Are patriotism and a love of country the same thing?
When someone says they love their country, they are usually viewed as patriotic.
Both are commonly seen as one and the same thing, but are they really?
Is loving the place you live interdependent with a sense of nationhood?
How might we test this question?
Australia’s indigenous people have occupied this land for eons – long before the concepts of nationhood and patriotism were invented.
Throughout this time they evolved an attachment to this place – physically, emotionally and spiritually they were and still are, deeply connected to their land.
Traditionally, despite not having a centralised government, a national anthem or a flag, indigenous people the world over have nonetheless enjoyed a strong love of country.
So clearly, the things we associate with patriotism are not necessary to developing a oneness with the place we live.
Patriotism is rightly an identification with the state. It’s an attachment to the idea of nationhood that governments often exploit to control their populations.
When the state declares war, patriotism is used to provide a willing army.
Patriotism’s catch-cry is ‘my country right or wrong’, meaning that our collective identity takes precedence over individual concerns or questions of morality.
Defending the interests of the state, for some, is more important than acting upon their
Anything that questions this scenario is seen as unpatriotic.
Anyone who challenges how we observe the Anzac tradition or why we participate in foreign conflicts (for example) is labelled ‘un-Australian’, yet many who do so still love this country dearly.
So perhaps it’s time to distinguish between what makes us proud of the land Australia and
what motivates us to fight abroad for its namesake?
R J Poole, Lismore