7.01.2012

two thoughts for canada day


I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world.
- Eugene V. Debs



Thank you to the two Facebook friends who posted these.

7 comments:

johngoldfine said...

It's hard to see Debs as much of a prophet. The Socialists of 1914 never thought that the workers of the world would take arms against their class interests and against their brothers beyond their national borders.

But the past century has been a detailed working out of the unlikeliness of the uniting of the workers of the world.

Debs could be a citizen of the world because of his misplaced faith in the solidarity of the proletariat across and despite national borders.

Those of us without that faith don't have the luxury of being citizens of the world. We have to live in a country and be citizens under that country's government.

I don't see how you can love your country and somehow distinguish it from its government. I'ma a USAian, and I don't feel love or hate for either one. I feel ambivalence.

I feel anger and disgust, for example, at a government that would lock up such a man as E.V. Debs for speaking against the war and at a country in the grip of a mindless war fever. I feel mollified at a government that somewhat righted itself and freed Debs when the fever had abated. I feel a huge gust of pleasure that the USA was a place where someone could run for president from behind bars with the very amusing campaign slogan: 'From the prison house to the White House.'

Personal note: when I was working as a busboy at the Poland Spring House in the summer of 1963, one of the dishwashers, seeing I was a college boy, asked me if I'd ever heard of Eugene Debs. "Sure," I said, fresh from high school history. "The Wobblies."

As old and shaky an alcoholic as he was, he gave me a bit of a hard look and said, "It's the International Workers of the World. I'm a member."

laura k said...

Why would Debs be a prophet? Why would that be the yardstick with which to measure him?

In Canada there is a huge distinction between the country and the government. I found no such distinction in the US. The more I hated the government, the more I hated being part of the country.

laura k said...

Debs could be a citizen of the world because of his misplaced faith in the solidarity of the proletariat across and despite national borders.

Those of us without that faith don't have the luxury of being citizens of the world. We have to live in a country and be citizens under that country's government.


I feel very strongly that I am a citizen of the world. It doesn't matter to me whether I do or don't have faith in solidarity (misplaced or otherwise) as you describe it or a belief that my vision for the world will come to pass.

I feel a citizen of the world, because I stand in solidarity with all working people, everywhere - because the only "us and them" I recognize are ordinary people (us) and the forces that repress and opress us (them).

My allegiances and how I identify myself are not contingent on some kind of prescience - which, by the way, no one has, not Debs, not me, not you.

To me what you're describing is a person who cheers for the team that's going to win the championship - someone who puts their cap on when it looks safe in the standings.

johngoldfine said...

To me what you're describing is a person who cheers for the team that's going to win the championship - someone who puts their cap on when it looks safe in the standings.

I don't see the connection between what I said and fairweather fans of sports teams, but if we are going to analogize countries and teams: believe me, like my country and my government, the only team I am interested in is one I feel deeply ambivalent about, good times and bad.

Shall we say that the Park and the sweating men on the field are the 'country' and the men in the AC luxury boxes are the government? I could make that distinction.

laura k said...

I don't see the connection between what I said and fairweather fans of sports teams

You seemed to be saying that one can be a citizen of the world only if one has faith in "the solidarity of the proletariat across and despite national borders", and that such faith is not possible because (you believe) events of the last century has shown that to be impossible.

But I don't need that faith to be a citizen of the world. I don't need to believe (or not believe) that the revolution will come. I am a citizen of the world because that's how I feel.

Also, I think the distinction between country and government may be clearer in a Parliamentary system. Or in a dictatorship, where people are fighting to wrest their country back from an occupation or government that rules by oppression.

laura k said...

New thought. Maybe it's easier to love the country but hate the government in Canada because the current government (i.e. administration) is an aberration. Whereas in the US the government, and every government I can remember, upholds the status quo.

johngoldfine said...

"Industrial Workers of the World," of course, not as I wrote, "International...." The damnedest things pop into mind when walking dogs.