More From Alder's Ledge

July 22, 2019

Patriotism As A Drug

The Addict:

It is part of human nature to want to belong, to be accepted, and even to have a purpose. We long for this from birth and strive for it even at an early age. Those desires lead us to seek out friends, join social activities were we believe we will find it and to work hard to gain acceptance from our peers. It is baked in to every culture and every society the world over. It can especially be seen in the rabid nationalism of our times.

Nationalism is a manifestation of our inherent need to belong. It gives us a community to which, we assume, we cannot be removed and will be accepted within. It fills that need we have as human beings. But it comes at a cost. Nationalism requires us to define the group in such a way that distinctions between who 'belongs' and who is presumed to not belong must be made. It is exclusionary and tribalistic. And in many cases, nationalism when defined by race and ethnicity, is flatout racist.

But nationalism works because it comes with a drug. It comes with the addition of patriotism. And patriotism is meant to make those who believe they belong in the group feel good about having gained that acceptance they crave. It fills the desire for a purpose as well since it becomes a necessity that must be maintained rather than a happy little byproduct of nationalistic fervor. It imposes upon the "patriot" a demand to show it, to exhibit it arrogantly, and to further exclude those who alledgedly don't belong.

As society rachets up nationalistic rhetoric the demand for obscene displays of patriotism goes up. To continue belonging to the crowd, the user has to up their dosage. In doing so, the user becomes less likely to focus on other issues, no matter how important they might seem, and begins to reject aspects of their daily life that contradict their ever growing desire to fit in with the crowd of their choosing. The rhetoric gets amped up again, the user repeats the cycle and focuses more and more on being a 'patriot'. No matter how detestable, or despicable even, the image of patriot becomes, that desire to belong remains and the drug they have found helps them feel accepted. The high is worth all the downright vile things that comes with it.

The Dealer:

Our world currently has a host of strongmen and neo-fascists who are more than willing to sell their poison in a nice easy to swallow form. People like Trump are more than aware that the target of their rhetoric have already dabbled in it before and can easily be baited with just the right pitch. It is the hook that only needs to be set.

The "us vs them" narrative is an age old part of populist rhetoric. It is used to make the distinctions between those who belong and those the dealer wants removed. It works because those who think they are the in-crowd feel accepted by the message as well as having found a purpose within it. It bestows on them a sense of pride, a sense of selfworth that might have been otherwise missing, and a sense of superiority. All they have to do is maintain their place in the exclusive circle that their prejudices have carved out for them. And this is where the drug comes in.

Patriotism can be used as both a sedative and a stimulant... given you know how to use it. Dealers like Trump know how. And as was seen in his latest klan meeting, with the chants calling for an 'outsider' to be "sent back", it is clear how the stimulant portion works. This aspect of it just requires massive doses of patriotism, such as rallies. That creating of spaces where the dealer's targets can feed off each other's energy, creating a desire to one up the other, is exactly how Trump targets his cultish klan with the drug of their choosing.

For those not willing to attend Trump's narcissistic orgy fest, the sedative part comes through passive partaking of patriotism. That sparklers and cookouts on the Fourth sort of addiction to it. It is a form of patriotism that allows the user to pretend the group they belong to is fine, perhaps some rough patches here and there, but otherwise ok. It permits a placid acceptance of evident wrongs in society while still allowing the user to feel pride in belonging to it. It silences the people who are often the same ones repeating lines like "all evil needs to succeed is the silence of good men".

This will not be the part where I tell you something like "but wait, there is still a good form of a patriot". There simply is not. And frankly the world would be a far better place with far fewer patriots.

The problem with believing you can be patriotic while still dissenting from the notion that some people belong and others should be in cages is that patriotism is derived from nationalism. Nationalism is nothing more than our way of deciding who belong where. Therefore there can be no real reason that a patriot is any better simply because they might be more tolerant than the outright racists currently leading many of our countries.