March 22, 2007

Patriotism vs. Bread

Since my posting on jury duty last week, I've been struggling over the nature of patriotic duty. Put simply, does being an American mean that I ought to be willing to selflessly give my time and money for the greater good of Country? And on the other hand, is America going to stop functioning if there aren't people doing just that?

The whole notion smacks of high-minded idealism, and even casual acquaintances of mine should know how I feel about that. But on the other hand, is the government really paying soldiers enough that they would deploy as mercenaries if they didn't have the ideal of God and Country spurring them on?

Coming back around on the point while trying to avoid complicating things: while I certainly believe in supporting my country, I would be very nervous if my country required idealistic altruism to function. Namely, as a cynic, I find it very hard to believe that a country can function in the long-term if it requires the selfless goodwill of its inhabitants to do so.

On the other hand, some could argue that if a citizen is giving to his country out of a realization that his country cannot survive without it, he is pandering to his own self-interest rather than giving selflessly. Put differently, he is serving out of englightened self-interest, which is something that my cynicism can encapsulate, as can the patriotism of all but the most rabid individuals. Unfortunately, this is typically met with the problem that people are stupid. Enlightened self-interest necessitates enlightenment... and we know how people are about that.

Even moreso than a simple appeal to the ignorance of the masses, enlightened self-interest points to larger problems at work within the unwashed citizenship. As I alluded to in my first post on jury duty, there is a simple problem of finances for many of those who would be among the best jurors in terms of diversity. I think the problem can be expanded with a nod to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs... put simply, while the General Prosperity of one's nation is all well and good, the more immediate needs of food, water, shelter, etc. tend to come first. Thus, if an individual's needs aren't being met, he has no need to begin worrying about the welfare of his country. All of this to say is that an empty stomach tends to stand in the way of a more enlightened self interest... but then again, I would argue that there is little that is more enlightened than acquiring food when one is starving to death. This is, of course, less a conclusion to the matter and more an interesting impasse. Solutions and responses are encouraged, and perhaps those will bring a conclusion to the matter.

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at March 22, 2007 09:15 PM | TrackBack