As most people likely know, yesterday was Independence day in the United States. Here in Canada, we celebrated our own version (Canada Day) 2 days earlier. No matter where you are in the world, you likely have an equivalent on your calendar.
Like many things I once took for granted, patriotism is one of the many things that I initially left unquestioned. As that statement hints, such is no longer the case. For a number of reasons, at this point.
For a long time, I relegated it to the realm of the Sheeple. Just another label and ideology for those that can’t seem to live without. Of course, one has to be careful not to take this conclusion too far, for it is also possible for blazing one’s own trail (for lack of a better description) to become just as powerful an ideology. It’s the reason why I don’t label myself as an iconoclast, contrarian or anything else of the sort. Whilst there no doubt exist good examples of the cohort, any viewpoint that discourages individual reasoning in favour of a generalized conclusion is suspect.
This is not to say that I don’t live without ideology. Such is not possible. I just don’t have a need to be dominated by one (or many) that mould most of my conclusions for me. Like everything else, it’s all about moderation. You look around and adopt what works, and the rest goes into the blue bin.
My earliest experiences with patriotism (a case that is likely true for most of us) came in a form that many may not recognize as such. That form is school spirit.
At least in the western world, high schools generally have a handful of sports teams, all competing under one common brand (associated with the school). My school had the Spartans, neighbouring schools in the city had the Vikings and the Plainsmen. Athletes usually enjoy a higher tier social status than most others, and school administrators themselves foster this status by cutting into educational time by scheduling often compulsory team spirit rallies. You know, get the whole school into the gymnasium for a couple hours to cheer on and celebrate the accomplishments of our athletes.
Our athletes . . . the indoctrination is still powerful LOL.
Being an inch over half way to 60 at this point, I don’t recall how many hours of my life were spent (wasted) sitting through such pageantry. However, for someone that didn’t give a damn in the slightest (even then!), one minute was too many. Of course, back then I didn’t care for a different reason (I didn’t care about anything ), but none the less, the point still stands.
I would not come to make the connection to patriotism until many years later. Though the connection likely isn’t anything more than coincidence, the parallels are interesting. Though the 2 (patriotism for one’s country and school spirit) exist independently of one another, I can’t help but think that one could influence the other. Even if one considers the dynamic of having many friends competing as Plainsmen, but being stuck attending a Spartan loyal school . . . you get the drift.
To be fair, a big component of this is the annoying nature of many sports fans. Canadian hockey fans tend to be some of the worlds worst (of course, based on my own anecdotal experience). If Cricket and Soccer can be viewed as unifying of cultures and nations, than hockey is at the opposite end of the spectrum.
However, we are now in the weeds. WAY in the weeds lol. Time to retreat.
Sporting loyalties aside, the parallels in traditions between the celebration of school spirit and patriotism are hard to miss. Both actively encourage division. As for whether school spirit traditions can influence patriotism based traditions throughout life . . . I have no idea.
Considering that most western world constitutions forbid mandating participation in such rituals (particularly in schools), however, giving the possibility some scrutiny can’t hurt.
Part 2 will explore the more recent problem of patriotism in collision with the growing trend towards fascism in recent years.
Part 3 (?) will explore the question of whether patriotism is still relevant in today’s increasingly borderless world.