Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose, which is a suspiciously foreign way of saying: Every few years, some ardent left-wing Guardian columnist decides it's time to take "a new approach" to patriotism.
This week, it's earnest sixth-former Owen Jones. "What is more loving of one’s own country than wanting to rid it of
injustice?", he asks. "What is more patriotic than wanting the majority to have a
fairer share of the country’s wealth and success?".
All of which sounds perfectly reasonable, until you remember that "patriotism", in the sense that it's used by the Daily Mail, has little or nothing to do with a love of justice or fairness, and even less to do with actual love for the people or the nation. Despite its endless pom-pom-waving for Britain, you'll notice that the Mail has nothing but contempt for most of the people who actually live here.
The kind of patriotism we're talking about is mainly just resentment and cowardice. It's a blunt refusal to even attempt to see the world as it is. It's a joyful retreat into an infantile fantasy world where everything bad is somebody else's fault, and all of our problems can be solved by reliance on childish concepts like faith, flags and force.
If this sounds like it's indistinguishable from Jingoism, well then, that's because it is Jingoism. This form of patriotism - self-pitying belligerence, worship of a country that doesn't exist and never has existed, aimed at rallying crowds of us to oppose them - is the only kind that counts in politics. Anything less is inherently suspect.
If you doubt this, consider: we've had an abject lesson right here in Scotland within the last couple of years. For a large number of Scots, "patriotism" has now come to mean "desiring independence from the UK". To this part of the populace, the very idea that a person could be any kind of true patriot, and yet have no interest in Scottish independence, is an outright logical impossibility. It's an absurdity that can no more be true than 2+2=5 can be correct.
I've lived here for 37 years and I have no desire to live anywhere else*. When I wrote this, I typed up a long ramble about my affection for the people and places I've known my entire life, but then realised - what's the point? Unless it ends with the words "And thus Scotland should be an independent country", every sentence would be seen as cravenly dishonest, if not actively infuriating, by many Scots.
As it is in the UK, so it is elsewhere. In Russia, patriotism isn't much more than non-stop, woe-is-us boo-hoo about the rest of the planet's endless disrespect, and dark mutterings that a bit of healthy violence would settle their treachery. In the US, it means saluting the flag, singing louder and hating anyone who suggests that there's anything wrong with America except for its abundance of traitorous hippies. In China, the very notion that China isn't the bestest nation ever, or that the Communist Party isn't the most awesome government of all time, is tantamount to treason.
This is why there's really no point in trying to redefine "patriotism", in Britain or anywhere else. The very attempt suggests that there's something wrong with the idea, which is the same as saying that there's something terribly wrong with the country itself - something wrong with its traditions, its people, its singular contribution to the blah blah of etc. etc.
As well to redefine "Tuesday" or "sausages". Or maybe better, since nobody's going to kick your head in for re-examining bangers and mash.
Which is all another way of saying - the Labour Party, the Greens, the Lib Dems, none of these people will ever be accepted as patriots in the way that e.g. David Cameron or Nigel Farage are patriots. A reasonable discussion of what constitutes patriotism is impossible, because this kind of patriotism is utterly inimical to reason. It's imperviousness to argument is the very reason for its existence.
Better not to seek acceptance on these terms, when the mere attempt is an admission of guilt.
*Well, I could handle a couple of months of the year living somewhere a bit hotter, but no more than that.