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Thursday, October 11, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Where does patriotism stop and xenophobia begin?

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Where does patriotism stop and xenophobia
begin?

It is only natural that we should want to identify with our group and
kin. As mammals our need to be part of a group reflects our very own
nature. And defending our group and our territory where our group
thrives is part of our inbuilt instinct. We can also easily assume that
even nomads and hermits have strong feelings about group and territory
identity.

So why should patriotism and xenophobia be issues in philosophy? I would
argue that both concepts depend on a mind set of individual people. And
by definition both forms of attitudes are physical in nature. There is
nothing spiritual or metaphysical about patriotism, but can we say that
xenophobia is some form of mental or neural imbalance?

The key aspects of patriotism are identification with, and love for,
members of the group we belong to. Thus our group might be identified by
nationality, also speaking the same language, and although language is a
good identifier for members of a group it is certainly not a sufficient
condition since people might speak a language but are not members or
citizens of the group. Some might qualify language by accent; but which
accent should prevail as the patriotic condition given that an accent is
a function of location and group status. Indeed accent relegates
language skills to racial discrimination. Being of the same nationality
might be a better indicator of membership to a group, but today many
people might have dual nationality and are even bi-lingual.

But even political identity is not enough to establish patriotism. As
citizens of a country or nation we might love and protect our fellow
compatriots. But non citizens can defend and love other groups that are
not one's compatriots. For example more than 20 different nationals
fought with the British against Napoleon at Trafalgar. Today alliances
like NATO and European Union diminish the purity meaning of patriotism
for a more racial and political mix. Today, it seems that national
interests have become cooperative interests with neighbours and friends.

Maybe a common cause and a common interest might be the necessary
criteria for patriotism since a common interest is also the best
criteria for cooperation which as we know is the best strategy for
survival. A common interest is also something a cooperating group will
have to lose if they don't protect the group well. Cooperation works if
and only the members of a group cooperating have something to lose and
something to win only if they cooperate.

So, although identification with fellow citizens is the first candidates
for patriotism or shared or common patriotism, patriotism itself is more
complex than just an arbitrary criterion such as geography or accidents
of birth. In effect, I would say that given that patriotism is first and
foremost about people, groups who make good patriots also make good
allies and friends. The down side is that group dynamics can change and
even be hijacked. In other words, patriotism is not a fixed unchanging
political concept and practice; patriotism is first and foremost
political pragmatism: we are better off doing things with other people.

So what is xenophobia?  And how do we get from patriotism to xenophobia?
The consensus seems to be that xenophobia is not a medical condition,
and a working definition of xenophobia oscillates from fear of
foreigners to hatred of foreigners. It is, however, correct to suggest
that hatred of foreigners is also racist, but fear of foreigners is not
necessarily an act of racism or even motivated by racism.

The interment of American Japanese at the start of the second world was,
at face value a legitimate reaction, even though it soon became very
clear that this was an unreasonable reaction and most probably motivated
by racism. This even happened in Britain when fathers of German decent
were threatened with internment, when at the same time their sons were
officers in the British army fighting the Germans and Japanese.

I would argue that it is legitimate to be afraid of foreigners when they
directly threaten the harmony of a country or a nation, but what is not
legitimate is to assume a priori that all foreigners want to threaten
the harmony of one's country irrespective of the historical
circumstances of the time. Racial discrimination is an irrational
reaction whilst real threats are rational perceptions of the intentions
of other people.

The xenophobic narrative is false and dangerous because its sole
criterion is geographical location, thus making people irrelevant for
the doctrine. Xenophobic brexiters today argue that those British people
who exercised their rights given to them by parliament to live in other
EU countries are traitors and should not be afforded the rights of a
British citizen. Not only is xenophobia a confrontation to basic
democratic principles but an affront to most moral systems.
In today's political world, racism has not place partly because, as I
have argued, we have moved on from survival based on location to
survival based on cooperation with other people. In reality, the
political movement is from xenophobia based on location towards
patriotism based on cooperation. But the drawback of this movement is
that rational thinking is much faster to evolve than emotional
management; xenophobia depends on emotional mismanagement.

In effect xenophobia is to the political struggle what trench warfare
was to strategic warfare: inefficient, dangerous and intrinsically
destined to fail. Hence, xenophobia might not necessarily be a medical
condition, after all stupidity is part of nature, but is xenophobia a
political ideology based on stupidity destined to a catastrophic ending?

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Where does
patriotism stop and xenophobia begin?

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