#119 - PATRIOTISM
This passage is from Dorothy Dunnett's "The Game of Kings", first book of "The Lymond Chronicles" series. From the first time I read it, it spoke volumes to me. Obviously, since I typed (or had someone else) type out the text, removing the character references, so that it reads like the speech it can be.
It seems appropriate for this era...
"The margin is so small between life and no life, fact and lie, treason and patriotism, civilization and savagery.
Patriotism, like honesty, is a luxury with a very high face value which is quickly pricing itself out of the spiritual market altogether.
A child's home and the ways of its life are sacrosanct, perfect, inviolate to the child. Add age; add security; add experience. In time, we all admit our relatives, our neighbours, our fellow townsmen and even, perhaps, at last our fellow nationals to the threshold of tolerance. But the man living one inch beyond the boundary is an inveterate foe.
Patriotism is a fine hothouse for maggots. It breeds intolerance; it forces a spindle-legged, spurious riot of colour... A man of only moderate powers enjoys the special sanction of purpose, the sense of ceremony; the echo of mysterious, lost and royal things; a trace of the broad, plain childish virtues of myth and legend and ballad. He wants advancement - what simpler ways is there? He's tired of the little seasons and looks for movement and change and an edge of peril and excitement; he enjoys the flowering of small talents lost in the dry courses of daily life. For all these reasons, men at least once in their lives move the finger which will take them to battle for their country... Patriotism - it's an opulent word, a might key to a royal Cloud-Cuckoo-Land. Patriotism; loyalty; a true conviction that of all the troubled and striving world, the soil of one's fathers is noblest and best. A celestial competition for the best breed of man; a vehicle for shedding boredom and execising surplus power or surplus talents or surplus money; an immature and bigoted intolerenace which becomes the coin of barter in the markets of power...
These are not patriots but martyrs, dying in cheerful self-interest as the Christians died in the pleasant conviction of grace, leaving their example by chance to brood beneath the water and rise, miraculously, to refresh the centuries. The cry is rasied: Our land is glorious under the sun. I have a need to believe it, they say. It is a virture to believe it; and therefore I shall wring from this unassuming clod a passion and a power and a selflessness that otherwise would be laid unquickened in the grave,
And who shall say they are wrong? There are those who will always cleave to the living country, and who with their uprooted imaginations might well make of it an instrument for good. Is it quite beyond us in this land? Is there none will take up this priceless thing and say, Here is a nation, with such a soul; with such talents; with these failings and this native worth? In what fashion can this one people be brought to live in full vigour and serenity, and who, in their compassion and wisdom, will take it and lead it into the path?"
15 February 2012 AD