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Nationalism and patriotism Nationalism and patriotism
by Giorgos Kontogiannis
2013-02-02 12:06:43
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The expansion of the financial crisis in other European countries, apart from Greece, led to a social disruption, decline of living standards and poverty in most parts of the wider population.

But even in the cases where the crisis has not hit the door of parts of the European society yet, fear of expansion and, above all, fear of unemployment now permeates more and more European citizens.

Fear reinforced towards every foreigner/stranger that possibly can rob elements which currently help maintain the prosperity of the European citizens. And the dominant element in this fear is work. This is where xenophobia finds a comfortable ground. Foreigners, citizens of other countries, from Asia or Africa even from Europe, are increasingly flooding the EU member countries’ market seeking for work or taking the work from locals; volunteering to work with much lower wages.

This situation reinforces extreme nationalist tendencies and opinions on national purity, even though for long many felt that the fall of Nazism after WWII would lead to its elimination or at least to an easily controlled reduction, a microscopic minority in the political spectrum.

The revival of nationalistic tendencies is definitely not related to patriotism; the natural innate love for the country that pervades every healthy citizen of a nation/state, with common elements, history, language and culture. Obviously related with the fear of some foreigners coming to the fatherland with their presence deprive part of the welfare of the indigenous peoples.

You can sense the surreal of the situation while Greece syndromes xenophobia prevalent in much of the population and have even found political expression through fascist parties, the same time Greeks working in Germany alone in 2012 grew by 11%, taking apparently work from the respectively German citizens and strengthening the country’s xenophobia mainly based on job loss.

The expressers of this fear are trying to put under an ideological base on a different basis, beyond the old dividing lines between left, centre and right, but as the phobic feelings transcend ideologies and parties. Besides, the expressers of this new nationalism formed in Europe, know that healthy nationalism as a worldview rather than ideology and answers to existential questions not based in ideologies such as fascism, socialism or communism. Instead, ideologies exploited nationalism to consolidate. For the same reason the neo-nationalists today seek to exploit the inability of the European politicians to respond convincingly to the existential questions that European citizens asking regarding their future in the union.

The new nationalism which is shaped in Europe does not attempt, however, to answer the question of securing the future of its citizens with active policies but with defensive actions stockade citizens in their national shell while presenting simultaneously their political activity as an expression of patriotism.

There is, however, one key difference: Patriotism can help bridge different views for the sake of prosperity in the common homeland; contrary to nationalism which cannot accept compromises raising walls and divisions even between citizens of the same country, the same state, let alone among the European citizens.

To converge the concepts of nationalism and patriotism should there is respect to national peculiarity, land and history of each nation so these elements can become a foundation to activate the forces of the people and a source to develop spiritual values, and always not at the expense of others. If i.e. patriotism is not degenerate into trading and expel imperialistic nationalism syndromes and despotic tendencies towards other people, there can be some kind of convergence.

However and depending on the era, the concept of nationalism takes different dimensions; nationalism can give a liberating aspect to the people (Greece 1821) or resistance to totalitarian systems (Yugoslavia - Greece 1940).

The pioneer of Socialism in Greece, Alexandros Papanastasiou (prime minister in 1924), considered nationalism as something pure, stressing that: "Nationalism is a form of manifestation national sentiment. And again has its roots in the sociological instinct becoming a superior manifestation of this."

Ion Dragoumis, one of the greatest figures in the struggle for the liberation of Macedonia from the Turks and the Bulgarians; identified nationalistic activities with the active support of the homeland. "To live means log into my Nation. Affiliated with the Nation I'm becoming stronger, channeling all my strength there, that to the end," he said.

Nowadays unfortunately the interpreters of the neo-nationalism do not gamble in activating patriotic forces of a nation but by activating fearful emotions. Activating conservative syndromes and hysterical emotions that lead, ultimately, to the perception of the Nazi obsession about "racial purity" - certainly not acting aggressively as the Hitler’s Nazis - but guarding – always according to them - 'national' achievements.

The difference with the healthy patriotism lies in the fact that real patriots show loyalty to the constitutional contract that binds the citizens with the state and the whole; that triggers any positive power and virtues, while showing abnegation to anything personal against the good of the society sacrificing i.e. the "I" to "we." Real patriotism also displays love for the country and freedom and puts the common interests and rights of the citizens living under the same constitutional framework - regardless their origins - over of private, or the interests of a group; defending universal values ​​as freedom, equality and justice, essential components of democracy.

The neo-nationalism however dominated by fascist attitudes cannot tolerance any of those values. Phobias cannot thrive in freedom, equality and justice. Patriotism is based on love for the country while neo-nationalism in hatred for others. It was the French President De Gaulle who eloquently has said it, "Patriotism is when you put above all the love for your country. Nationalism is when you put above all the hate for the other."

Love for our country can be expressed mainly with actions, activating the citizens and not entrench their operations and lead them to extreme behaviors or thoughts. Jokingly I could say that for me, as Greek, "nationalist is everybody who seriously believes that their country is better than Greece." The same of course could be said by French, an Italian, a German, etc.

The difference is that a patriot is the one who strives to give to his homeland to help her to become better. For example, a Greek patriot is the one who strives, offers and make personal sacrifices for Greece so that Greece can do better. And they do so without caring if he is the only one even if his very neighbor Greek does not do the same. This behavior motivates him more because as citizens of this country we mobilize to a positive, creative direction. The more activated the better our country will do for all the people who live in it.

If we all act in our collective patriotic sense, the common good then surely there will be no room for either phobic or for hostile and alienating syndromes which are the source of fascist activities under the cover of a poorly understood everything nationalistic.

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Emanuel Paparella2013-02-02 14:58:09
“The difference with the healthy patriotism lies in the fact that real patriots show loyalty to the constitutional contract that binds the citizens with the state and the whole…”

I like the above insightful distinction, Mr. Kontogiannis. It identifies the centripetal forces which keep citizens together within patriotism as distinguished from a xenophobic kind of nationalism, namely respect for the law and the common good.

I cannot think of a better exemplary demonstration of such a principle than that of Socrates. As a patriot who had served in his city’s army he surely loved Athens despite the reprehensible false charges brought against him by those who did not like that as a philosopher he placed truth even above patriotism. He was given a choice to leave the city and go into exile but he refused to accept that offer and took the hemlock instead because he wished to remain faithful to the laws of the city even when that city acted unfairly toward him personally. He taught us an important truth that every rabid xenophobic nationalist dominated by hatred does not know or does not wish to know, namely that if my mother (my city, my nation) is a drunk, it does no good to anybody to proclaim “my mother, sober or drunk.” The patriotic way is to first acknowledge the truth that she is a drunkard, without ceasing to love her, and then find the means to help her return to normality.

It does no good for the three brothers in the movie The Three Brothers, to come together to pay their respect and bury their mother, if they have failed to honor her while she was still alive.

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