(1) the first subterfuge of insider
scoundrels aiming to trick or intimidate "the people" into assisting
in their own exploitation and flag-saluting youth into dying for the
rich without asking why;
(2) an attitude of illogical devotion
to the state which makes the state itself a religious idol (or business
regime), existing for its own sake rather than for the sake of its citizens
(or workforce), who exist only to serve it;
(3) an artificial tribalism, a kind
of racism, the first step toward and probably the most important underpinning
Those aren't definitions of the wrong kind
of patriotism. That's what patriotism is. There is no "good" patriotism.
Patriotism isn't good. It's pure stupid.
Patriotism is a lot like religion and a lot
like television. Eduardo Galleano, talking about the odd abundance of
TV sets in Latin American shanties, once wrote that poor TV watchers
are being taught to accept fantasy as their share. Exactly! When he
described religion as the opiate of "the people," Marx was making the
same point, and patriotism is another drug that serves the same purpose.
As another even dumber kind of religion,
patriotism turns the citizens of a state into the mere shadows of their
citizenship, clouding men's minds to obscure the failure of the state
to serve the citizens whose only reason for having a state ought to
be to do themselves some good but who wind up accepting a reverse situation
in which the state's only reason for having citizens is to do it (or
rather it's major stockholders) some good.
The first time I ever saw the phrase productive
citizen in The Weekly Reader, as an already individualistic
kid, I was deeply offended. Maybe I'm the only person who ever was.
But everyone should be, because the phrase is such a transparent euphemism
thinly sugar-coating the fact that the U.S. is a businessmen's state,
which, to facilitate business (which is its entire distorted purpose),
wants productive employees.
Logically, a state should be justifiable
only as a productive mechanism - but for all its participants,
not just the rich insiders. A state should be practically considered
a joint venture to which all participants contribute as equally
as they can and from which all equally take the benefits (since
there is no logical reason to participate equally unless you expect
to benefit equally).
But, instead, almost all modern states are
the instruments of a few powerful politicians, capitalists and big land
owners, military and media chiefs, celebrities, courtiers and friends
and families of the powerful. Most of the rest of the nominal citizens
are virtually forced to contribute - but in the win or lose economic
systems that dominate the world whatever benefit they derive, including
decision making power, isn't their fair share. The insiders - the winners
- the actual stockholders - to whom the countries of the world and most
of their benefits really belong - find it expedient and sickeningly
easy to pacify (and intimidate) most of the losers by giving them fantasy
as their share - election circuses, flags, marching bands, TV, religion,
and patriotism - patriotism both to keep their foolish chests puffed
up with empty air and to keep them securely in line (and productive).
Like religious fervor which is always strongest
in a crowd of rightously deputized believers in a demanding and vengeful
god, patriotism is intimidating. In fact, people are more afraid of
the power of their states than they are of the power of their gods.
The armed jackboots of the state, its black-robed judges, its walled
and barred prisons, and its gallows loom much larger in people's nightmares
than the devil and, except perhaps in the middle east, children pressed
into citizenship at birth and forced under the watchful eyes of their
fellows, including the ever present bullies in the room, to salute a
flag daily, stand for the anthem, and cheer for the team, once the state's
godhood is deeply embedded in their brains, fear being branded unpatriotic
more than they fear being branded sinners. In the last few decades,
in slightly enlightened parts of the world, leftist agitators have almost
liberated people from fear of being caught black, gay, female, or even
atheist. But even leftists still fear being caught unpatriotic.
Which is absurd. Patriotism is not a beautiful
ideal. Thinking of it that way is only an illogical habit. It's an ugly
trick played on the peons to con them, confuse them, and keep them conveniently
scared of each other. Once the flag is tightly wrapped around any "free"
enterprise venture to keep on exploiting "the people," including through
one war after another, even leftists trying to get the exploited but
thoroughly conned workers and soldiers to listen to them for their own
benefit, must absurdly wrap the ill-fitting flag around their objections
to corruption and war and pretend to salute the rich insiders' damned
The only common sense reason for people to
organize a state is as a practical mechanism to do things together they
can't do or can't do as easily or as well apart - FOR THEMSELVES. Obviously,
a sensible state is a tool or organization to serve its members, not
a totem to be saluted. The only obligation intelligently self-interested
members owe the state is to take care of it, as you would take care
of any tool, to keep it working properly - FOR YOURSELF - not for the
tool. Of course, participants in a state have to seriously participate
to make the state work - but not for the state - FOR THEMSELVES - obviously.
And that only makes sense if it does work or can be made to work.
Jefferson argued that the state should be
overthrown every time it stops working. To exactly paraphrase the first
leg of the syllogism in the Declaration of Independence: worn out, broken,
inappropriate tools or malfunctioning organizations should be fixed
or (if they can't be fixed) discarded and replaced. But a lot of propaganda
has gone under the bridge since Jefferson's day, and today's patriotic
citizens, brainwashed since birth to regard the state as a totem (a
godhead) rather than as their own tool or organization, don't think
they have the right to rebel.
A state should be called a state, which
means a civil mechanism the importance of which lies in its function,
but patriotism is a dumb fantasy that distorts a state into a country
or a nation - a sacred tribal unit based on territory or race - not
The logical function of a state is to serve
the individual participants by making their lives better. The logical
relationship between participants and the state is no more than a practically
contractual relationship. And the attitude of individuals committing
themselves to participate in a state should be the same sensible attitude
of watchful self-interest that they take into any contractual deal.
A commitment to blind patriotic fervor is the kind of deceptive sub-paragraph
any smart person should cross OFF a contract before signing to avoid
Patriotism transforms what should be equal
fellow citizens, participants, into cowed serfs subjecting themselves
to the country as if it were the lord of the castle on the hill (or
the owner of the mill). Patriotism surrenders individual importance
and dignity to the country and (always, everywhere) excuses the country's
failure to work equally for each individual. Patriotism turns the state
into one more master and a second absurd religion.
Patriotism is outrageously illogical. It goes against common sense,
and nothing dismays me so much as that even people who should know better
have bought into it.