17 March 2009

Food for Thought

The long view of history highlights some compression towards the present.

11 March 2009

Borges on Patriotism

From an essay published in 1946.
There is no end to the illusions of patriotism. In the first century of our era, Plutarch mocked those who declared that the Athenian moon is better than the Corinthian moon; Milton, in the seventeenth, observed that God is in the habit of revealing Himself first to His Englishmen; Fichte, at the beginning of the nineteenth, declared that to have character and to be German are obviously one and the same thing. Here in Argentina we are teeming with nationalists, driven, they claim, by the worthy or innocent resolve of the Argentine people. Yet they ignore the Argentine people; in their polemics they prefer to define them as a function of some external fact, the Spanish conquistadors, say, or an imaginary Catholic tradition, or "Saxon imperialism."
Jorge Luis Borges, "Our Poor Individualism," in Selected Non-Fictions, 309.
In the essay that follows, Borges explores Argentine individualism through other literary references, suggesting that the state is untrustworthy not only because Argentine governments are typically corrupt, but also because Argentine heroes are loners that quarrel with the group.

He concludes,
Nationalism seeks to captivate us with the vision of an infinitely tiresome State; this utopia, once established on earth, would have the providential virtue of making everyone yearn for, and finally build, its antithesis.
Borges, 310.

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