The question of patriotism in a people and a nation arises at times, but so terrible a question it proves to be when we disagree on the meaning.
The economic, social, and political train wreck that is Detroit drags on in full view of the world and refuses to quietly die. The funny part is that Detroit died a very long time ago, but Detroit’s puppet masters continue to tug the strings and make it dance. Detroit is a dead puppet and yet it dances still. There’s still life in the old lady yet! That’s what most news outlets would have you think. The cause of Detroit’s demise is a different conversation, so let’s instead talk about why anyone continues to fuss about “fixing” Detroit.
A lack of patriotism is the perennial excuse for America’s failing cities and generally disgusting state of political affairs.
While patriotism has much to do with these things, a lack of patriotism and political energy is hardly the cause. Americans, it would seem, have an excess of patriotism and political energy, and nobody really appreciates it. It’s not a new phenomenon either.
“A majority of Americans, who are globally famous for candidly saying what they think, now say they believe that their country has become too politically correct,” Andrew Malcolm said writing for the LA Times.
Detroit’s problem, and America’s more broadly, has not to do with an excess of patriotism and political energy, but a misguided sense of purpose and goal. Patriotism is well and good, and so is pessimism. I care not to argue in favor of having “all things in moderation,” because the fact of the matter is that we need both patriotism and pessimism.
Christian writer G.K. Chesterton says that the greatness of a place is because of its people and their sense of patriotism towards it. It is because of a love of the place, and a community’s reverence for it that it becomes great. Chesterton says it most simply, saying, “Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.”
The patriotard response to Detroit’s problem will not fix it, nor will the equally brain bending response from the occutard community. The reason that neither camp will fix the problem which drank Detroit’s health is because the former refuses to own up to the bottomless depth of problems, and the latter does not love the community in the first place.
So, is the glass half full, or half empty?
The patriotard says, “The glass is exactly as full as it’s supposed to be, just look how well it’s doing!”
The occutard says, “The evil corporations drank OUR water!”
Detroit is long since dead, and the substance of its body has been eaten. The glass is not half empty, it is completely empty. Instead of fixing what caused the problem in the first place, the president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., George Jackson, Jr., is trying to find new ways to make that puppet dance. “Gentrification” seems to be the magic word. Just look at that dead puppet dance, there’s still life in the old lady yet!
While the occutard and patriotard were arguing over what happened to the contents of the glass, and others hope that gentrification-hoodoo-magic will re-animate that dusty husk of a city, the Chestertonian patriot decided to do something else.
The Chestertonian Patriot says, “Damn the glass, and forget about the water. We’ll find a better one and re-fill it with out own water.”
The real patriot, as Chesterton describes, is one who is both pessimistic and optimistic.
“For our Titanic purposes of faith and revolution, what we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it,” Chesterton said, “We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent.”
Chestertonian patriotism seems as an odd sort of concept, but it simply means that a person can be, as Chesterton describes, a fanatical pessimist and a fanatical optimist.
Extreme pessimism and fanaticism can produce the most inspiring of creations which most believe are a pipe dream that died even longer ago than Detroit did.
The magic word is, “Orania.”
Founded by Carel Boshoff, the son-in-law of former South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, Orania is an escape from the rampant black violence that is killing the Afrikaners of South Africa. Only the greatest pessimism about the future of South Africa, and the greatest optimism about the potential of starting a new nation could have inspired the founding of Orania.
The citizens and people of Orania have come together out of a love of what Orania can be. The land itself is not particularly noteworthy, and qualitatively appears to be no different than any other plot of land in the region. It is the spirit of reverence and unity which the estimated 10,000 supporters have imbued the land with which has made it great.
The order and wonder that is Orania was developed out of a mutual goal, not a contractual agreement between two parties. The occupants of Orania consecrated the land with the reverence of their identity, heritage, and faith.
“Morality did not begin by one man saying to another, ‘I will not hit you if you do not hit me’; there is no trace of such a transaction. There IS a trace of both men having said, ‘We must not hit each other in the holy place,” Chesterton said, “They gained their morality by guarding their religion. The did not cultivate courage. They fought for the shrine, and found they had become courageous. They did not cultivate cleanliness. They purified themselves for the altar, and found that they were clean.”
Orania is nearly 25 years old, is growing every day, and she has no strings attached. Watch her dance!