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Tuesday, March 04, 2003
 
Patriotism, part two

Yesterday, I decried any absurd reverence for national flags, finding Americans particularly guilty of this vice. The parallel between flags and security blankets has just occurred to me. Why on earth should individuals from such a powerful nation feel so insecure?

I also remarked that, by contrast, Australians seem to have a very healthy attitude. Not noticeably unpatriotic, they do not display this particular example of national insecurity. In two months' extensive travel, I did not see one "private" Australian flag.

I have also compared my experiences both in the USA and in Australia. Invariably, if I were to get into conversation with Australians, they would ask me from whence I came (non-judgemental). Americans, in contrast, would often pass comments on my accent (very judgemental). See 10 December (Accents) for a full description. I did not analyse it then, preferring a period of reflection (rather non-judgemental) before commenting, but I do so now for good reason: the Seppos as a nation are too much "in your face".

Don't get me wrong - some of my best friends are Americans. The more thoughtful and widely-travelled among them seem to be aware of the problem. Wouldn't it be far better if Americans could learn to be shy and reflective, both as individuals and as a nation? The transatlantic combination of a simplistic reverence for a symbol and the predisposition to be judgemental has very unfortunate results that I shall cover shortly.

It is understandable when people from other nations find arrogance offensive. The English abroad can be pretty disgusting but such behaviour - drunkenness, say - boils down largely to high spirits, however inappropriate. It is seldom of the "we are the greatest and all foreigners are crap" variety that I find so difficult to take. It is certainly not "in your face".

There are some times when an "in your face" attitude is acceptable - at a sports fixture, say. However, particularly when contemplating military action, the conduct of foreign diplomacy is never one of them.

Uncle Sam, it's about time your much vaunted administration showed a little humility.

In a splendid critique of the current situation, Martin Amis says
...the zombie nation of North Korea is, in truth, so mortally ashamed of itself that it can hardly bear to show its face.
You can read the whole article here. Perhaps the North Koreans have something going for them after all. Send the Gog to Pyongyang for lessons in national self-effacement but...

Deja vu, number 79

It has just been reported that an American reconnaissance plane has "been having difficulties" with some North Korean fighter aircraft "in international airspace".

Does Mrs Trellis remember the (manufactured) Gulf of Tonkin incident that started the war against North Vietnam?

Oh, for heaven's sake Dudya (sic), remember Germany's disastrous second front. Finish one job before you start another. Isn't there supposed to be a war against international terrorism going on?


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