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Why SA needs fewer patriots

05 November 2012, 07:15

Each year on a public holiday in January, many Australians get together and indulge in a national pastime - getting together with friends and family for a barbecue. Australia Day coincides with Republic Day in India, which is celebrated in an altogether different way, with military parades and speeches. "Proudly Indian" is a brand that has echoes of its South African cousin, and is repeated with the same amount of fervour, often accompanied by the obligatory flag-waving and chest-thumping.

As one with more than a passing interest in each of these three countries, I was intrigued when a rather witty blogger noted that "around the world, the more pathetic the condition of its citizens, the grander and more pretentious are the patriotic celebrations and the forced, fake statements of pride". Other luminaries were more blunt in their assessment:

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. Albert Einstein

Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism - how passionately I hate them! Albert Einstein

Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about. Mark Twain

Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarrelled with him? Blaise Pascal

It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind. Voltaire

Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious. Oscar Wilde

I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world. Diogenes

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. Howard Zinn

A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and by common hatred of its neighbours. William Ralph Inge

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it. George Bernard Shaw

To me, it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography. George Santayana

The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border? Pablo Casals

Patriotism is a form of pride. And pride is the deadliest of all the seven deadly sins, for one simple reason: it is what stops us from changing. In the east, another word for pride is ego. Rather let go of one's ego and learn how to be kind, than to pander to one’s pride and become a patriot. Patriotism is the delusion that being born in a particular place renders one special. And a feeling of superiority is what enables us to cause harm to others. South African history is replete with such lunacy.

Aside from sporting events and ceremonial occasions, flag-waving is not seen much in the Dry Brown Land. But it’s easy to find a friendly smile, mateship in times of strife and the chance of a "fair go". And civic responsibility rates highly too. I think if you have that, then your chances as a nation are, as a famous film character with the first name "Crocodile" once remarked, "better than average".

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