There’s an old saying. “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”. Many people, especially in this day and age, with the popularity of geographic mobility – a euphemism for no borders, incorrectly assign this saying as being about patriotism, as though such a thing is inherently immoral, indeed even racist, because people from other places are often representative of different races.
However, a cursory glance at history shows that such behaviour is common across time, while patriotism is a somewhat recent phenomenon – tribalism writ large. Much has been said about corruption in medieval churches, the Spanish inquisition, its abuse of power by individuals to punish rivals, and so on. Indeed today’s pope commands much influence over the world’s 1 billion Catholics, whose utterances make headlines around the world. However, such influence was immeasurably greater when the church was not merely the common religion, but the centre of life and politics itself. Even in today’s shadow of the church’s former glory, the Catholic church (and others) were able to get away with widespread child molestation for decades. Just imagine what the church could do, and did, at the height of its power, or at least by those in positions of immense power.
Today, few people question the self-serving nature of politicians, but if you were to judge politicians only on what they say, you would judge them to be grand, virtuous people of unnatural wisdom and insight. Clearly, the rhetoric does not match the results. Interestingly, when kings held the real power and even nobles only held advisory positions with no actual decision making, virtue was not typically stated, but needs pleaded to the ultimate arbiter. Actual claims of virtue were stated mostly only by royalty, who coincidentally held “divine right”, asserted by none other than themselves, with perhaps the begrudging consent of the church.
In 2017, CEOs with exorbitant salaries extol their virtue through progressive values enacted by underlings. Politicians have long been accused of uttering empty platitudes, however this appears to have spread to the general populace, in the form of virtue signalling. It could be argued that virtue signalling is highlighted by genuine belief, but this is noticeably distinguished from politicians who are seen as perpetuators of fraud in terms of lack of genuine sincerity.
Even NGOs are now accused of being fronts for political activism, despite their long record of charity and altruism. There are even claims of NGOs being set up for the express purpose of activism, for reasons known only to their creators. The recent proliferation of NGOs adds weight to this assertion. Billionaires routinely give vast fortunes to charities, while conspicuously retaining control. Of course, this is perfectly understandable, given the money involved, however, it enables benefactors to direct money into whatever cause or purpose they choose. Virtue is assumed, but not guaranteed.
What we see across time is a common thread, of which patriotism occurs but once, while those who benefit from claiming virtue in power appear repeatedly across all instances.
As demonstrated, the common denominator is not patriotism, but virtue.
And that virtue is false.
It is often said that to determine intent, simply determine who benefits. Let us, for the sake of argument, ignore the classic go-to bad guy, but choose someone less generic, yet more representative of the false virtue narrative.
Maximilien Robespierre was a french lawyer and politician who was a key figure of the French Revolution. He was characterised by eloquent speeches in the French Constituent Assembly while overseeing the Reign of Terror. While he did not publicly endorse it overtly, he happened to benefit from it, as it strengthened his power. Enemies could certainly be cowed by angry mobs that could act with impunity. Furthermore, he asserted that, perhaps conveniently, court decisions must be determined within 24 hours, with no third way beyond guilty, punishable by death, and assertion of innocence, which was to apply to all of the accused, time allowing or not, and justice be damned. While it was possibly an aberration of virtue with unintended consequences, any principle of human rights precludes such indifference, lest it encourage such barbarity, yet there was no apparent attempt to address it. Indeed, Robespierre lamented the barbarity as a mere unfortunate outcome of the glorious revolution. Sound familiar?
Hitler was obviously more confronting to western sensibilities, however in the context of German culture and recent historical empirical German expansion, portrayed as the alien virtue of racial purity, it is not the outlier one supposes. Furthermore, racial purity was an extremist extrapolation of Darwinian theory, inadvertently extending a mere observation into a radical extremist movement resulting in the death of almost untold millions of people. In that context, Hitler was portraying a virtue apparent to Germans of only a particular time, wholly alien to modern day Germans and everyone else.
Vladmir Lenin espoused the glorious workers republic of the Soviet Union before having his associates shot dead as enemies of the revolution, despite strengthening his position in the process. Stalin upped the ante by sacrificing vastly more people than Hitler ever did, and his perceived virtue lasted long after his death despite vast evidence to the contrary, ably assisted by the same state apparatus he conveniently set up. Don’t you just hate it when misery benefits you personally?
Despite obvious differences, there is a clear progression from the nationalist domination of Robespierre to the internationalist domination of Hitler to the globalist domination attempted by the Soviet Union following the totalitarian inroads of Lenin and Stalin. From that point, the cold war existed as characterised by a series of skirmishes that involved the fate of mere nations. And from left field appears the medieval scourge of islamic fundamentalist militarism, which was arguably the original globalist ideology.
And yet none of these represent a racial or religious commonality. The only commonality is the claimed virtue of the oppressors. Why is it that old men aren’t suicide bombers? Just young people. Coincidence? Hardly. The Imam gets impressionable youngsters to make the ultimate sacrifice for nothing more than the promise of eternity, with zero guarantees beyond their own mortality. The priest gets to espouse the virtue of faith, without committing his own. The politician gets to espouse the virtue of nationalism, without the bothersome effort of leading one’s countrymen into battle. The actor gets to espouse the virtue of environmental sacrifice of others, while travelling across the globe in pursuit of environmental accolades in his private jet, or espouse disarmament while having his luxury estates surrounded by guards with semi-automatic weapons 24/7. The list goes on. And on.
The history of mankind is littered with the claims of the virtuous, and the sacrifice of the believers. Because it’s not about actual virtue, but the mere claim of it, with the influence over the masses that your sacrifice is supposedly theirs.
But it is not.
It is nothing more than false virtue, such that you sacrifice all you have for nothing more than the enrichment of those that would exploit you. The exploiters are few. But the exploitees are many. Which one are you?