never will. This of course is independent of any political inclinations.
May I go a step further then? Why be species-centric? I’m not just a human being, I’m an earthling, stuck on this rock with the rest of these strange, magnificent creatures of the air, land and sea, and I’m equally indebted to each and every one of them as they are reliant on us to leave them be, among other things.

Maybe this is a form of patriotism too, but as character by the legendary Paul Auster put it, our words have started to not mean what they are used to represent. The sharing of meaning has taken a turn of the worse. This passion, is not unlike patriotism, but cannot be called patriotism because patriotism refers to extreme passions towards a fatherland, a nation or state.

Watch Planet Earth. It helps with the feelings of fragility, interdependence and the hypothetical, what if we just left them alone? What if we stopped breeding like rabbits in heat only all year round? Stuff like that.

Point being, I sense homecoming. A long term philosophy that actually makes sense on a personal level. An extended take on transhumanism. With sprinkled Saint-Simonism. The marriage of science and biology. With a bit of fatalism. And anarchism. Because all these ideologies are not always mutually exclusive. Ultimately, if we can at least reach the mantle of the noble savage, that would be good start. Comparatively speaking.

*Decided to make this a running thread

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