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Author Topic: Left-wing patriotism
ooh aah
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well it's pride in who you are, and what makes you who you are. That's all it should be really.

I'm off now, so if you want further clarification as to what I mean, I'm afraid it'll have to wait til monday

[ 23.03.2007, 19:37: Message edited by: ooh aah ]

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twohundredpercent
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But if you vote for Plaid Cymru for those reasons, you've made the leap from patriotism to nationalism, haven't you?
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Taylor
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quote:
Except for the English.
I appreciate that you're half-joking, but this gets right to the heart of the problem, I think.

The vast majority of English people have been shafted by their country, rather than empowered. It's like the old thing of sitting in a grotty pub at World Cup time, surrounded by St George's flags and belligerent nationalism, and thinking "yeah, because England has given you so much, hasn't it?" It's not the English aristocracy who get a hard time in Wales (although they would, if they visited the pubs), it's the English working class, people who throughout history have been treated little better than Welshmen by the English elite. They might sometimes encourage this with their idiot nationalism, but more often than not they're just minding their own business, and are seized upon as living examples of English evil.

The same thing happens to white kids in inner city schools - they often get a hard time from the black kids because of racism in general, slavery in particular. As if a working class white kid from London has ever benefited directly from slavery; in most cases, their ancestors would not have benefited from it either (if they're of Irish extraction, the whole thing becomes a farce).

The point is, the English suffer (mildly) for *perceived* patriotism, as do Americans - which is annoying for those of us who reject that kind of patriotism, but easy to understand when the poor of both countries are suckered into flag-waving like ripped-off idiots.

Everyone seems to be missing the point that "patriotism" takes on a very different political colour when it occurs in powerful nations with a dodgy history, rather than underdog nations with something to resent. Patriotism/nationalism is the reason why much of South America has moved to the left, for instance, and can be an integral part of leftism in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. I'm not sure the Billy Bragg / Mark Perryman solution really works - I'm not sure if there really is a way to be a patriotic Englishman without opening a can of worms. We don't own our flag.

America is slightly different, for reasons that have already been touched on. This pre-Cold-War public information film offers an interesting, distinctly liberal take on American patriotism - but it's funny that specific permission from the War Department was necessary before it could be screened to the general public.

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twohundredpercent
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Well, it's why the Billy Bragg idea of patriotism in England can't work, isn't it? England isn't an "underdog nation" (though France isn't either, and French patriotism had, until relatively recently, a leftish feel to it - due in no small part to the over-simplistic idea of "liberte, egalite, fraternite", but also because of the concept of the French state). As I've said before, my attitude towards my country is largely "meh". I find it curious, however, that anyone can say "Patriotism, or any other celebration of the diversity of humanity, shouldn't inevitably lead to discrimination. I'm a patriotic Welshman, but I don't believe I'm superior to others. Everybody should be treated equally, and nobody should be ashamed of who they are, or where they come from. Except for the English" (even jokingly), and for that to simply be regarded as de rigeur. Personally, I wouldn't say that about any other nation or its people.

[ 23.03.2007, 20:39: Message edited by: 200percent ]

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ooh aah
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I should point out that yes obviously that was a joke, but that the main point of the joke is that welsh patriotism, and national identity is often expressed in a 'chip on the shoulder' response to England, so I was playing up to a Welsh stereotype.


'It's not the English aristocracy who get a hard time in Wales (although they would, if they visited the pubs), it's the English working class, people who throughout history have been treated little better than Welshmen by the English elite.'

Whilst I agree with the bulk of your post, I don't agree with the section quoted above. There is a class element (albeit a very simplistic one) to Welsh attitudes towards England. In fact anti englishness is often expressed in terms of middle England, the South east, the home counties, or Tory England. The north get's a pretty easy ride. Now those attitudes maybe simplistic, and ignore the fact that loads of poor people live in the South-East too, but to say that the English working class get a hard time, whilst the upper class don't is simply not the case.

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Mat Pereira
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Why would the upper class go to Wales though? It's not like there's any small animals to shoot there or anything.
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Jorge Porbillas
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Why would the upper class go to Wales though?

To buy houses, buy land, play with their yachts ...?

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Mat Pereira
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Nah, they've already own most of Wales anyway don't they? That's Edward I for you. And they go to Scotland and the Peak District for their grouse shooting.

And yachts, man! That's what the South of France is for.

They'll only go there for ceremonial reasons, I suspect.

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Ginger Yellow
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I just can't buy into left wing patriotism, or patriotism of any stripe. I don't know how much of it is because of my leftist internationalism, or how much of my leftist internationalism is the result of having dual nationality, but either way when people say I should be "proud" of one heritage over another, or have unique loyalty to one country, it makes no sense to me. It bears no relation to how I feel toward the countries that have produced me, or to the rest of the world.
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Lardinho
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My "patriotism" is broadly along the lines of "I rather like the places I grew up, which are the places most familiar, so it's not surprising I have an affection for them." The trouble is that gives me a concentric-patriotism, of Oxford, and the South East, and England, and the UK, and Europe; and there are other pockets, too, related to where I've lived.

It's a basis of a patriotism I'm happy with, the basis of why I support my home-town in football and my home-country in football, too (although I never much enjoy watching the latter).

It's not contrary to any left-wing views. But it's not saying "home is better than elsewhere", it's just saying "I like home more, because it's most familiar."

It gets dodgy once I start being proud of "values", of the actions of someone English, as if the being English has made them do good deeds. I find myself doing this on occasion, but I know it's irrational nonsense, where I'm not starting on the premise of everyone being equal until they prove themselves otherwise.

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Mat Pereira
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Thinking about this a bit more, there's an interesting bit in the Jonathan Coe book 'The Closed Circle' where the BNP loving character is reminded while he's waxing lyrical about Vaughn Williams, that Vaughn Williams was a socialist and thus had an internationalist outlook. The fascist replies that VW's politics would have been just a projection of the logical part of his mind, but his love of England would have been deeper, and more resonant within him.

I think that's rubbish, actually, but in general terms I wonder whether what gets called patriotism by some is in fact no more than a desire to help or contribute to their immediate community, or an aesthetic appreciation of parts of the English countryside, or a sentimental love of the place you associate with your childhood.

See, none of that should really be in the realm of politics, should it? It's an artistic thing innit, but that bit in the Jonathan Coe book, made me wonder how often the two things get confused.

The only time I think artistic or cultural things like the above do go into the realm of the political, for me, is where censorship or - to use a word you don't see getting used much any more - hegemony comes into the equasion.

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E10Rifle
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Yeah I'd agree with that - by Christ, isn't The Closed Circle bang on the money, politically? - I think that some of that Billy Bragg patriotism runs aground when it enters the territory of "values" though I stand by much of it. I like what lardinho's saying too (apart from the stuff about Oxford, for which you could substitute - I dunno - Hackney marshes or the Birkbeck pub, but talk of "values" unique to a place can be pretty dangerous. And, of course, simply untrue.
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Mat Pereira
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Yeah, agreeing back at ya.

There is a kind of school of non-conformity and free-thinking that runs through things like the Chartists, the early Labour Party, the Suffragettes, Red Shelley and the Romantic Movement and has its roots in off-the-wall religious movements like the Levellers, the Quakers and erm [I can't really deny it though] the Methodists.

At its best this kind of trend always saw itself as universal, Britian was its birth-place, but it was always international in outlook.

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Oadlad
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Left wing pariotism? It's an oxymoron. Make up your mind which you are. Patriotism is another word for nationalism which is how capital divides the world.
Sometimes it takes patriotic forms as in WW2 when destroying fascism could be construed as fighting for our nation state, as I believe Orwell would have portrayed it; a lesser evil in the circumstances and an historical warning that such movements should be countered before they grow to be inter-national issues.

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Spearmint Rhino
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A little bit from what SSS said, a little bit from what E10 said, and a little bit from what Tubby said.

There’s plenty about Britain that I like. I mean, loads when I think about it. But I’m sure I’d feel the same way about pretty much any other country I grew up in. When you’ve been immersed in the culture for long enough, you’re bound to feel at home with it.

A country, especially a clearly geographically-defined one like Great Britain, is indeed a handy administrative unit, although ultimately I take the Marxist view of national boundaries (they’re there to fuck us over, so the fewer – and weaker – the better.)

If anything I kind of like to feel European, and the broad, sweeping currents of European art and thought over centuries and centuries are meaningful to me, and not as arbitrary as amputating ‘your’ culture at Dover.

I get a childish kick from the My Lot Against Your Lot tribalism of sport, but that’s as far as it’s ever gonna go.

My main argument against patriotism hinges on the concept of pride. It’s a simple logical fallacy. How can you be ‘proud’ (unless we’re using some really weak, vague, compromised definition of ‘proud’) of something you didn’t do/make/achieve? (Similarly, how can you be ashamed?)

You didn’t create Britain. You didn’t have any choice about being born here. You have nothing to be ‘proud’ of. Grow the fuck up.

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