Wednesday, May 31, 2017

American patriotism versus German patriotism

There is a large Quora thread on the above comparison  here. It says just about all that could be said on the subject but I was rather fascinated by a rather cutting comment from Jens Böttiger.  I reproduce it below:

"In America you show patriotism by attaching a full size US flag on your pickup truck (Or confederate flag for alternative patriotism), singing the anthem before every baseball game, and sending 18 year olds to Iraq so you can later thank them for their service when they roll by you in their wheelchair in Walmart.

"In Germany we show patriotism by voting for higher taxes on ourselves to make healthcare and college tuition universally accessible to our less fortunate fellow citizens, and by picking up after one another to keep public spaces clean and nice for everyone."

Has he got a point?  He might have if it is patriotism that motivates German acceptance of high taxes.  But is it?  Might it not be that Germans have a high need for security and predictability?  A welfare state does provide that. So I think that Jens Böttiger is kidding himself about patriotism being the motive.

His second point is that Germans look after their public spaces better. But might not that be the result of a very German need for order?  I think a need for order is a good thing but let us not confuse it with patriotism.

His point about American patriotism being very public is undoubtedly true.  There is nothing like that in Australia or Britain.  But I see it as being just one example of a much more extroverted society.  Compared with other countries Americans are much more open and "out there".  Americans even talk to one-another in elevators!  Though maybe not in NYC. In Britain NOBODY talks in elevators. And I see the American way as a rather joyous way to live.  Americans greatly ENJOY their patriotic displays.

Australians and British people tend by contrast to be rather embarrassed by patriotic expressions.  Which way is better? Where do the different ways lead?  I don't think they lead in different directions at all.  The obvious comment is that American patriotism is behind America's many wars.  Yet there is not a single major American war in the 20th century that Australia did not participate in too.  Compared to American exuberance the Australian style is laconic but I suspect that the inhabitants of both countries are equally proud of what their country has achieved and become.

Jens Böttiger's final point about America refers to the suffering that America's troops often undergo.  He implies that the suffering is inflicted by patriotism.  But is it? Most of America's wars abroad are indeed a product of American exuberance but that is not exuberance about America so much as an exuberant conviction that America can help other nations with their problems.  Americans have a conviction not that they can conquer but that they can do good. I think that is rather admirable even if it is sometimes misguided.

So I can understand that Jens Böttiger is out of sympathy with American patriotism but I think his arguments are fallacious.  They have a Goebbels-like plausibility but in the end are just propaganda.  It is clear however that he is himself a patriotic German.  He even defends the reputation of Hitler's Luftwaffe in another post.  So it is amusing that he actually lives in America -- JR.


A sad choice for the British general election

By Sean Gabb (an English libertarian)

For the avoidance of doubt, I still intend to vote Conservative in this dreadful election. And, if Labour seems to be catching up in the opinion polls, so, I suspect, will enough people to give the Conservatives a decent majority. The general election is a rerun of last year’s Referendum. There is no other consideration that ought to sway anyone who is looking beyond our present circumstances. We vote Conservative. We leave the European Union. We hope and work for a realignment in British politics. Except for this, however, I would be dithering between another vote for UKIP and a spoiled ballot. Except for Europe, the contest is between an authoritarian hag and a Fenian scumbag.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have made their responses to the Manchester Bombings. According to the BBC,

Theresa May has urged world leaders to do more to combat online extremism, saying the fight against so-called Islamic State is “moving from the battlefield to the internet.”

What she has in mind is outlined in the Conservative Manifesto:

[W]e  will  establish  a  regulatory  framework  in  law  to  underpin  our  digital  charter  and to  ensure  that  digital  companies,  social  media  platforms  and  content  providers  abide by  these  principles.  We  will  introduce  a  sanctions  regime  to  ensure  compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law. We will also create a  power  in  law  for  government  to  introduce  an  industry-wide  levy  from  social  media companies and communication service providers to support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms, just as is already the case with the gambling industry.

If this hardly needs translating into Plain English, I will make the effort. The Conservatives are proposing to censor the Internet. Anyone who, in this country, publishes opinions or alleged facts the authorities dislike will be prosecuted. If these are published abroad, access to the relevant websites will be blocked. Internet companies will be taxed to pay for a Ministry of Propaganda to go beyond anything now provided by the BBC.

We are supposed to think the main targets of censorship will be the radical Moslems. I have no doubt some effort will be made to shut them up. The main targets, however, will be on the nationalist right. These are the ones who will be harried and prosecuted and generally threatened into silence. The only person so far to have lost a job on account of the bombings is the LBC presenter Katie Hopkins. She made a sharp comment on air about the Moslems, and was out. Other than that, we have had a continual spray of propaganda about the Religion of Peace, and how its core texts have nothing to do with suicide bombings or mass-rape or disorder.

In Britain, in Europe, in America, there are powerful interests that are itching to censor the Internet. It is the Internet that has made us cynical. It is the Internet that is giving us the probable truth. It is because of the Internet that the authorities are being held to account. Never let a good atrocity go to waste. Get the people ready for censorship while the bodies are still being reassembled.

Jeremy Corbyn, I grant, has been slightly better. He sees Islamic terrorism as a response to our endless wars of aggression in the Islamic World. He says:

[M]any experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed out the connections between wars that we have been involved in, or supported, or fought, in other countries and terrorism here at home.

There is some truth in this. I will not quote the relevant news releases from the Islamic State. But their consistent line is that, so long as we drop bombs on their women and children, they will blow themselves up among ours. Bearing in mind the scale of the chaos and bloodshed they have unleashed since 2001 in the Islamic world, our leaders are in a weak position to complain.

Even so, if they have been at least unwise, these wars cannot be regarded as the whole cause of what is being done to us. There have been major terrorist attacks in Spain and Germany and Sweden, countries that have not been to war in the Islamic World. There have been attacks in Thailand and India and the Philippines, and in many other countries that stayed neutral. I believe that we should withdraw all our forces from Iraq and Libya and Afghanistan. We should leave the Syrians to sort out their civil war. We should, so far as possible, vacate those parts of the world. I believe we should do this for our sake and for theirs. But I do not believe this would stop the terrorists from blowing our people up or from running them down. Remove one excuse – another would be found.

There is a weak correlation between Islamic terrorism and whether a country targeted has been to war in the Islamic World. There is a very strong correlation between Islamic terrorism and the presence of a large Moslem population. Thailand had no part in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. It has Moslems. It has had terrorism. Slovakia was in the “Coalition of the Willing.” It has almost no Moslems, It has had no terrorism.

Let us suppose Tony Blair had found the common sense to tell the Americans to invade Iraq on their own. There might have been less Islamic terrorism in this country. But do not suppose there would have been none. The wars we fought in Iraq and elsewhere were wrong in themselves. They failed in their stated ends. But the true cause of the mess we are in is unlimited immigration of people who mostly cannot be assimilated, and who have been allowed to establish a demographic and cultural hegemony in large parts of the country. When our ancestors turned up in North America, they formed exclusive enclaves, and felt no obligation to conform to the ways of the aborigines. They thought they were better, and they would have been scandalised by any advice to paint their faces and join in the tomahawk dance. Once their initial colonies were secure, and once their population had sufficiently grown, they took over. Why should it be very different when we are the colonised? Terrorist violence is connected with what we have done to their countries. Much more, it is part of marking new territory and pre-empting opposition.

I could move to discussing what solutions may be available to this problem. But I will not. Instead, I will return to the May solution. If every terrorist outrage we have known in this country during the present century was committed by Moslems, terrorism is not the worst problem we face. I do not wish in any sense to minimise the horror of what was done earlier this week in Manchester. I am not saying this for form. It was a shocking and a disgusting act. But I will quote the words of Lord Justice Hoffman when he struck down an anti-terrorism law in 2004:

In my opinion, such a power in any form is not compatible with our constitution. The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve.

Terrorist violence, on whatever scale, affects those individuals who suffer it directly. A police state harms the nation as a whole. It may be said that we need a police state to fight terrorism. It is better said that terrorism is presently seen by the authorities as an excuse for the police state they have long wanted. There was no Islamic terrorism in this country before the beginning of the present century. There had been a declining level of Irish terrorism before then. There was no credible reason to suppose that any terrorists were using the Internet to further their ends. All the same, the 1990s saw a steady drumbeat of claims that the Internet needed to be censored, and that the normal rules of justice should be replaced by the rules of a police state. The excuse then was drugs and child pornography. At the end of the 1980s, I recall Margaret Thatcher’s claim that we needed identity cards to deal with violence at football matches. I believe that, if every Moslem were to leave this country tomorrow, the authorities would pause to draw breath, and, the day after that, continue demanding censorship, and detention without trial, and identity cards, and mass-surveillance – this time to save us from global warming, or Russian spies, or an impending asteroid impact.

And now to my final words on Mr Corbyn. If our present rulers are in a weak position to complain about terrorism, Mr Corbyn is in a very weak position to call himself a man of peace. I carry no torch for Israel, but Mr Corbyn has, throughout his time in politics, openly sided with the enemies of Israel – which, whatever can be said against it, is a liberal democracy of sorts. It is reasonable to presume that he opposed our wars in the Islamic world less because they were wars than because they were with his friends. Far worse than this, he has been a consistent supporter of Sinn Fein/IRA. I shall think better of his opposition to our wars in the Islamic World when he finally denounces the campaign of armed terror directed by his late friend Martin McGuiness.

But Mr Corbyn will almost certainly not be asked to form a government the week after next. Mrs May will keep the one she has. I will vote to keep her in office. But I take no pride in this. We live in a country with a more degraded public life than the average dystopian novel of forty years ago was likely to imagine.

Yes, I will pinch my nose again the Thursday after next, and vote Conservative – in the hope, and perhaps in the belief, that I shall have a better choice in 2022.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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