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January 18, 2008, Volume 15 Nr. 6, Issue 237

Patriotism: The Other Opiate of the Masses

Compiled, edited, and rewritten by Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, and Jozef Hand-Boniakowski.

Patriotism must be defined before a patriot can be inferred.  The matter in controversy is the nature of patriotism in the nation.  Insidiously to employ the words allegiance, fidelity and Americanism before these attributes are made apparent in the United States and then universally inferring allegiance to a head of state is a common sophism against which we would be mindful to be vigilant.

Why do we admit patriotism in any national interest of our own contrivance?  It is because innumerable instances of the patriotic have been contrived by human fantasy and presented to the minds of the masses.  We are bombarded by people who construct what is patriotic, but if we had no previous knowledge of the patriotic and we had accidentally come across a flag flapping in the wind, we should have been justified in concluding that was a mere cloth hung for some purpose, perhaps merely decorative.

What then do we need to consider regarding the existence of patriotism?  It is suited perfectly for the production of certain effects that natural harmony be achieved and no cause for alarm to the State.  Thus patriotism requires a maximum patriarch, a maximum leader, a king or president, who embodies and further creates and recreates patriotism.

Until it is clearly understood that patriotism is a human and willful construct, we may reasonably suppose that it has existed forever.  It is easy for us to suppose that patriotism is and has always been than to conceive that it and all its emotional attachments were created for explicit purposes, that is to set in motion internal mechanisms of self-governance and behavior.

It is the essence of patriotism to elude thinking and every aspect of critical analysis.  Every aspect of patriotism involves an inherent witness that is bound to evade our examination of it.

The notion of patriotism belongs to the rigidity of the mind, and cannot continue when the human intellect begins to frame a systematic analysis of it.  Patriotism is a malady and like all maladies is best dealt with as something to remedy.

A spate of visits to Walter Reed would reveal hundreds or thousands of crutches, prosthetics, and wheelchairs, all acquired through patriotism's call to arms, to do battle, to inflate itself with the importance and acceptance of the self and ultimate sacrifice.  There exists a national presumption that death achieved in patriotic fervor deserves special attention and even gratitude.  Witness the playing of taps, the 21-gun salute, the crisp machinery of men marching in the obligatory casket-presenting parade and the presentation of the folded flag to the grieving spouse or the next of kin.  Interestingly, the president of the United States does not participate in the funerals of fallen soldiers.  Perhaps, he inherently understands the dichotomy between patriotic fervor and his being absent without leave (AWOL)?

We are as infants in our recognition of the deleterious effects of patriotism.  We are ignorant from whence in the face of grave loss we choke up when the colors are presented or the national anthem is played  Patriotism never tries to interfere with our inability to understand it.  It exists as an ever present aspect of our being, a fact of life successfully inculcated from an early age from the habits of our parents and our schooling through the dominant and domineering paradigms of our culture.  Patriotism's demanding proliferators build upon our internal proclivity toward something bigger than the self.  In that regard patriotism is a parasitic infection that often destroys the host and many more times those branded as its enemies and collateral damage.  Patriotism is an infection that cares not one whit whether the host survive only that the parasite continues.
Patriotism has had its share in the changes of civilization and the national character.  The lions share.  Patriotism is a drug store.  Its contents remain the same but the patriotic practices change.  The level of patriotic fervor changes and often reaches a fever pitch.  Patriotism's physician, the state, drenches its patient with equal portions of debilitating duty and responsibility to nation regardless of correctness.  The medium of righteousness cures any and all allusion of error committed by the nation-state, the maximum patriarch or the established ruling class.  The imperial president is as if the Pope with dogmatic infallibility presented as fact.  How George W. Bush can be so considered is beyond reason but reason has nothing to do with it.  If and when the patient shakes off the disease of patriotism, it is the patient then that is considered sick, in need of curing.  The patient is in need of being cured, of being brought back to "right-mindedness".  The media pundits and self-professed "journalists" make sure that the semblance of right-mindedness is maintained.  The quackery of patriotism, like that of homeopathy, requires that the patient not evolve, that they remain static in the robotic stiff upper-lipness that accompanies a dedication to the blind philosophy of my country right or wrong.

Patriotism is self-correcting, not of itself but of those who refuse to march lock-step in it.  It evolves in technique and application only.  It does not require that the patriot evolve.  Quite the contrary.  The patriot, the addicted patient hooked on patriotism's drug best not evolve into a questioning citizen.  Such questioning would lead to ending the human abuses perpetuated by it.  It might even lead to a loss of faith in patriotism and break the addiction it has on its servants.

During the youthful period of mankind's political evolution human fantasy created heroes in the image of citizens who by the operations of their fidelity were supposed to determine or at any rate to influence patriotism.  Teachers, actors, religious figures, ministers, journalists, movie producers, talk show hosts, artists and parents seek to alter the disposition of the citizenry in the State's favor by means of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, the national anthem, larger than life statues and memorials, appeals to duty, honor, country, mythos, and of course sacrifice including the "ultimate sacrifice".  Patriotism in the schools teaches children a sublimation of the concept of the State as being akin to god.  The religious fervor of patriotism is modeled by the fact that men appeal to a divine being in the Pledge of Allegiance, that loyalty oath that begins school assemblies and daily classes as well as the United States House of Representatives and the Senate.  Meanwhile the adults along with the children exercise their access to the holy free market through the exchange of legal tender proclaiming, "In God We Trust".  Patriotism and god fulfills both the patriots so-called spiritual and material needs and wants.

Nobody, certainly will deny that the existence of patriotism is able to accord man some solace and guidance of sorts; but taken alone without assessment and analysis, in its simplicity, patriotism is accessible to and embraced mostly by the underdeveloped mind.

The main source of the present-day conflict between patriotism and free-thinking lies in the concept that the State as a higher entity has almighty power over the individual, their well being and even their life.  Capital punishment lets the citizen witness and far too often, experience, that power.  For patriotism to continue, the acceptance of absolute general validity is required though no proof is necessary.

Patriotism can be seen as mainly a (computer) program.  Faith in the probability of its accomplishments is founded only upon the successfully programmed populace being booted-up and running.  We do as we are commanded.

Few doubt that we are confronted with a cause and effect connection between patriotism's activities and the rewards it promises with adherence thereto.  It is a fact, however, that it is the activities of the citizen as worker, as the producer of all surplus value and wealth, that creates the rewards.  Mostly these rewards go to the owners of the workers and not to the workers themselves.  Patriotism creates nothing but a blind and/or wrong-minded acceptance and adherence to anything its agents propose.  Believing what George W. Bush states is truth, in defiance of all evidence that he does not tell the truth, is a good example of the delusion that patriotism engenders.  Almost seven years after the events of September 11, 2001, a majority of people in the United States still believe the State propaganda that Iraq was responsible for 911. 

Yet patriotism serves a purpose.  It is like religion an opiate of the masses providing a fix, a relief from the failures of the regime and its promises.  Patriotism's appeal is the temporary relief the addicted undergo when confronted with the hard realities that the State is corrupt.  When as a nation we are faced with the facts that we have illegally and preventively invaded and occupied a sovereign nation that was no threat to us our momentary discomfort is whisked away by patriotic self-righteousness and chest heaving nationalistic privilege.

The more a man is inbred with the ordered regularity of patriotic events and happenstance the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left to question any aspect of government and its actions.  The doctrine of patriotism always takes refuge in those domains in which critical thinking skills have not been able to take root.  Without these critical thinking skills the addict injecting patriotism into his brain does not realize, nor can he, that his nationalistic euphoria is a drug-induced quasi-religious delusion.

I cannot then believe in the concepts of patriotism that has the power of interfering with free thought.  The most beautiful and profound form of freedom is the sensation of the non-existence of patriotism and the disappearance of the State.  It is the absence of patriotism that frees the mind moving it toward new imaginings and the realization of human progress.

Patriotism is more than a symbol of weakness and confusion.  Since our inner being has a proclivity to accepting mostly the similarities of all human beings, the concept of differences that divide people are empty and devoid of meaning.  They are artificial constructs perpetuated by patriotism to divide people into differing nations and to instill in each a fear of the other so that the concept of "the enemy" is well established.  There must always exist an enemy for patriotism to exist.  And if there be no enemy in reality, then one must be invented.

I am convinced that patriotism and its social activities and the practices and propaganda of the State are detrimental and dangerous to the human race.  Human beings will quickly and often kill each other for both patriotism and religion.  When the two are combined together nefarious and heinous crimes result.  Freedom hides its secret because of its essential loftiness.  Patriotism projects freedom's loftiness as a ruse.  Freethinkers have an obligation to expose and correct this false projection, to break the addiction of patriotism upon the masses.

That a man can take pleasure in the marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him.  He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed.  This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed.

-- Albert Einstein

2008 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, PhD
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