Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Patriotic Scoundrels

'Patriotism really is the last refuge of the scoundrel.'

I came across this comment yesterday when I was out accessing the world - via the Internet, of course. I do that daily. Fill myself in on the woes. In times past it's really got to me. All that has happened to Ireland over the course of the past few years. It's also worrying to note that the worst is yet to come. And with 'buffoons' at the helm, it does cast shadows into those that are obsessed with future. I'm more of a day man now.
   Luckily, for reasons of sanity, I've managed not to get to carried away in recent times.  Found a few new ways to get Booker's point across. Little, almost still life-isms, in letter. It's not much of a contribution to things, but apart from my reclusive nature, apathy toward people and the knowledge that schmoozing - even as a way of making money - is never going to be part of my condition.
Ah yes, the comment. It's origins today are not of particular importance and I don't mean that as an offensive remark. The context in which it was made also can take the Kinnegad by-pass. The comment just intrigued me. I failed to see the connection between 'Patriotism' and 'scoundrel' for some unknown reason. So Sherlock Holmes was out - pipe and all. 

The comment is not the actual quote from which it probably was derived from. The actual quote reads - 'Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.' 
The quote is attributed to English author, Samuel Johnson. According to this source  Johnson's biographer, James Boswell, writes that Johnson made the statement in 1775 - but does not provide a context for how the remark arose. 
However, Boswell does make it clear that Johnson was not indicting 'all patriotism, merely false patriotism.' 
The above link also speculates as to whom Johnson might have been referring to - and sure enough, it turned out to be an Irishman. A right-honorable member of the British House of Commons if you don't mind. The Dubliner son of a Cork man, the well-to-do Edmund Burke, was known to argue against the wishes of his own constituents on occasion when it came to Irish matters - such as free-trade and Catholic Emancipation. However, from the time he left Ireland at 20, he would only ever returned four more times. I wonder why?
Burke's views on society formed around the idea that people in themselves wanted to be governed or controlled and that property was the starting point to a human and social development. A revolutionary thought in it's day, but Burke saw it as a foundation upon which to tier his desired society. 
   An undeniable member of the upper-crust within society - Burke's speeches are noted in academia and upon initial reading - worth checking out. 
   However, Karl Marx sounded him out as a sycophant and the original 'flip-flopper.' Burke had supported American revolutionaries - but had denounced French ones, playing, according to Marks, to the 'best market.' Isn't that what most politicians do - so nothing new there. I personally think it might have had something to do with the public head-rolling and the squirt from jugular veins myself - but what would I know?
   If Burke is the subject of Johnson's statement, it's hard to see where the great writer was coming from. For the use of the word refuge suggests something that I just can't associate with Burke and I base that upon a piece from his Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents, in which he wrote - "when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." I see it's relevance in present day Ireland - the slow falling, that is! Not quite one by one - but too close for comfort.
   It doesn't sound particularly like the writings of a scoundrel to me. And if Patriotism doesn't extend to all people living in a nation, state, or country of origin, then it's hardly patriotism for all her worth, is it? Burke was a believer that the poor deserved no-more than what was handed down to them from the rich. It's funny how little has changed. But it doesn't make him a scoundrel.
   Of course, Samuel Johnson may not have been referring to Burke at all and even when I put Holmes away, he too, still had his doubts.

I can see the validity in Johnson's allusion. I can see how they can be combined - those two words for some reason that resonate with me more than others do. Patriotism and scoundrel. Probably down to nationality, environment - and Leon Jackson.
Patriotism is a devotion to ones country. But how far does one have to go to be a patriot? Say here in Ireland - Is shouting and screaming at a summer soccer match dressed from head to toe in green enough? Or does it involve facing a firing squad after the failure of rebellion? I guess it's down to the individual.
We know how Hitler whipped up a fervour on it's back just 80 years ago and the repercussions of that. Bill O'Reilly uses it in the States to foster the mind-sets of those ignorant or unable to think for themselves. Hell, our own Phil Hogan said all those who paid the Household Charge were 'true patriots.' Not that Big Phil would know the meaning of the word.
It probably boils down to that. How people define it for themselves. How people gain access to these differing patriot clubs and schools of thought in their own heads. It's a word that's there to be exploited in us all. Even the most liberal among us.

I can see how a scoundrel might see it's potential - there are plenty of instances of it. They've used Patriotism and will continue to do so.
I see little wrong in having a patriotic viewpoint. To what extent patriotism can sometimes go to however, form into the horror stories we see daily in war-zones around the world. These generations legacies - not that many want to think about that.
   Chants of 'Freedom' and 'Democracy' drowning out the whisper of 'plunder and murder.' It certainly wouldn't be any level of patriotism I'd inspire to.

If I cast my 'No' vote this coming Thursday it will be because I do want Ireland to do well - for herself. On Irish terms. On new principals - the foundation of which was laid out in a constitution that was so bravely fought for down through the centuries at times.
I think most would be hard-pressed to deny their own country the chance to do well for herself. I think we are being sold and at a terrible price. It flies in the face of our history, which if we are to be honest, has had it's fair mix of patriot and scoundrel on all levels along the way.
Who's to say the 'Yes' vote won't be the best thing for Ireland in the long-run. The trouble with long-run is lifetimes - and I'm living mine now. A 'No' forces Ireland to think. For herself. I think there is enough about the Irish people to be given that opportunity - but unfortunately, tying ourselves to this treaty also ties us to a new form of patriotism - a forced one.
   Forced, because European citizens are consistently denied their say as treaty after treaty is forced into laws and constitutions without their say and as is turning out in Greece - and could happen here - that has grave consequences. And for what? For patriots? For scoundrels? It certainly ain't for Joe Soap and Johnny Doe.

For an intelligent species we are irrevocably dumb by times. Much has been made of it - but few listened. Even less have cared. That's how this era may well be recalled off in the wiki's of the future. There's no real 'dumb' vote this Thursday. Not even in abstention.
We appear to have picked our path and they sure as hell don't write speeches like they used to. Did you hear Enda Kenny the other evening on RTé? It just made me shrug my shoulders. It's not apathy anymore either. It's like a satirical circus - except it's real.
I see nothing wrong with bondholders who played the world markets not getting paid. They lost. Tough shit - but there's kids starving out there. If Ireland did that the country would have had a fighting chance. I don't see major social catastrophes happening if the fiscal adjustments are made based on fairness and equality - something distinctly lacking in Irish society. We've took everything thrown at us for eons and we're still here. That doesn't have to change.
We talk about our image in the world? What does it say when we hold absolutely no-one accountable for bankrupting an entire country? Just who are the government inviting and trying to tempt in here on the back of that? Is that the Ireland most Irish people want? I don't believe it is - but when the guns to your head!

Fate decides everything in the long run. It's just too bad nobody's ever found it. Or proved it. Then, when did that ever matter?
Patriot or scoundrel, people have to decide themselves at the end of the day. Find their own justifications and reasons for things. I think it's the same for everyone. On some level.
In ways, a cop-out on this one can be forgiven - given the cheap state of present day democracy. But there's no point stuttering to the grandchildren - not that they'd listen anyway.

Linda posted in that application form earlier. Four pages long. It's a horrid lot of information to be giving out. To waltz a buffer.

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