Patriotism is a term that is often banded about these days. It has come to mean everything from wrapping yourself in green for a rugby or soccer match, to defending 'our nation' from immigration to the construction of a capitalist economy to 'provide jobs for our people'. Indeed in the American context the term patriotism has also been used to justify bombing the crap out of any country that, with a puppet government can supply the US with oil and power. (The youngfella offers no apology for this interpretation of U.S foreign policy)
However it is in the Irish scenario that I am really interested in here. Should we accept the free and easy interpretations of patriotism that exist in Ireland today? It would seem to me that patriotism is a badge of convenience in today's society.
For example, the FF and PD government would have us believe that they are true patriots who are building 'a buoyant economy for the sake of our children'. Well if they are so patriotic, one has to ask the question why are they so adamant to sell part of the Irish nation to put a pipeline through where the local community obviously doesn't want it? How does that sit with the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil?
We declare that the nation's sovereignty extends not only to all its material posessions, (but also to)the nation's soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth producing processes within the nation
How is it patriotic to put the interests of multi-national capitalism before that of the Irish people. To me this does a great dis-service to Ireland and is fundamentally an anti-patriotic act. The same could be said of the campaign to support the Nice Treaty. Those who sold us this federalist abomination also used the 'patriotic' argument, citing all that the EU had supposedly done for us etc. The same individuals who would have condemned partis like Sinn Féin for flying tricolours at election counts, were doing the very same when the Irish people were eventually cojoled into accepting Nice.
Simply put, I refuse to accept that patriotism should be narrowed down to supporting your country in sporting events or defending your government's actions under the pretence of 'the national interest'. Patriotism is far more complex than this. I presume most readers of this blog would profess to loving their families. However this love should not mean that all activities of our family members should automatically be justified. A rapist who happens to be your brother is still a rapist, why should our family loyalties force us to defend such actions? Part of being a patriot, in my view is striving for your country to be better, to be something to look up to. The real question should not be whether we love our country, but whether we love it enough to change it. James Connolly summed up the question of patriotism very well.
Ireland, as distinct from her people, means nothing to me; and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for 'Ireland', and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland, yea, wrought by Irishmen upon Irish men and women, without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how much he loves that combination of chemical elements he is pleased to call Ireland. *
So let's be true patriots by seeking to build an Ireland that is truly deserving of our love, an Ireland that is worthy of the Proclamation and the Democratic Programme.