Anarchy and Patriotism
By Ben Stone
Most people will tell you that anarchy and patriotism are mutually exclusive. I would go so far as to say that most anarcho-capitalists, well educated in the nuances of anarchy and libertarian theory believe that a consistent anarchist cannot be a patriot.
I would argue otherwise. I would argue that the meaning of the word “patriotism” has been polluted by “nationalism” and as a result the anarcho-capitalist community has unnecessarily rejected patriotism, which I will argue is not only compatible with natural law and the Zero Aggression Principal, but will be a critical tool for liberty if we are ever to succeed building a free world with free markets and free individuals.
To make my point, consider if the word ‘nationalism’ were represented by the phrase ‘team spirit’ and the word ‘patriotism’ by the phrase ‘friends, family, and community’.
Disclaimer: Like most everything else in life, I see nothing wrong with sports or with having a favorite team when done in moderation. I like American football and “my team” is the Miami Dolphins even though I have never visited Florida and have no desire to ever do so.
So back on target, when you’re a sports fan and you have a team that you’re attached to, your loyalty to that team is not based on the team’s performance or behavior. Fans of the Cincinnati Bengals football team buy-out the season tickets every year. Most games are sold-out in advance and the games and team related discussion dominate local radio year around. Yet the team is almost always a dismal failure on the field of play. The owner shows little understanding of the game and even less interest in the team’s performance. The players are a collection of amazing athletes and criminals who only seem to have one thing in common, an over inflated opinion of their own importance. The disconnect between the team’s performance and the fan bases’ loyalty can be entertaining to observe.
Another example of this odd team devotion can be observed by examining the New England Patriots football team and its fans. The team management is consistently some of the best in the NFL, the individual players are consistently top performers, and yet the team was busted red handed systematically and repeatedly cheating. But don’t bring that up to a “Pats” fan unless you’re prepared to defend yourself physically. Even if that fan is an otherwise moral upstanding person, he will find layers of reasons to remain loyal to the cheating team.
So then I say team spirit is like nationalism.
I remember the team spirit that swept America during and after the First Gulf War. It was like being in Cincinnati if the Bengals had just beat the Detroit Lions 56 to 3. Or perhaps like being in Boston if the Patriots had just beat the Bengals 56 to 3. America was in frenzy and frothing nationalism spewed forth like a putrid fountain at a demonic version of Creaser’s Palace. And why such nationalism? Well, the best trained, best equipped, most technologically advanced military the world has ever seen took on a small third world nation’s outdated under supplied poorly lead military that happened to be using 50 year old technology. Iraq had as much chance against the US as a frail meth addict has against her 300-pound pimp once he decides she’s due a good beat down.
At that moment in time, as the American State reveled in its superiority, there was something odd happening deep in the heart of the American patriot. Seeing photos of slaughtered Iraqi troops wiped out before they even knew the battle was on, and miles of highways littered with the burned corpses of Iraqis trying desperately to retreat, didn’t quite settle well with the American public. State driven media broke into a Hallelujah chorus at the slaughter, but American patriots felt joy and relief that the whole mess was over quickly and the troops could be safely coming home, but still there was just something not right.
Lets pause here and examine this key difference. The American State was elated at the defeat and subsequent humiliation of the Iraqi State. Papa Bush looked strangely out of place as he played the role of tough guy, yet you could tell he loved every moment of it and thought for sure it had sown up the next election for him. However the overwhelming slaughter of the Iraq military followed by a sudden pull back right when complete victory was at hand sent a confused wave through the minds of Americans. What happened? Why was victory so easy, unlike what we had been told to expect, and why did we stop before we finished? We were clearly lied to about the strength of the enemy, and then we were given this bizarre explanation for stopping. The oddity of the moment couldn’t be hidden on the faces of prominent warriors such as Norman Schwarzkopf, as he fiddled and mumbled behind microphones and before cameras, trying to make it all sound legitimate.
I propose the contradicting feelings in America at that time were the effect of patriotism and nationalism clashing.
Think of the American State as a giant nationalistic cat teasing a small mouse. The American State thrilled at each claw mark on the mouse’s nose. But the big cat didn’t need to kill Iraq; she just took pleasure in watching it struggle and tasting its blood.
Patriotism has no place for such cruelty. Patriotism is based on the warrior spirit and the appreciation of the warrior spirit both in ourselves and in an honorable opponent. The warrior is proud to defend his family, his friends, his tribe, and his country but the warrior takes no pleasure in the deed when war is the task. The warrior/patriot has pride in his ability and develops honor through his actions. But he takes no pride and builds no honor by dominating the weak and toying with the beaten. Only cowards, bullies, and thugs take pleasure in hurting the weak. The patriot’s natural reaction is to defend the downtrodden.
Read that again; “Only cowards, bullies, and thugs take pleasure in hurting the weak. The patriot’s natural reaction is to defend the downtrodden.” So we see the difference in the State and the patriot and we begin to see the source of confusion. As we have watched the current manifestation of the State developing in Washington DC more of its true nature is exposed. The State is a cowardly thug. The State will never again purposely take on a strong opponent. It seeks small weak States to lord over. It desires constant low-level war because that kind of war feeds the State and allows it to grow. The patriot/warrior, in contrast, takes pride in defending what is good. Standing strong against aggression honors the patriot. And the patriot is ready to stand against any aggression, no matter how daunting. The patriot is instant to defend his friends, family, clan, tribe, or country against aggression and dishonor. And yet, on a personal level, the patriot is the least likely to be aggressive to others.
So the State is the source of nationalism, while the warrior is the source of patriotism. The State has spent 9,000 years attempting to disguise nationalism as patriotism. And at many times good patriots have been confused by the tricks of the State. Considering patriots have only had a few good teachers, a few scattered writings, and a still small voice that urges them to make things right while the State has brass bands and uniforms, clashing cymbals and banners waving to the rhythm of national song.
Some items the State has stolen and perverted:
The National Flag is a perversion of the warrior’s banner, a symbol of the nobility of his heritage and his independence.
The National Song is the socialist version of the many spontaneous songs that would breakout as warriors arose to defend their honor, singing songs of bravery and victory.
The Salute as a military gesture was once a source of common respect and trust among warriors, but twisted by the State it has become a tool for lesser men to show authority over true warriors.
These are only a few examples and I would take great joy in examining each one in a separate article, but for now let it suffice to say that the heart of the patriot is naturally stirred as he sees the National Flag unfurled or as he hears the National Song because these things were once the property of the warrior. However they have been largely usurped by the State with the express intention of confusing the patriot. And we must see this, the State stole these things because nationalism is false and empty and it is only by theft and deception that the State can convince patriots to support its ongoing aggressions. It is only through deception and theft that the State can convince true warriors to fight its wars. Nationalism is void of bravery because nationalism sits behind a desk and sends others to fight. Nationalism is quick to wave a flag and just as quick to drop it on the ground as soon as the parade passes. Nationalism sees to it that the National Anthem is trumpeted at every meaningless sports gathering by dimwitted pop stars who don’t even know the words and couldn’t hit the tune if it were duct-taped to a board and they were given a hammer. Nationalism is the hollow dead emotion the State wants patriotism to become. Nationalism is the false pride in one’s self at the accomplishments of others, while patriotism is pride in individual accomplishment. For example, I have no right to pound my chest in pride because the US was the first nation to reach the moon. However when I see the grainy images of Neil Armstrong stepping out onto the surface of the moon my heart swells with pride in that brave man and the individuals that worked and dedicated themselves to making that moment happen. A different example of the contrast between nationalism and patriotism comes in the way we look at war. If I say something like, “We kicked Japan’s butt back in WWII” I am expressing false pride in something in which I was not involved. But if I say, “Americans are resilient, and even when we get knocked down, we get back up. Remember how brave Americans stood up to and defeated Imperial Japan.” Then I’m expressing patriotism and legitimate pride in the accomplishments of others while saying I too will act this way when the chips are down.
The point I am hammering on and hope I haven’t butchered, is that even though there is no place for nationalism in a free society, patriotism and the warrior spirit are a natural and needed aspect of freedom. The trick is in separating the two, as Paul the apostle once said, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
At some point in time, it will become critical for the anarchists and the libertarians to understand and embrace patriotism and loudly proclaim the falsity of nationalism. I hope the writing of this article will help this along to some extent before necessity demands it.