Patriotism

By: Louk Vreeswijk

Aug 25 2013

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Category: Jordan, Middle East

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I once was seriously lectured by a young boy in India about my alleged lack of patriotism. Everybody in India always wants to know where you come from. Whenever they heard I was Dutch they would often relate to me the story of how a small boy in Holland had saved his country and people from a devastating flood by putting his finger into a hole in the dyke where water was seeping through. It was a well-known story that figured in one of the widespread text books in India. It allowed them to place me in my country of origin. I used to laugh about it, but that reaction was not always liked. “You shouldn’t laugh about it! That boy was a hero! You should be proud of him and worship him as a true patriot!” I speak about the seventies of the last century. India had gained independence only 25 years before. National pride was strong and actively stimulated. In school each day started with the collective singing of the national anthem.

It is true, my patriotic sentiments are not very strong. They haven’t had much opportunity to develop, raised as I am after the Second World War in a free country that hasn’t known another war since, at least at home. But I do recognize those sentiments, and I can feel them too, be it only in certain cases and to a certain extent. For example when I follow international sports events live on TV – live is a prerequisite – in which fellow-countrymen and women participate. If they perform well and win I feel vicarious pride, and if they cut a poor figure ….. well, I don’t feel shame really. I think these sentiments have to do with a deeply rooted sense of identity and orientation: this is the place I come from; this is the group I belong to. I can imagine patriotic sentiments revive strongly when one’s own country and people are attacked by an enemy from outside.

Openness to the rest of the world, cooperation, globalization, I applaud it. But at the same time: live and let live, and don’t annoy others unnecessarily. Nationalist and religious sentiments would do better to become blunted in a globalized world. As a world citizen I quite like looking at them and their symbols with a good dose of humour.

Photo of the week: market vendors in front of a poster of King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan, Madaba, Jordan, 2010

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