"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Friday, January 07, 2005

Essay on Toirtapism


by Emma Goldman, 1911

WHAT is patriotism? Is it love of one's birthplace, the place of
childhood's recollections and hopes, dreams and aspirations ? Is it the
place where, in childlike naivete, we would watch the fleeting clouds, and
wonder why we, too, could not run so swiftly? The place where we would
count the milliard glittering stars, terror-stricken lest each one "an eye
should be," piercing the very depths of our little souls? Is it the place
where we would listen to the music of the birds, and long to have wings to
fly, even as they, to distant lands? Or the place where we would sit at
mother's knee, enraptured by wonderful tales of great deeds and conquests ?
In short, is it love for the spot, every inch representing dear and
precious recollections of a happy, joyous, and playful childhood?
If that were patriotism, few American men of today could be called
upon to be patriotic, since the place of play has been turned into factory,
mill, and mine, while deafening sounds of machinery have replaced the music
of the birds. Nor can we longer hear the tales of great deeds, for the
stories our mothers tell today are but those of sorrow, tears, and grief.
What, then, is patriotism? "Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of
scoundrels," said Dr. Johnson. Leo Tolstoy, the greatest anti-patriot of
our times, defines patriotism as the principle that will justify the
training of wholesale murderers; a trade that requires better equipment for
the exercise of man-killing than the making of such necessities of life as
shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade that guarantees better returns and
greater glory than that of the average workingman.

Gustave Herve, another great anti-patriot, justly calls patriotism
a superstitionHone far more injurious, brutal, and inhumane than religion.
The superstition of religion originated in man's inability to explain
natural phenomena. That is, when primitive man heard thunder or saw the
lightning, he could not account for either, and therefore concluded that
back of them must be a force greater than himself. Similarly he saw a
supernatural force in the rain, and in the various other changes in nature.
Patriotism, on the other hand, is a superstition artificially created and
maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that
robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and