In a World Gone Mad: Disaster-Induced Patriotism

Written by: Ben Holbrook

I’m not sure how much coverage this got back home in Canada, but whenever I take a break from my tourist activities here in Santiago, I see coverage on the 33-trapped Chilean miners.

Now this is my second time in Chile on this 9-week trip, and I’ve noticed a bold difference from my first time here: a greater sense of patriotism.  More flags flying, more wearing Chilean swag, and more discussions with me – the tourist – regarding how great this country is.

Heck, just 5 minutes ago en route back to my hostel I saw two men unfolding a brand spanking new Chilean flag to hoist up the flagpole in front of a derelict building.  It was quite obvious this terrain was new to them: head scratching, faces with perplexing looks, pointing, and arguing over how a flag is put up a flagpole.

The Chilean Flag

I’m not one to make assertions, but I’m pretty sure this is a case of cause-effect: a disaster  centered around ones own people bringing a nation together.  I realize it’s always going to happen in times of distress, but something about it irks me.  Maybe it’s because I tend to be a bit more vocal in my patriotism than my humble countrymen.  Shouldn’t we always have flags waving?  Why are we only wearing swag with the RED maple-leaf (no…not you ‘Leaf-Nation’ homers) on it during international hockey competitions?

Perhaps more disturbing is when a nations politicians are rewarded by this stirring of their constituents pride.  Reports have Chiles President Sebastián Piñera’s approval rating jumping from 49 to 65% ever since the miners were found to be alive.  Just look at George W. Bush’s approval ratings post-9/11.  As much as I’d like to believe we’re a more informed generation of voters, our feelings still seem to be easily influenced by the media.

The question we have to ask ourselves as Canadian’s if we’re susceptible to such a situation.  Surely our sense of patriotism has stagnated post-olympics (albeit now stronger than before Vancouver 2010)?  I have no doubt we would come together in the event of a disaster to save fellow Canadians.  I just wouldn’t want to see it as the cause of flagpoles finally being discovered, or Steven Harper and the Conservatives seeing a boost in approval.

-Ben Holbrook

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