Love of Country or Love of Government?
I do believe many people confuse love of country with love of government – and conflate the two “loves” into one. But this is most definitely a mistake – and quite wrong.
I have a good friend who accuses me of being anti-American. But this is most definitely not true. I’ve travelled to the USA many times over a number of years, and I recall how much I loved meeting Americans on each visit. I just love their positive attitude and “can-do” outlook. I love their friendly open ways. I also love the philosophical foundation of the USA, the Declaration of Independence and what it means. And I love one of America’s greatest cultural contributions to the world – jazz!
The founding of America was a triumph of individualism over collectivism – and gave birth to the most productive period in human history. The USA was indeed a beacon to the world – and people flocked to it to realise their dreams.
America is the “home” of business and capitalism – those great innovations that are responsible for raising millions out of poverty and giving us a life that was unheard of in the past.
America the “idea” was a force for good, for innovation, for productivity and opportunity.
But the American government is an entirely different proposition. I love America the country, the people, the ideas that animate the ordinary folk. But the government is anathema to all of that – and is hell-bent on destroying America and all the good it has stood for.
In the same way I look at a “polar-opposite” country like Iran. I know that Iranians are human like me. I know they aspire to the same things that all humans aspire to. And I recall meeting a young Iranian couple on a romantic tryst in Beijing – back in 2004. I spent a whole day with them – touring the Great Wall of China and other places. And what was self-evident was how much they were like all young people everywhere – even to the point of sneaking off from their parent’s watchful eye, to enjoy the freedom that Beijing offered by way of an “anonymous” location in which to enjoy each other’s company.
I asked them what they thought of their government. They were both university educated and spoke good English. Both of them said they did not like their form of government, but that they believed change would come gradually, as younger people – more versed in the ways of the world – took up positions of influence. They also said how much they loved their country.
You see, it’s quite possible to dislike or even “hate” the government of Iran, or Palestine – or even America or Israel, while accepting the basic humanity of its people.
The strife and mayhem in the world – not to mention wars, violence, propaganda, starvation and a myriad of other evils – are all by-products of collectivist thinking and organisation. And the two most potent forms of collectivist thinking are nationalism (as in love of government) and religion. And when you combine both, you have a recipe for disaster.
One of the saner and more hopeful developments in recent years has been the internet, which is a counter-trend against this form of collectivism. Instead of encouraging people to think “parochial” with nationalistic and/or religious fervour, it brings people together as humans. Not as “Americans” or “Australians” or even “Iranians”, but as ordinary people who have things in common (or not).
Instead of forced relationships – as in nation state/nationalism – the internet has caused the growth of voluntary human relationships – across the globe. This is a true force for good – and a counter to the destructive nature and objectives of governments.
One of the greatest challenges we face, as we confront economic hardship, wars and the threat of wars, it to realise how these events can cause us to pull back into our shell – to seek “escape” into fruitless nationalism, collectivism and racism.
It would be a pity indeed if the progress we’ve made in breaking the chains of nationalism were to be undone by closed-minded thinking and nationalistic fervour.
Love your country? Good on you. Love your people? Great. Love your government? Think again!