Archive for the ‘Nationalism’ Category

Such nonsense: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Countries exist only because man creates them as he builds furniture, civil structures and computing machines. They are built in order to serve some purpose in the manner that tables, bridges and iPads are constructed for utility too. There is no point in having any of them around otherwise. Let me announce, “Ask not what your garden shovel can do for you, but what you can do for your garden shovel,” and the ridiculous nature of this presidential proclamation becomes evident. How can someone slobber such patriotic sludge, and why do people suck it up through straws as narrow as their limited reasoning?

The Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Dispatch

As recently as two hundred years ago it is doubtful that very many residents of the British Isles considered themselves to be British. A painting by David Wilkie caused a stir in 1822, for it aimed to manufacture a British identity through a patriotism that transcended age, gender, class, race, or occupation. “We” had just defeated Napoleon. And if you could see yourself in this painting, if you happened to be someone from Irish, Welsh, Scottish or English origin, rich or poor, man or woman, white or black, then you were one of the “we” who had just vanquished the enemy. It was of no consequence that many “French” men and women, in an age before railways and national schools, had no idea who Napoleon was.

Influential men in the British Isles were expanding their trade internationally and needed “Britain”, a political fabrication, for their protection. They needed laws favourable to their dealings, laws that would protect their property. They needed a navy and army to escort them on their expeditions. And they needed the people across the land to sign on to the whole arrangement. The common person in Yorkshire or Cornwall never had designs to become even English let alone British.

Similarly, ninety-seven percent of the inhabitants of the newly formed Italy did not speak Italian and had never clamoured in their multitudinous dialects for a change of language. What good was Italy and Italian to them? And let’s not forget the United States. Historian Howard Zinn reminds us that the Revolutionary War was unpopular: “It was not all the common people getting together to fight against England. They had a very hard time assembling an army. They took poor guys and promised them land. They browbeat people…” And when the soldiers discovered they were part of a racket, a good many mutinied. Yes, countries were created by wealthy people in order to fulfil their ambitions of power. Zinn tells us that “the farmers were rather poor; the Founding Fathers were rather rich.”

We are often told that socialism (when the State owns the means of production) is evil. We are also told that its opposite, capitalism (when the means of production own the State) is good. Good for who? Rich property owners? International traders and financiers? Business elites and industrialists? The phrasing more correctly should be, “Ask not what the owners of the country can do for you, but what you can do for the owners of the country.” But, of course, these words cannot be used. We’re supposed to imagine one big national family. We’re all part of it. We are all American, or British, or whatever. Let’s not think of class, or of class war. The very ideas sound much too Marxist; surely they belong in the pages of a dusty, Victorian library.

But a class war is being fought, and being fought unevenly. The elites know what they are doing when they step into society’s ring. They throw the punches and land the blows with hands that are unfairly clad with the concrete wrappings of The Law. Their opponents–the rest of us–mostly take it on the chin. When we succeed in picking ourselves up off the mat for another round or when we temporarily stem the blood-flow, we rejoice in our small victories. Never mind that the State referees the match to our purposeful disadvantage; the fix is most certainly in. And we’re losing badly.