Geographical Identity…

This week I saw a YouTube video called “Caracas, Ciudad de Despedidas” (Caracas, City of Farewells), and was fascinated, not by the video, since it was a 17 minute documentary with 12 minutes of pointless transition shots and music; but by the general response. Insults, dislikes, criticism and bile flew out with force and frequency, people wouldn’t let it die…it even started a meme, which I didn’t care for because I hate memes. But wading through the aforementioned bile and vitriol, I started seeing patterns in the replies and opinions, and it made me think about cultural and national identity, patriotism and pride, and the extremes in them…

When I speak of patriotism and extremes, I often think of the Americans (that is, people from the United States of America, not people who live in the continent, north, south and central, who are also Americans), and how overly patriotic they’ve always seemed to me. I have seen Americans take a defensive and slightly hostile attitude whenever someone, especially a foreigner, complains about the country or has some criticism or bad thing to say, even if they they’re opinion is the same as the speaker’s. Sorry Americans, but you know it’s true. At one time I had on my Gmail messenger a quote from George Carlin’s rendition of America the Beautiful and an American friend, who will remain anonymous for his and my own good, texted me “that could be considered anti-American”. I had to explain that it was a quote for him to calm down and say “oh, that guy’s cool”. I understood that as a mild form of what I call “over-Patriotism”, being too proud about your nation that you’re either blind to its problems or take an “Us vs. Them” attitude when confronted with criticism about your country.

I used to think “over-Patriotism” was an American thing (though I have noticed American’s lighten up a bit since Bush); but recent events, the general response to the documentary, for example, have made me question that point of view. Now I’m thinking it’s a conditional response that presents itself when things are at their worst, when the place where you reside has not only touched bottom but started digging to new undiscovered depths. Maybe it’s optimism, hope even or just plain delusion.

The “condition” presents itself in many ways, and interestingly, those ways are also the different types of replies the video, referred to from now on a “The Guilty Party”, and its creators received. I will not only list them, but also give my insight into each of them.

  • “This is what’s wrong with youth nowadays!”: The feeling that the confliction opinion, from a young individual, is in some way or fashion a measure of the general point of view of a generation. May be accompanied with “This is why we don’t get ahead!”; meaning the mindset is responsible for the country’s current situation.
    My thoughts: BULLSHIT. Sorry if that wasn’t eloquent enough. The truth of the matter is while a certain opinion can be a trend, it’s doesn’t define the consciousness of a generation and to say so is short-sighted at best, mental illness at worst.
  • “Their opinion in no way reflects that of the general populace!”: Sounds eloquent at first glance but it’s almost always paired up with “you shouldn’t listen to them” or “most of us want to keep going and do what’s right/fight for things to get better”.
    My thoughts: Ok, the first one, like I said, is eloquent; sadly, 2nd and 3rd are clear signs the speaker is full of shit. Let’s go with the first one, why should people not listen to the other one’s opinion? How is yours more valid than theirs? Are you speaking “the word”, and people can only pay attention to it? Now with the third, a good guideline in any discussion is “don’t counter a generalization with a generalization”, same principle behind “don’t answer a question with a question”.
  • “The opinions of those who want to leave/have left aren’t valid”: Self-explanatory really. It is a very popular reply.
    My thoughts: Why not? If they want to leave or have already left, there’s a good reason for it, and even if their reason has nothing to do with the country’s situation, they lived there for a period of time and most likely had experiences that formed their point of view, which makes their opinion as valid as any. Why does it matter where they are, or wishing they were, now?
  • “People who have left have no right to say bad things about the country”: A spinoff from the previous one. The general feeling that if you’ve left the country, you can only say positive things about it, even if that’s not how you really feel, as if you owed the country for leaving.
    My thoughts: Again, why? Seems to be the only question I can ask. Does leaving make you automatically blind and deaf to whatever’s happening and you don’t know what’s going on? Do you sign a non-disclosure agreement when you leave? Are you hired by the country’s tourism authorities upon leaving? The answer to all is most likely NO, so leaving the country behind shouldn’t force you to not have an opinion and share it with the world. Freedom of speech is a right, use it and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  • “You should only leave your country if you’re force to, like an exile”: You see these replies from those suffering from the condition in the terminal stages. The thought behind it is that you must remain shackled to your land of birth; the only valid reason for leaving is being forced to or else suffer a terrible fate.
    My thoughts: Grade A, 100%, pure bullshit. You can leave any country if you so desire. You can leave for many reasons, political, social, economic, psychiatric, medical, extraterrestrial, whatever. In fact, I can share with all of you the most powerful reason of all to leave behind your country and go somewhere else: “I FUCKING WANT TO!” It’s your choice. If anyone gets in your way if you want to leave, they’re either a tyrant or a dick and you can take care of either of them with the same choice words (though the consequences for speaking them can be vastly different): “GO FUCK YOURSELF”.
  • “Those who left and want to come back once things improve aren’t welcome, we don’t want you here”: Another terminal symptom. It’s the feeling that only those who stayed and fought deserve to “inherit the land”.
    My thoughts: BULLSHIT LEVEL OVER 9000!!!! If you thought the previous one was bad, wait till you meet this bunch. First of all, we’re not living in the 16th century nor in George R.R. Martin’s Westeros; so there’s no “right of conquest”, giving you dominion over the land after winning a fight. Second, what you think about them or even want, doesn’t factor in. As I said in the previous point, it’s anyone’s right to switch countries and nationalities as they see fit. Besides, take any country going through bad times, and there are a bunch of people who’ve left because things got too bad for them and are now just waiting for the country to get better just so they can return, because they miss their home country, just don’t miss it enough to ignore the bad things. Besides, after the dust clears, you need these people, who, hopefully, have learned how good things can be if done right. You need their insight and experience on better shores.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and unless there’s ample proof against it, all opinions are valid, even if the collective agrees the opinion is profoundly stupid. That’s why, even having said everything I’ve said so far about these symptomatic replies, I won’t tell them to shut up, I won’t tell them their opinion doesn’t matter. I will however argue and discuss with them, using my own arguments against theirs, trying to find common ground or convince them of the bullshit-ness of their ways, and they’ll try the same with me, as is their right.

Freedom of speech is a given right and no one can shut you up, even if what comes out of your mouth is pure bullshit. Don’t let anyone force you into remaining silent, to accept their opinions over yours or making you think you’re worthless. Anyone who does that is a bully, and if there’s no room for discussion, as is most often the case with bullies and ego-maniacs (both not mutually exclusive), then you should maybe part ways. Some people just can’t be reasoned with, a sad truth.

As for those suffering from Over-Patriotism, don’t let hope become a delusion, don’t let it mask reality and don’t for one moment think that if you admit to there being problems, that you are doing your country a disservice. Telling the truth won’t make things worse, on the contrary, it could improve them. And please, relax and stop hating those who have left or want to leave, if you continue on this path, you may be perpetuating a cycle of hatred that is not only probably at the root of your country’s problems, but could create more of them. Accept people’s opinions even if they are different from your own. Accept the people back into your arms even if they left your side, things will get better if you do.

I would like to invite all members of the community and all my readers, who wish to discuss the different point of views, mine included, to do so in the comment section. You can say whatever you like, your opinion, even the stupidest one, is valid and will be accepted. I have only one request, however, and that is for all comments to remain both eloquent and respectful. Insults and offensive behaviour will not be tolerated; you can express your opinions without being hostile. Any such violent intervention will be expunged from the record.

By the way, saying something is bullshit is not offensive, just so you know; though saying someone is full of shit can be, so I apologize if that’s the case. As a guideline, if using the words/phrases “bullshit”, “full of shit” or any of its more interesting and colorful relatives, explain and expand on your point of view. If you just use them without any explanation, you just come off as hostile and rude.

Let’s all play nice, okay?

Thank you for your time,

Kevin Kutlesa.

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