Monday, September 5, 2011

Therem on patriotism

In this post I'll take a look at what Therem has to say on patriotism in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness.

SPOILERS

"But that's not a patriotic idea. In fact it's a cowardly one, and impugns the shifgrethor of the king himself" (16).

Therem admits that his idea of taking trying to keep people safe in the dispute is not particularly patriotic. Meaning that patriotism is:

*Not giving in

Patriotism is not:

*Allowing your "enemy" an inch of land in order to save lives

"I forgot what a king is, forgot that the king in his own eyes is Karhide, forgot what patriotism is and that he is, of necessity, the perfect patriot. [. . . .] No, I don't mean love, when I say patriotism. I mean fear. The fear of the other. And its expressions are political, not poetical: hate, rivalry, aggression. [. . . .] I'm not acting patriotically. There are, after all, other nations on Gethen" (19).

Patriotism is:

*Us vs. them
*Fear
*Hate
*Rivalry
*Aggression

Patriotism is not:

*Love

Of course, even though Therem is telling us what other's definition of patriotism is, he's demonstrating a different kind of patriotism. His patriotism is concern for the welfare of mankind, not just his own people.

"The prestige-competition, heretofore mostly economic, might force Karhide to emulate its larger neighbor, to become a nation instead of a family quarrel, as Estraven had said; to become, as Estraven had also said, patriotic. If this occurred the Gethenians might have an excellent chance of achieving the condition of war" (49).


So...to have war one must be patriotic.

"[...] perhaps I do not really want Orgoreyn to prove more enlightened than Karhide, to take the risk and win the praise and leave Karhide in the shadow. If this envy be patriotic, it comes too late [...]" (150)

So, in the fear based patriotism a person puts their own country first, always...which Therem is only now beginning to think of, too late.

"What does it matter which country wakens first, so long as we waken?" (198)

Again, Therem is not putting his own country first.

"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. And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope" (211-2).

Quite a speech!

To sum it up, Therem's idea of patriotism is love, and putting the welfare of the people and land he loves first.

"A man who doesn't detest a bad government is a fool. And if there were such a thing as a good government on earth, it would be a great joy to serve it" (212).

So, does Therem hate the government of Karhide?

"But I'd rather be in Karhide . . . if you really think it could be managed. . . ." (279).

Therem definitely does love his land.

"Therefore for the first time it came plainly to me that, my friend being dead, I must accomplish the thing he died for. I must set the keystone in the arch" (289).

I'm not sure if this is patriotism on Genly's part. It does show that Therem gave his life for the good of the many, which I think can be called patriotic.

No comments:

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