I am a proud South African. Unfortunately, this statement is selective. I am proud to be South African when my country shines on the sports field, and I am not proud when my country stands idly by as politicians mock an entire country, rape it’s economy and destroy it’s foreign relations. I am proudly South African when my country stands up out of the ashes of apartheid to show the world what peace and love really means, and I am ashamed when those who have stood now start fires of corruption, setting South Africa on a similar path to that of its Zimbabwean neighbour.
Some might argue that this is the epitome of a patriot. Someone who wants nothing but the best for and from their country. And if this were the true definition of patriotism, then I would gladly call myself a patriot. But it is not. In these modern times, patriotism has become a system of division. We drew lines on maps, copied them into the real world where we could now patrol these borders to protect the people on this side of the line from everyone on the other side of the line.
Picture a fenced yard, filled with children. We draw lines on the ground, an then tell some of the children that they can cross their lines and go anywhere they want, but other children must be stuck where they are. Each area is special in its own way. Has it’s own creatures, it’s own toys and it’s own rules. Some children want the toys in someone else’s area, and will cross the line to get it. If the other child protests, there will be a fight, a fight that the other children stand around watching because they are not allowed to leave their area. Eventually some person in charge will show up and ask what’s going on. The child who crossed the line might own up to what they did, but he probably likes the toy he came for, so he claims that it was his and he just came over to fetch it. The rest of the children know that the Authority figure will not be around forever, and so are reluctant to accuse the bully, fearing later reprisals. Having no-one willing to gainsay him, the bully now begins his slow domination of the entire yard. Another child decides that he doesn’t like the rules in his neighbour’s area, so he decides to go over there and to take his rules, and everyone else who follows the same rules, with him. Power struggles will eventually break out, with some of the children forming alliances and eventually, with safety existing in numbers, several factions form throughout the yard. Some of the children build walls on their lines, to keep their neighbours out. Others form powerful groups, who move freely within the group area, but protect their outer lines. Raids begin, lies are told, individuals are hurt, spying, mudslinging, tyranny, genocide, untill there are only a few children left, and the yard is unrecognizable. The rules have all been twisted and warped along with the children. All the fascinating creatures are gone. All the toys are broken. The remaining children have grown bitter, distrusting, vengeful and desperate. What could have been a wonderful yard, has become a living hell. All because of a few lines. Funny that.
I approve of cultural awareness. Knowing your roots can be vital to many people. And the rich cultural heritage that is the quilt of humanity is a wonder to behold. But nationalism has crossed the line between cultural conservation and cultural erosion.
Religious beliefs have supported entire millions of needful people for thousands of years, given aid to their own wherever they were needed. But the promised land-syndrome has now cost enough lives to populate another planet, and I cannot believe that that is what the religious system’s purpose is.
Competitive spirit is healthy, it encourages growth. But growth, when it is not spread and shared, creates divides even greater than the lines we have already drawn.
I do not mind the labeling of an area on a map. It is both useful, practical. But they should stay on paper, before we’re left with nothing but a broken down yard filled with desperate children. We need a world where borders are used only to streamline the tracking of our very precious natural resources. Immigration laws, empowering the few while the many remain caged in lands that will mean their death, serve no purpose other than the economic manipulation of labour prices. Governments and nations are, in the end, just people, and we need to remember that as people we have a responsibility to everything and everyone we need for the world to function properly.
- Written by Pieter De Beer