Monday, September 5, 2011

Patriotism in LHoD_1

In Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness there are two ideas about what patriotism is, and both of them are vastly different. That's not to say that one is right and the other is wrong. Rather, I think they are two different kinds of patriotism: a patriotism based on hate, and a patriotism based on love.

In this post I'll take a look at both of them. I'll refer to my notes I took on this subject in these two posts:

Patriotism -- Tibe and others
Therem on patriotism

SPOILERS

Patriotism based on hate

The king is "in his own eyes is Karhide" (19) and therefore also "the perfect patriot" (19). At the same time, "Death walks behind the king" (3). Therefore the king is patriotism incarnate (wow that sounds weird) and therefore if death walks behind him, death also walks behind patriotism.

Why? Why would death be connected to patriotism? Perhaps because of fear...when discussing patriotism with Genly, Therem states "No, I don't mean love, when I say patriotism. I mean fear. The fear of the other" (19). Fear can easily lead to hate, and destruction. And therefore, death.

This is definitely the kind of patriotism that the Karhide government runs on. The king himself says "I fear those who sent you. I fear liars, and I fear tricksters, and worst I fear the bitter truth. And so I rule my country well. Because only fear rules men. Nothing else works" (40). Later on Tibe uses fear as a tool to pull the country together in an attempt to being a war (102).

To sum it up in a list, this kind of patriotism plays on:

*Hate
*Fear
*Anger
*Self-praise
*Us vs. Them
*Not given in to outsider's demands
*Rivalry
*Aggression

Additionally, it seems worth noting that it is apparently impossible to have war unless one is patriotic (49).

Patriotism based on love

First, I'd like to start this section off with something that Therem says:

"Hate Orgoreyn? No, how should I? How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? Then it's not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That's a good thing, but one mustn't make a virtue of it, or a profession. . . . Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate" (211-2).

In this kind of patriotism a person loves people, "towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks" (211). And unlike the fear based patriotism, there is no "us vs. them" attitude. At the same time, there is definitely a distinction between the two countries, as we see when Therem says "But I'd rather be in Karhide . . . if you really think it could be managed. . . ." (279). Those are the words of someone who truly loves his country, or at any rate loves his people and land...which is what makes up a country.

Summing up what this kind of patriotism is:

*Love
*Acting in the interest of individuals, rather than the country

...

As I think on this, and reread the book later, I might alter or expound on what I've written here.

No comments:

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