Re: Is rational patriotism anti-extropian? I don't think so...

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Mon Apr 17 2000 - 04:45:20 MDT

On Fri, Apr 14, 2000 at 01:59:44PM -0700, john grigg wrote:
> I admit that nations sometimes with bad/greedy/mistrustful leadership do
> exploit their own people and the other nations around them. But this shows
> the truth of the old saying "a nation gets the government it deserves." And
> this applies whether you are talking about the people of the U.S., Iraq or
> England.
> I am proud to be a citizen of the United States of America. I realize my
> nation has many blemishes on its record and many things still need to be
> corrected.
Maybe my perceptions are coloured by just having finished reading a
history of the first world war; but patriotism is a particularly dangerous
emotion -- especially when it's directed outward and expressed as contempt
for those who _don't_ do everything the way we do it over here.

> Still, I am proud of what the founding fathers did in giving us such a
> brilliant foundation to build on. And I am proud of the great progress
> which has been made in terms of civil rights, technological development,
> military power (sometimes very rightly used such as in WWII) and the way we
> have built a strong and relatively efficient commercial sector.
I'm not going to try and kick holes in your parade; as a foreigner,
any such act would tend to be misinterpreted. However, I'd like to note
in passing that _no_ country today is a utopia, or has abolished poverty,
or has abolished civil rights abuses. Some are better than others, but
that's as far as it goes -- and even then, the relative position varies
depending on your status within your own culture.

I'd also like to note that from a non-American perspective making children
swear an oath of alliegence in school each day looks positively Orwellian,
and I don't see massive military power as being admirable, either.

> I think a rational patriotism is not anti-extropian. Any thoughts on this,
> gentleman and ladies? Nations, at least at the present time, are an
> overarching organizational structure for humanity. It is what we have to
> work with, and so we should each do our best to work within it, to make
> positive changes.
For starters, nationalism -- which is inextricably linked with patriotism --
is deeply anti-libertarian. _Any_ ideology that tries to fit people into
pigeon-holes is to some extent anti-extropian, and nationalism, which in
extreme cases subordinates the individual to the state, is exactly that.
For seconds, it amounts to an unpleasant delegation of the divine right
of kings to the national government. Back before the age of enlightenment,
kings ruled by divine fiat. Now we don't have kings, so we have nations to
which we're supposed to be loyal. Why? What do they do to deserve such
loyalty? A social contract is all very well, but when it pulls on jack-
boots and starts marching over the border it's time to ask some searching

The national system we've been bequeathed is just a degenerate form of the
monarchical system, with the powers devolved to a national level which is
just a replacement for the Crown. And I don't hear any extropian monarchists
out there ...

> Perhaps in time, technological advances in such areas as nanotech, AI and
> longevity will produce a population that will want and get a much more
> 'libertarian' approach to governments and nations.

Attention: fundamental-change-in-human-nature alert!

(Yeah, maybe. I'd like to see it happen. But colour me skeptical in the
short term.)
> Charlie, you spoke of war. WWI might be looked at as a 'civil war' within
> the European world. As some citizens (especially in third world nations)
> begin to gain power through the coming technologies, they may have a fervent
> desire to break away from corrupt, murderous and power-hungry governments.
> We may see some very vicious civil wars and insurgencies as people rise up
> to get away from or overthrow oppressive governments, in the desire to
> replace them with something very different.
> I fervently hope that in the first world and especially in the United
> States, that dialogue and change can be done in productive and peaceful
> ways. Rather then an elimination of the U.S. government, I see changes that
> would simply reduce its size and influence, while handing over much more
> power to the people.
I agree with you about the hope -- but I'm not optimistic. People with
vested interests in the existing system don't welcome change unless it is
clearly going to benefit them. We also see signs of really irrational
behaviour in existing fields; see, for example, the conduct of the war
on drugs. (It doesn't make sense, but it's _still_ going on.)

> Of course, for those who feel this is far too compromising, there will in
> the future the option to go to the oceans or also outer space to found the
> type of communities that radical libertarians and extropians dream of. I
> wish you all luck and in time may join you, but for now please understand if
> I feel pride and a touch of emotion when I see the American flag waving in
> the wind.

I suppose for me the acid test is, do you feel pride and a touch of
emotion when US Navy ships fire cruise missiles at factories in some
other country because of a rumour (no more!) that they're supplying
nasty raw materials to a third party?

Being proud of having built something good is one thing. Being proud
of having the ability to kick someone else's work over is something
else ...

-- Charlie

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