Kill Your Idols III: Why You Love Your Country, Research Time, 09/08/2017

So things got away from me a little bit yesterday. It happens sometimes. Part of the experimental nature of the blog. I think I swung a little too fast and loose from the very abstract to the straight-up historical. Then I think I swung back again.

In 800 words. That’s what I call whiplash.

Freedom to say what you wish and turn back the most monstrous ones
with the light of truth. A society that allows you this fosters the
strongest patriotism.
Let’s talk history, and what we can learn from history. What Antonio Gramsci learned from the history that just got him thrown into prison. One more pass.

For Lenin to win out in the Russian revolution, all he needed to do was break the aristocracy. More accurately, take advantage of a breaking aristocracy.

For Gramsci to win out in an Italian revolution, he would have needed the following sectors and interest groups of his country to collapse simultaneously. 1) The aristocracy; 2) All the other political parties; 3) The business and merchant elite; 4) The social democratic trade unions; 5) The military; and the fraying of all the friendships and professional bonds across all these groups and institutions.

I should also mention that an Italian revolution would have needed to unite a drastically divergent regionalism in a country that had only been a single state for about 40 years by the time Mussolini took over.

That’s what I mean by redundancy in a society’s networks. There’s a special relationship in democratically-governed states, which gives an extra strength to those networks. Democracy.

All of popular culture – or at least enough of it to be unavoidable – gets consumed by political discussions. Party alliances, policies, philosophies, the place of your country in the world, the place of you as a citizen in your country.

We must have the right to yell. There's no more powerful human
The process all ends with this massive public ritual of the vote – you mail your ballot or mark one at a live location, then everyone gathers around the media of their choice to watch the results. The aggregate of all those ballots actually determine who occupies important government jobs.

All those conversations about politics – both among people and from government and institutional sources – serve a major purpose. They disseminate and accustom people to the public morality of representative democracy.

It’s the most impressive way to earn legitimacy for your state institutions – actually get them involved in discussions about how those institutions should be run. In a democracy, you’re free to have conversations that let off steam in public about your frustrations with the government. As well, you feel like your ideas can contribute in some small way to how your government is run.

That’s the foundation of a powerful personal investment in your government. When you have this emotional connection to the state, you feel like you’re part of it, and it’s part of you. The state matters to you when you can participate in its work and decision processes. Even if ordinary citizens can’t do that much, just that small amount builds so much love and loyalty.

Even if you’re offering a better idea than any of the options the state has available, that loyalty is seriously difficult to overcome. Maybe even impossible. Democracies never fail when citizens feel like they can take part.

I wonder how people can accustom themselves to a police state. To me,
living in such a society feels like living with a constant, never-ending
skin infection all over my arms that caused the most horrific itching
all the time. That is how much my soul would chafe and dry out.
They’re overthrown in wars and military coups, but that’s usually a matter of force. It’s not a revolution. A revolution is a popular overthrow of the state. Do you expect a people to overcome their own love, when they really love their country?
• • •
I once met a guy who was legitimately considering working for Bashar Assad’s government. He was fascinating in some ways, but in others, he was the most boring man I’d ever seen.

Any public statement he made about political matters was an empty platitude to the value of humanitarianism. There’s no PR copy more vapid and dull than what comes out of the mouth of a dictator’s loyalists.

“Hey, man, don’t you love your country? I love my country. You should love it too.”

A friend of mine got that line from a secret police agent. Thinking about my conversations with Assad loyalists, Syrian democrats who’ve had to put up with Assad loyalists, I realized something about democracy.

By encouraging people to think about politics in deep, complicated ways, as if your decisions could effect the course of your country, you make smarter, more adaptable, loyal, enthusiastic, patriotic, and generally just plain better citizens.

The open question – Do you want your country to have citizens?

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