As a half-Welsh, half-German person born in London and raised in England, the notion of patriotism has always been rather foreign to me. I’ve read articles on the subject where patriotism is defined as a devotion to one’s country, entered futile debates on the subject with self-proclaimed patriots yet it has always remained an inexplicable enigma to me.
When I was a kid, one of the reasons why I refused to join the boy scouts was due to the fact that one has to pledge allegiance to Queen and country, in other words, two things I simply cannot unconditionally believe in. Swearing allegiance to the Queen for a sworn republican like myself would be the height of hypocrisy while I prefer to swear my unconditional allegiance to what I perceive as a just cause rather than to my frequently unjust country. Over the years there have been countless instances of Britain waging wars on countries or stealing resources from far-off lands in exchange for a couple of cricket bats and balls. As a good patriotic Brit I suppose I should devote myself to such causes, though as a rational thinker, I cannot.
And so it was last Sunday as I wandered down Aleje Ujazdowskie that I saw banners of good patriotic Poles, declaring their devotion to God and their Fatherland. I also saw some fiercely patriotic skinheads heading into the centre of Warsaw to wage another war on some unpatriotic infidels and some unpatriotic infidels marching forth to fight against “fascists”.
The devotion to one’s country when you strip it down to it’s bare bones, invariably becomes a devotion to one’s direct social group or neighbourhood. In many ways patriotism makes just as much or maybe no more sense than a person from Muranów who supports Polonia Warszawa wearing a black scarf singing songs about “czarne koszule” and people from Praga supporting Legia wearing green red and white scarves singing “tańczymy labada”.
If patriotism were simply to mean a devotion to one’s fellow man, then I would be perfectly happy to call myself a patriot. However, when patriotism is taken to mean a devotion to a fenced off piece of land, a devotion to the continually fighting occupants of said piece of land, or how passionately you sing tedious little songs which are littered with slogans such as freedom or God protecting you, then quite frankly I find patriotism absurd and am proud to be unpatriotic!
This native land protected by God! (Russian national anthem)
God save the Queen! (British national anthem)
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave. (US national anthem)
Unity and justice and freedom for the German fatherland. (German national anthem)