These days words have a way of changing their meaning to suit the politics of the speaker. We need to know exactly what we mean by a particular word as used in a particular argument.
Nationalism and patriotism are words thrown about by liberals, by conservatives and by traditionalists. To liberals nationalism is just another generic insult – calling someone a nationalist is like calling him a fascist. Conservatives (who are merely right-leaning liberals) sometimes try to distinguish between nationalism (which is evil and basically nazi) and patriotism (which is good and honourable).
Nationalism gained a bad reputation because it was responsible for the horrors of the two world wars. Of course those wars actually had more to do with clashes between competing empires than nationalism but a scapegoat had to be found and once nationalism was cast in that rôle it was always going to be pretty much impossible to rehabilitate the concept.
The problem is that even if patriotism is possibly a good thing it’s not so easy to define. OK, it’s love of one’s country, but what does that mean? What does it mean if you live in an artificial country like Belgium, or Canada, or the United States? Or Australia? If you’re an Australian of entirely British stock should your patriotic feelings be directed towards Australia or Britain? And if you’re lucky enough to live in a nation of immigrants what exactly is the nature of any patriotic feelings those immigrants might feel?
Tony Abbott used to waffle on about Team Australia. Apparently to a modern conservative patriotism is a bit like choosing which football team you support.
Americans often go on about the proposition nation idea but the first problem with that is that the original proposition has now changed radically. If the proposition can keep changing then the nation has no actual existence, no actual identity. It’s just a temporary political allegiance. Politicians have also been known to resort to the shared values argument, the problem there being that there is no evidence that these shared values actually exist. The shared values are imaginary items manufactured by opinion polling.
There’s also the question of distinguishing between loyalty to the nation and loyalty to the regime (there used to be another option, loyalty to the monarch, but there are no monarchies any more). The French are rather big on the idea of loyalty to the ideals of Republicanism which it seems to me is putting loyalty to regime and to ideology before loyalty to the nation.
Even assuming that we should put loyalty to the nation before loyalty to regime or ideology there is the question of whether an evil regime should cancel our loyalty to the nation. Were those Germans (clearly the majority) who remained loyal to Germany even under the Nazis right to do so? Can we justify treason to the nation because we don’t like the regime? Many traitors do in fact believe, quite sincerely, that loyalty to their principles overrides loyalty to their country. I think it’s probably fair to assume that Kim Philby believed he was doing the right and honourable thing by putting his loyalty to communism ahead of his loyalty to Britain. I am not certainly not suggesting that he was right, but I do think that he felt that he was right.
And given the fact that today in the West we live under a corrupt, degenerate hostile regime do our patriotic feelings towards our nations compel us to serve such an evil regime?
I’m not claiming that I have the answers to these questions. But the questions do worry me.