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Proud to be a patriot?

By Anna Campbell

I took the TVNZ ‘Kiwimeter test’ some months ago while a colleague and I were trapped in an airport enduring the long wait for an international flight.

My colleague was described as a “patriot”. He was horrified when he read the description of what that meant, I roared with laughter and took great glee in calling him a red-neck.

I was okay with my description; I was described as an “egalitarian”, sounded pretty flaky though and when I read the description of my second most likely grouping, a “globalist”, that’s what I felt I wanted to be.

The difference in whether I was an egalitarian or a globalist, came down to my thinking that New Zealand was the best place to live in the world.

If I was a true globalist, such one-eyed patriotism wouldn’t exist. Let’s be honest, there are plenty of great places in the world to live: southern France, parts of Asia, and hey, as we embrace winter, even Australia is looking good!

It got me thinking about patriotism and when it is a good thing versus when it leads to narrow-mindedness and blindly thinking your club, your region, or your country is the be-all and end-all and doesn’t need to strive for greatness.

In this vein, I remember reading an Otago Daily Times article about All Black, Ben Smith. He was revered for having played for one club, Green Island, one province, Otago, and one franchise, the Highlanders.

Lovely story and great loyalty, but many professionals, whether they be sporting or otherwise, are forced to move for family reasons or they choose to move to other areas to increase their chance of success.

Does that mean they are not loyal and somehow a lesser person?

In the Otago sense, patriotism is now connected with regionalism and I think the concept of regionalism in New Zealand has become a bit ridiculous.

Politicians like to “visit the regions”, - as if we are some backwater - to set up “regional projects”. This way, they can’t be accused of being totally Auckland-centric.

When the regions are turned into political pawns, it aggravates this feeling that we are missing out rather than inspiring us to make where we live the best place it can be.

If we in the regions, were to become true globalists, we would welcome “outsiders”, even if they came from the United Kingdom to offer us specialist advice!

We would be more concerned about whether that advice made a real difference, than where the advice came from. We would create our own international pathways, investments, and connections, striving to make this area we live in better for us all.

Patriotism is not a bad thing, it gives us a sense of belonging, it defines our community and brings us together. I love cheering for my children’s school teams on the sports sidelines, or cheering for the Otago Sparks or the Highlanders - each its own patriotic community.

As soon as I leave New Zealand, my boundaries shift and the White Ferns and All Blacks are my teams of choice. Patriotism, it seems, has flexible boundaries.

It can also make for a lot of fun in the world. I too will be glued to Rio in a couple of months, roaring the national anthem whenever we bring home a gold medal!

But we do need to recognise the limitations of patriotism. There is a great quote by George Bernard Shaw: “patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.”

I think it highlights how ridiculous patriotism can be and how narrow-minded it can make us – just have a look at Mr Trump as an extreme example!

I love Otago, it’s in my blood, I want to see us thrive but not if that means I walk around lopsidedly with a chip on my shoulder.

My challenge is to think like a globalist and that means I have a few entrenched thought patterns to shake up.

To say it more eloquently, I leave the last words to Robert Ingersoll, an American abolitionist: “he loves his country best who strives to make it best”.