Editorial - The problems of patriotism

How a nation or a body of people defines itself has always been a contested issue.

For many people across the world such questions rarely, if ever, arise outside of national holidays or major sporting events.

This could either mean that people are confident in their national identity or they don’t care about it.

It is only when the question of identity is contested that such considerations take on more importance and start to impinge on everyday life.

Even for those who may think they do not concern themselves with such questions, certain events come along which, sometimes unwittingly, push the issue into the spotlight.

Major public events can provoke a frenzy of flag waving and jingoism which is often mistaken for patriotism. At these times people tend to, sometimes literally, wrap the flag (of whatever colour) around them without much thought of what such a gesture means.

In most instances, of course, there is nothing wrong with this as people celebrate whatever victory or national occasion it happens to be. Problems arise, however, when such occasions are exploited to further an agenda. Governments, political parties and various groups then try to use such apparent displays of national pride or patriotism as an indicator of support for whatever cause they espouse when in reality, on most occasions, there is no real connection.

By all means people should be allowed to celebrate their identity as they see fit but they should also be aware of the malicious intent of others who would seek to channel what some regard as positivity into something negative and divisive and use it as a way of justifying their own narrow outlook.