Why are people patriotic towards cities

Again and again politicians feel compelled to explain why they are patriots but not nationalists. The latest example: Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nationalism is the belief that you can solve everything by yourself and only have to think of yourself, said Merkel at the general debate in the Bundestag. In contrast to patriotism, "if you include others in the interests of Germany and accept win-win situations."

Shortly before, on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the French President Emmanuel Macron had also defined the terms. For him, nationalism is not only the opposite of patriotism, but a betrayal of it. His explanations were similar to those of Merkel: "Whoever says 'our interests first, no matter what happens to the others', erases the most valuable thing that a nation can have, that makes a nation great and the most important thing is its moral values". In a CNN interview he later made it clear that as a patriot, he himself sees differences between the French and Germans and their identities. However, he believes that there is cooperation between different people that is good for everyone.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is betting on the patriotic card on the occasion of Brexit, is also trying to differentiate: "Natural patriotism" be "the cornerstone of a healthy society", she said recently before the UN General Assembly. You could see what would happen if this"is transformed into an aggressive nationalism that exploits fear and insecurity to promote identity politics at home and military confrontation abroad, while breaking rules and undermining institutions".

Both Merkel and Macron and May focused on the interests of their nations on the international stage. Their demarcation from nationalism was used to criticize governments such as those in Washington, Budapest, Rome and Warsaw, as well as the rights in their own country. It is therefore not entirely clear what the terms actually mean.

A good definition is that given by the then Federal President Johannes Rau (SPD) in 1999: "A patriot is someone who loves his homeland and a nationalist is someone who despises other people's homelands. "On this year's Day of German Unity, Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble also briefly summarized: Patriotism is the goal,"to make the best Germany, in which we are lucky enough to live, even betterNeither Schäuble nor Rau spoke of the interests of their countries in the world. Both implicitly or explicitly were primarily concerned with the interest in the common good, the "bonum commune", of their own people, which Merkel and Macron did not speak of.

In a nutshell, the Duden also tries to separate the two terms: According to him, patriotism is that "[enthusiastic] love for the fatherland; patriotic sentiment", Against nationalism" (mostly pejorative) excessive national awareness". That sounds clear. But the Federal Agency for Civic Education states that nationalism is what they call"misunderstood patriotism"But if patriotism can be misunderstood, there is obviously a fundamental problem.

Origin in the 18th century

The fact that it is so difficult to clearly separate the two attitudes towards the fatherland has to do with their origins and development over the past centuries. Patriotism has its origins mainly in the 18th century. It was then that scholars, clergymen, civil servants, politicians, writers and educated citizens began to campaign to let their fellow citizens participate in the advances in science. In "societies" they pooled their strengths in order to pursue education.

Although there was an exchange between them across all national borders, most of them concentrated their commitment mainly on their respective cities and regions - their beloved homeland - where they published their thoughts and findings in journals, for example.

A Hamburg weekly summarized the goals in its first edition as early as 1724: It was about "that those of my fellow citizens, especially the Germans, and among them of our hamburgers, rooted errors, abuses and bad habits, if not eradicated, may at least be brought before our eyes after their ridiculous or dangerous effects"The publisher was the" Patriotic Society ", its journal, one of the first and most important, was called The Patriot.

Patriotism - the love of the fatherland - was thus seen as a motive for improving the common good, for "citizenship" and "community spirit". At the same time, among the "patriots" there was definitely a claim to openness to the world and love for all people. Barthold Joachim Zinck, for example, editor of a journal, wrote around 1741: "Whoever only worships his fatherland and not strangers / is not worthy of any father's town or life."

The patriots began their work, so to speak, according to the motto: "Everyone should come to his door, he has enough dirt for it." Perhaps her motto could also have been that of the United Nations Agenda 21 on sustainable development: "Think globally - act locally".

The target group of the enlighteners was soon no longer just the educated class, the citizens, but everyone - including workers, craftsmen, farmers - as the "people". That was a new idea compared to the society previously divided into classes. In France, after the revolution in 1789, everyone became "Citoyens", regardless of their origin. And many Europeans, Americans and people in the colonies were enthusiastic about the revolutionary idea of ​​freedom, equality and brotherhood.

With a German-patriotically flowing heart

Initially, the patriotic gaze was actually directed towards one's own homeland - inward, as it were. "So what can German patriotism be otherwise than love of the present constitution of the common being and sincere endeavor to contribute to the preservation and improvement of it everything that everyone, according to his status, ability and relation to the whole, is capable of contributing to it?", in 1780 the poet Christoph Martin Wieland (1733-1813) described the goals with a" German-patriotic "flowing heart. Wieland referred to the"dermal legal constitution " as "the only thing that makes us Germans a nation".

But for people to identify with a people, a fatherland or its constitution, attractive features of commonality are required. People are more willing to take care of their own kind than of strangers. The patriots therefore soon began to emphasize the special features of their respective homeland and their inhabitants. While the philosophers of the Enlightenment still claimed dignity and equal rights for all people, the representatives of the Romantic Counter-Enlightenment emphasized with great success precisely the importance of different origins and languages ​​and belonging to a certain people - a "community of fate".

The idea of ​​equality for all people and a peaceful Enlightenment revolution fell victim to the coalition wars and Napoleonic wars in Europe after the French Revolution. In France, a special national awareness of "grandeur" (in the sense of greatness and magnificence) developed, some scholars such as the French sociologist Emile Durkheim even stated a "secular religion of the nation", and there is also talk of "sacralization".

Abused Patriotism

In the rest of Europe, on the other hand, many idealists viewed themselves as fighters against French rule and for the freedom of the people in their own fatherland. This form of patriotic sentiment was used by the monarchies in Europe to unite the populations against the French, as Heinrich Heine summarized for the German states in 1833:

"... With this intention one sought to awaken the common sense among the Germans, and even the very highest persons now spoke of German nationality, of the common German fatherland, of the unification of the Christian-Germanic tribes, of the unity of Germany. We were commanded to be patriotic and we became patriots; for we do everything our princes tell us to do."

A few years later, in his work "Germany. A Winter's Tale", Heine diagnosed himself as loving his fatherland as a foolish yearning. "I don't like to talk about it; it's just a disease at bottom."

In Great Britain a "sacralization" of the nation had begun even before the French Revolution, as evidenced by the success of an anthem like "Rule, Britannia! Britannia rule the waves". In the United States at the beginning of the 19th century, the naval officer Stephen Decatur coined the motto "right or wrong, our country".

The idea of ​​patriotism remained fuzzy and all over Europe, from the 18th century onwards, the ideas of "national spirit" and "national character" developed, "national pride" and finally "nationalism" spread. The love for the fatherland made soldiers enthusiastic about the First and Second World War, it should be sweet and honorable to die for the fatherland. And many, whom we identify as nationalists in retrospect, saw themselves as patriots - whether it was "With God for King / Emperor / People / Leader and Fatherland" against the rest of the world, or about turning the idea of ​​the peoples into a nation to develop racist ideas.