On Patriotism

From The Nation, July 15/22, 1991 (special issue)

BORN IN ONE COUNTRY, BROUGHT UP IN ANOTHER, living and working in a third, I am what used to be known as a "rootless and passportless cosmopolitan," except that I have a British passport. Since I am also, unfashionably, a great admirer of Rosa Luxemburg, anything that is nationalist should be alien to me and I should be the last person to preach on the subject.

If I nevertheless had to proclaim a patriotic objective, I would define it as follows: to turn one's country into such a society of freedom, equality and social justice that it would influence others by its example. The inevitable transcending of frontiers would thus not be the result of a "world order" imposed from above and abroad but a gradual construction by the associate producers first on the national and then on the international scale. Two points must be mentioned. The nation-state may be historically doomed, yet it still provides the first stage for the radical transformation of society. Second, the universal, toward which we tend and which corresponds to the economic and ecological needs of our planet, should in no way clash with differences in language, culture and civilization. Instead of suppressing them, it must thrive on differences. But for the time being, as patriotism stands for the negation of the other, for oppression and for military parades, I can only repeat RimbaudŐs words: "Ma patrie se lève, j'aime mieux la voir assise" or, roughly, "My country stands tall, I prefer it seated."