Patriotism vs. Nationalism
Here is an excellent Newsweek column on the differences between patriotism and nationalism. The article has a lot of quotes from George Orwell’s “Notes on Nationalism,” written in 1945. Orwell’s writing has as much meaning today as it did in the 1940s.
Too many people — in every country — think nationalism and patriotism are the same thing. They’re not; they’re completely different.
Orwell defined patriotism as “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force upon other people.” Can’t argue with that.
The subtitle of this article is “The greatness of the United States is unique—and not a model to be exported by narrow-minded nationalists.”
According to Orwell, nationalism is the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or an idea, and “placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.” In other words nationalism doesn’t have to be based on a country. This same fanaticism can be applied to any “ism”: Communism, Neo-Conservatism, Fundamentalism (of any religion), you name it. Whether it’s based on a country or an “ism,” nationalism always has that combination of blind zeal and indifference to reality.
In nationalism, thoughts “always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. … Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.” And this self-deception leads to disastrous miscalculations based on wishful thinking rather than facts. Orwell says:
“Political and military commentators, like astrologers, can survive almost any mistake, because their more devoted followers do not look to them for an appraisal of the facts but for the stimulation of nationalistic loyalties.” Hey, whatever happened to all the flowers and ice cream that grateful Iraqis were supposed to showering our troops with?
Orwell really has our current foreign policy dialed with this quote:
“All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labor, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral color when committed by ‘our’ side.… The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”