This week marks the newly-proclaimed “Sovereignty Day” in Iraq (June 30), Canada Day here in Canada (July 1), and the Fourth of July celebrations in the United States.
I’ve always thought that it was the most fortunate of happenstance that, throughout history, most people who believe Canada to be the best nation on earth just happen to have been born in Canada; most people who believe England to be the best were born in England; most people who believe France to be the best, were born in France and so on and so forth. The Americans are actually the luckiest of all in this regard since not only do a majority of them believe they live in the best country on Earth, but a recent poll found that a supermajority (61%) of Americans also believe that God — the putative creator of the universe, heaven and hell — has literally blessed their country specifically and has not similarly blessed any other country in the world (or universe?).
In honour of these august nationalist occasions, it is worth sharing some of my favourite quotes on nationalism and patriotism.
“Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior because you were born in it.”
-George Bernard Shaw
“Q: If you find so much that is unworthy of reverence in the United States, then why do you live here?
A: Why do men go to zoos?”
“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”
“A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and by a common hatred of its neighbours.”
-William Ralph Inge
“Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship… Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”
-Hermann Goering (Nazi party official)
“When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? It is because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.
“The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality. The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what that have not got.”
-Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto
“Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear — kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor — with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.”
-U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, 1957