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alien, upon the attitude of ownership or part ownership, upon the presence of the possessive pronoun. That attitude is one of those most constant in all human affairs, so constant that we are apt to overlook it, as we overlook our own respiration or our balancing over a centre of gravity. And the possessive ronoun or possessive flexion, that humble part of speech which litera experts find so much less interesting than nouns, verbs and adjectives, is perhaps the most important, if not of grammatical, at least of affective, of human, categories. Its classifications into mine and thine represents the vastest of all emotional and active, hence of ethical, distinctions. Its presence, the bare fact of our thinking, at any moment, in terms of possession, possession positively by self, negativel by others, instead of thinking in terms of existence (of things eing so and so), means that we are no longer or not yet in the realm of contemplation and appreciation, of reason, analysis and causality; but in that of passion and action, desire and effort: not of seeing but of taking, grabbing, clinging to, keeping, defending; and, in the course of such taking or keeping, frequently destroying.
“ A country right or wrong.’ Whoever said such an absurdity? But substitute the one word my and the saying becomes not only legitimate but meritorious and beyond the reach of criticism. Neither, of course, must anyone dare to criticize my country: for right or wrong, reasonably or unreasonably criticized it is mine; and when I say mine I say hands off! For round that little word mine there watch the most valiant guards, the most vigilant sentinels of the most wretched but most august of Entities : the Human Self.
Our conscious life is such that we require not merely a modicum of food, warmth, breathable air and standing-room, but a modicum of self-importance, without which we are trampled, starved, asphyxiated. That is part of our innermost inviolable life. And everything gathered around that sacred core grows to be part of it : a knock upon the thing we are grasping shakes the grasping hand : the sun’s heat passes from our garments to our skin : the praise of our belongings is felt as praise of ourself. And every criticism of whatever I call mine is a diminution of my sacred self. Do we willingly
tell a man that his horse is broken-winded, his house damp, his coat greasy, his hair unbrushed, his hearing defective, his child deficient or his wife unfaithful or undesirable? Such statements of facts are always a liberty taken, often an inexpiable offence, sometimes an insult calling for blows or a duel: And when the criticized belongings are what is called my countr . . . well then, if we are patriots, we answer “ my country rig t or wrong.” And “national honour”‘ is expressly excluded from the subjects of international arbitration.
Conversely, achild is taught that Elisha sent bears to devour the little boys who called attention to his baldness ; he learns from experience that it is good policy to remark upon the beauty and value of his elders’ possessions or supposed possessions. What is odder still is that it is not yet deemed impolite to suggest, even in the naif manner of one’s French friends, that though a poor alien was not born of one’s own nation, he really deserved that honour and might almost claim it. All this 18 absolutely natural and on the whole doubtless for the best. I mean it is natural that people should feel a certain special interest, warmth, familiarity, a quite supreme intimac and importance in and with whatever had become identifie with themselves by possession ; and all for the best that they should prefer what is theirs to what is not. It would be intolerable if all parents wanted to rear other children than their own; frightful if all husbands preferred other men’s wives; most disturbing even if whole populations, as occurred in barbaric times and still occurs at the expense of what colonials call “ natives ” or “ savages,” took it into their heads to prefer other folk’s countries to the one they were born in. Egoism, whatever we may say to the contrary, is the first rule in life; and altruism, collective or otherwise, is its corrective, its purifying, ennobling, transforming agency, but cannot do with~ out it. Neither do I suggest that life could be carried on one fraction of a second by mere contemplation, reason, etc., or by anything save an irresistible, unfailing, unceasing push and pull of passion, habit, and what peo is call (rather mistakenly) instinct. Indeed the truth of t 's is demonstrated by their always having the upper hand ; and contemplation, reason, etc., rarely having a chance against them. Just ' therefore, natural selection or providence has usually provided
rather too much of the unreasonable faculties and too little of the reasoning ones. And it so happens that there is an objection to the unchecked dominion of the sacred sense of self and of the venerable and comfortable feeling of possession: and that is that there are other selfs and other selfs’ belongings. The other fellow, man or thing happens to be there, hence requires to be taken into account. The rest of the universe also happens to be there and moreover quite colossally more there and everywhere than just you or I or we. And we can settle the quite exorbitant claims of this inexorable Rest of the Universe, this Otherness, only by occasionally slackening down our necessary natural self-preference, by interrupting awhile the inter-play of our various passions and instincts, and taking an interest in otherness for its own sake; contemplating it, appreciating it, and even, as we love countries which are not ours because we recognize their lovable qualities, taking to love where there can be no uestion of mine or thine, but merely of the suitability of its lova leness to our capacity for love.
But that, as I have tried to show by the example of Themistocles, is not patriotic lovet Patriotic love is love for one’s country because it is one’s own ; and so far it is of the same sort as the feeling which impels all of us to linger over the good points of our own children, horses, house, garden, library, greenhouse and garage (if we have one), and naively take for granted (that their complete and detailed appreciation must be a source of equal spiritual bien titre to our visitors.
Such love due to possession does justice neither to the real
ualities of its object (since it fills up their gaps and makes t em almost unnecessary), nor to the qualities of all the other things in creation. Hence although undoubtedly the most prevailing, therefore, perha s, the most needful, kind of love, it is not the highest. An if you ask me what I mean by highest in such a reference, I mean the kind which is required to correct, to check, to transform, in short to see to its not becoming a mere pest, such being, it seems to me, the only reasonable meaning in any kind of hierarchy, and es ecially the only one in the hierarchic order of any ethical va uation. It is for lack of a higher (in this sense) regulator that the
Orchestra of Patriotism (or of any collective self-preference which has preceded or may succeed it) has come to admit such very disreputable members, to show such unexpected cheekby-'owlness; and finally, to be, as I have shown, the property of Satan and occasionally under the conductorship of Ballet Master Death.
“The gist of all your remarks about patriotism,” I can hear my Reader answering, “ is that you have none.”
Exactly so. Indeed my not having any myself is, very likely, what allows my seeing what Patriotism really is. For it is with Patriotism as with all other things which we possess, and possessing, enjoy, as we are apt to enjoy even our own defects and maladies when they lead to talking of ourselves and feeling for ourselves; as we tend to prefer our family, our horse, dog, or the view from our backyard, regarding them with an especial complacency, as objects of possible pride, often with the acquiescent familiarity of habit, always with the warm intensity of all pertaining to self. I know that friendly feeling towards one’s belongings, bodily or spiritual, for I notice it in myself about so many things of which, as you remark, Patriotism happens not to be one. I accept, I proclaim from the housetops this providential arrangement which makes us kind to everything constituting our thought of self. All I contend is that this attitude is not always favourable to knowledge of, or correct estimation, of realities.
No, I have no Patriotism; since it is not Patriotism to feel love and admiration (and also occasional shame) for several countries besides the one which taxes one’s income or gives (or at present usually refuses) one’s passport. I have no Patriotism, and might have added, am just as ha p without it; but even as the In uisition or the Church El ers used certain arguments for emonstrating that one cannot be happy outside the True Belief, so also the war has shown me that there are moments in the World’s history when one is really not altogether comfortable without some little Patriotism.
But though I have no Patriotism, I have sundry feelings or preferences which are often confused with it ; which occasion
ally grow up in its shelter and are also occasionally starved and stunted by its shade. For instance, public-spiritedness ,by which I mean a wish to make things better for the unknown majority of people, and a repugnance to gaining or keeping advantages at their expense ; not perha s love of one’s neighbour, since one loves only the neigh our one feels to be lovable, but respect for one’s neighbour’s welfare, one’s neighbour’s chance of happiness, which is quite different from wishing to marry, live with, converse with, or even see that neighbour in his or her individual embodiment. And as a consequence, a preference for certain things, liberty of the subject, e uality o opportunities, free s eech, free trade, free thought, a ministrative robity, political)internationalism, which seem to increase sucfi chances of happiness for mankind at large. I call this public-spiritedness ; and have, or wish I had it. It is what Patriotism transforms itself into more and more in times of peace, losing its teeth, claws and bark; it is what Patriotism may eventually evolve into for good and all, leaving those animal weapons behind, as mankind discarded the clutching jaws and grasping feet and balancing tail of apes, and acquired a human thumb and a human brain. Publicspiritedness implies a willingness to forgo certain advantages for the sake, for the bare thought, of certain other ones, the fruitful barter of one’s wish for gain or ease or eminence against one’s wish that the world at large, or the mews to the back, should be a less 'depressing object of contemplation. Such public-spiritedness unites the individualin effort and in thought with the multitude. And, since it is easier to feel for what we see, and to see what lies closest at hand, such public-spiritedness naturally begins at home. And since our home is often set against another home; one town, country, class against another, even public-spiritedness is apt to lose its temper, to be blinded by prejudice, seek advantages at others’ expense; suspect others of like seekings; roll itself up like hedgehogs into a mass of bristles or squirt out inky poison'like the cuttlefish of 'ournalism; in fact public-spiritedness tends to be ousted y Patriotism. Indeed, long before this war, I was impressed by the fact that in countries where, as in France and Italy, the patriotic habit, the bristling and spouting against