Patriots and Nationalists

Trigger Warnings – Strong language in some places.

I remember when I first heard the word ‘patriot’, it was in school, I must have been about ten years old and my teacher said it meant someone who was proud of their home nation, to put it simply. I thought this was true of most people and indeed it is but it was a word that I rarely heard being used, even in a country like Britain, for most of my life I never heard people refer to themselves as patriotic because it was just a given but now? Patriot is one of those words you just can’t escape any more and the problem with a common place word is that it is open to being used in the wrong context, this is the fate the word irony suffers at the hands of hipsters, or the word random suffers at the hands of those sorts of girls who shout out their love of dinosaurs and cheese and pink hair. I think we need to define the difference between a patriot and a nationalist, they are similar but not the same and so many people I encounter claiming they are ‘British Patriots’ are in fact, nationalists – nationalism being an irresponsible and selfish viewpoint whereas patriotism being perfectly fine and commendable.

Here’s some food for thought to start the discussion:

Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, “the greatest,” but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is – Sydney J. Harris

That’s a good quote but that was just the appetiser, here’s something to really sink your teeth into:

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 – Sydney J. Harris

Now, do you notice a recurring theme here with his quotes? Granted, same guy said both quotes but this man was no fool, he was a widely respected columnist and author, as well as an advocate for women’s rights, pro-choice stances and bringing an end to the death penalty, which might land him in the eyes of a lefty-tosser to some of you but this man held honorary doctorates, awards from the National Conference of Christians and the Chicago Newspaper Guild, I think that earns him some merit. Even without it, he makes a good point about patriotism and nationalism, one that reminds me of something a friend of mine once said in that patriotism is rooting for the home team and turning up at their matches, nationalism is believing the team to be infallible and destroying the stadium at away games. A patriot feels a sense of responsibility to their country and even love has the ability to step back and tell someone they have failed or done wrong, you do not truly love someone if you blindly agree with everything that comes out of their mouth. You have to take pride in their achievements and feel the shame of their shortcomings, encouraging them to do their absolute best.

I hear some people speak of a foreign threat, this was what UKIP appealed to and it’s what Republicans appeal to in America, making people cautious and wary of those that are different in colour or religion or way of life, accusing them of stealing from your country’s resources or trying to bring their culture into your home and ruin your old traditions for you with their strange new ways. Ok, straight away, no white person alive has the right to say “You come over here with your foreign ways and try to make us change? Fuck off!”, that’s what our ancestors did to three quarters of the globe, I think we can overlook building a mosque when we had them baptised and decapitated once upon a time. If you are proud of your country and it’s traditions, you needn’t feel threatened when these changes come, the traditions will live on through you and all traditions need to adapt anyway, that is how we advance as a society from traditions of sacrificing lambs to idols into gathering in churches on a Sunday, someone has to say “Actually, how about we don’t do that any more? It seems a bit primitive/cruel/unfair/silly”. As for patriotism, well, you should be proud that your country is growing and attracting more people and encourage everyone to work together, but it becomes nationalism when you expect them to become like you to be allowed to live amongst you. I remember my stepmother taking her citizenship test to live here, the stuff she had to know was more than nine out of ten Brits actually did know about the country but even so, just because someone has moved to a new country, they haven’t left their heritage for dirt, what they must adhere to in order to live somewhere is the law, they don’t have to adopt the national stereotype to prove themselves worthy.

I’m mostly speaking to Britain here, I was inspired by a UKIP MP actually tearing down his own party for their racist views and that they need to avoid thinking about isolationist views because Britain became ‘Great’ through its allies and neighbours, we didn’t get given the prefix by God as if to say “Yep, you guys are really on the ball with that society you’ve got there, top job, God is British too, keep it up lads”. After all, that term in its most basic form was coined almost two thousand years ago and literally just meant “The bigger bit of the British Isles”, with Ireland being called “The smaller bit of the British Isles”. Don’t get it twisted, I love Britain, I really do, but it is because I’m proud of these isles that I don’t want it become a hive for hateful ignorants telling people to go away and never bother trying to change anything. I know some may strive for the traditions of old but as I said yesterday, that includes bear baiting, where do you want to draw the line? Britain, before it gained friends overseas, was a struggling little island with an infant mortality problem and an 80 hour work week in some instances, is that what we want to bring back?

Charlie Brooker made a good joke about this a while ago about how he liked Britain before the Romanians and the Poles and the Irish and the French and the Normans and the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons and the Romans, that was proper Britain, clearly exaggerating nationalism to the most radical extreme but perfectly valid. Nationalism is a related philosophy to tribalism when you think about it, it is not a love of the British public as a whole, it is a love of their allies. I mean think about it, really think, could you imagine Nigel Farage calling the left-wing political parties his brethren and respected allies, or even addressing them as good people? Boris Johnson called the left-wing party ‘tossers’, and admittedly I refer to my fellow Brits of wealth and status as entitled pricks, which is a tribal view point, a sort of “If you’re not one of us, you’re against us” mentality more befitting the Great Khans of Fallout than a political party. If you dare speak against the tribe, you’re disloyal, you’re disrespecting your great homeland, you’re a sympathiser with an imagined foe and should be shunned and loathed. Nationalism is essentially thinking your tribe or country deserves the status of the best, which is silly, we’re not in competition, not really, we all share a planet and at the end of the day, countries are invented concepts and if God exists, he won’t gather us all together in a thousand years and say “So it turns out the USA did the best at being a good country, all Americans shall get to go to VIP Heaven and hang out with Jesus, the rest of you get to go to Commoner’s Heaven and polish halos for a living!”

I know there’s an air of ridicule in this post but we need to be clear, you are not a patriot if you support a nationalistic party or believe you live in the best country ever or that your current society is what people should aim for, there is no set guideline as to what a country is supposed to be, a lot of people say we all want to be America really but that’s because it’s a rich nation and everyone wants to be rich. Support your nation, by all means, love it and wear the colours, but respect that people aren’t obliged to take part, even if they’re your next door neighbour, and if you ever start dismissing people for having a different cultural background to you or a desire to practice their own religion or language despite living in a place not reflecting that background, take a step back and imagine it the opposite way round. White people fear a white minority because they’re worried we’d be treated the way we treat them – racism, intolerance and ignorance bordering on being abused simply for existing. In time, maybe we can live in a world where no minority need ever live in constant fear, where every man and woman is a valid peer as should be true of democracy, and lord knows we all love a good democracy.

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On Dorian Gray and I

Trigger Warnings – Discussion of body image

Shocking news, Jacob Wolfe has been invited to a party for once and will not be posting at the usual time because instead he will be eating nibbles and standing in a room full of people dressed as vampires and/or zombies. I think the most shocking part of that story isn’t the theme of the party, being a Halloween party after Halloween, but that I’m actually attending a social event that isn’t just a work social or a family birthday bash. Being a Halloween party, I had to have a costume, something I’ve managed to avoid for a few years now but alas, festivity has caught me and is squeezing my balls and telling me to put on a pretty outfit so after batting around a few ideas such as Wolverine, Van Helsing, Gomez Addams (felt that was dumb without a Morticia on my arm) and Jon Snow, I eventually settled on something a little more unique, Dorian Gray. Okay, I’m not the first guy ever to pick this outfit but the odds of me finding someone in the same costume are pretty obscure and whilst it does involve the prop of a portrait, it’s a flippin’ good portrait a friend did for me, I’m going the whole hog so screw it.

As a man who often reads too much into things, I found myself wondering why I settled on Dorian Gray. Dorian Gray is of course the short novel by Oscar Wilde about a handsome young man who sells his soul to stay young and handsome forever after a friend tells him to enjoy his youth and live life to the full. Corrupted, Dorian Gray abandons his virtues and indulges in a life of passion and sin, with a portrait of him made by his honest friend Basil aging in Dorian’s place, reflecting every sin and foul deed in its painted surface. Dorian eventually grows weary of this life of selfishness, his wickedness spreading death and disaster in his social circle and so he destroys the painting, dying naked and decrepit on the floor. Dorian Gray is a classic story about the balance of good and evil and the dangers of living a life solely revolving around vice or virtue, that life is a mixture of all things and that no matter what we do, we must embrace the consequences of our lifestyle choices and the responsibilities of our actions.

So Dorian Gray, why him? The boy is fair-haired and I’m not, the boy is smooth-faced and I’m not, the boy is tall and thin and I’m not. Well, it is one of my favourite books, that’s a start. I dunno, picking a literary character seems a bit pretentious I’ll admit and without the prop of my portrait, I just know people would assume I’m a vampire because my costume is basically a rather gothic suit. Part of me considers that I chose Dorian Gray because I associate myself with him, not in the homoerotic subtext kinda way that the uncensored book has (because another theme of this book is struggling with sexual identity and Dorian basically fancies Lord Henry, who symbolises a romantic vision of freedom as opposed to loyal old Basil who represents traditional values)  but on a different level that I shall explain to you now

I’m not meaning to brag but I like to think that between ages 15 and 18, I was quite handsome. Slender, reasonable height amongst my peers, long thick black hair and nice cheekbones, as well as a six pack under my shirt, believe it or not. I was, however, an asshole up until about age 17, I was selfish, vain and saw people around me as means to ends so in a sense, I was like the corrupted Dorian, I was good-looking and charming but I had no soul to me. I look in the mirror now, or rather at photos when I was trying to model for this portrait via selfies, that I do not look like that anymore. My face, no longer a sloping shape, is round and the beard serves to hide my chin which has become more bulb shaped. The six pack is gone and in its place is a pudgy little gut that sticks out over the top of my belt rather than my previous issue of “No belt holds my trousers up, woe is me”. The strength I once used to be feared as the school nutcase has gone and I run myself ragged just taking the bins out and what was once a frightening and intimidating man that commanded respect is the butt of every joke and smiling amiably, albeit in a forced manner, to everyone. However, I feel I am fundamentally more likeable and down-to-earth than my pretty boy past self, I have more soul, I’m more intelligent, I am not young forever but I have an honest soul to me.

Does this sound vain and daft? Comparing myself to Dorian Gray? Maybe, but I think Dorian is a character I can relate to, a man who struggles between worlds of influence whilst trying to maintain a dandy self-image and handsome appearance, perhaps some still consider me a good looking man and truth be told it could be worse, all I’ve got weighing on me is some tummy fat and thinning hair, it’s hardly a debilitating thing to live with but personally I don’t feel attractive. I can probably get over this with some exercise and a better diet, recently came to the realisation I comfort eat cinnamon buns when I’ve had a hard day, those sticky devils will kill me, but I feel awkward exercising alone and stupid exercising with a partner or in a group. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t

Ah well, I’ll go to the party, I’ll enjoy myself, I’ll be a slightly chunky Dorian Gray with facial hair he won’t shave off entirely for fear of his less-attractive chin and I don’t imagine anyone saying anything like “Aren’t you a bit short/pudgy/hairy for Dorian?”, heck, I doubt the guests will guess, thus the prop to help but honestly, I find a disappointingly high number of people know nothing of Oscar Wilde and that saddens me

…Ok, that was pretentious

The Small Pond

Popularity is perhaps one of the most vague and arbitrary concepts man has ever devised since normality itself and to say that I am a symbol of either of these concepts is to admit total ignorance, or to be entirely sarcastic. By the standard definitions of said terms, I am as popular as a bullet to the brain and as normal as slow-roasting your own underwear. I accept this as a fact of my life and one that will remain so for the rest of my life unless I suddenly become a new man and go about righting every wrong, or decide to move to Mexico to pursue a new life as Enrique Sanchez, the greatest wrestler to have never existed. I don’t mind the fact that people dislike me or even hate me because I know this is true of all people and that no matter what else happens, there will always be someone who loves me and someone who loves the idea of me being strung to the ceiling by my own intestines.

I live in a very small town called Shrewsbury and the biggest problem with small towns isn’t the lack of entertainment venues or available jobs but rather the small town mindset of the people who live in these small towns. A small town is a dull town so you look for your entertainment in other people, by means of either befriending them and spending time around them, or sniffing around for rumours and reasons to start trouble in the hope that chaos breaks out and you can manipulate the situation to your advantage. I feel a huge flaw in the logic here is the people who choose the latter only get as far as making everyone miserable and proving that they’re total arseholes in Shrewsbury; big fish in small ponds so to speak. I also have the problem that when things get personal, I become something of an idiot and lash out at anything that stands still long enough to receive the brunt of my anger, metaphorically beating friends and family into mulch. I’m an angry man by nature and some say I look for excuses to be so angry but when your entire life is full of reasons (Reasons, not excuses – There is a considerable difference here) then it all blurs into one messy pile of foul shit.

Life is a bizarre thing indeed and as I’ve frequently advised you all, don’t try to make it make sense for you or that is what will drive you insane because life is not going to make sense beyond a certain point. Your life might have made more sense when skies were blue, juice was orange and your biggest concern was which game you should play next – Streets of Rage or Ecco the Dolphin – but I’m afraid if you’re reading this then that part of your life has ended and all you can do about it is take away the best of it to enjoy in moments of sentimental nostalgia. I first realised that the world was going to get weird when I found myself worrying about how other people felt because from then on I’d have things to be responsible for and that would include the life of another person. I could play Transformers all day long as a kid and have half my imaginary world up in flames during the made up battles but I knew in my heart that I couldn’t do that to the real world of someone who needed me. You’re looking confused now – the old man’s rants are trying to teach you something

“Oh I see your game old man, very clever indeed. You caught me procrastinating from something important so now you want to give me a life lesson in being a responsible adult do you? I don’t have to stand for this; I have a date with Keyboard Cat!”

Well that’s another yes and no situation because yes I want you to learn from this but no, I’m procrastinating too, blogging being a form of escapism for a man such as myself as well as a means to whip out my hefty long opinion stick to beat people with. I’m trying to tell you that your life is going to be full of people, both good and bad, and you’re going to have to interact with them unless you become a hermit in the wild outback of rural New Zealand or something, or die, dying is a good way to avoid all human interaction but I’d highly recommend you leave that path of life (pun intended) alone for a good sixty years or so if possible. You might live in a small town or village like me and be greeted by the same stock characters every day but then you are a stock character in their life and ultimately all human existence is nothing but the blink of an eye to the universe so fuck it. Yes, be true to yourself above all others but don’t think that means other people don’t count, or by contrast, all others count for so much more than you because the central figure in your world is you. Without you, your world does not exist but without other people, your world is a boring and lifeless pimple on the face of the planet so look around and reach out eh?

I don’t hate everyone I meet, or the majority for that matter or I’d be worried that I’m walking around the wrong part of the world but I do worry about it. We are all flawed beings and all of us take what’s good in life for granted so that we can look to get more out of it through greed but that’s just led us to this cultural dead-end of ‘Buy this, update that, wear this, live here’ and so on. I am struggling to wrap this up decisively, such is life but all in all, just go with what feels right and what you know is right for yourself and the world. I’m irritable, so are you at times, and right now my world is a scary place but I’m determined to conquer it all over again and reclaim my rightful title as lord and master of my own destiny. What are you doing about it?