November 11th, 2014

Illya in red

Moving on

Would you move to another country?

Would you consider marrying or would you have married someone from another country, say one vastly different from yours?

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who has just moved to your country?
sea serpent

on flag-waving

  n. 1. ostentatious and emotional appeal or display intended to arouse nationalistic feeling

Today I have been criticised for expressing my opinions against flag-waving. I’ve been asked why I ‘m not doing any flag-waving of my own. I’d like to explain why.

11th November is a day when, for many nations, we honour those who have laid down their lives in the cause of peace and freedom. Armistice Day, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, whatever you may call it, it is a day when we pause to remember the sacrifices that others have made - and still continue to make.

In truth, I am surprised at flag-waving at the best of times - but that's just me.
Today, 11th November, the anniversary of the cessation of the Great War, I find it arouses strong feelings.

George Orwell had a lot to say about nationalism (I recommend his essay on the subject).
He called it “the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests”.

Orwell distinguished nationalism from patriotism. Patriotism he defined as the devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which you believe to be the best in the world but have no wish to force on other people. He pointed out that patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally, whereas nationalism “is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”

Nationalism was an invention of the 19th century. It was the nation as an ideal, a militaristic union of blood and patriotism. It cannot be denied that nationalism caused the Great War.

So what does it say about us today if we narrowly remember our own dead of that war and do not mourn the German or French or Russian victims? What does it say about us if we commemorate the sacrifice of our own countrymen who have fallen in subsequent conflicts, over and above the sacrifice of servicemen and women of other nations?

Nationalism is not appropriate today, of all days.

I shall not be doing any flag-waving today.