It has taken me over a year to find an answer to this question, and I may not have a complete answer, but with the decision to leave the United Kingdom it a question I find myself asking – why do we feel patriotic, a ‘touchy feely’ question in an empiric world.
The closest answer I have been able to come is thanks to the rather clumsy way Mrs Thatcher, and subsequent Ministers, have come to trying to explain the National Debt, that the UK is a business and needs to be run like a business, UK plc. The analogy helps me define why I am contemplating taking German Nationality and renouncing my British Identity.
My former employer was brilliant, as my current Boss keeps being told, the work was interesting, there was comradely and there a sense of loyalty to the firm, all things being equal if they asked me to work for nothing because they were in dire straits then I would be at the front of the queue – they had helped me, they had been lenient and were approachable. My old Boss was told that he had to ‘Time with the Manager’ at least one a year – the response that he would be upset if anyone of his staff could not knock on the door and discuss anything, at anytime. I had seen this in practice, and my Boss had all the time in the world, consequently nothing was too much trouble for us to do for him. I was fortunate that every job I had in the organisation was met with this attitude – and yes I did things wrong occasionally and I was ‘bollocked’ when I deserved. I cannot speak highly enough of my former employer, and I regret ever leaving them and count it as the biggest mistake of my life – we live and learn.
The essential ingredient of patriotism is a commitment on either side to be there, to help, to take responsibility. Famously, John F Kennedy said at his inauguration in 1961:
… ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.
That is the essential ingredient a commitment beyond reciprocal benefit, but that commitment is earned. We had this in the UK, the commitment for the Welfare of the populace, the social deal which brought in the Welfare State, the thought of a land fit for heroes and because of the sacrifice of the population in the service of the State, that the State could do something in return. Unfortunately that trust has been broken, and public policy is run for the benefit of Business.
Patriotism, for me, is a commitment of the individual, and of the State, to cooperate to achieve the maximum benefit of working together, patriotism is agreeing to work for the country to achieve collective benefit even when the State cannot ‘give’
Patriotism is also a set of beliefs, and ideals – in work parlance values and behaviours, to continue the UK plc analogy – I do not find these in the UK anymore, when was the last time a Politician talked of service, sacrifice, and making Britain great again. Patriotism has become a dirty, abused, word in the UK; it has been appropriated by the British National Party, I cannot tell how ashamed I feel when I see St Georges Flag paraded, it is tainted with the smell of ultra right-wing groups who have distorted nationalism.
We have no corporate beliefs left in the UK, we have the cult of the self, thank you Mrs Thatcher, that greed is good and the self is the only thing that matters.
I love the Pledge of Allegiance of the United States, it is the daily reminder of duty not to the person, but the Flag of the United States, the unifying note in the US of A:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands:– one Nation indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.
Even our national anthem glorifies a person, the Monarch, rather the country. I have no problem with singing God Save the Queen because she above the political rabble and is as much a totem as the American Flag – but there is nothing there to believe in apart from an empty shell of corruption of Parliament, diseased from its Imperial past.
I would be really interested in hearing what everyone thinks about patriotism, how do you define, do you believe in your country – and why