Purified Patriotism

Download 124 Kb.
Size124 Kb.
  1   2   3

Can There Be a "Purified Patriotism"? An Argument from Global Justice1
Forthcoming in a volume on Cosmopolitanism ed. Matthias Lutz-Bachmann (Frankfurt)

Martha C. Nussbaum2

I. The Janus-faced Nature of Patriotism

In 1892, a World's Fair, called the "Columbian Exposition"3 was scheduled to take place in Chicago. Clearly it was gearing up to be a celebration of unfettered greed and egoism. Industry and innovation were to be its central foci, as America planned to welcome the world with displays of technological prowess and material enrichment. Gross inequalities of opportunity in the nation were to be masked by the glowing exterior of the buildings, right next door to the University of Chicago, that came to be called "the White City."4 Advocates for the poor, increasingly upset by the plan, got together to think how the celebration might incorporate ideas of equal opportunity and sacrifice. A group of Christian socialists finally went to President Benjamin Harrison with an idea: at the Exposition the President would introduce a new public ritual of patriotism, a pledge of allegiance to the flag that would place the accent squarely on the nation's core moral values, include all Americans as equals, and rededicate the nation to something more than individual greed. The words that were concocted to express this sentiment were: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands: one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."5

As so often happens with patriotic sentiment, however, the Pledge soon proved a formula of both inclusion and exclusion. Francis Bellamy, the Pledge's author, was himself both a socialist and a xenophobe, who feared that our national values were being undermined by the flood of new immigrants from southern Europe. By the nineteen-forties, required by law as a daily recitation in schools in many states, the Pledge became a litmus test for the "good American," and those who flunked the test faced both exclusion and violence. Jehovah's Witnesses, who refused to recite the Pledge for religious reasons, seeing it as a form of idolatry, soon found their children expelled from school for non-compliance. Then, in a wonderful Catch-22, the parents were fined or jailed for "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" because their children were not in school! The idea grew in the public mind that Jehovah's Witnesses were a danger: a "fifth column" subverting American's values in the lead-up to the war against Germany and Japan. Accused of German sympathies (despite the fact that Jehovah's witnesses were being persecuted under the Third Reich for similar reasons and had to wear a purple triangle in the camps), Witnesses faced widespread public violence, including numerous lynchings -- particularly after the U. S. Supreme Court had upheld the compulsory flag salute as a legitimate expression of devotion to the national security.

Patriotism is Janus-faced. It faces outward, calling the self, at times, to duties for others, to the need to sacrifice for a common good, to renewed effort to fulfill the promises of equality and dignity inherent in national ideals. And yet, just as clearly, it also faces inward, inviting those who consider themselves "good" or "true" Americans to distinguish themselves from outsiders and subversives. Perhaps more dangerous yet, it serves to define the nation against its foreign rivals and foes, whipping up warlike sentiments against them. (It was for precisely this reason that Jean-Jacques Rousseau thought that a good nation needed a patriotic "civil religion" in place of the dogmas of Christianity, which he found too meek and pacifistic.6)

For such reasons, cosmopolitans,7 pursuing the twin goals of a world in which all human beings have a decent set of life-opportunities and a world in which wars of aggression do not mar people's life chances,8 typically turn a skeptical eye on appeals to patriotic sentiment. They see such sentiments as binding the mind to something smaller than humanity, and in a way they are not wrong. In the process, however, cosmopolitans may have lost sight of an insight firmly grasped by thinkers of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: that national sentiment is also a way of making the mind bigger, calling it away from its immersion in greed and egoism toward a set of values connected to a decent common life and the need for sacrifices connected to that common life. Italian revolutionary and nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini, seeing the many ways in which the rise of capitalism threatened any common project involving personal sacrifice, believed that national sentiment was a valuable "fulcrum," relying on which one could ultimately leverage universal sentiment directed toward the goal of a just world. He doubted that the immediate appeal to love of all humanity could motivate people deeply sunk in greed, but he thought that things stood differently with the idea of the nation, which might acquire a strong motivational force even when people were rushing to enrich themselves.

In this lecture I shall argue that Mazzini is correct: national sentiment can play a valuable role in creating a decent world culture. It can provide a valuable, even essential, prop for striving toward global justice. I shall attempt to provide an argument for national sentiment deriving from the requirements of global justice – an argument rather different from Mazzini's, but reaching a similar conclusion. Given the dangers inherent in all appeals to national sentiment, however, dangers that subsequent history has made so vivid, any such project will need to describe and render practicable a very special form of national sentiment, purified of the features that make much national sentiment so poisonous. This need for a "purified patriotism" was already apparent to Herder, who did a lot to set out its ingredients. Following Herder's lead in some though not all respects, I shall set out some further features that Herder did not emphasize, and describe background political and social structures that seem vital if patriotism is to do good work without risk of horrors. The good potential of a purified patriotism will then be illustrated by two very different examples: the struggle of the United States against slavery and its legacy (focusing on speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.), and the Indian independence movement, as exemplified by Gandhi's political strategies.

II. A Global Argument for National Sentiment

Mazzini's argument for patriotic sentiment goes something like this.

1. It is good, ultimately, for all human beings to care strongly about the good of all humanity.

2. Human beings are by nature somewhat narrow and particularistic in their concerns, and are not able to form a strong attachment to all humanity directly.

3. Human beings are, however, able to form a strong attachment to the nation, seen as the embodiment of both memory of past struggles and commitments to a common future.

4. The nation, because of its connection with common memory, episodes of suffering, and common hopes, is the largest unit to which such strong attachments can be directly formed.

5. Such national sentiments, if rightly targeted on things of genuine importance, such as human liberty and human need, will give people practice in caring about something larger than themselves, jolting them out of the egoism that is all too prevalent and preparing them for enlarged concern for the liberty and well-being of all humanity.

6. Human beings ought to cultivate patriotic sentiment, as a basis for global concern.

I believe that this is an attractive argument, and that Mazzini does show an attractive route out of egoism to global concern through a rightly focused nationalism. One might, however, doubt its fourth premise. In the nineteenth century, nations looked very large. As Germany and Italy were unifying, pulling nations together out of disparate regional entities and the loyalties they had traditionally inspired, it seemed quite natural to think of the nation as something very large, something that borders on the world as a whole. Calling the mind to the nation was already a way of calling it to something very vast, and the success of that call seemed to many people to show that global concern sentiment was only a step away. John Stuart Mill even said that the world was simply a "larger country,"9 and that the strength of patriotic feeling showed that his "religion of humanity" was possible. Today, however, we are much more skeptical about the nation. We think of it as smaller, not larger, as confining the mind rather than enlarging it. Many people think that nations should not exist in a future decent world order, and many more doubt that the nation is the largest unit to which human beings are capable of feeling a strong and vivid loyalty. Any contemporary argument for sentiments that give the nation a special place must, then, begin by explaining why it ought to have any place at all, and what that place might be.

Here, then, is my own global argument for patriotism:

1. The nation-state, including a strong form of national sovereignty, is an important good for all human beings, if the state takes a certain (liberal, democratic) form. Any decent world culture should promote the continued sovereignty and autonomy of (liberal and democratic) nation-states and protect the rights of citizenship associated with them.

2. Nation-states of the sort described cannot remain stable without moral sentiments attached to their institutions and their political culture.

3. The sentiments required cannot be supplied merely by allegiances to smaller units, such as families, cities, regions, and ethnic, racial or gender groups: they must have the nation (under some description) as their object.

4. So, there is a good reason for nations of the sort described to engender sentiments of love and support in their citizens.

5. National states of the sort described need the moral sentiments even more if they are going to undertake projects that require considerable sacrifice of personal self-interest, such as substantial internal redistribution or copious foreign aid, the overcoming of discrimination against traditionally marginalized groups, or the protection of allies against unjust domination.

6. Such projects are good projects for nations to undertake.

7. Therefore, we have even stronger reasons for the cultivation of nation-directed moral sentiments.

Let us now examine this bit by bit.

How would one defend premise 1? The classic defense is Grotian: the national state provides people with a role in creating the institutions and laws that govern them. It is thus a key expression of human autonomy. One may have a lot of autonomy elsewhere in one's life, but if one has no voice in the choice of policies affecting one's society's "basic structure," i.e. the set of institutions that governs one's life chances pervasively and from the start of a human life, 10 one is cut off from a very important good.11

Of course that does not yet amount to premise 1, for there might be other institutions that do this job equally well, or even better. What could they be? The second part of the defense of premise 1 is to run through the available alternatives, larger and smaller, and to show that they don't do this job, or not well. The world state; the large NGO; the United Nations; the multinational corporation; the ethnic group; the state, city, family.12 All of these can, I believe, be decisively rejected on grounds of access and accountability.

The contenders that have not been eliminated, it seems to me, are a federation of nations, such as the EU, and smaller self-governing units within a federal nation, such as the states of the United States and the states of India. Such political entities do offer some reasonable degree of access and accountability. Both, however, ultimately fall short of the nation-state, at least at the present time. The states within the United States and India do their job well, protecting their citizens' life chances and basic rights and opportunities, only to the extent that they carry out the mandate of the nation's Constitution. The long period of U. S. history during which the Bill of Rights was thought not to apply to the actions of state government was a period, we now see, during which many abuses occurred, and citizens were often unequal in voice and access because of religion or ethnicity. India's recent constitutionalization of the right to education as a fundamental right of all citizens reflects dissatisfaction with the decision of the constitutional framers to leave education to be managed by the individual states. Federalism is in many ways a good thing, and nationalism can certainly be pressed in that direction, but the primary site of justice remains, as Rawls argued, the basic structure of a nation.

As for the EU, it certain has many defects of access and accountability at present. To the extent that these may ultimately be overcome, so that the voices of all citizens are clearly heard at the center, and to the extent that the constitutional guarantees become truly enforceable, truly protective of the equal opportunities and rights of all EU citizens, I think that this would mean that the EU has become a federal nation like the U. S. and India, and has lost the characteristics that make it a distinctive political entity. Certainly India has far greater linguistic, regional, and cultural diversity than the EU, so there is in principle no barrier to there being such a federal nation. I am not utterly confident about my views on this question, but that is how it seems to me at present.

So nations are critical for the promotion of people's well-being and life-opportunities. As readers of Frontiers of Justice will know, this conclusion does not entail that international organizations, international agreements, and many other entities, large and small, do not have duties to promote decent life-chances and a decent world order. I do indeed assign them such duties. But I carve out a protected domain for the nation, and I think it particularly important to make sure that the power and autonomy of nations does not get fatally eroded by the power of multinational corporations and the global market, both of which threaten to undercut the ability of nations to deliver fundamental entitlements to their citizens.

Notice that we could begin my argument even further back, with what we might call

Premise 0. A decent global society must secure to all world citizens certain basic human goods or capabilities.13

Premise 1. National sovereignty is of importance to at least a large part of this task, for the reasons given, etc.

Now to premise 2. Rawls defends this one very nicely in the long and very interesting section of A Theory of Justice on the moral sentiments, where these sentiments are expressly tied to political stability.14 A similar moralized account of supportive sentiment has been offered by Habermas, in his defense of a "constitutional patriotism."15 Rawls's defense of premise 2 is already, as well, a defense of premise 5, since his state is very ambitious in the sacrifices it asks of its members in the name of justice.

It is plausible to think, however, that the moral sentiments on which Rawls relies are a bit too transparently rationalistic to do the job he assigns to them. He fails to consider (although he does not deny) that an essential motivational role, in connection with the love of just institutions, may be played by more indirect appeals to the emotions, using symbols, memories, poetry, narrative.16 Real people are sometimes moved by the love of just institutions presented just as such; but the human mind is quirky and particularistic, more easily able to conceive a strong attachment if these high principles are connected to a particular set of perceptions, memories, and symbols.

Consider a Passover Seder.17 When children attend a seder, they are forming emotions that have as their direct object the moral ideas contained in the seder: anger at injustice, love of freedom, compassion for subordinate peoples. They form these emotions, however, not just on account of the propositions concerning freedom embodied in the text. Their emotional responses are mediated by the poetry and the stories and songs; by the presence of beloved family members gathering for a special occasion; by good food and the opportunity to stay up late; by silly jokes and games; and, as time goes on, increasingly by the memory of all these sounds and tastes, and the thought of loved people, alive and dead. The Haggadah itself (the ritual text) is constructed so as to encourage a type of emotional development that moves in a non-linear way, backward and forward, between loved particulars and the general ideas that are being conveyed. The stability of the child's resulting moral emotions depends in a significant way on this dialectical process.

Now obviously the whole process of moral instruction would have failed if, as sometimes happens, children only remembered the jokes and not the deeper moral meanings; thus we usually spend time talking about those meanings and asking children to do so. And the process would have failed in a more egregious way if, as sometimes happens, children learned to have compassion, or a love of freedom, only for Jews; thus we are well advised to spend time talking about other comparable examples of oppression in our own society, and in the Middle East. Nonetheless, it would not be wise to strip away the songs and the jokes, for in them the essence of moral memory is situated. In that way the authors of the Haggadah were wiser morally than some modern Reform Jews, those who disdained ritual in favor of a pure abstract moral form of discourse.18 As Proust wonderfully shows, sensory particulars are the vehicle for the continued life of the past.

Now let us return to the nation. My claim is that the moral emotions of citizens in a Rawlsian well-ordered society are, or should be, like this: that is, fixed on the moral meanings of the political conception (thus attaining "stability for the right reasons," not a merely tradition-governed type of stability), but held to those meanings by rituals and narratives of a kind that must be more particular, more uneven, more aesthetic, more tragic, more silly, than anything explicitly envisaged in Rawls's text. These rituals and narratives might possibly be confined to what Rawls calls the "background culture" -- but on the other hand, inasmuch as they are essential vehicles of public reason, there is no reason to confine them to that role. Candidates for election, legislators, even judges might use such symbols and poetic references and songs and silly stories, if they do so in a way that reinforces and deepens the moral meaning of the political conception. This means that we have the same dangers to face as in the case of the seder: we must be sure that citizens develop a type of patriotic loyalty that is reliably linked to the deeper principles of the political conception, that does not exalt the United States (for example) above other nations, and that focuses on suffering humanity wherever it occurs.

In his excellent book On Nationality, David Miller has argued that such emotions, taking the nation and its history as their object, are essential for any society that attempts ambitious redistributive projects, or attempts to right historical wrongs. He does not believe that there is a route to this conclusion from an idea of global justice, but I do not believe that his arguments on that score are successful, and here is my attempt to provide him with exactly that which he denies!19 Miller says little about the precise character of the sentiments he has in mind, but it seems clear that, like me (and trading on a long tradition of discussions of nationalism of which Renan's "What is a Nation?" is perhaps the most famous example), he holds that the sentiments would have to contain appeal to common memories, ideas of common past suffering, hopes for a shared future and commitments to that future, all this being mediated through poetry, symbolism, ritual, and the like. (And we should not forget the role of humor, in navigating difficult waters in divided societies.20) So: Miller is right about the need for national sentiment to motivate bold projects that involve sacrifice of people's self-interest. Here we are back to the Pledge of Allegiance: seeing the United States as united by moral principles that commit us all to securing "liberty and justice for all" was a crucial antidote to the public culture of nineteenth century capitalism. We must now ask how, if at all, we might prevent such admirable sentiments from going astray, as these sentiments so clearly did.

III. The Moral Sentiments of a Purified Patriotism

In order to talk about the sentiments of a decent or purified patriotism, we need to have a normative conception of a decent society, since it is the institutions and entitlements of such a society that such sentiments would support. There are many conceptions that could guide our thinking here, but let me now, for the sake of argument, stipulate that the (national) society has committed itself to my capabilities approach, which guarantees to all citizens a threshold level of ten central opportunities, or capabilities, and that also assigns to the richer nations some definite, and rather exigent, duties of foreign aid in the pursuit of global justice. Since my conception clearly requires a high degree of sacrifice, it will, by my argument, need to call patriotism to its aid. But the patriotism in question will be the right sort, and so much thought must be given to questions concerning what sentiments need to be fostered and avoided.

Two preliminary notes. First of all, since the society I take as my starting point is a classically liberal one, with ample protections for freedoms of speech and association,21 the public cultivation of sentiment will not be a form of coercive enforcement; later on I shall insist on a key role for a vigorous critical culture as part of what will make the whole enterprise work. So what I am talking about is public persuasion, about the many ways in which public leaders and educators cultivate sentiments through rhetoric and example, rather than through compulsion, how they portray delicate topics such as race relations and poverty, what sentiments they invoke toward the poor and the different, what images of cooperation and reciprocity they construct.

Second, in talking about the nation, we must confront the fact that any nation is, first and foremost, a narrative, a story in which memory of the past and aspiration for the future are salient. But any national narrative is at the same time an interpretation. Some past events are made salient and others are not. Some aspects of founding documents are brought forward and other are left behind. The moral form of patriotism that I am trying to articulate here will need to attend carefully to issues of interpretation, selecting from the many versions of a nation's history the one that makes best constructive sense against the background of the core moral commitments of the decent society. In other words, it must be interpretive in Ronald Dworkin's sense: taking the materials of history together with deeper moral norms (in this case, those articulated in the capabilities approach), the proponent of a decent patriotism will tell the story of the nation's history that makes the best constructive sense out of all the materials. If the nation is a new one, the interpreter has somewhat more freedom of selection; nonetheless, this freedom is not total, since the creator of patriotism for a new nation still needs to link the nation to the past of its people, their memories of struggle, their religious and ethnic traditions.

So, my general question is: What moral sentiments will help and hinder the creator of a purified patriotism for the sort of decent society envisaged in the capability approach? There is a limit to how useful any general answer to this question can be, in advance of knowing what historical materials we have to work with, and what current problems the patriot is facing. Patriotism, like and as a species of love, is particularistic. Nonetheless, before turning to concrete examples, we can at least say something about what is generally helpful and harmful – just as we can in the case of familial or romantic love.

Herder already said some very sensible things about what moral sentiments a wise leader would need to create.22 Revealingly, he called these all "dispositions of peace." These dispositions, he said, would include: a horror of war; a "reduced respect for heroic glory"; a horror of a "false statecraft" that connects national glory to warlike expansionist projects; a "purified patriotism" that would eschew and breed contempt for aggression against other nations and would equally breed contempt and dislike for internal hatreds and group animosities; "feelings of justice towards other nations," sentiments of pain when another nation is disparaged or treated badly; humane feelings about international trade relations, so that people would feel upset when weaker nations "get sacrificed…for a profit that they do not even receive"; and, finally, a love of useful activity on behalf of human well-being, together with contempt for attempts to promote well-being through war. All of these ideas seem to me very good, and part of what my program would recommend.

On one point, however, a modern patriotism must to some extent diverge from Herder, not basing patriotic sentiment on any ethno-linguistic homogeneity, or on any religious sentiments that are divisive. It must appeal to sentiments that bind together the citizens of modern democracies that are diverse in religion and ethnicity, all of whom must be treated as fully equal citizens.

Moreover, we need to say much more than Herder does concerning the specific moral sentiments that a true statecraft and a true patriotism should call to its aid. Central to the stability of any society that asks people to make sacrifices will be the sentiment of compassion, together with an ability to imagine vividly the predicaments of others. People will not be moved to address poverty constructively, or to give copious foreign aid, without a carefully constructed and moralized compassion that addresses the predicaments of the poor, seeing them as both serious and not caused simply by laziness or bad behavior. This compassion must learn a lesson from ancient Greek tragedy in the following sense: it must combine compassion for the plight of the suffering person with respect for that person's agency, treating the person not as a passive victim of fortune, but as a human being striving, and often heroically striving, against great obstacles. (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt went to great lengths to portray the sufferings of the poor during the Depression in this respectful way, in the artworks he commissioned from the photographers and other artists he employed.23)

Compassion is not intrinsically reliable: for example, people usually feel compassion more strongly toward the near and dear than toward the distant.24 Compassion must therefore be carefully constructed in connection with the nation's moral norms.

Two other useful sentiments are (within proper limits) anger and hope. Anger is of course very Janus-faced: but no struggle against injustice can do without it. Leaders will need to try to construct an anger that is targeted at injustices, not at people, that is firmly linked to nonviolent political struggle, and that offers, in the distance, possibilities of mercy and reconciliation. Hope is an essential comrade of a reasonable anger, since people will only stick with nonviolence, and hope for reconciliation, if they do not despair.25

What, by contrast, does a wise statecraft need to watch out for and try hard not to construct? In Hiding from Humanity26 I argued that two of the most dangerous moral sentiments for a decent society are disgust and shame. Both arise in early childhood in a primitive form, and both take as their first object the insufficiencies of the human body, its necessary mortality, weakness, and dependency. These features of human life are difficult for ambitious and intelligent beings to endure, and are the source of much instability in the moral life. In disgust people initially reject the effluvia and decay of the animal body. Usually, however, things don't stop there, as people find a group of humans onto whom they can project the discomfort they feel about their own bodies, calling them smelly, slimy, disgusting, and so forth. Much racial hatred and most misogyny has such elements, as, of course, does the hatred of homosexuals. Show me a politician who appeals to disgust in the public realm, and you will be pointing to a dangerous person, one who is seeking to exploit for divisive purposes the discomfort that people feel at having a body that will die and decay. I can think of no exception to this claim.

Shame is more complex, since shame can sometimes call us to high ideals that we have let slide through laziness or obtuseness. But there is a type of shame, which I call "primitive shame," that focuses on the alleged shamefulness of the very fact of needing others, that seeks a pure rock-hard type of invulnerability and calls that manliness. A "real man," so we are told, is able to be totally self-sufficient. Any kind of weakness or need is a sign of compromised masculinity. Studies of disturbed adolescents in the U. S. show how this sort of shame, in connection with diseased norms of manliness, leads to aggression against the weak and against women.27

In my recent study of religious violence in India,28 I found that shame was a key element in the violence of militant Hindus against Muslims, in the Gujarat pogrom in 2002 and elsewhere. Hindu males tell themselves a story of centuries of humiliation – first at the hands of the Muslims, then at the hands of the British. Out of this collective sense that their virility has been compromised emerges a narrative of the shame-free nation of the future, as one that will be so successfully aggressive, so efficient in cleansing the land of the ones who are blamed for the humiliation, that Hindu pride will reign supreme and inviolate. This story is a large part of what fuels violence against Muslims, as well as the sexual violence against Muslim women that is such a large part of these pogroms.

So the good sort of patriotism will have to attend carefully to the issue of shame, and to the related issue of images of masculinity, seeking to cultivate an acceptance of bodily vulnerability as a part of daily life that is not fearful and shameful, and seeking to prevent the formation of diseased stereotypes of the real man as dominating and invulnerable. These ideas converge, clearly, with Herder's ideas about the need to discourage people from seeing glory in aggressive military exploits.

The good sort of patriotism, a species of love, is, as I said, particularistic. Although it calls the mind to many aspects of humanity that lead the mind beyond its domestic confines (human need, the struggle for justice and equality), it is also irreducibly attached to particular memories, geographical features, and plans for the future. If, then, our political doctrine included the thought that duties to all humanity should always take precedence over other duties, or the thought that particular obligations are correctly understood to be derivative from universal obligations (as a way of fulfilling, locally, those general obligations), it would be inconsistent with even the good form of patriotism. In earlier writing of mine on cosmopolitanism, I did tentatively endorse those two claims.29 It might appear, then, that my defense of a purified patriotism is inconsistent with my earlier cosmopolitanism. In the mean time, however, my ideas have changed in two ways. First, having come to endorse (since around 1995) a form of Rawlsian political liberalism, I now think it very important that the political principles of a decent society not include comprehensive ethical or metaphysical doctrines that could not be endorsed by reasonable citizens holding a wide range of comprehensive doctrines. Clearly, the strong form of cosmopolitanism that denies all legitimacy to non-derivative particular obligations could not be the object of an overlapping consensus in a political-liberal state. Many of the reasonable comprehensive religious and secular doctrines that citizens hold do insist on the importance of particularistic forms of love and attachment, pursued for their own sake and not just as derivative from universal duties to humanity. (Indeed, duties to God, in most religions, are particularistic in this way.) So even if I had continued to endorse cosmopolitanism as a correct comprehensive ethical position, I would not have made it the foundation of political principles for either a nation or a world order.

I do not, however, still endorse that form of cosmopolitanism as a correct ethical doctrine. (Indeed, insofar as I did so in 1996, the endorsement was exploratory and tentative.) Further thought about Stoic cosmopolitanism, and particularly the strict form of it developed by Marcus Aurelius, persuaded me that the denial of particular attachments leaves life empty of meaning for most of us, with the human psychology and the developmental history we have. In "Compassion and Terror" I explore the dark side of Marcus's thought, his conviction that life contains merely a sequence of meaningless episodes, given that particular attachments have been uprooted; and I conclude that the solution to problems of uneven loyalty ought not to be this total uprooting, so destructive of the human personality. It should be, instead, an uneven dialectical oscillation within ourselves, as we accept the constraints of some very strong duties to humanity and then ask ourselves how far we are entitled to devote ourselves to the particular people and places whom we love. That, then, is my current comprehensive ethical position, and it makes plenty of room for patriotism, especially in its purified form, a form that accepts the constraints of global justice.

IV. Support Structures for Purified Patriotism

As my story of the Pledge of Allegiance shows, even a purified patriotism can turn to the dark side, when anxious human beings get hold of it. Although I have said that we turn to patriotism to render good institutions stable (for the right reasons), the good in patriotism may itself be unstable in times of anxiety. We would be well advised, therefore, not to trust entirely to the good will of people to keep good traditions of patriotism going. Law and institutional structure are essential props to the good in patriotism, and we can mention at least five factors that will contribute to our getting the good out of patriotism without the bad.

1. Constitutional rights, an independent judiciary. Constitutional rights are bulwarks for minorities against the panic and excess of majorities. Because minorities are always at risk from patriotism, which can often whip up majority sentiment against them, a purified patriotism needs to be advanced in conjunction with a firm and comprehensive tradition of constitutional rights protecting all citizens, and an independent judiciary, detached from public bias and panic, as these rights' interpreter.

2. Separation of powers, difficulty of going to war. Herder thinks of a horror of war as the very core of a purified patriotism. But a people's horror of war will not stop leaders from making war in the absence of political structure. Warmaking powers should reside in the legislature, and executive authority to initiate and continue wars should be severely contained.

3. Protections for the rights of immigrants. Patriotism always risks veering into xenophobia, and xenophobia often takes new immigrant groups as its targets. In addition to protections for minorities who already enjoy citizens' rights, a purified patriotism needs to be advanced in conjunction with firm protections for the rights of legal immigrants who are not (or not yet) citizens, and decent arrangements for illegal immigrants. (Such attitudes are also important props for a commitment to assist people outside one's own nation: one becomes used to focusing on human need and aspiration as important in themselves, not only because the people are one's fellow citizens.)

4. Education about foreign cultures and domestic minorities. Panic and xenophobia are always more difficult to sustain when schools do their job well, acquainting people with complex historical facts regarding the groups that they will encounter. For example, if schools in Europe and the U. S. were doing their job teaching people about the varieties of Islam, the current atmosphere of panic would be far more difficult to sustain.

Download 124 Kb.

Share with your friends:
  1   2   3

The database is protected by copyright ©sckool.org 2022
send message

    Main page