Proud of Your Country – Chapter 2 Illusion and Enlightenment


Throughout history men (and women) have come up with some captivatingly ingenius inventions to make our lives a helluvalot easier.  Let’s face it, apart from the obvious one (the wheel) there are spectacles, mirrors, combs, guns and bombs to name but a few.

But though they had long ago said goodbye to the pioneering spirit of the Elizabethan 1600s – and the 1700s had started to take a hold – at some point, our great-great-great (god forbid if I knew how many times) grandparents looked back and sensed we had turned a corner.

Somewhere in the 1700s, something magical had happened. It was as though a light had been switched on and we had found ourselves.  Hence, ‘illumination’ became the key word of the century.  Or, as our modern day history buffs commonly call it: ‘The Englightenment’.

No, I’m not going to dredge up about the ‘Illuminatae’ and such forth intreguing info.  What I am going to do here, is touch briefly on how pride in our country causes all number of pains and gains.

For me, the pride we feel for our country appears to have its roots firmly embedded in the 1700s.  You may disagree – and that’s fine.  We all come at pride from different angles (I’d be interested to know yours – answers on a pc postcard please).  Seemingly oblivious of all that Aristotal had taught about a thousand years earlier, our relatives of the 1700s apparently began to comprehend the meaning of ‘knowing thyself’.

It seemed to become a political duty ‘to understand one’s own mind’.  They thought that ignorance, or rather a ‘lack of knowledge’ about something, could weaken the strength of an entire community.  So, through learning about religion and research, architecture and archaelogy, self-knowledge and sex, medicine and magic – people the world-over never truly lost the urge to learn about themselves and, in turn, what their country was able to do and provide to the world.

From voyages of discovery of the outer world, to the attitudes on marriage and human rights of the inner world, we began to learn change our understanding of reason and of meaning. This was a search that, seemingly, began to satisfy humanity’s consciousness.  That search continues today, and phew, hasn’t it been a long haul!

So, what is it that people delight in, of their own country?  What is it that gives them (us, if you include me!) that sense of pride and willingness to do the duty we feel compelled to perform?  And in doing that duty, what is it that makes us sacrifice our own lives – for the borders we live within?

From the small handful of people that have opened themselves up and laid themselves bare in answer to my question “Proud of Your Country?”, we can learn a little of what it is that makes a particular area their own pride and joy.

This is a restless world and that is made obvious by the fact that 270 millions years ago, the land that we live upon today was merged into one huge mass.  Nothing new, we all knew that.  Just as we’ve all known for a couple of hundred years (at least) that the world isn’t flat (!).

And what I can see from the tiny globe that represents the planet we all live upon – is that there are so many varied experiences of beauty and ugliness, of peace and power, of happiness and hate.  Not only in our lives, “in the culture, innovations, architecture, laws and language” (as Ian so rightly puts it), but in the ‘green and pleasant land’ too.

The next blog will take a brief glance at peace and war.

Kaye Bewley (c) 2012

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