The State, Culture and Nationalism (3)

The Change in Ethnic Identity

Ethnic identity is ever changing throughout human history. In the world of a thousand and five hundred years ago, there were no such people called Spanish. There were only Moors and Goths. Spanish are their descendants.

Around two hundred years ago, there are no Americans either. The inhabitants in the New Continent were the British, the Irish, the Dutch, etc. Why they became the Americans half century later? This case is the same as the above.

This is the talent how the humans get accustomed to the environment. When you live in a new place, gradually you develop your culture, and astronomical and geographical knowledge specific to that place. Say if you were born in Hong Kong but you spend most life in Mongolian desert, you will know how to deal with sand storms and steppe.

In the age where the common people were not yet aware of their own rights, such as in Medieval Europe, everyone only knew of his identity as a Christian, and lived a life loyal to the Holy See. Since the Enlightenment, citizens started to pay attention to their homeland, culture, and the global impact to their local life. That is why Europe could organize numerous Crusades in the beginning, but weakened later. This happened when everyone came to know the news that Christians conquered the Holy Land was not only nothing beneficial to himself, but even draining local manpower and properties, such campaigns deemed to fail.

In modern multicultural empires, many subjects criticize the empire policy to grant special rights for ethnic minorities. From the administration perspective, preferential treatment is a rational decision for stability. But once its subjects come to realize they are the victims from such policy, they will have different thoughts.

With rationality, people come to know that there is more than one solution to the problem. In the past, the Europeans thought that the victory from Crusades could solve the problem. That was true, if Crusade had succeeded, the Europeans could have regained the control of the trade route to India and China. However, the final solution to this problem was not the Crusade; it was by the Age of Discovery through navigation. Navigation started to prevail after localism arose among European countries.

Such step is inevitable after the public awakens. You may try to delay it, but you must face it at the end of the day. This is just inevitable.

Patriotism is Respect

At the time the word patriotism emerged in ancient Greece, it didn’t mean the love of a real “State” as in modern sense. It meant the love of one’s language, culture, tradition, law and dignity. In other words, it meant the love of one’s grown up environment. The spirit to sacrifice for that is patriotism.

Since the 19th century, however, the meaning of patriotism has been distorted which comes to mean an attitude, to agree everything that the government does, xenophobic nationalism, unconditional loyalty to the administration, and to the extreme, to eradicate all the enemies of the state…….and so on. Patriotism has been distorted by power and blinded by hatred.

The real meaning of patriotism is the responsibility to the society, which has nothing to do with the above meaning distorted meaning. In the original meaning of patriotism, there is no “state”. What the state is and which one it is, that is not important.

To force or expect the other people who were not ruled before, and with different grown up memory, to succumb to one’s rule by the excuse of the power of the nation, may I ask, is that patriotism?

To support one’s government unconditionally, no matter its doing is just or not, even to advocate the suppression on other ethnic groups just because it is beneficial to him, may I ask, is this a spirit of sacrifice?

For those who restlessly suppress, mocker and disparage those who are defiant to the rule of his own state, and even shout to” kick those natives out of their lands, we just need the lands”, may I ask, in what ways are they fulfilling their responsibilities to the society?

Consider the cases below:

Say in some corners of the world, there are some people who aspire to promote their own culture and self-identity; some exiles who never hesitate to introduce to the strangers their grown up environment; and some guys who make foreign friends for the good of their countries, despite their states are without international recognition. Are they patriotic?

There are some people, whose motherlands are not mighty powers and often disparaged, yet they have pleasant manners and with the willingness to excel to make themselves recognized and respected by foreigners. And from such recognition and respect the foreigners are able to understand their countries with good impressions. Are they fulfilling social responsibility?

So by comparing the above scenarios, which one is closer to the meaning of being patriotic? I won’t give the answer. The definition has been laid down in the beginning of this section.

From my point of view, many so-called patriots are no patriots at all, or only take it as a way to bully the others in the name of patriotism. In contrast, there are many who hate the label as a patriot, yet what they are doing is exactly patriotic.

Patriotism is Sacrifice

I never consider the education which encourages one’s sacrifice and the destruction of culture as patriotic education. A patriot is someone who loves the culture inherited and people with the same culture. However, I have seen enough cases that such education never considers the love of the people, to the extent that they can shout “we just acquire the lands and expel the natives” without embarrassment. Can such thing be called “patriotic education”? I doubt it very much. To love the state but no its people, then what you love is power, that’s just hegemony.

As I put it in the previous section, the original meaning of patriotism is the love of one’s own culture and land, and his act to resist his ruler. From certain point of time, however, patriotism becomes an excuse to suppress and to rule over the others, especially in China.

In the lands where patriotism prevail, mans of words prevail. Real patriotism is to sacrifice oneself, but the reality is most people want to show themselves as patriotic, yet are reluctant to sacrifice themselves.

The broad meaning of sacrifice is like this: Once you have to obey the laws, you sacrifice your chance of corruption. Once you have to obey the laws, you sacrifice the chance to manipulate the laws to acquire power. Once you have to rule by constitution, you sacrifice your chance of unchallengeable ruling power. To a Mandarin official, being patriotic is a great sacrifice.

So anything involved with patriotism easily becomes religious and easily twisted and distorted. In my understanding, the broad meaning of patriotism means the love of humans and not anything else. Therefore, a person who meets basic moral standards can be said to be patriotic, whilst those so-called patriots are mostly just the privileged or biased group of people.

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