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A Handbook of the Boer War

Many hard things have been said of Patriotism


Sometimes

a cause can be found _a posteriori_ by groping in the dim and deceptive light cast by an effect: or a process of exhaustion and elimination may be set up in which the qualities common to each side are cancelled and the result attributed to the credit balance which will appear under one of the accounts. We saw for some months a gallant and well equipped if somewhat amorphous British Army impotently endeavouring, though in superior numbers, to make headway against an aggregation of Boer commandos, and checked at various points on an arc drawn wholly in British territory and extending in a circuit of over 500 miles from Ladysmith in Northern Natal through Stormberg and Colesberg to Kimberley and Mafeking; and at each extremity of the arc was a besieged city. Was the military art as taught in Europe founded upon error, or had the British Army been negligently instructed in it?

Yet no European troops had had so much recent experience of active service. We had lately fought in the Soudan, in East and West Africa, in Burmah and on the North-West frontier of India; there was in fact hardly a year in the preceding decade in which the portals of the temple of a British Janus would have been closed. Moreover, our fighting had not been against trained soldiers, but against enemies who like the Boers were undisciplined, collectively if not individually brave men patriotically defending their own country. We therefore entered the arena with experience which

no other European Army possessed.

II. PATRIOTISM, DUTY, AND DISCIPLINE.

Many hard things have been said of Patriotism.[6] Dr. Johnson's definition is well known, and more recently it has been styled the sublimest form of Selfishness. These, however, are not definitions but rather criticisms of certain phases of Patriotism, which is closely allied to Family Affection and, like that sentiment, originates in the helplessness and the egotism of the Individual.

The weak infant clings to his mother for sustenance, comfort and protection, and the tender care which is bestowed upon him while his body and his mind are developing fosters the notion of the subjective importance of the human unit. Human nature is so constituted that the Individual is disposed to over-estimate his own consequence and to regard his own surroundings as superior to the surroundings of all other persons, and therefore more worthy of recognition, encouragement, and admiration. As the Child grows in years this sentiment is gradually and unconsciously modified, but it is never wholly eradicated. The inward emotion aroused in his heart by parental solicitude becomes partially altruistic and outward and is transmuted into Gratitude and Love.

The Child emerges into Youth and thence into Manhood, and the area of his immediate environment is enlarged. He needs further succour and assistance, and the Family Community to which he belongs and which nurtured and watched over his early years can no longer supply his requirements. He is in want of new fellowships and must strengthen himself by joining various bodies and associations. With these he incorporates himself more or less and his friendly attitude towards them for his own good is a development of the primitive Family Affection. In the case of a class, a social, or professional community the sentiment is termed _Esprit de Corps_;[7] in view of recognized civil institutions by which he perceives that he benefits, it is Loyalty; while with respect to the Fatherland it is Patriotism, which denotes the adherence of the helpless individual Ego to the Supreme Community. Patriotism, like Family Affection, is a growth and culture of the idea of Self. It is the expression of the Individual's thanks for the support, countenance, protection, and other moral and material advantages claimed by him from the Supreme Community, to which in return he readily attorns with respect and admiration. He is, however, patriotic because with unconscious egotism he regards his Country as part of himself rather than himself as part of his Country. Even the act of a man who sacrifices his life for the good of his country may not be wholly unselfish, for some natures are so constituted that they can discount the future and be gratified by the prospective award of posthumous honour. There can, however, be no doubt that Patriotism, though possibly of not very noble origin, is a sentiment beneficial both to the community and the individual, and is therefore worthy of encouragement. Happily, those cold heights of philosophy on which every man is loved as a brother and every nationality held in equal honour and esteem are unattainable by human nature; for without the stimulus of Patriotism National Life would be impracticable.[8] It's chief defect is that like most of the emotions it is sometimes hasty and unreasoning.


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