Written by Mariem ElTagoury

National anthem in cinemas? Photo courtesy of AP.

Make sure you check Part 1 before reading on.

If people are so divided on patriotism; is it possible that they don’t truly understand it?

It’s interesting how many explanations can be handed out as the definition of one word, but I have come to realise it is how we view a word, an emotion. Animals act upon instinct to specific triggers, but humans act upon triggers, not just by instincts, but by accumulated knowledge and how they define those triggers. For example, once you feel pain, your main instinct is to jump out of pain’s way; if you knew that pain was triggered by an injection or a vaccine for your health, you’d hold your ground, unless you believed vaccines were harmful, then you’d probably have a different reaction according to how you define vaccines.

Sarah, a 26-year-old Egyptian who has lived in 5 countries believes, “patriotism is a sense of belonging to a certain nation and land and a certain amount of love for them, as well. I wouldn’t say that it applies to the state (regime) government of that nation, though. I feel that that’s more along the lines of nationalism rather than patriotism.” She views patriotism as a positive trait but, “it becomes negative when it turns into nationalism, which I define as an extreme, violent manifestation of patriotism.” She doesn’t believe society knows or can define the difference between either.

She elaborates from her experience from life abroad, “people in other countries knew how to tell the difference between disagreeing with the government or having a tough life, and hating the country altogether. So even though they didn’t have the best life, most were still patriotic; but what I’ve noticed here is that people tend to blend things. As in, they’ll have a tough life and therefore they’ll hate the country completely.”

Ghada believes the problem goes deeper than understanding when comparing Egypt to equally struggling African countries with higher rates of patriotism, she states, “I think it is the issue of the family…if your kids saw you believe there is hope and you are patriotic then they will inherit it. This issue has many aspects when it comes to analyzing it from a psychological point of view. It is many things …”

Inherited? How can something, with no definition to pin-down, survive time?

Another factor is time; how we view our world today is definitely different from how our ancestors did. Music has evolved, art has evolved, our lifestyles have evolved, why wouldn’t patriotism evolve?

Hussein believes patriotism, “needs a reformation or a renaissance. Not many people know the correct way to be patriotic. I believe true patriotism is both loving and wanting the best from your country. However, some people may see their country doing unethical things and turn a blind eye because going against your own country would be ‘unpatriotic’, which I think is an ideology that should be vanquished.”

Sara Enan thinks, “there’s no hard evidence to prove how patriotic people were compared to now. Also, people do things differently now because we live in a different world. So, acts of patriotism are not the same. In the past, it could’ve been a protest in a large park and today it could be a huge digital protest.”

Aleksandra had a broader view of things, “I think it can survive or it will, because people always felt the need to belong. They always had ways to create communities with a special identity, so patriotism for me is the emotion that goes with belonging to a certain entity, group, country. But of course, it can change, maybe you change your loyalties, or the entity you were a patriot of changes, like what happened with Former Yugoslavia, for example.”

Hang on, so patriotism is not dead?!

Ghada notes, “no, it is not dead. It is in the Intensive Care Unit! We ask people [during psychiatric therapy] to forgive their parents if they have harmed them, but they can not heal without making a confession that their parents who were supposed to be their backbone are the ones who let them down. Same goes for love for your home country.”

Patriotism is not dead, “it is in the Intensive Care Unit!”

Adhm Yousef claims, “it is still alive and booming.” He sarcastically adds, “it has a prosperous future, and shall grow to become a beautiful bride.”

Hussein Ahmed doesn’t believe patriotism is dead either, but when questioned on his allegiance to a specific nation from the three he affiliates to, he replied, “about two years ago, I saw this interesting TED talk video about a Pakistani Norwegian who struggled with a very strict Islamic community because she played music. She had struggled with the people of her country and the people of her family’s country, but after many years she met other people who also struggled with the same issues and I remembered that she said, instead of bridging these ‘two worlds’, she had let the gap between them be her safe haven. She felt no longer the need to ‘pick a side’. And I think everyone who is multinational or multi-racial should not feel the need to do so.”

Sara Enan: “no, of course not. I’ve learned that people of the same country tend to stick together more abroad, standing up for their country and for each other, and stand united in front of others. Even if they are not actually united.”

Sarah was not as optimistic, “it isn’t completely dead, but it may be headed in that direction, based on what I see and hear within my social circles”, she clarifies by adding “it’s an observation of what I see around me. I often hear people making jokes about ‘this stupid country’ and ridiculous things that happen ‘only in Egypt’ while they would never be allowed to happen ‘in Europe and those developed countries’. For example, my cousin once had an argument with my grandparents about patriotism. He was saying how he refuses the idea of military service (which he’s exempt from anyway), saying that he’d never fight for this country!”

Aleksandra: “yes and no. Depends for whom. I guess when I start thinking about the people living in my flat, all between 25-30, rather good education, none of them would consider him or herself as patriot. We would also never put a Swiss flag for our national day on our balcony, if I think of very blunt indicators of patriotism. We might get patriotic when it comes to sports, but also on a rather moderate level. But many young people in my social environment are not patriotic because we don’t see it as an achievement that we were born in Switzerland, we didn’t have to earn it. So, the idea to be proud of all that we have here is a bit strange. I don’t believe patriotism is dead, but I doubt the usefulness of this concept.”

You know those pendulums we find in the boss’s office but have zero clue why they keep it there!? That simple point of mass suspended from a string, coming and going, left to right, slowly creating a ripple effect only to push another small point of mass forward. Right and left, right and left…That’s how I’ve come to view patriotism. Like that small mass, it’s there… no one can deny it, but you need to move that small mass, to exert a ripple effect, then it moves, then it echoes, left, right, left, right…Who would have thought I’d find an answer to patriotism in physics…

What do you think?

Obviously, this is only the tip of the iceberg, but even so, let me know what you think! Do you, too, speculate about patriotism? In what ways do you believe we can re-ignite patriotism in young people? Or do you prefer a world without patriotism? Let me know in the comments below.