Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"This is not a form of brainwashing"


  1. Nationalism is nothing but a substitute religion.

    One has common solidarity with family, because it's biological and rooted in an unconditional, innate sense of familiarity.

    But one does not have common solidarity with complete strangers, just by being born in an arbitrary geographic region. Especially not if you are American - unless the person believes he has any real familial kinship with the Ethiopians, Peurto Ricans, Cubans, Poles, Germans, Irish, or other folk that comprise the American population.

    Because nationalism is not innate, it has to be hammered into people with anthems, singing, and round the clock nationalist propaganda. It can never come naturally, like unconditional familial love. Nationalism is a false kind of CONDITIONAL love, which is not real love.

  2. Yes and no. Certainly there's always something a little absurd about nationalism. But there's something nice about it too. There's something nice about a deep affinity for 300 million strangers, right? It gets darker - of course - when people insist that that must be paired with a suspicion of the other 6.7 billion humans on this planet. But I don't see why that has to be a part of nationalism. Remember, cosmopolitanism and liberalism emerged with nationalism. It's not an entirely pessimistic story.

    I'm curious, Evan, what would you think if someone used the same arguments to criticize your decision to take Sophie and Beckett to church? Presumably you would have some counter-arguments. Do those counter-arguments apply to having kids say the pledge in schools? After all, no one forces parents to send their kids to public schools. Home schooling is perfectly legal.

    I think a lot of these critiques go overboard. Are we brainwashing kids? Are kids told they must approve of all the wars the U.S. engages in? Of course not. In fact, if I recall my grade school days I believe people who resisted wars and oppression were celebrated. That's not to say that all is well with public education, of course. But when these kids finish saying the pledge, they sit down to read about Williamson, Jefferson, Thoreau, Douglass, Debs, Einstein, and King. I'm not saying I have some deep seate need for them to say the pledge. I think it would be perfectly fine if those words were never spoken in a public school. I'd be fine if we discontinued its use, period (we managed without it for a while, after all). But I'm also not quite so sure of the brainwashing claim.

    To subsume my main point and another meme: Hitler was a vegetarian.

    Sometimes we confuse correlation for causation. The trouble with nationalist violence is really the violence, not the nationalism.

  3. I'm curious, Evan, what would you think if someone used the same arguments to criticize your decision to take Sophie and Beckett to church?

    First of all, you should learn to spell your nephew's name correctly.

    Second, I don't really have issues with the Pledge, I mostly just thought this was a funny video. It highlights concerns about nationalism that I think even ardent patriots would acknowledge, so I'm not posting it to express any ideas about national rituals really being (necessarily) some sort of civic religion or brainwashing. I think if someone can't laugh at a something like this... a gross over-exaggeration that might hold a kernel of truth... then they probably aren't being self-critical enough about their civic participation (and yes, this would go for church or other social settings as well).

  4. No that's cool. I was harping on the "too young to decide" issue.

    I think it's a bad argument too, obviously. They have to have some raw material to make choices from eventually, after all. Clearly this is meant to be funny. I did not know to what extent you embraced the "too young to decide" point as one of those kernels of truth.

    Tell Bechkhett I say hi.


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