Post No.: 0181
Something as arbitrary or random as a coin toss to determine who goes into which group/team/class can be alone enough to create strong ingroup biases (i.e. the ‘heads’ members favouring other ‘heads’ members and the ‘tails’ members favouring other ‘tails’ members).
Nobody chooses what country they’re born in or what ethnicity they become, yet most people become, to various degrees, patriotic to their country of birth or heritage. This loyalty is fine to an extent but we should be open-minded to understand that we really could’ve been born anywhere in the world and no one chose their country of birth or heritage thus no one should be lauded nor discriminated against purely because of their birth country or ethnicity – it’s not an achievement! And if you’re alive today then you are by definition fit enough to survive today regardless of any national stereotypes about who’s automatically better or worse than anyone else in genetic terms.
As a very general trend, most people will easily accept anything positive said about their own country but not anything negative said about it by another. Most people will query anything positive said about a country one’s own country is competing against or is not closely allied with but will not for anything negative said about them by one’s own country. So despite our arbitrary places of birth or upbringing – we tend to be at least subconsciously biased. As a result, depending on how much we trust our own current and/or historical government(s), we more easily trust any positive propaganda about our own country and more easily distrust any negative propaganda about it. We may accuse populations of other countries being indoctrinated by their own nationalistic propagandas whilst believing that we’ve never been indoctrinated by our own nationalistic propaganda at all.
For instance, most people think their own nation’s military personnel are the finest person-for-person; especially their own special/elite forces in particular. We make, and from birth are fed, movies depicting our own troops as brave heroes, as feeling and expressing things like camaraderie, pain and loss. But the enemy forces are human too, with families they love, and they feel and express all the above too. (And it takes at least two sides to fight a prolonged bloody conflict so no one’s really a winner in wars.)
It’s interesting to check out some foreign news now and again, even when one needs to use translated subtitles – what other countries find internationally interesting, we might not, and vice-versa (e.g. our own nation’s mainstream media is more interested in investigating any possible cheating conducted by another country’s athletes than our own athletes in an international sporting competition, and vice-versa. Or we like to cover the sports our country is good at and not those we’re not).
So every country pushes or perpetuates propaganda but we’re typically in denial of our own because we tend to only take, automatically trust in and protect our ‘own people’s’ views when there are allegations made against them from people from another country (unless a case is completely indefensible because irrefutable evidence is presented). It doesn’t have to be a consciously intentional bias of governments, the mainstream media or populations, but we’re relatively less interested in exploring things we don’t want to hear about our own country but that might be true.
Propaganda is a weapon, and over the decades its effectiveness has been continually honed. And in today’s age of technology – propaganda can spread across the world in a single keystroke and influence vulnerable people who’ll act upon them. Extremist groups may exploit vulnerable minds (e.g. certain psychiatric patients, or just simply young, impressionable minds) – hence allowing total unfettered freedom of speech is arguably naïve.
Now just because one doesn’t agree with something, that alone doesn’t make it ‘fake news’ or propaganda. Indeed, calling a truth ‘fake news’ or propaganda is propaganda itself!
Every nation likely has individuals who wave flags, tote guns where available, has leaders who seek contrived photo or video opportunities, have people who brag about former empires or military successes, partake in racist jibes or discrimination against ‘outsiders’, violate human rights (outsourcing violations doesn’t make it okay), etc.. During the Cold War, both pro-communism and pro-democracy groups used fear, oppression and propaganda against each other. To promote nationalistic propaganda – any event that can be twisted to promote nationalistic pride will be done so (e.g. pioneering discoveries, inventions, sporting or other achievements) – we tend to form relatively inferior stereotypes of people from other nations but want to form superior stereotypes of people from our own (e.g. basking in the reflected glory of our sporting superstars… at the same time as when our country suffers from high rates of obesity(!))
Okay I’m going to have to pick on Britain and the United Kingdom otherwise I’ll be a hypocrite and fail to serve my points(!) But as I set my example, I hope you can question what you’ve been taught about your own country too…
We often scoff at other countries and what they teach at school about history – in particular their own nation’s military history. But we should too regarding our own history lessons. I must caveat the following with ‘at least in the past’ because I’m not overly familiar with the current national curriculum, but in UK Primary and Secondary schools, we tend to only get taught about World War I and II and a couple of other British victories (well wars where Britain were on the sides of victorious alliances, although our various allies tend to receive insufficient credit during these lessons!) And within these wars, we only tend to get taught the favourable-to-British battles too e.g. the Battle of Waterloo. So we don’t tend to get taught about e.g. the surrender at the Battle of Singapore, nor the American War of Independence and the glaring British loss there, nor the conflict against the Zulus in Southern Africa, the Crusades (and other failed foreign invasions) or the Suez Crisis, for instance. No one gets taught about the English Armada in basic history lessons, even though it was a much heavier defeat than what the Spanish Armada sustained!
Britain’s slave-trading history is impossible to ignore but we don’t tend to get taught about other British atrocities, disgraces and colonisations such as e.g. any of the Opium Wars, the use of concentration camps during the Boer Wars, the massacres of indigenous Australians during the Australian frontier wars, or the plantations of Ireland. Cultural artefacts were misappropriated from the Commonwealth. Britain currently has its own territory disputes too e.g. the Falklands, Chagos and Gibraltar. We often scorn at major arms deals between other countries when British contractors also have deals with other countries (some of whom are questionable clients too). We parade our military with fanfare annually too. Others spy, we spy, but the former is considered despicable and the latter is considered sexy! Most children in the UK aren’t even taught about the recent history of the Srebrenica genocide against Muslims, where this lesson could be useful in this time of fascist sentiments in some parts of this country, that paint a picture that ‘all Muslims are evil and violent perpetrators or supporters of terror, and never the victims’. This is how our children are being raised.
This generally one-sided ‘Britain is the greatest’ curriculum taught to young students in this country orchestrates a superiority complex in us even against our closest neighbours and friends in this world (e.g. against mainland Europe). German students are taught about the two world wars and therefore their nation’s losses and they (overall) seem to grow up to become modest and progressive people (their economy isn’t bad either!) It’s morally hypocritical to be all ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Britain rules the waves’ and be proud of the historical British Empire (including Britain’s overseas territories gained by ill-gotten means) yet be damning about or condemning other nations for trying to do the same! Okay, we cannot turn back time, it’s a different world with international peace-building or human rights treaties now in force, and few alive today were really a part of it, but we shouldn’t be that proud of all that British violence, thievery, slavery, invasion and colonisation when we look at much of our own bloody history (e.g. India, North America, Africa) unless we also take the attitude that it’s morally fair game for other nations to try to invade, annex or otherwise forcefully acquire territory from other nations too. Why is/was something unacceptable for others but not for us?
A lot of native wildlife species have actually been made extinct here, such as wild wolves (my ancestors – woof). Many flowering plant meadows that bees rely on are gone. There were also the historical voyages to foreign lands that brought unfettered habitat destruction and pests – humans were indeed the invasive pests themselves. Even some wealthy ‘Westerners’ today purposely poach rhinos and other known endangered species in Africa. It should be noted that fluffy pandas were historically hunted by curious and wealthy foreigners, including Theodore Roosevelt, who hunted them in China for trophies or for captivity. (Predominantly Chinese efforts for conservation have actually now ensured that pandas are no longer on the endangered list.) We had so much biodiversity in Europe but over the last two millennia a lot of it has gone.
So who are Europeans (or Americans e.g. California grizzly bears) to get high-and-mighty about Asia or Africa just because they still have a lot of their species remaining? Indeed, countries like China and Japan are wrong for e.g. poaching ivory from elephants, horns from rhinos, bones from tigers, eating whales and dolphins as delicacies – but being hypocritical, as if ‘we’re better than them’ and don’t have behaviours that need changing ourselves, isn’t helpful. We often moan about the kinds of livestock that other countries farm and consume yet fail to acknowledge the e.g. cows, lambs, pigs and chickens we eat.
…So there’s so much hypocrisy and propaganda in probably every country on Earth but people are unaware of it because they’ve been inculcated from a young age. People can be so blind or trusting of their own country’s propaganda and so quick to notice, judge and sneer at the biases of other countries that their perceptions of fairness become skewed. Individuals from other countries go on to unfairly become stereotypes of ‘everyone from that country’ in unsophisticated ways too.
History is written by the victors (or at least was, before mass and democratised means of recording and communication), so we cannot always trust the historical accounts either. Yet every hard nationalist devoutly believes in his/her own nation’s revisionist history. And it’s not just a product of governments but the media, movies, music and anybody and anything else whom or that contributes to a culture.
Now it’s hardly to say that Britain is a terrible place! Britain has achieved a lot, is important globally and is arguably one of the best places in the world to live and that’s why I’m still here in this country that I was born and bred in. At least I can freely question and criticise my own country without being thrown into jail, and that’s one thing people cannot do in every country in the world. So I’d rather be here than in any of those countries. This isn’t therefore to say that I wouldn’t consider living in another country because the point is that no country is perfect and all countries have elements of good and bad, and most of all there are good and bad people, and every type of person in-between, in every single country.
Woof! I seek fairness and humility, I am worldly, I have been educated by academic institutions from almost every continent in the world, and this blog goes out to the entire world – to my extended family. I’m from the Laniakea Supercluster, Milky Way, Solar System, Earth – and so are you.