In my house we have a wall of history. The wall has posters and photos of prominent human rights activist in history. We have Nelson Mandela – “There’s no easy walk to freedom anywhere” and John Lennon with the words of the song ‘Imagine’ among others. My favourite is a smaller photo and one that I flogged from the Internet and had professionally framed. The photo is of August Landmesser. His is not a name that is well known but he was German shipbuilder. In the photo he is at the launch of a Nazi war ship. He is in a sea of men all giving the Nazi salute. Landmesser in this photo has his arms folded defiantly and the look on his face clearly says “F*&k you.” Landmesser was angry, and not without reason. He had fathered two children to a Jewish woman and was being persecuted as a result. He and is Jewish wife were later jailed and his two children placed in an orphanage. It is people like Landmesser that remind me that patriotism is bunk!
“He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.” The above quote came from none other than Albert Einstein. Einstein hated nationalism. He saw nationalism as just blind faith where men just follow others like sheep without any autonomous thought.
There are those that will argue that nationalism and patriotism are different. The late Sydney J Harris, a respected American journalist, described the difference between patriotism and nationalism as thus, “The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.” But for Einstein there was no difference, “Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how passionately I hate them!” Einstein’s sentiments are clear. I agree with him whole-heartedly.
Of course there are those that will mock Einstein. They will remind us that he, among others, developed the early science that led to the development of the Atom Bomb. Consequently the Atom Bomb was used to kill and maim millions of Japanese and bring an end to World War II. Einstein was said to have felt great remorse about this as he had written to the President Roosevelt recommending that the Bomb be built. It is said that five months before Einstein died he said, “I made one great mistake in my life… when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification – the danger that the Germans would make them.” It is worth noting that Einstein was born in Germany and renounced his German citizenship in 1933. He did this in disgust at developments that were happening in his home country. He was not just a great mind but a great humanitarian who stood by his principles. (Source: – http://www.optimalmodification.com/whatdidalberteinsteininvent.html )
Let’s be clear, I was once one of those senseless patriots. I was born near the East End of London. In 1966, at the age of 2, my parents migrated to Australia for a better life. We were among a great influx of migrants and upon arriving in Australia resided at the migrants hostel in Wollongong. My father managed to obtain employment as a welder for Holden in Adelaide and the family moved there. We lived in the Northern suburbs of Adelaide which was, at that time, a kind of little Britain. I swear that at school the only Australian that I knew was an Aboriginal girl who had white parents, no doubt one of the stolen generation. My neighbours to the left five houses down to Goodall Road were all British. To the right a further, six houses down, they were all British except for one where Italians resided and who had the mandatory vegetable patch and glasshouses in the backyard.
My fondest memories are the FA Cup nights. In 1971 the FA Cup final was beamed live to Australia. Leeds beat Arsenal with a goal from Alan Clarke. In 1971 we went to the Holmes house to watch it. The Holmes were from Yorkshire, mad Leeds supporters and great family friends. There we had pie with mushy peas flavoured with mint. We had golden syrup dumplings for desert. You can’t get much more British than that.
Over the years I became a mad England supporter. My friends were also mad England supporters. When the England cricket team came to Australia to compete for the Ashes we all cheered them on. As a teenager I wore a Harrington jacket and a T-shirt with the Union Jack emblazoned on it. I was English and proud of it and I let the world know. This is not the case anymore.
Lets be clear. I still follow the English cricket team, I still watch the FA Cup, I am still English to my bootstraps, hell I was born there. But I follow England now not from a sense of pride, but more simply because once you pick a sporting team you stick with them. To be honest I follow what ever team Australia is competing against be it Pakistan to Wojohnistan. It is kind of fun being in the minority. I follow the English sporting teams in the same way as people who follow their football team – through thick and thin. I follow West Ham United in the English football. Let me tell you following West Ham is heart breaking, they rarely win anything. But lets be honest, what is there to be proud about for having been born in England? Nothing really, it was just the card that fate dealt me. But there is a hell of a lot about England to make me feel ashamed.
England, like most of Europe has a history of greed. Systematically, for hundreds of years, England sought to plunder the world for as much of its wealth as possible. From America to Africa to India to Ireland and to Australia (to name a few) England set on a path to systematically plunder the world. It certainly is nothing to be proud of. They did so under the guise of, ‘best intentions’ but as the historical website Crawfurd.dk notes, ” Some of the worst things imaginable happened with the best of intentions ..” For the English these ‘best intentions’ were in the guise of civilising the natives and introducing (forcing) them to accept Christian values. The truth is really that they wanted to get rich and quick and woe betide any natives that stood in their way. Of course England are not alone in this. Other European countries like the French, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese had the same aim with equally tragic consequences.
England did so under the guise of patriotism and imagined superiority. Waving the English flag and pretending that what they were doing was for ‘the good’ of everyone while stealing resources that they had no right to own, England caused great harm. Particularly to the ‘natives’. Put simply England stole countries and killed the original inhabitants either through violence or by introducing disease. The Australian Aborigines, the American Indians and the black populations of Africa all suffered or died in England’s quest for a ‘better world.’ It is not something for which anyone can be proud.
In the last four hundred years there have been many, many incidents of genocides that have been attributed to the English. For example as the result of the Cromwelian wars in Ireland 200,000 women and children starved and 12,000 were sold into slavery. In the colonisation of America many millions of American Indians were slaughtered or sold into slavery. In the second Boer war in Africa 30 000 Boer women and children died in concentration camps. Closer to home 15 000 Tasmanian Aboriginals were killed or died of diseases introduced by the English, wiping out the entire race of Tasmanian Aboriginals. To this day Australian Aboriginals are a displaced and dispirited people largely as the result of the English. White Australians, mostly of English descent, continued this destruction and oppression through the White Australia Policy and the stolen generation. In all it has been estimated that over the last 400 years England has been responsible for the deaths, displacement, torture or raping of over 50 million people. Proud of my country? Not at all but I do feel a sense of real shame. (Source – http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message1098555/pg1 )
I write this as a sense of patriotism is sweeping the world as the result of the Olympics. In a good natured kind of way countries point out that they are superior simply on the weight of medals that they have one. If they did not win more than another country the patriots will argue that “per head” they won more medals than anyone. In an effort to demonstrate superiority rich countries pump billions into sport to come out on top at the Olympics even though this money could be better spent on the homeless or the disabled. Others use drugs and questionable training methods, bordering on cruel. And all because they want their country to be seen as THE BEST.
I don’t feel a sense of patriotism about the success of England in the Olympics. I am just in awe of the performance of individuals. I am in awe of the speed of Bolt. I am in awe of how the body can contort and jump as it does in the gymnastics. I am in awe that a marathon runner can keep a pace of almost 20kph for 2hours. I am in awe of Oscar competing with the able bods with his prosthetic legs. These are the achievements of human beings. The country they came from is not important.
Most of England’s coaches were Australian apparently. Australians, by and large if they are not the original and real owners of the country, descended from British stock. The athletes that won so many medals for England were primarily black and they descended from Africa mostly. The Australian cricket team has a South African coach and the English cricket team a Zimbabwean one. The English cricket team also has a smattering of South African batsman. No one really cares about their country or origin just as long as they can take part and hopefully win. For many it is just about how much money is on offer.
What I like to be proud of is the talent and ability of PEOPLE. Who cares where they come from, we should be proud of what they have achieved. They and us should be proud that they have talent and that they have developed it to the maximum through sheer hard work. We should be proud of people like Mandella, Mother Theresa, Fred Hollows and the millions of people that seek to make a better life for those that fall on hard times. It is all about the people whatever country they are from. And for this reason I say it again – Patriotism is bunk.