Sunday, November 30, 2014

Nov. 30: Patriotism and the rush to kill...

One of the things you learn in studying history is how many lies there are that we believe are truths. One of them is that going to war is good and patriotic-----but only when it happens on our side. Anybody on the other side who shoots back at us is evil, and quite possibly insane.

For generations, British children (and Canadians) were taught that the building of the British Empire was something to be proud of, to feel patriotic pride about.  Why? Well, it showed that the British were a more highly developed "race" than the peoples they conquered. The soldiers and sailors who did the fighting were "splendid chaps, splendid" while they were killing. When they weren't, they were the scum of the earth -drunken, poverty stricken, and dropped on the streets by our gracious kings and queens once the killing was over.

Hailed as patriots while fighting,  they were abandoned once the very wealthy of Britain no longer needed them to loot a nation of 'racially inferior' peoples. For centuries, country after country fell to British armies who killed, raped, and pillaged whenever they could. Then the "better sort" of British moved in to exploit the conquered people for cheap labour. and to take the resources. Oh, and missionaries moved in to - well - depending on your point of view - to civilize the conquered, or perhaps to make them more submissive.

What children were taught was not history. It was glory, glory, glory, and it was patriotism.

Long ago, I was shocked when an American friend mentioned the War of 1812 as the Second American War of Independence. It's often still taught that way in the US. Let's see. Americans wanted freedom, equality, etc. So they invaded Canada?

Of course. Read any American school history text. The US has been fighting wars against Native Peoples to take their land, against Latin Americans to take chunks of their land (as in the Mexican-American War), and to exploit resources and cheap labour, spread to the Pacific in The Phillipines, and now over most of the world in wars that have been continuous since 1776. They have done it for exactly the same greedy reasons the British did, and with the same murderous style. But you won't often see that in the history books of the movies. Americans, like British, are taught to believe in myths so they'll be patriotic.

Canada has not been different - smaller scale, but not different.

Germans were taught that way, too. That's why Hitler found them such a willing audience. Patriotism encourages us to see ourselves as superior to others - and therefore makes it quite acceptable for us to murder inferior peoples or to enslave them or, even better, to work them to death at a dollar or two a day to make our own billionaires even richer. Patriotism in Germany justified the murders of millions of Jews, Romas, World War Two.  It was used to justify the Canadian killing and displacing of native peoples. It  has also been used in Canada to justify our dreadful treatment of Japanese, Ukrainians, Jews, blacks.... And we're watching that same kind of patriotism rapidly growing in Europe today, as western nations react against the refugees they created.

"Patriotism" sounds like a "good thing".  Sometimes it is. There are people who do want to make Canada a better country - not just for billionaires, not just for white folks, for all of us.

But even those can fall into the trap of thinking that what's good for Canada - or for their part of it - is to preserve the Canadian culture. And this is even sillier than racism. There may be such a thing as a Canadian culture -  but I have never even heard of anyone saying exactly what that culture is. Do you eat when you're hungry? Well, so do people of every culture all over the world. Do you like soccer? So do North Koreans and Chileans.

Even if culture could be defined, it wouldn't help - because culture is the way we react to the world around us. And the world around us is constantly changing. So our culture changes to match it. We do not have the same culture as our grandparents - or even our parents.

Patriotism and culture sound good. But nobody really knows what they mean - except that they sound like good things to be. In reality, they come close the the ugly word, 'racism'. And they can be used - and are used - by our news media and their bosses to give a nice meaning to the fears and hatreds nurtured by the racism that we have more of than we like to admit.  Then they can aim our fears and hatreds at something that will make our wealthy even wealthier.

That's why Americans could inflict horrors on Vietnamese and Iraqis, and not see any contradiction with their supposed religious values.

And why did we send soldiers to die in Afghanistan? How did that show patriotism? How does it show patriotism to bomb ISIL in Iraq?

No. Patriotism is nothing more than a propaganda tool to turn off our brains, to see goodness where the purpose is really evil, and to give us a nice word for the evil so that we don't see how it is against our own basic values.

1 comment:

  1. "You are not fighting for your country, you are fighting for your government." Howard Zinn
    You have written a great article. As long as people accept the myths they are taught, they will always go to war. Pursuing knowledge takes work. Accepting myths is much easier and besides the myths make people feel good. The reality is exactly what you said "Patriotism and the Rush to kill". I would also add that it is a rush to die.