George Orwell said patriotism and nationalism are entirely different things. Nationalism is a pseudo-religion, a toxic substitute substance of spiritual nourishment for otherwise vacant hearts, a counterfeit “love” of an abstract “community”. Patriotism, in contrast, is authentic personal love of a land, a landscape, and the land’s traditions and the peculiar ways of the people who live and have lived there. Patriotism has nothing to do with “national glory” and even less to do with superiority to any other countries or peoples – because as patriotism is love, and love is inseparable from charity, there is no room for hatred in patriotism. And not much room for “glory” either.
That’s why I love Australia’s unofficial “anthem” so much. “Waltzing Matilda” isn’t about national glory, but it does express so much that is so personally lovable about Australia’s history, its people (a diverse people, most of whom share some personal or family history of exile), and the eerily beautiful landscape which, like the Australian people, is beautiful in more subtle and more unexpected ways than the untrained eye might see at first.
And so, returning home to Australia after a brief trip to an intensely nationalistic country, has reminded me once again of why this is called the “Lucky Country”, and of how rare, and how refreshing, authentic patriotism has become in the world today. This song is an example, and it was on my mind as my airplane landed in Australia, while I wept: