Toxic patriotism is an enemy of authentic nationalism because it plays into the hands of globalist internationalism. It led to both World Wars and to the rise of the Nazis and, in consequence, to the reconfiguration of the post-war world in accordance with globalist principles. The mark of the toxic patriot is evident in the way that he treats with contempt the patriotism of all peoples, except his own.
Some time ago, I recall reading an essay that sought to differentiate between patriotism and nationalism, in which the author argued that the former was commendable but that the latter was not. I wrote an essay in response, claiming that both were good but that it was necessary to define our terms. Were we to take the Oxford Dictionary as our authoritative source we would see that the two words are seen as largely synonymous. A patriot is defined as “one who defends or is zealous for his country’s freedom or rights,” whereas nationalism is defined as “patriotic feelings, principles, or efforts” and also as the “policy of national independence.” Begging to differ somewhat with the etymological authorities, I would venture to suggest that a “patriot” is not as easy to pin down as the dictionary definition implies. A patriot can support his country’s soccer team in the World Cup, feeling a vague sense of loyalty to the land of his birth and a vague sense of belonging to a national culture, without being zealous for his country’s freedoms or rights. Most of those who advocate globalism in politics would claim to be patriotic in following their country’s fortunes at the Olympics. We could argue, of course, that a globalist is, ipso facto, not a patriot, and we could use the definition of patriot in the Oxford Dictionary as the foundation of our case. The fact is, however, that most people perceive patriotism in terms of a vague feeling of loyalty towards one’s own country which need not have any tangible political consequences. Most people would consider themselves to be patriotic but many do not necessarily vote for political parties that are “zealous for their country’s freedom or rights.”
Whereas patriotism is vague and is connected to feelings and emotions, nationalism is connected to a definite political understanding of the nation and its place in the world. Returning to the Oxford Dictionary, nationalism is not merely about “patriotic feelings” but also about “patriotic principles and efforts”; it is the political philosophy which advocates political action in the service and defence of national sovereignty.
Once we have defined our terms, we can consider the place of patriotism in society and its relationship with nationalism, and we can make distinctions between them when necessary.
Such thoughts were in the forefront of my mind when I heard the sickening news earlier this month that Russian “nationalists” had removed a plaque commemorating the Katyn massacre. For those who don’t know, the Katyn massacre is the name given to a series of mass executions in 1940 in which 22,000 Polish military officers and civilians were murdered in cold blood by the Soviet secret police. What has this act of crass vandalism in apparent support of communist terrorism to do with “nationalism”? I would argue that such bigots are not nationalists but toxic patriots. They are not concerned with the principle of national sovereignty, which necessitates respecting the sovereignty of all nations, not merely our own. Theirs is the spirit of imperialism, not nationalism. Their act of vandalism is not merely a mark of crass and barbaric indifference to the cold-blooded killing of prisoners of war and civilians, which is indefensible in itself, but is also a de facto endorsement of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Polish sovereign territory.
The people of Russia need to heed the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the greatest Russian hero of the past century, who called for his country to repent of its communist past and to embrace its post-communist future.
And yet, of course, toxic patriotism is not a problem confined to Russia. It afflicts all nations. Such toxic patriotism is an enemy of authentic nationalism because it plays into the hands of globalist internationalism. It led to both World Wars and to the rise of the Nazis and, in consequence, to the reconfiguration of the post-war world in accordance with globalist principles. The mark of the toxic patriot is evident in the way that he treats with contempt the patriotism of all peoples, except his own. This is why a toxic patriot, such as Hitler, could sanction marching into other people’s countries. Toxic patriots are imperialists, which means that they are in fact internationalists, riding roughshod over the rights of weaker nations in their quest for the “patriotic” expansion of their own country’s power and influence. Such toxic patriotism is the enemy of all authentic nationalism.
It is the sin of pride that poisons patriotism as it poisons everything else. What is needed is a humble patriotism, nourished by an authentic nationalism that respects all nations as unique manifestations of human culture. This healthy patriotism, put to the service of nationalism, will preserve the nations of the world and their multifarious cultures and traditions. The absence of such patriotism will lead to a drab globalist monoculture, bereft of national cultures and the goodness, truth and beauty that they manifest.
If nationalism becomes intoxicated with the poison of pride, it will wreck itself on the rocks of international conflict, thereby handing the nations of the world over to the new unhappy lords of globalism. Those national leaders, such as Vladimir Putin, who oppose globalism, should take note.
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The featured image is photographed by Eleanor Lang and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.