Patriotism, everyone’s heard of that. Proud to be Irish, French, American? Comedian George Carlin: “Being Irish isn’t a skill. It’s a fuckin’ genetic accident.”
Dammit, try another one: let’s say, anti-patriotism.
Who’s heard of that one? Not so popular I think, but a guy called Gustav Hervé wrote a pamphlet in Paris with that title about 100 years ago, while sitting in jail for inciting soldiers not to go to war. Unfortunately in later life he became a patriot himself; succumbed to metastases from the childhood infection I guess.
Why make an issue of this right now? Well, Donald Trump recently gave a speech to the UN in praise of patriotism. He says the US has embarked on “an exciting program of self-renewal” because “the future belongs to patriots”. In the UK, Boris Johnson considers himself a patriot too, as do a flock of other toe-rag politicians in European capitals.
I have a lot of questions about this, but here’s just two for Brexit-or-bust Brits who work hard for not enough money; or whose unemployed status is being used to scare those in work with a fate they could share if they step out of line… What the fuck do you have in common with this overfed public schoolboy who’s never done a day’s work in his life? What can he offer you that makes it worth abandoning the chance to work together with Polish or French or Spanish people in similar jobs…to get rid of the Borises and Rees-Moggses and the rest of the ponces we permit to run the show and our lives, for their own benefit?
Patriotism is a tool of divide and rule. It’s also over. Nations are over. They’re over because when people realize what’s happening across the border and they connect up the dots, there are no borders anymore. Mobile phones…the internet? That’s what they do, end borders. They globalize. You can put walls around Europe, or between Mexico and the US, or between bits of Ireland. But you can’t stop globalization any more than you can tell the tide not to come in. Ask King Canute.
Banks, corporations, multinationals, of course, never miss a thing. They’ve been globalizing for decades, actually a couple of centuries, snapping up everything they can regardless of the consequences for the rest of humanity.
We can leave it to them to expand their power even more, buy up whole cities and squeeze us for more rent, claim ownership of water, put locks on local wells and even charge for collecting rainwater as they’ve done in some places. All in the name of fundamentalist religion masquerading as a rational choice: The Market. Or, more modestly, One Market Under God. There is no limit to their greed if we don’t make them stop…
Or we can stop believing in the fraud of “Our Common Heritage”, our “British Culture”, and see that we have nothing in common with the people who own corporations, the banks, the City of London and who believe they’re entitled to own everything else including our lives. There is no Britain, there is no England uniting “ordinary” people with someone like Boris Johnson who’s no more than an empty suit, a privileged hole in the air; or with the “Duke” of Westminster or billionaire Jim Ratcliffe the richest man in the UK who moved to Monaco because he doesn’t like paying taxes. If you want to know the meaning of shared heritage, otherwise known as class warfare waged from above, just try gatecrashing the next cocktail party down Reeves Mews W1 or try to get into Annabel’s club in Mayfair, London, where black people serve the rich, enabling a fine nostalgia for the days of Empire. Forget class at your peril; it’s sucking the air from your lungs and the Duke of Devonshire is pissing in your soup while you’re singing “God Save the Queen”.
The EU is run by corporations too but it has a population of over 500 million people. That’s a lot of people and a lot of real power. Real international solidarity is possible in place of a belief in solidarity with a phoney band of cheats. Patriotism is the catchword of those who never have and never will return solidarity with the rest of the population, who they despise and above all, fear. Trump didn’t quite put it rightly, got his words mixed up again. He must have meant to say – an exciting program of self-renewal…patriots have a great future behind them.