Tag Archives: jingoism

No Religion: What’s to Believe In?

As we continue to progress as a species, more of us human beings are stepping from the dark archaic belief systems of religion to the bright confidence of knowledge afforded us by science.   But the shift from religion to non begs some questions:  What do we do with ourselves?  Where do we put our energy?  What’s to believe in? What becomes our focus?

From my humble perspective, it kind of seems that a default focus would be nationalism; belief in one’s nation and attention to its politics and social/economic issues.  From my humble perspective, we could use a boost in national attention to politics and social/economic issues.   But there lies a danger of jingoism, unabashed love for one’s country without regard for other nations, fervent almost blind belief that ‘my country is the best’.  In a time when we face global challenges such as health epidemics and climate change, we can’t really allow ourselves the pleasure of arrogance.  We must be able to cooperate, to admit that maybe another nation is doing something right and we might consider adjusting our own perceptions.  We are bound together by this planet and its natural laws, we have to work with one another in order to keep our species viable.  While some of our new found energy can and should be focused on national issues, it is necessary to strike a balance with how much energy we invest in our country – there are bigger ideas to focus on as well.

I heartily contend that the biggest idea should be humanism – a focus on mankind and our path of past, present, and future, our connection with one another as dictated by nature’s laws.  If we think about it, we only, always, have each other; and though cultures vary we cannot deny our bloodline and the truth that we are all brothers and sisters.  I believe we owe a certain amount of attention to our race based on this sole premise, with the spirit that we are inherently obligated as human beings to look out for our siblings. As mentioned above, our modern age forces us to examine physical global issues and international cooperation is paramount to finding solutions to these issues.   A humanist focus allows us to set aside cultural prejudices and adopt cooperative attitudes based upon the assumption that we’re all in this together.

Science appears to be the common ground for us all and I’ll assert that the growth of humanism will include many elements of the discipline.   Two plus two will always equal four and no matter where we go in the world we can speak that language to anyone. I am not claiming that science has all the answers although I’m close to agreeing with many modern thinkers who believe it does.  It certainly answers our questions best and provides a universal language with which we can speak to one another, culture set aside.   Besides providing a common language science provides a foundation for finding common solutions to the challenges we face together.  The discipline is a perfect fit with the tenants of humanism.

I’ll even go out on a limb and demonstrate that we already have a vision for the melding of science and humanism and how they work together by invoking the genre of science fiction film and writings.  There are several examples where science fiction has remarkably portended the future as far as gadgets and inventions are concerned.   Even George Orwell was prescient enough to understand that an entirely new language would evolve under political pressures.   Using science fiction as a barometer for the way humanistic tendencies might emerge, one finds an astonishing body of work that illustrates how political and even personal decisions are made based upon available evidence and facts instead of mystical, archaic texts. Pay attention next time you tune into Star Trek, or Dr. Who, or The Fifth Element.

We’ve come a long ways since the days when science and religion walked the same path of curiosity together, searching for answers to the same questions.   At some point their paths split and one has gone on to answer those questions with solid evidence.   As we continue to progress as a species and more of us also leave the anachronistic beliefs behind, we are faced with the necessity of filling the void.   Humanism does so with a neat and comfortable fit.  Here’s to our future and the place that Humanism has within it.



American Sniper and National Sentiment: Or “It’s okay it didn’t win an Oscar.”

I waited for Oscar’s night this year with a peculiar interest. As a historian, I was curious to see how the movie ‘American Sniper’ would fare in the “Best Movie” category.  I have read and watched quietly these past few weeks with sometimes amused and sometimes concerned observations to the remarks and news articles surrounding the hullabulloo of the movie: ”  It was a great movie.  Kyle is a hero.  Kyle is a psycho. it was a terrible movie. ”  Since its not exactly historically accurate, I was fine with it’s loss.   There were, however, many who saw it as an affront to patriotism somehow – as if the Oscar loss was a personal assault on the entire armed forces.  The discussions leading up to the Oscar’s and the aftermath are missing a couple of points in this thinker’s opinion.


A couple of observations about Kyle himself:  Number one, our armed forces are well versed in brainwashing our soldiers, sailors, and pilots in order for them to perform the acts of war they are asked to perform. Author and psychologist David Grossman in his compelling book ‘On Killing’ delves into the process our military instituted after it was noticed that men were naturally psychologically averted to looking a fellow human being in the eye and killing him (there were some exceptions, but that is point number two).  In other words, we found out during earlier world wars that homo sapiens avoided intentional harming of one another and began an all out program of rewiring the brains of our young men and women in order to overcome this instinct. For example, during shooting practice, they were no longer shooting at other men, or even the enemy, instead they were coolly and objectionably shooting at ‘targets’.  As a sailor, especially as a  sniper, Kyle would have undergone this brainwashing.  My guess however, is that Kyle didn’t need much help to overcome any reserves he had about looking at a human through a scope and ending it’s life which brings me to point number two as promised.  In the same book, Grossman mentions an important detail that is possibly applicable to Kyle: there are exceptions to rule. Approximately two percent of us humans are naturally psychotic – that is, to take someone’s life has no impact on the conscious of a psychotic.  For these few outliers, sniping is a perfect career.

So while I witnessed that Kyle was being glorified by the movie as a war hero, I was absolutely in agreement with those who spoke out against the idea that this is a normal human and should be placed on a pedestal.  The reality is much more grim, in fact it is positively mournful that some of us have the ability to harm others of us without remorse. Chris Kyle is not the same person when seen from this perspective.


On an entirely different level, I noticed that underpinning the positive comments is a roiling, boiling mass of misplaced patriotism that is quite frankly scary and something worth our time to consider. What I really mean by the diplomatic term ‘misplaced patriotism’ is jingoism.  See, I’m not so sure we understand that there’s a fine line between loving one’s nation (patriotism) and possessing a self-righteous superiority in one’s nation to the point that it is infallible (jingoism).  It’s really okay to love my country and the values it presumably exemplifies, it’s also really okay not to love the things my country has sometimes done in the name of those values.  And it’s really okay to speak out against our perceived pristine image, we should be grown up enough to recognize our shortcomings – how else can we address them to become a better nation?  On the other hand, embracing a jingoistic, ‘our way is the only way’ atmosphere allows us to become the very monster we purport to defeat.  I mean, is there really much difference from a “Bomb ’em all and let god sort ’em out” mentality and a “Bomb ’em all because they’re not muslim” mentality?

Is there?

So it was with relief that I woke up this morning to find that something called ‘Birdman’ won the award and not ‘American Sniper’.  I was concerned that a win might endorse this skewed presentation because it sorely misses a couple of disconcerting details which would behoove us to consider a bit more as a nation.

And here’s to Grand Budapest Hotel….because that flick was fecking hilarious!


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