Patriotism vs. Nationalism: Both Are Fake Tribalism

I was to the local Safeway on the Saturday morning of the Labor Day weekend, and I noticed a number of red, white, and blue "patriotic bouquets" in the floral department.  But what would it mean if instead Safeway had advertised the bouquets as "national holiday bouquets"?

I got to read a couple of articles over the last week that purported to tell me the difference between "patriotism" and "nationalism."  The difference is clear.  Patriotism good; nationalism bad.  But what really is the difference?  Neither Jonah Goldberg nor Ralph Benko was able to tell me, except to note that the late John McCain was a patriot while Donald Trump is a nationalist.

After a couple of days of deep thinking, I think I can say what the difference is.  Patriotism is when the ruling class keeps tribal feeling in reserve, to crank it up only when it is necessary to send a generation of young men onto the killing fields against an enemy.  Nationalism is when the ruling class loses control of the narrative to some yahoo like Trump.

Okay.  Now let's get down to the science.  All humans are tribal; we like our own kind best.  Tribes were invented by the hunter-gatherer band of the kindred to mobilize all the men to defend their "patch of land" alongside their brothers against the enemy.

But ever since the dawn of agriculture, humans have lived in communities that extend beyond the limits of blood relationships.  What to do?  How to motivate young men to defend the homeland against the enemy?  Answer: fake tribalism.  "The priests" advertise the notion that God has selected the pharaoh to rule over us and guide us, or that the Twelve Tribes of Israel are really one tribe, God's Chosen People.  And what are "races" or "ethnicities" but more fake tribes?

Also, "the priests" have been a major part of the movement down the centuries to discourage cousin marriage, and that thins out the blood relationships in real tribes.

All politics, ever since, has needed a cunning way to create a fake – or more politely, abstract – notion of the blood brotherhood of the tribe.  And it has needed an enemy.  Often enough, the fake tribe has been the peasants ruled by a king.  And the king's enemies were our enemies.

Enter the rising bourgeoisie.  We middle-class deplorables decided that the divine right of kings was for the birds; we wanted in on the political action, and that meant revising the fake kingly tribalism in favor of a new fake tribe of middle-class people getting and spending in a sacred homeland and a history to be defended against a world of enemies.

Now you see what Ronald Reagan's last speech to Americans about the city on the hill is all about:

And how stands the city on this winter night?  More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago[.] ... And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the Pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

This sort of thing gives me chills on my spine, as it is supposed to.

Now, our lefty friends also play at this game, only their fake tribe is Anything But Nation.  Look at all the fake tribes they have created over the last 150 years.  First there was the fake tribe of the workers: workers of the world, unite.  Now we have the fake tribe of the feminists: the future is female.  And the tribe of the former African slaves: black is beautiful.  And the LGBT tribe: we're here, we're queer.  And death to the racist, sexist homophobes of the world!

But notice something about lefty tribalism.  It is not about defending the homeland, which is what tribalism was invented to do.  It is about setting people in the homeland against each other, so the lefty ruling class can divide and conquer.  There is an enemy, but the enemy is us.

Our globalist friends are just as tribal as the rest of us.  They have this notion of a fake global tribe, united to defend the planetary homeland against...climate change!

Gosh, what geniuses they are!

I know!  Let's look at Google Ngram for nationalism, patriotism, and populism:

Well, well: Who knew?  But what does it mean?  I'd say it means that after sending a generation of young men to their deaths in World War I, our ruling class kinda soured on high-class patriotism and so left the stage empty for low-class nationalists like Hitler and Mussolini.

But I tell you, if our ruling class should ever decide they need a generation of young men to go out and defend the homeland, all of a sudden, nationalism and patriotism will become the best things since sliced bread.

Christopher Chantrill (@chrischantrill) runs the go-to site on U.S. government finances, usgovernmentspending.com.  Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.

I was to the local Safeway on the Saturday morning of the Labor Day weekend, and I noticed a number of red, white, and blue "patriotic bouquets" in the floral department.  But what would it mean if instead Safeway had advertised the bouquets as "national holiday bouquets"?

I got to read a couple of articles over the last week that purported to tell me the difference between "patriotism" and "nationalism."  The difference is clear.  Patriotism good; nationalism bad.  But what really is the difference?  Neither Jonah Goldberg nor Ralph Benko was able to tell me, except to note that the late John McCain was a patriot while Donald Trump is a nationalist.

After a couple of days of deep thinking, I think I can say what the difference is.  Patriotism is when the ruling class keeps tribal feeling in reserve, to crank it up only when it is necessary to send a generation of young men onto the killing fields against an enemy.  Nationalism is when the ruling class loses control of the narrative to some yahoo like Trump.

Okay.  Now let's get down to the science.  All humans are tribal; we like our own kind best.  Tribes were invented by the hunter-gatherer band of the kindred to mobilize all the men to defend their "patch of land" alongside their brothers against the enemy.

But ever since the dawn of agriculture, humans have lived in communities that extend beyond the limits of blood relationships.  What to do?  How to motivate young men to defend the homeland against the enemy?  Answer: fake tribalism.  "The priests" advertise the notion that God has selected the pharaoh to rule over us and guide us, or that the Twelve Tribes of Israel are really one tribe, God's Chosen People.  And what are "races" or "ethnicities" but more fake tribes?

Also, "the priests" have been a major part of the movement down the centuries to discourage cousin marriage, and that thins out the blood relationships in real tribes.

All politics, ever since, has needed a cunning way to create a fake – or more politely, abstract – notion of the blood brotherhood of the tribe.  And it has needed an enemy.  Often enough, the fake tribe has been the peasants ruled by a king.  And the king's enemies were our enemies.

Enter the rising bourgeoisie.  We middle-class deplorables decided that the divine right of kings was for the birds; we wanted in on the political action, and that meant revising the fake kingly tribalism in favor of a new fake tribe of middle-class people getting and spending in a sacred homeland and a history to be defended against a world of enemies.

Now you see what Ronald Reagan's last speech to Americans about the city on the hill is all about:

And how stands the city on this winter night?  More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago[.] ... And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the Pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

This sort of thing gives me chills on my spine, as it is supposed to.

Now, our lefty friends also play at this game, only their fake tribe is Anything But Nation.  Look at all the fake tribes they have created over the last 150 years.  First there was the fake tribe of the workers: workers of the world, unite.  Now we have the fake tribe of the feminists: the future is female.  And the tribe of the former African slaves: black is beautiful.  And the LGBT tribe: we're here, we're queer.  And death to the racist, sexist homophobes of the world!

But notice something about lefty tribalism.  It is not about defending the homeland, which is what tribalism was invented to do.  It is about setting people in the homeland against each other, so the lefty ruling class can divide and conquer.  There is an enemy, but the enemy is us.

Our globalist friends are just as tribal as the rest of us.  They have this notion of a fake global tribe, united to defend the planetary homeland against...climate change!

Gosh, what geniuses they are!

I know!  Let's look at Google Ngram for nationalism, patriotism, and populism:

Well, well: Who knew?  But what does it mean?  I'd say it means that after sending a generation of young men to their deaths in World War I, our ruling class kinda soured on high-class patriotism and so left the stage empty for low-class nationalists like Hitler and Mussolini.

But I tell you, if our ruling class should ever decide they need a generation of young men to go out and defend the homeland, all of a sudden, nationalism and patriotism will become the best things since sliced bread.

Christopher Chantrill (@chrischantrill) runs the go-to site on U.S. government finances, usgovernmentspending.com.  Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.