Sunday Morning Philosophy

Bernard Chazelle:

First, let’s not get hung up about the words progressive, fraternity, citizenship, and patriotism.
I don’t like them much either. They are ambiguous and codewords for things I loathe. But one can interpret them in ways that convey important ideas.

Progressive is condescending (presumably the opposite of a progressive is someone who wants to go back to dentistry without novocaine). Liberal is confusing — in Europe it means the exact opposite.

Fraternity answers the question “Why should I bother?” It has to do with meaning.
Liberty, equality, fraternity might grate on postmodern ears but the mouths connected to those ears have yet to offer 3 words that better describe what political philosophy is all about.

Citizenship is the link between participating and belonging: you’re not on a team if you don’t get to play. How you define community is where you deal with exclusivity. Citizenship, as understood here, is not about drawing boundaries: it’s about empowerment within the community.

Patriotism addresses the issue of collective self-respect. It explains why people will seek a decent society even if they don’t derive any direct benefits from it. You may remember the Greeks in 1999 glowing with pride when they dispatched their rescue units to Turkey (the arch-enemy) after the earthquake there. Flag-waving patriotism is looking out and saying “mine is bigger than yours”; the patriotism I am talking about is the satisfaction of this one fleeting moment when the larger community you identify with aligns with your self-respect. (Sports victories — and I include wars in that category — are hollow simulacrum of self-respect if you will.)

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