One of the first and foremost forms of propaganda implemented on the innocent and diffused through the populace at large is that of nationalism. At first glance it would appear admirable having an attachment to your country and the people who live in it but often this is merely a facade. The idea of favoring people you haven’t met in your own country over others in countries you have never been is decidedly irrational. Furthermore, when we look at the usual apprehension we have against strangers in our everyday interaction it would appear nationalism is manifested in little more than intellectually bankrupt bumper stickers and cheap political rhetoric used to keep people beholden to the rulers of their geopolitical territory.
The young are besieged early by these value systems regardless of where they live. Every nation conducts what could be called governmental alignment training at an early age. Pledges of allegiance, national anthems, and deification of founding figures in country lore are all almost omnipresent elements of developed nations. While there can be said to be good acts that stem from feelings of patriotism and nationalism the dilemma lay in the fragmentation of the greater human community by geopolitical boundaries. Some nations disallow departure from their borders by their own people, as is they were exclusive property of their sovereign state. Others refuse to let others in with a show of implicit xenophobia and ethnocentrism.
It is important to distinguish governmental artifacts from cultural artifacts. This is not to say that politics do not alter culture because indeed they do but loyalty to a state is erroneous if carried out through pride in specific food, consumer goods, or customs. The government is unconcerned with culture, it is concerned with the maintenance and expansion of its powers. As has always been the case of government, order and domination are its prime directives and these are easier to achieve when you can create an affinity for government through an affinity for culture. Make no mistake, the government is not hot dogs on a grill, upside down ketchup bottles, muscle cars, cheap beer, semi-automatic rifles, trucks, blockbuster movies, flags, or a set of colors; it is the government.
A poignant manifestation of the dichotomy between people and government is organized warfare. Only an institution more concerned with itself than its people could offer them up as geopolitical sacrificial lambs for its own international interests. All around the world soldiers from all nations, from all gods, and from all anthems are training and marching in preparation for the destruction of the others’ soldiers in the name of their country. Sadly, many of these courageous men are acting on genuine feelings of service and concern for others, it is the bastardization of these feelings by those who regiment them that undermines what may have been a great purpose. Soldiers are acting with faith in their leaders, leaders are acting with faith in the misdirection, indoctrination, and exploitation of their followers.
Should we ask instead, not what you can do for your country or its people, but what you can do for all people?